Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What do YOU do?

Thanks to AOL's front page headlines (consider a spoiler alert, guys!), I already knew that Shawn Johnson won a gold medal for balance beam. But it was fun to see the competition tonight, and wow, she was spectacular! I am totally choked up right now, watching the medal ceremony. I don't think she has the balletic grace of Nastia Liukin, but Johnson's tiny little bod is so powerful and athletic.
And does she have the cutest smile, or what?!
Ken called from the Denver airport, then from O'Hare, so he should be home soon. He was hoping for an earlier flight, but that wasn't to be. Hey, good news--he's home safe!
One of my pals who has a private journal wrote something today about being unable to do the job she went to school for and trained for due to disability. Her comments really struck me, and reminded me of my feelings upon my retirement. While the circumstances are different--I chose to stop working, rather than being forced to--I think the basic question is the same: How do you define yourself?
For many years, when I met people and they'd ask me what I did, my answer was, "I'm a microbiologist." When I stopped working, I wondered how I would answer that. What DO I do? Frankly, this summer, not much. It's my equivalent of summer break, and this fall, I'll go "back to school," in some way, shape, or form. (Not literally.)
In the meantime, I've been pondering things. As I commented on my friend's journal, I've figured out that I was not defined by my career. I'll always love microbiology, and consider myself a microbiologist at heart, and that interest won't go away (as you'll see in future entries!). But I realized that I am who I am, and it doesn't matter if I'm sitting in the lab or sitting on our deck; talking on the phone to a doctor or chatting with my parents; troubleshooting Vitek2 or putting the belt back on the vacuum cleaner.
When I first started working in a lab in North Dakota, I got fairly involved in committees and office politics. When I lived in Indianapolis, shortly after I got divorced, I got even more involved, and I had a place on three committees for a while. It filled a void for the time being, but I remember my Dad telling me that "work isn't the only thing." I finally figured that out, and while I'm very grateful for the jobs I've had, the people I've worked with, and the supervisors and managers who were such wonderful mentors to me, at the end of the day, I came to the realization that I was not my job.
I hope my journal friend will find her balance. It's not easy, especially when your training is as specific as ours was. I still haven't quite figured how to answer the "What do you do?" question. The honest answer, at the moment, would be, "Why...nothing! Thank you for asking!" Ha ha! How I answer it in the future remains to be seen. Even after almost 46 years, it seems that I'm still a work in progress. And I'm okay with that.


easteeleco said...

"what do you do" seems to be the one question everyone will be asked over and over again.  I am a Medical Assistant by schooling, but I have been lucky enough to be able to stay home with the kids... and yet.. I feel that I am more than just their "mom" or Paul's wife.  I am that, but I am also so much more. So, usually I tell folks "toil not, neither do I spin".  :)  Estela

buckoclown said...

Chill baby, Chill :o)

marainey1 said...

I agree with you 100% we are indiviuals apart from our jobs.  They are not our lives.  'On Ya' - ma

gen0507 said...

I'm glad that you have figured that out .  Just sit back & enjoy...  You've got nature's masterpiece right there in front of you..


krmprm said...

I think you have already solved your "identity crisis."
A summer of reflection has helped you realize that
one is much, much more than a job.  Don't ever
stop learning,  but contentent is found within.
As the sweet potato said,  "I yam what I yam,"
and that's all that I yam."   Nuff sed.

mpnaz58 said...

Worse yet...some people define themselves by material posessions, and it is never enough, because the void that was there to begin with, is still there.  Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote, "I am what I have, I am what I do, I am..."  I can't remember the rest of it, but its quite profound.  I've stopped to meditate on this, and what I come up with...well, I dont' quite have the answer yet...perhaps I never will!
xoxo ~Myra

chat2missie said...

I still try to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing in this life.  I don't think I'll ever know the answer!  I just keep chugging along! LOL  Hope Ken has a safe trip home.

solace223 said...

Being a stay at home mom, I get what you're saying only in a different way.  When asked what I do, my answer is stay at home mom or unpaid maid.  ;)  But along the way it's hard not to lose WHO you are in the mix of things.  A lot of times the career women make you feel as if you do nothing as a stay at home mom and as I was telling a friend of mine today, no it's not rocket science but it's damn trying on one's patience and stressful as hell.  For now you can tell people you're retired and discovering the meaning of life.  ;)