I’ve been thinking a lot about my “career,” whatever that even is anymore. We are so defined by our jobs. “What do you do?” is an early small talk question, but it’s just one more box we put ourselves in to, like where you live, what your name is, how many followers you have on Twitter. And really, none of this even matters, yet it does an awful lot. To function in society, we need money. To get money, we generally need a job or must rely on the charity or care of others.
In a sense, we are all participating in an illusion we call “the world.” We are creating a story, a narrative, with our sensory input and the language we use to describe it. The Zen master Dogen wrote:
“There is the vision within and there is giving expression to the vision; there is the vision being expressed and there is one’s being within the vision. Without being within a vision there is no expressing a vision, and without expressing a vision, there is no being within a vision.”
The challenge is to see reality as clearly as possible, to understand that we create stories but those stories are a kind of reality and yet also not reality. Then we affirm what is and continue on. In terms of my career, I can choose a label. I’m a pet sitter. I’m a transaction coordinator. These are my two current jobs. But they don’t define me. They are just labels. I am also a “flower in the sky,” to borrow a phrase from Dogen and others.
The trap is when we think the stories are Real and Unchanging, and that we have some measure of ground under our feet, some measure of security. I don’t know anyone who leads a life where circumstances don’t throw their stories to the wind. This is a particularly windy time for the world. Keeping your narrative flexible might be the key to weathering any storm.