If you aren’t what you do, then who are you?

by mollykl

Caught the tail end of the NPR story “Parking Lot: Guys, Cars and the Meaning of Life” last week, and had to look it up and read the entire thing. I had managed to get only the very end, but I was intrigued by what I heard, particularly the quote,  “You get to know who you are fundamentally in the absence of any other external trappings … that typically frame our identities and make us who we are. Y’know, ‘I do this, or I do that.’ Well, when you’re at the parking lot, you do nothing.”

I know, rationally, that I’m not defined by my job, and yet I still feel that way, and it prickles me. I work in a grocery store. I wear a uniform and work in a grocery store. Most of my friends, that is most of my friends outside of work, wear suits and go to jobs in office buildings, or own their own businesses. How much of our sense of self is tied up in what we do? Work is, after all, where we spend 8-10 hours a day. That’s a big chunk of waking time. But is what we do really who we are? And would I even be asking this question if I had a more glamorous job? Probably not, and that would be a shame.