Monday, October 29, 2012
Studs Terkel, our national treasure and oral historian concluded in his book Working, "Your work is your identity." Sure is. Not only do we identify ourselves by what we do, we lose that identity when we have nothing to do or no longer work. This conclusion that Terkel reached after interviewing hundreds of people in a wide variety of professions is hardly shocking. Americans have valued work from the early days of the republic. It's a huge part of our national character. In fact, we value hard work so much that when faced with the trauma of job loss, or career changes, or loss of satisfaction in the workplace, we often blame ourselves. From the Great Depression of the 1930s right on through to today's stagnant economy, we have been living with identity crises that stem from work. For a teacher this loss of identity is particularly difficult. I know a few folks that have had a difficult time adjusting to their like after teaching. Their identity changes literally, from Mr.or Ms. whomever to just a first name. That's the least of concerns. Since teaching is so all-consuming, the sudden loss of all the necessities can be jolting. Who am I now that I am no longer Mr. Greene? I think I know. But for many it's a real conundrum.