A couple of weeks ago, Zach and I met an older man at church, a retired pastor. He introduced himself and asked what Zach does (as most people ask us when we meet them). Zach told him he’s a PhD dissertator in literature. The man responded with the usual befuddled look and the joke, “So when you graduate, what coffee shop will you work at?”
Probably hoping for something more normal, he asked me the same question. I told him what I tell everyone these days: “I’m a poet, and I also spend a lot of time at home with Ramona.” Well, he didn’t even have a joke as a comeback for this response; a blank stare was all he could muster. When he introduced us to his wife, he told her our names and said Zach was a student. He said nothing about what I “do.”
How I choose to present myself to others may be a conversation killer, but I still feel like it’s really important. Because, while I feel called to my work as a parent, I don’t think it’s my motherhood alone that defines me. In fact, of all the labels I wear, the one I consider my primary occupation is poetry. It doesn’t make me any money, but it fulfills what I think of as my purpose.
It would be easier to just tell people I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I don’t think that tells the real story of who I am. I also believe that words have power, and if I mislabel myself for ease of conversation or to be accepted, I won’t just be changing others’ perception of who I am. I will change my own perception of who I am, and in doing so, I will be changing who I actually am.
The are a lot of ways that I can be true to who I am: what I wear, what I spend my time doing, who I choose to be associated with, what I do with my money…and also how I talk about myself to others–not omitting parts of who I am, not belittling what I do, not treating myself with disresepect, but being truthful, wholly, even if other people don’t see the value or beauty in that truth.