"What do you want to be when you grow up?" we're always asking our children. The response is almost always a concrete answer: a fireman, hockey player, doctor etc. The idea is ingrained in us from an early age - we must have a title, a one word description to define us. The subtle nuances of our being are buried below this label, only to be uncovered by those who take the time to know us beyond the singular title we have chosen to tell the world who we are.
As we get older, the question shifts from "What do you want to be when you grow up?" to "What do you do?" Again we are being asked to describe ourselves in a minimal amount of words, to lump our whole being into a sound bite. Most of us already have more than one title - husband/wife, mother/father, friend, sports fanatic. Normally one definition of ourselves stands out as the most prominent, and for me it has always been my professional title. Being a mom is the title that brings me the most pride, but I don't use that title to present myself to the world. For almost 23 years my title has been a pilot. It's not only my job but my identity. A source of pride, insecurity, sometimes ego, and lately a source of confusion.
As I find myself delving deeper into the world of Reiki and alternative healing, a one word title doesn't seem to fit me anymore. I have two very different jobs now, and the second one is difficult to describe in one word. When I meet someone and they ask what I do, it's much easier to say that I'm a pilot than to try and explain my healing work.
But what if we began to think of the questions "What do you want to be when you grow up" or "What do you do," in a different way? Instead of using those questions to explain a literal definition of ourselves, what if we described the underlying essence of who we really are? Imagine asking a child what they want to be when they grow up and they respond with, "Happy." Or "Creative." Or "Free." Or "An inspiration to others." Or the mother of all answers to this question - "Me."
The next time someone asks, "What do you do," imagine their reaction if the answer was "I encourage others to uncover their authentic selves," or "I create spontaneous bliss wherever I go," or even "I honor myself and those around me by being true to myself."
The responses above would definitely catch some people by surprise. In the absence of a self imposed title, they might begin to come up with their own titles to describe us, some of them not very flattering. That's ok too. I'm reminded of my favorite quote from this week - "What other people think of you is none of your business." We all walk a different path.
So the next time someone asks me at a party, "What do you do," will I respond with, "I help others uncover the grace, courage and beauty within?" Probably not. Twenty three years of identity is a hard habit to break. But I guarantee I will hesitate before I answer, and maybe in time, I just might surprise a few people.