Saturday, May 06, 2006

Are you what you are?

Moving to the Northeast was a social challenge for me. New York City is the epicenter of people that define themselves by what they do. "Hi, I'm Karen and I'm a fashion photographer", "My name is Kevin and I'm a commercial space designer", "I'm Taylor and I'm an investment banker at MSDW", I'm Diane and I'm an administrative assistant". When I write this, you most likely envision certain types of people. New York is the commerce center of the country and by most standards of the free market world. But New York is not defined by that - it is complex and made up of hidden and spraling parks, crowded neon lit sidewalks and small cobblestone alleys filled with ivy. The people that inhabit it are no different and they in many ways epitimize a free market person.

Because we live in a society that promotes the individual to set their status in society by their success, and by success we can assume that we are talking about financial success, people are defined by what they do for work. Back to my initial sentance: moving to the Northeast was a challenge for me. Every introduction begins with name and where they work and at what capacity. Because I am not a person that is motivated by what a person 'does' or 'is' unless they tell me they are doing something that involves giving, I always end up asking what part of town they live in and dig down from there.

On the flip side, I do admire the people that should define themselves by what they do: nurses, massage therapists, acupuncturists, family owned organic farmer, bike shop owner, science teacher. These are often times people that given the option, often wouldn't do anything else. Sure, we always would like more money to free us up from the day to day stresses of life but these are people that have to have a passion for their job or they wouldn't do it. I would be more interested in meeting someone that spends their working hours giving than a partner at an accounting firm regardless of how 'successful' they are. If you live in a 3500 square foot house, have a three car garage and love to entertain but find you don't really have friends over more than twice a year - I'm talking about you.

My point is, most other places on this tiny planet, people are introduced based on things that are actually more important and defining like what town you're from, your family name, etc. It is sad that we look for simple labels and words to define people. Like the city of New York is made of contrete and arterials, we are made of flesh and blood. We have our good points and are bad and we have energy, beauty and the ability to suffer incredible pain. New York is not just 'a city' so why are you just a (fill in your job title here)?


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