Let’s say you’re out of work and that depression is starting to kick in. You wake up with that urgency to get freedom, along with that hopelessness of not having an easy way out, both “achieved” through the paying gig. Now let’s say you’ve worked at a gig for some time and that depression starts kicking in differently. You wake up with complacency because you’re drifting away from your real goals. Why does this happen?
Maybe we derive too much ego from the hats we wear?
We identify with whatever we’re doing. I’m writing right now. Is that all I am? What happens when I don’t write for a day? A week? A year? I’m not paid to write here. Can I still wear the writer hat and title? Does that title include this introductory caveat? “An individual whose livelihood depends on this act.”
What other hats can I wear at the same time?
I write about rowing twice daily. I write emails at work. I write emails to friends and family. My rowing, my work, and my relationships aren’t sustained entirely by writing, so when I row, am I no longer a writer? Or am I a “rowing writer?” What if I want to write a concert review? Long-form fiction narrative? Or more?
Why focus on these details?
When we lose our self-confidence through extended periods of unemployment or underemployment, we forget that these are just hats we wear in the moment that they fit us. Maybe the hat gets worn out, we no longer like the design, or we lose the hat. Is that it? Do we give up and assume we can never get another hat again?
Maybe, someday, I’ll stop writing.
Maybe I’ll find another hobby that gives me more positive catharsis and freedom than what writing gives me. Maybe I will have said everything I need to say. Will that mean I should get rid of everything I’ve worked toward up until that point? Would any skills and happiness become discredited if I stop writing? Or can I keep it all?
That’s why I like mementos.
An object can transport me to a certain point in my life. The hat above represents an achievement in my life where I earned a certification that would serve its $300 as a tenfold return on investment. I don’t use those skills much anymore. Maybe some of the core disciplinary skills carried along professionally and personally.
Otherwise, it’s just a hat.
It’s just a job. You are not your job. Your name is not your employee ID number. You are the sum of all of your failures and successes. If you find yourself dipping into a low spot, you must say to yourself “I want to change this!” Then please work toward those changes, no matter how small, and no matter how long it takes. Keep on fighting!
Just like this hat, there’ll be a day when that unemployment becomes a memory.
You’ll find yourself with new hats to wear.
Inspirations: My career, sofar.