The Hats We Wear

I was engaged in an interesting discussion based on this blog post via Twitter. Based on the question, “What do you do for a living?” the writer of the blog post thought that the “photographer” should have identified himself as a bartender since that is how he pays his bills.

I think I agree more with the photographer/bartender.

Since my divorce, I have struggled with my identity and with the different hats I wear. Over time I’ve grudgingly accepted the “runner” hat, because I really can’t avoid it after running multiple 5ks a week for a number of years, and running periodic 5k and 10k races. I image this hat as more of a headband to keep my hair out of my face.

I grudging accepted the “writer” hat because I’ve written hundreds of blog posts, many poems, a Masters thesis, peer-reviewed journal articles, a dissertation (almost), and I’m working on a book. This hat looks like a black fedora with a long, red feather.

I grudgingly accept the “artist” hat, because I create drawings, paintings, mosaics, jewelry. I’ve even sold some of my art!

This hat is one of those flamboyant monstrosities they wear at English royal weddings.

Now, if someone asks what I do for a living, I will fill my societal duty, and I will tell them I am a teacher.

But what do I really do for a living?

I teach. I write. I create art. I create music. I photograph things that catch my interest. I create DIY projects. I shoot my bow. I hike. I practice yoga. I play my guitar and ukulele. I experiment in the kitchen. I listen to music. I socialize with my fellow human beings. 

It takes all of these things to feed my soul, and they are all a part of who I am. It takes all of those things for me to really live…

I balk at being expected to define myself primarily on how I make money and pay my bills, even though I’m one of the fortunate who has a job that feeds my soul. I balk at society expecting that of any of us. It is extremely limiting.

It hints at the idea that what we do for pay is the only thing we do of worth.

If “a living” automatically equates to what we do for money in our society, we need to change the idea of what “a living” looks like immediately.

Because it ain’t just that!

We need to be open to hearing what others do to live. Maybe that is intimately tied to their job/career, but maybe it’s something else.

I’ve worked really hard to take down the walls that no longer serve me and figure out which ones are still standing. I’ve been going through the process of creating myself. You get to create yourself too! And we all get to decide what we feel comfortable sharing with other people.


For those who stick around, the full story will begin to emerge. Those people will begin to see all of our hats. Maybe some of them are beat up and fashioned from straw. Maybe some are high fashion with feathers and frills. Regardless, the ones who accompany us on our journey begin to see our full, authentic selves, instead of the self confined by societal standards.

What do I do for a living? All of the things that feed my soul. If we talk, I might share some of those things with you.

I’ll certainly be thinking about which hat I’ll be wearing when someone asks me “What do you do for a living?” in the future!


Filed under Challenge, Creating

4 Responses to The Hats We Wear

  1. I really enjoyed your post following our discussion, but I think you’ve misunderstood both me and the point of my original post, so I wanted to just reply so I can hopefully put it in context.

    ‘What do you do for a living’ was a general question that I asked a friend of a friend when I met him for the first time. It’s a standard question that lots of people ask during introductions and by no means do I feel that someone’s profession defines someone’s soul, or character. Questions about hobbies and interests usually follow as I get to know someone better.

    The point of my post was that he told me he was a photographer when I asked him what his job was. In fact, he was a barman, and I felt that he was belittling the profession by not being honest. I didn’t ask him what fed his soul, I asked him what job he did, and this is my point between professionalism and being a hobbyist. To be a professional at something is nothing to do with how good someone is at it, it is whether they are paid or not for it. Simple as. You’re obviously a great writer and you said in our conversation that you’re an artist (which I’m jealous of because I have no artistic talent whatsoever), but if I asked you what job you did you’d tell me that you’re a teacher, because that is what you get paid to do. That doesn’t take you’re creativity away from you or define you at all, you’re simply telling me what your profession is.

    However, I appreciate your post and thanks so much for taking the respond to mine.

    • Christy

      Thanks for the clarification, Suzie. I don’t feel like I misunderstood you. Instead, I feel that my post focuses on one facet of yours. Perhaps that’s where we are crossing wires…

      My post is more about that troublesome wording that we use so casually. I’m not attacking you or anything you’ve done. Instead I attack the language that our society uses to allow us to fit people into neat little boxes. In your original post, you said you asked him what he did for a living. As I say later in my post, making the response to “What do you do for a living?” be solely based on money is a problematic. Language guides how we think about things as a society (I love Fromm’s To Have or To Be to illustrate this.), and I do think the convention that “a living”=a job/money is a limiting one, even if it is often an unconscious one…

      In your post, after giving the photographer/bartender example, you begin to compare/contrast professional vs. hobbyist. There I agree with you. There is a difference, though nowadays one can bleed into the other. In regards to most of the words I identify with (e.g. writer, artist, etc…) I recognize I am a hobbyist, but I am still those things. So it depends on the context of the conversation how I would describe myself to you upon a first meeting.

      If you ask me my job, I will tell you I am an educator. If you ask me what I do for a living, I give you my blog post.

      But I appreciate the discussion and exchange of ideas all the way around!

  2. Thanks! Where I’m from, a living refers to a job. If you earn money from writing, then you’re a professional writer. That doesn’t stop you from being a writer if you don’t, but it isn’t your profession. Like me, you pay the bills by teaching, not writing. However, you have given me a brilliant idea for a post and thanks for the great conversation!

    • Christy

      That’s what it means in most places in the U.S. (I think), and that’s my point. That definition is incredibly constricting, and apparently your photographer/bartender looked outside of that definition when he responded to you. My argument is that maybe we all should, unless someone pointedly asks us about our job!

      I look forward to reading your post!