Several months ago I ran across an article written by Bob Goff, author of Love Does, as well as an attorney who founded Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda and India. It really came at a profound moment in my life…in particular, this quote:
“I am not an author. Sure, I wrote a book — so, technically speaking, I guess I am an author. But let’s not get technical. What I mean is, what I do isn’t who I am. You know who I am? … Maria’s husband. Lindsey, Richard, and Adam’s dad. I have learned to be very careful how I describe myself, because people do best at what they identify with most… How we identify ourselves is the thing we will become.
If we call ourselves speakers or writers or knife throwers but then some night we do a lousy job of speaking or writing or knife throwing, it’s not just a bad night. It’s an identity crisis.
I’ve chosen to identify myself by Jesus, by my family, and by my friends. Do a great job at your family and you always win. Define yourself by them. When you’re choosing what job to do, remember — it’s not who you are, it’s a day job.”
This was a major AH- HA moment for me. I have identified myself so closely with being a teacher that when I had a “bad night”….or actually a bad year, it caused a major crisis in my life. Every observation, every low score I received was a fatal blow to me. Since I thought (and still do) that it was a calling, I felt justified in this thinking.
Yet, after this article, I have a new perspective. Being a teacher is not really who I am. Being a Christian, however, IS who I am. Being a wife to Bryan, a mom to Spencer and Savannah, a friend to some, these are the things for which I will be remembered.
The students that I hope to have had influence on won’t remember my higher-order thinking questions, or the way I assessed them 3 different ways and increased their reading level. I DO hope they will remember how I did it, though. I hope they remember that I treated them kindly, spoke positively about them, and inspired them to keep trying when they wanted to give up. I hope they remember that I valued them, not the grades that they received. I hope they remember the laughter, the dancing and the wonderful singing we did together many years from now. I hope they remember the love. That is who I want to be. No matter what job or career I find myself in next.
What about you…do you define yourself by what you do? If not, how do you define yourself outside of work?