Leavenworth Pigeons

The Pigeonhole

A few weeks ago, I met and visited with a peer who also lives in Walla Walla. She asked if I was working or going to school; I asked her the same. She told me she works at her church, has a part-time reception job, and is earning her psych degree.

Her response stuck with me because lately I’ve been thinking about my answer to the “What do you do?” question. Like this young woman, my response can also have three parts: writer of a book, HVAC shop assistant, and Etsy store owner.

I’m grateful that most people I talk to are open minded about my triple job description. This gratitude is why I’m writing this post: I want to learn to forget stereotypes when meeting someone. A person’s job does not define them. It does add to the description of the person, but that person is more than their job, more than their marital status, and more than any of the other general topics that come up in an initial conversation.

Of course we already know this. Yet, think about how much credit is given to a person when someone says, “My relative works at Google.” We don’t know this relative, but in my mind this person has just been given some clout. This could be deserved—after all, I hear it’s not easy to get a job at Google. This person put in the work! But, on the flip side, maybe this person got a lucky internship and was then employed. None of this is known.

Take me, for example. When I talk about each of my jobs individually, I can see my life being pigeonholed. If I say, “I’m an Etsy store owner,” this can seem like a hobby-type job, one that I probably do for fun and that doesn’t pay the bills. If I say, “I just finished writing a book”, this is usually received with excitement, regardless of what profit I’m making. For the first response, I can appear to be a moocher living frivolously; for the second, a persistent worker who completed a goal.

Either way, I am the same person.

So, if it seems your job isn’t bringing you credibility equal to what you’re actually doing, look at your goals. Are you making progress toward them? If you are, then you have all the credibility you need. And if you’re not finding the encouragement you’re looking for, reach out to those you admire and those who have traveled a similar road. These are the kindred spirits who know a person cannot fit in a pigeonhole.

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