A Toronto Transformation

We’re Not Defined by Our 9-5s

Sarah and her reflection

The other night, Emma and I were chatting with a bartender who asked us about our work. We obligingly gave vague descriptions of our respective administrative positions. When he left, we started chatting about how boring that was, and how we really should just tell people about our blogging and photography instead.

Emma was way ahead of me. She and her roommate have both being trying to make a conscious effort to tell people who ask about what they do or what their jobs are that they are artists and only if asked how they fund their art, would they mention their day jobs.

I loved this idea of actively trying to change your own perspective through the words you use to describe yourself and taking ownership of the things you love to do.

While I do know a few people who are lucky/brave/hardworking/determined enough to be able to pursue their passion full-time, the reality is, that most people I know have to pursue their passions outside of their necessary 9-5.

I feel extremely grateful to hold the steady position I do (it was a SUCH a relief to stumble into it after months of unemployment when I left the small-town paper and moved to the city), and while I am lucky enough to work with really wonderful people, my job doesn’t have much use for any of the skills or creativity I actually enjoy using, and it has very little to do with who I am or how I view myself beyond the self-esteem boost that comes with being steadily, gainfully employed.

It doesn’t light me up, and set my brain a’ ticking the way writing does. The stories I share here, the things I create say so much more about me than my “official “, paying gig does.

I get so much out of it and I put so much into it and just because I’m not paid to do it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have worth, doesn’t invalidate it, doesn’t lower it’s legitimacy as an answer to the question “So what do you do?”

So, I’m going to try to start acknowledging it out loud.

And I think, if you don’t already, you should too.

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

In an effort to remind people of this, I’ve decided to start a series here featuring interviews with and work of people who pursue their passions outside of their 9-5. If you or someone you know fits the bill, shoot me a message at metamorphocity@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about what you do in your 5-9!

26 Responses to We’re Not Defined by Our 9-5s

  • Jane Tribick says:

    Only North Americans ask ” What do you do?” Rightfully, it’s considered rude everywhere else in the world, for all the reasons you are talking about.

    • I don’t know about that. I’ve gotten that question in pretty much every country I’ve ever travelled to.

      But, anyway – I like the idea of the re-frame on the ‘what do you do?’ answer.

    • metamorphocity says:

      Oh! that’s really interesting. It never occurred to me that it might be a regional thing! It’s such a go-to in introductory small-talk here. I sometimes have to remind myself to ask more interesting/polite questions.

  • Shannon says:

    I love the perspective of this! I’m graduating in a few months and although I blog, I don’t consider that as “what I do”. I’ve just always wanted to write. I’m about to start a full-time position, and I enjoy it. I do copywriting and blogging professionally now, and while I always imagined myself as a poet or novelist, I find that I don’t want to spend my time doing that right now. I get genuinely excited about my job. I don’t know if that will change when the relief of just being employed wears off though. Ultimately, I do want to work for myself so I can location independent…but I’m not really sure of what exactly it is that I want to do. For now, I’m okay with answering the question of what I do with my 9-5 because I put so much work into getting this position and it does utilize my skills.

    • Shannon says:

      Reading my last comment, I do worry that I’ve given up on dreaming big for a “safer option”. (sorry for taking over your comments!)

      • metamorphocity says:

        Haha. No apologies necessary! I love the thoughtful comments! As for taking the safer option, I’m of the mind that it’s absolutely possible to dream big and move towards those dreams while also living rooted in your current reality.

    • metamorphocity says:

      Oh absolutely. Congrats on finding a way to be paid for skills you’re proud of developing! And of course it’s great to have that easy answer to the question of what you do. You should be so proud of the work you’ve put in! But if the time comes where you begin passionately writing novels or poetry, but you’re still copywriting or doing something else you’re less excited about, don’t forget it’s totally legitimate to list “novelist” or “poet” first!

  • Oh nice! As somebody who switches hobbies every few months, I don’t think I could define myself that way but at the same time, I’m still a student so for now learning will be my full-time gig..

    • metamorphocity says:

      Oh yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had a problem with the thing I spend the most time doing being the thing I name when it is also something I’m at least engaged with and interested in. presumably as a student, you’re learning some interesting stuff and what you’re studying might give a person asking what you do some insight into you’re personality.

      I just don’t want my boring job to be the lede to my story when I’ve got so many other things going on. I’d rather talk about a project or a hobby I love, than try to explain to someone what my admin job entails.

  • MARTIN says:

    I could not agree with this post more! After all, ‘writer’ sounds much better than ‘call centre bitch’. Haha. Oh life, you cruel beast.

  • mandy says:

    So true. I was talking about this with some friends the other day as well. If you are working on making photography your full-time career one day, tell people you’re a photographer! You’re already doing it, just because you make more money waitressing/answering phones doesn’t mean you are more defined by that than the photography. If anything, the photography defines you more because it comes from your heart (as cheesy as that may sound).

    Although I will say that when I started working for myself 3 years ago it felt REALLY weird telling people I was a freelance writer. It still does sometimes.

  • McKenzie says:

    I’m telling you, as soon as I started defining myself to others as a “farmer” and an “artist” those things took root and grew so much more than they had been. While I’m lucky to also love my (8-1) dayjob, I know I won’t be there forever. It’s important to me that I stay home and raise my kids someday, so part of my goal in defining myself as a farmer and an artist is making it so that those things can eventually provide just as much, if not more, financial support to our family. CONGRATULATIONS on deciding to be honest with the world about your dreams! I’m sure it feels immensely good. xo

  • Peggy says:

    I remember when I told people I was an editor years ago before I moved to Toronto. I was so proud of being in journalism. But now I only vaguely tell people I work at UofT, you know, admin stuff. And feel it is so lame…

    • metamorphocity says:

      I totally get that! I always want to qualify my admin job by explaining “but that’s not the real me, you know?

  • Lilly says:

    I agree with this 200 percent. Gosh, I love your blog. Good find. *pats self on back*

    I think it’s a characteristic of the Millennial generation. We are not defined by our jobs. Back in the day, you sought a job that you planned to stay at for 30+ years and it had everything to do with who you are. But now, young workers are in constant pursuit of their passion, which more often than not takes place outside of the office (or wherever). A few lucky people get to do work that reflects “who they are.” I’m workin’ on it, but I hope to be one those people in a few years.

    • metamorphocity says:

      Aw, thanks Lilly! Yeah, I think that’s part of it too. It’s hard to be defined by a career when ours seem to be constantly changing!

    • metamorphocity says:

      So great! I mean, presumeably you’re somewhat passionate about the subject of your PHD too, but I see no reason why that should be the first thing you tell people about! Especially if blogging, writing and photography inspire you more! It’s always more interesting to hear people talk about something that actually gets them excited!

  • LaReesa says:

    I know this is an old post but I just recently found it and love it! As someone mentioned, I do think this is a cultural thing for North Americans and Northern Europeans.

    I worked on a story last summer for my newspaper where all these local community leaders got together for some sort of project. They all had short biographies in this booklet they handed out, and almost everyone’s bio started with “I work for xxx.” There were three or so American Indians in the group, and theirs were noticeably different. They all had a laundry list of their relationships and volunteering positions and passions listed, along with a job. It usually started with “I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend” before going on to what they did to make money. I LOVED that. I’m going to make an effort to talk more about my passions and the things I’m most proud of doing.

    It really says something that we frame our success and who we are based on our jobs! Kind of weird, actually.

  • metamorphocity says:

    Thanks so much for commenting, LaReesa! I love that placement of passions and relationships to other people above job history too!

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