Your identity is not a job or a degree, it’s the way you live your life
How society makes us choose our professions and partners only once in our lifetimes (and feel bad if we do it differently)
Consider the image below.
This is my modest representation of types of people based on their work and/or interests.
Note: I, by no means, want to make generalisations.
This image is simplified by intention.
Someone who is a specialist is someone’s whose days are filled with almost nothing but that one thing. This could be our doctor from example #1.
Others could have work they enjoy, as well as a captivating hobby, such as person #2. They don’t identify only with their jobs, but rather with some personal interests. Meet the UX Designer who loves to go mountain climbing every weekend.
Then there’s me.
With a 101 interest. Seemingly unspecialised, a ‘jack of all trades’, a generalist, “she still hasn’t found herself yet” — nice to meet you.
Pick one thing to do already — and stick to it!
It’s super easy to feel like an outlier, a system’s error, with everyone telling you something’s not quite right with you because you can’t “just pick one thing already”.
I’ve been to math & physics competitions, but also geography, poetry & arts. I attended music school (for cello & piano), as well as extra-curricular IT classes at school. I studied engineering, but work in design. I’m a practitioner, but act like an academic. I won competitions in singing, as well as geospatial engineering. I’m an artist as much as I am a developer.
For someone looking from the outside, I must seem like a complete mess. That’s no wonder, as the society we live in values #1 and #2 — the highly specialised.
“They have it all figured out!”, we say. Life must seem so light and easy with only 1 or 2 things to have define you.
Being good in many things is a curse, not a blessing
I never believed this and would always do whatever I felt like doing and experimenting with. But, because I would get tired of trying to explain myself and what I do to others, whilst in 99/100 times getting the “Aren’t you trying to do too much?”, I stopped doing that.
Now I realised that by lowering my voice, I amplified theirs. They made me think that being smart and capable in many things is a curse, not a blessing.
And what did that leave me with? Feeling like they are right, because I kept quiet for so long. Now there’s a dissonance between what I do and how I feel (on the surface vs. deep down). This most often then not manifests in self sabotage, because deep down I’d think to myself: “I’m not an expert, so why do it anyways?”.
So here I am, being loud about it again. Owning it — me, my story, my interests.
It’s not your job that defines you
The world and the society have categorised over and over again our jobs and interests. This leaves us with a never-ending list of “identities”, and if you don’t fit only one or two, you’re deemed lost.
To me, this is much simpler:
It’s not an identity, or means, it’s a way of living.
I’m not defined by my degree, my job title or perception of others. My tombstone won’t state “She was a project manager”, but rather “She changed the world”. (hopefully)
I define myself by the way I live my life. Do I bring positive change? Do I help others? Do I make the world a more livable place?
The next time when I’m asked: “What do you do?”, my answer is:
I solve problems.
The how — the means — is what’s less relevant for me. The important thing is that it’s inter-disciplinary, and it allows me to utilise all my knowledge and strengths. Be both analytical and creative.
I am not a specialist, and never will be — but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a niche.
Even though I will never be exceptional in only one thing, I will connect ideas and areas no one else can. This all-round knowledge and unique views allow me to see things where others don’t. And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, is my specialisation.
I hope this writing helps some of you who feel this way.
Know that it’s not you who’s broken, it’s the system.
Keep on bringing the good change.
I like to keep my thoughts online for free, but if you’d love to treat me to a coffee or a book (to even further expand my interests), I’d be over the moon!
I’d like to hear from you — Clap 👏 and comment to let me know what you liked and what could be better! ❤