On my commute home this afternoon I was listening to an interview Eve Ensler gave earlier this year, in which she talks about cancer and what it meant to her to be a "cancer patient". Here's what she had to say about it: "[being a cancer patient] fundamentally meant stopping. It meant not being able to do, make, organise, write, create, make the world better… make, make, make. So much of my life had been about proving myself. To stop and not be proving myself, to stop and just be a human being without having to add up to something…"
I have recently begun facing the fact that I wrap a lot of my self-definition up with the things I "do". I do work… boring, mostly unimportant work that I love with every fibre of my logical little being. I do, well, very little else these days. Certainly I fit other stuff in around the working but the thing that I've been doing every day for the past 13-ish years is my work. I go to sleep thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it; my mind is nearly constantly fretting over a work-related problem that I am always able to fix, resolve, or improve. I love what I do, and I love how it has kept me engaged over the years.
And now, I'm losing my job. My company lost a major client and with it a significant revenue stream that we're not able to easily replace. So, the branch I manage is closing.
I've known it was a possibility and I've made small, quiet plans. I paid my car off earlier this year (the fact of which sort of makes me feel as though I've finally arrived at adult-hood), I've saved money, and I've started thinking about what else I might do with my time.
And in all of that, I have had to come face to face with the glaring and ugly reality that I kind of, a little bit, sorta, maybe define myself by my career. I'm good at it, people rely on me to solve problems, to care about their issues, and to make things work smoothly. Now that I won't be doing that forever, I have to re-imagine what it means to be me.
Eve Ensler's comments on what it meant to her to be a cancer patient epitomised the emotions I'm having. I especially liked the bit about being a human being without having to add up to something. I dropped out of high school and didn't finish college after getting my GED, so having the job I do really feels like I made something out of myself… something I didn't set myself up for, something I worked extra hard to get. Losing it now, at this stage of my life, feels pretty gross.
I'm no Eve Ensler, and we already have amazing narrative on feminine empowerment thanks to her so I won't be changing the world, but I feel a sense of excitement at figuring this part of myself out.
Who will I be once my job ends? I'm a woman. And, for the first time in my life, that's enough.