Sitting at my OB’s office earlier this week I had to face the gruesome questionnaire “tell us about your self” first time patient ordeal. The blonde skinny assistant tried to be as smooth as possible, as probably the protocol for treating a heavily pregnant woman dictates but when the question of employment was asked and I diplomatically replied “None at the moment” she happily exhaled “a housewife! The dream of every woman!” I almost snapped.
It was the first time in my life I have been called a housewife by someone and I seriously hoped the term would be completely obsolete by now. For one thing, the doctor’s office I am referring to is in Athens , Greece where I was born and raised and where under the current economic climate I know lots of people whose professional situation could hardly be attributed to personal choice. Furthermore, this whole incident has sparked a whole debate in my mind about professional identity and identity in general.
Why do we still let all these outdated narrow social terms define who we are and in some way dictate our social self worth? Here is some thoughts on that.
a) I was born and raised by two doctors. Two MDs to be precise. My parents’ professional qualification have defined their social identity throughout their lives as it happens with all traditional highly valued qualifications like scientists and lawyers or highly technical professions. On the contrary, everything that belongs in the humanities field as well as arts has to be justified with the presence of a job. While you can say “I am a medical doctor” and nobody would care to know whether you are active, retired or spending most of your time playing Sudoku, when you are a writer, artist or in communications you have to be employed and prolific to prove that you are “serious”. Bottom line is you do not need a degree in humanities to gain a useful qualification; you just need someone willing to employ you to do the job.
b) Our perceiving professional identity itself is wrong. Having some painful experience working for the public sector during unfortunate times, I have to say that committing yourself from 9-5 in an 8 hour boredom, gossip and coffee consuming does not make you a professional. On the contrary it threatens to reduce your brain cells at an alarming speed.
Following thoughts a and b I can draw 2 conclusions. First, we live in a social farce. We are each asked to pretend and lie to prove our social value to people whose opinion we should not care about. Why do we do that? We should spend that energy instead achieving true life goals like conquering our fears and insecurities about what everybody thinks. And b, as a society we have moved away from traditional perceptions of profession. New skills and qualifications have created the need for a new understanding of work and employment. As I once read, the future belongs to the freelancers.