Posted by: nickgerlich | August 28, 2007

Who I Am/Who Am I

People have been known by their trades for generations. Surnames in the English language are often a reflection of what someone’s great-great grandfather did for a living. It’s a personal identity issue, no doubt, but I sure am glad that none of my forefathers decided to make the family name Ledger or Debit or Credit.

As I reflect on my years in the classroom, I see fewer and fewer students who seek an education so they can be identified by a particular profession. You see, a major shift is occurring in our culture regarding work. In my father’s generation, people lived to work. Their very identity was wrapped up in what they did.

It was often difficult to separate the person from the job. There goes George Clooney the Actor. And Barry Bonds the Baseball Player. And let’s not forget Bob the Builder.

We’re so enamored of occupations that when we meet strangers, one of the first things to pop out of our mouth is, “So…what do you do?” And we make value judgments based on what they say. Pity the poor man who tells us he’s a garbage collector. But stand back in awe if we meet a nuclear scientist.

Today, more and more people simply work to live. There’s little loyalty between company and employee, and people are more likely than not to change jobs and careers several times, creating a patchwork career that may more resemble a smorgasbord than an entree.

Although I was raised by parents who were the product of the modern era they helped build, I guess I silently rejected some of the stuff they taught me. I was always pushed to find the one thing that I would do for the rest of my life, so that I could become Nick the Something-or-Other.

I never quite bought into the mindset that dictated “who I am is defined by what I do.”

No, I just can’t swallow the idea that, because I am a professor, I must therefore be a boring person, sit around and study all the time, and have traces of breakfast on my tie.

On the contrary, what I do is defined by who I am.

So who am I? I am a follower of Christ. Everything else is derivative.

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