What do you do?
I’ve been struggling to answer this for a few years. It seemed so easy when I was a lawyer. You could tell people in one word and they packaged it up with probably a lot of preconceptions about what lawyers are or aren’t and there were no more questions. With being called to the Bar, and working in Human Rights, I was often given the privilege of assumptions about my intelligence. They could serve me well.
I often reply with ‘Do you mean as a job?’. I do many things, but not all for an income.
I became self-employed again during a lockdown due to covid, and followed Marcus into running coaching, gradually gaining the knowledge, experience, and qualifications I needed to feel competent. Along the way I picked up my yoga teacher and my mountain leader qualifications and began doing some varied work as extra income. I have a podcast that isn’t monetized, evolving out of curiosity rather than a career plan. I have new opportunities for coaching and mentoring, which I will share soon, and speaking, but it’s no longer possible to say what I do with one word. It’s not possible in five. I find myself trailing off a little, telling people that I just try to find a way my hobbies become an income.
Along the way, I wrote a book, which is due out at the start of 2024. But does that make me a writer? I have been hesitant to put it on my biographies online, because, it didn’t feel true yet. But I know whether I am a writer doesn’t depend on publishers and figures. I write therefore I am… a writer.
There is a lot of writing I have done in the last few years that I haven’t shared. Either because I didn’t feel ready to share such vulnerability in, what often seems, such a permanent state of words on a page, or because I didn’t have the place to put it. The threads that wove around but didn’t fit the fabric of the book.
So here is my new place for my writing. Sometimes they may be linked to my work, my podcast, or my life.
I recently recorded a podcast with career change coach Sarah Lister, which isn’t out yet. It seemed a little premature in this current career change, with so much still being formed in my businesses, but I hope that it shows to others that it doesn’t always have to be neatly produced, or packaged, to go from one profession to the next. It may seem messy by society’s standards, and against the grain, but carving out a way of living for myself based on my values and passions is slowly taking form.
That leads me to a wider question that has cropped up over the years of chronic illness and giving up running.
Who are you?
What comes to mind first? Is it back to the idea of a career, of labels that succinctly wrap us up? But we know that careers can end whether we want them to or not, and most of us hope for some retirement from them. Who are we without saying our career?
Maybe once I would have said I was a runner. Perhaps your thoughts turned to hobbies or activities you do. But I know that these can be taken away overnight. Am I a runner? It’s been years since I ran, I can’t walk around my house without pain, and I no longer feel a runner. It’s not who I am. My book really explores what comes next, when changes come, and we try to resist. Where grief is allowed in, to mourn the life we didn’t live.
Maybe you reached for something that defined you via a relationship with others… a mother, a wife, a brother, or a son. But are we defined by who we are in relationship to others? For me, it’s not the essence of who I am. I change, I evolve, while the label of a wife or daughter stays the same.
Who are we really? Beyond the labels of work, or relationships. I find it hard to catch a definition. I look for threads, of equality, of justice, of communication that have been with me since I was a child. I look at what draws me closer, where my curiosity lies, such as sitting with people talking about the uncomfortable times whether that was on my podcast or in prisons. I think of the integrity that guides my decisions; what makes me feel uncomfortable, what lights me up, and where my boundaries are or should be.
I used to think I was here to simply serve those less fortunate than me, but then I lost my health, and it made me reconsider. It seemed too much of a capitalist construct that I was only here to serve. A female conditioned from a young age to please, to serve and hold the peace. It’s not all that I am anymore.
I don’t need to be able to define who I am in any more detail right now. I have enough awareness to feel the pull of some things, the repel of others, and a guiding instinct when I make decisions. Whether that’s with my work, who I spend time with or simply what I cook for my next meal.
I will let who I am evolve, or maybe it’s also a process of uncovering, as I go.