Identity and Work

I posted once in 2015. Once. This year, I determined to be more consistent. Julia Sweeney, one of my favorite celebrities (her performance Letting Go of God was a life-changing listen for me) posted in January that she would try to post once a month in 2016. That seemed a reasonable goal. Except it’s already February. So, I will try to post more often (weekly, perhaps?) with the understanding that one of my faults is that I have unrealistic expectations of my ability to get things done especially in relation to time goals. We shall see. No matter what, this year has to be better than last year.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. 2015 was not my year. It started off hit-the-ground-running busy, with a trial in January and another in February. We lost the first trial completely and only half-lost the second. In March, I was told I would be laid off and I had a couple of months to look for a job. I found a contract job pretty quickly and was excited about the change. In June, I walked into work and all of my stuff was piled on the floor. “Your journey at this firm ends here,” I was told. “Did I do something wrong?” I sputtered. I had never lost a job before, besides the layoff (which had been kind of expected as the partners were aging and looking at retirement). “No you didn’t do anything wrong,” he answered. “This was just a probationary period to see if we would gel, and it just didn’t work out.”

I packed up my car in a daze. As I did, I realized everything I thought about myself was in question.

I had always thought that if I worked hard, I would always be valued and, well, employed. Besides working hard, I pick up things quickly because I’m interested in the law and its applications. I had always thought I was a good paralegal and would be seen by the world as such. Now, I had lost two jobs in a few months, and I wasn’t sure about anything anymore.

Looking back, I can see I was being melodramatic. I was given two weeks’ severance, and by the end of the two weeks, I was starting another job. So, I didn’t even have a chance to file for unemployment before I was back at work, which I am thankful for. Still, I couldn’t deny I was shaken. If I was wrong about who I was as an employee, was I wrong about other things as well?

I know many people who don’t derive their identity from their jobs. A job is just a job, after all, a way to pay the bills and do the things you really want to do, like spend time with friends and family. But, perhaps since I don’t have children of my own, or perhaps simply because I was built this way, I have always felt my work has partially defined me. I take personal pride in what I do, and how I am perceived by those I work with. My job is not just a job, but part of who I am. That’s kind of embarrassing as well, since I am “merely” a paralegal. Everyone I work with (for) went to law school and passed the bar. I got a Masters in English Literature. I thought I was going to teach, but that never really happened. They fulfill CLE requirements to keep their good standing with the Court. I don’t even have a paralegal certificate (although I have heard they’re not very useful, and not required in Colorado), and some of the attorneys still refer to me as their “assistant,” which for some reason rankles. It’s not as bad as “secretary” but gets pretty close.

Even so, I like what I do. I think I do it well. This is not to say this is the only thing I could do, or that I wouldn’t be happy with a different career, but in the end, once you get set down a certain path and want to get paid a certain amount of money, you’re kind of stuck. All of my experience is in one area, and I don’t want to start from scratch. And in the end, a job is just a job. I do it to pay the bills and do the things I really want to do. It is not just that, of course, but I need to remember that I am more than just a job title, that I do have wonderful friends and family that love me no matter what my career is. Because, in the end, it’s just a part of the story.

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2 Comments on "Identity and Work"

  1. Kelly
    04/02/2016 at 2:00 pm Permalink

    It may just be a job, but you are damn good at it. Don’t ever doubt that. I know, I worked with you, and you are still my inspiration for setting the bar high.

  2. Wilberry
    04/02/2016 at 2:22 pm Permalink

    I enjoyed this

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