LauraUnderwood_10(photo via Amanda Castle Photography)

I’ve never been particularly career minded.

There, I said it. It’s not that I’m wildly happy about it; it’s just the truth.

There are some people who have known exactly what they wanted to do and exactly who they wanted to be from the moment they stepped into Kindergarten, but that just wasn’t me. In fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t really even consider the fact that I needed to choose a career path until my junior year of college. But the thing is… I didn’t really even consider it. Making that kind of decision seemed hard and scary, and I didn’t want to face hard or scary things, so I just assumed that life would work out in my favor. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)

There are lots of things that I could blame this on. I could blame it on the fact that I went to a free spirited elementary school that focused on play based learning rather than academics. I could blame it on the fact that I’m the third child, and everyone knows the baby of the family doesn’t face the same strict standards as their older siblings. I could blame it on the fact that my parents split up when I was young and my mom did everything in her power to make sure that my childhood was simply happy. I could blame it on the fact that nobody ever really pushed me out of my comfort zone. But you know what? I don’t need to blame anyone or anything. This is just who I am.

Just because I’m not especially jazzed about climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t mean I’m not passionate. I’m passionate about plenty. I’m passionate about the Gospel, I’m passionate about being creative, I’m passionate about taking care of people, I’m passionate about relationships, I’m passionate about loving the fatherless, I’m passionate about joy.

Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always guarantee a living wage and a 401k. After I graduated from college, I was honestly confused about who I was and who I wanted to be. My main goals were to be a wife, a mother, and a children’s book illustrator – if I was lucky. Not surprisingly, those things weren’t practical, so I started applying for every corporate position that might take me.

I had never considered writing as a career, but I felt like I was pretty okay at it – and remember – I really had no idea what I wanted to do. When a position as a copy writer opened up that would allow me to move to Charlotte, I jumped on it without a second thought. I worked with this tech start-up for the past year and a half, writing countless articles, making crazy bets with co-workers, and eating my weight in frozen yogurt from the TCBY next door. While it was an incredible experience, I wasn’t fulfilled.

I left my job a month and a half ago. At first, unemployment seemed blissful. I spent a long weekend at the beach with girl friends, I caught up on all of the to-do list items that I had been putting off for months, and I binge-watched plenty of Netflix. Being someone who has admittedly never been career minded, I was surprised when the doubt started to creep in. Around Week 2 of unemployment, the dark little voice of negativity began whispering in my ear.

“You’re never going to have a job that you can be proud of.”

“You aren’t very smart.”

“You never try hard at anything.”

“You couldn’t even get into the college you wanted to.”

“Nobody would want to hire you.”

“You’re such a disappointment.”

“What are you even going to do? You’re directionless!”

“You’re going to hop around from dead-end-job to dead-end-job for the rest of your life.”

There was one week when 5 different strangers asked me where I was in school. I was so confused as to why I kept getting this question when I graduated 3 years ago, but then I realized it was because I wasn’t at work during working hours. A cashier at Trader Joe’s greeted me one Tuesday afternoon, “Got the day off work?” I stuttered, “Uh… yeah…” and my self-esteem plummeted. A woman at the pool quipped, “Reading by the pool on a Monday?! I wish I was you!” I held my tongue but what I wanted to say was, “A job with a paycheck on a Monday?! I wish I was you!” People asked questions behind my back, “Is she just planning on babysitting forever?” All of it made me want to scream.

There are a myriad of things in my life that are important. My job has never been the most important thing to me. When my joblessness started threatening my identity, I was shocked. I didn’t know how to handle it. I panicked. One day I was convinced I had the stomach bug – I was nauseous and I physically could not drag myself out of the bed. In reality, I’m pretty sure I was just having a melt down brought on by worrying about my future.

This isn’t a sob story. This time of discomfort and unemployment has forced me to ask myself some hard questions. It’s forced me to face the hard and scary decisions that I was always afraid of. How do I want to spend my days? What do I enjoy? What am I good at? How can I turn my passions into a job that I love?

The great news is that I have a plan. I’m taking the steps to pursue a career that I’m really, really, excited about. It’s going be hard and it’s going to take a few years and I’m sure I’m going to shed my fair share of frustrated tears. But I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna kick butt. It’s like… for the first time in my life I’m chasing a dream that I want for myself, and one that I’m proud of. I’ll write more about this later, but that’s not my point for today.

Friends, today I want to say to you, you are not your job. You are not defined by the way you spend your days from 8 to 5. Your identity does not depend on your paycheck or the amount of money in your bank account. You are not a better individual when you get a promotion, and you’re no less important when you get laid off. You are not defined by what you do, you are defined by who you are. You are the books you read, you are the people you spend time with, you are your ambitions and your dreams, you are your hobbies, you are your beliefs, you are your convictions, you are your sense of humor, you are your passions, and you are your victories.

At the end of the day, at the end of your life, your professional resume doesn’t matter. If you ask me, the only thing that matters is the way you’ve loved people.

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20 Responses to I Am Not My Job, And Neither Are You.

  • Katelyn says:

    Well, this was especially perfect for me today since I quit my job. And you know what, you actually helped me. When we went and had dinner and you told me you quit your job for a few reasons… I related to many of them. Two weeks ago I put in my notice, and today I walked out of my job with a box full of things. I had spent the past year and a half of my life and all I feel like I got out of it was a box full of things. Life is too short to live passionless.

  • Marah says:

    LOVE THIS. Just what I needed to read. Good luck with pursuing your dreams! Your artistic talent is AMAZING! :)

  • Grace says:

    This is so awesome! I can identify with this on so many levels. I have yet to be unemployed since I left college but I am not career minded at all. I don’t necessarily feel unhappy at my current job but it’s certainly not fulfilling by any means. It’s just something that makes me money. I recently got my real estate license and hoping that will be my “second career” once my boyfriend and I save a little money up. It’s incredible to think that we all somehow thought we have it all together when we graduated from college but it’s very rarely the case.

  • Kelly says:

    Sometimes I feel like blog posts can be answered prayers. That was definitely the case for me reading this, as I’ve been feeling this way for a while and have been wondering if I’m the only one. I currently have a job I like, but I’m moving to a different state soon because my husband is going to law school. It seems like this is a very important time to make good money to support us, yet I’m struggling to figure out where to work and what to do. It is really discouraging! I haven’t really figured out how to feel or what to do but this post did make me feel like I’m not alone. So thanks for that, Laura. I wish you the best in your upcoming plans. I can’t wait to hear about them!

  • Christie Lew says:

    Laura, I definitely cried while I read this. It completely defines my life over the past two years struggling with self-doubt & lack of direction since graduating college. I have gotten that question at trader joes a million times & have felt so ashamed that I was “only a nanny” or a part-time barista. I am not career-minded either, I guess. At least, not yet. Not until I find out how to make money out of passion. I am so happy that you have found your niche! It is so encouraging to know I’m not alone in these feelings :) And thanks; I needed to hear that I am not defined by my hours from 8 to 5. Thanks for writing this.
    Christie Lew recently posted..And Now, We Wait.My Profile

  • Amanda N. says:

    This is spot on! This was me back in January when I decided to quit my job after months of pure unhappiness. While I questioned my decision at the time, now 6 months later, I can honestly say it was one of the the best decisions I’ve ever made! So glad things are working out for you!

  • Nicole says:

    This was just what I needed to hear and so refreshing to be reminded that I am not alone! I thought I had landed my dream job after college but soon I felt empty and unfulfilled. I couldn’t picture myself walking into an office and sitting at a desk for the next 40 years. It was the easiest hardest decision I’ve every made and I haven’t looked back since. Everyone thinks I am crazy to be 25, back in school to switch careers, and still living at home. God has given us all great passions and dreams for a reason. Excited to see where this next adventure leads you!

  • Jayne says:

    I know exactly who you are; a child of the King! You are also the best Bananagrams word maker alive today!

  • Cousin Sara says:

    I wish I had seen this before I saw you this weekend! Someone told me a phrase a couple of years ago that I remind myself about all the time. “I work to live, I do not live to work.” What I take from that is that I have a job to make money, so I can do what I really love doing in life. I don’t live for my job! I know people who do, and I’m certainly not one of them!

  • Lauren Hackney says:

    Love this so much– as women we have to encourage other women to believe this, thank you for writing this!

  • Love this – it’s spot on and I can really relate. My whole life I’ve never know what I “wanted to be” and even through college and grad school – I followed a path I kind of fell into, rather than following I path I was passionate about. Now as I face the prospect of a career change, I keep asking myself what I want to do and what I’m passionate about – and if that even matters. It’s on an ongoing process, but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who feels like this!
    Kim @ Racing Bananas recently posted..The Most Beautiful Pictures of the Sky that You’ll Ever SeeMy Profile

  • This was the most refreshing thing I have read in AGES.

    I completely identify with you. I’ve never been career minded, and I’m honestly so put off by people that let their work consume their entire lives. No job has ever been that important to me. Some people look down on that, and think it means you aren’t motivated, but I know it just means work isn’t the most important thing in my life. I like to put my time and energy into the people I love and the things I love, and my job isn’t one of those passions. Though I am very blessed to have it – my job will never define m e.
    Natalie @ Never Serious Blog recently posted..Yahoo wants you to jump off a building.My Profile

  • Jayne says:

    Now listen up, little girlie! It’s time for a new post before you head off for the other side of the world!

  • Brittany says:

    I am definitely not my job right now, I know that. I can’t sit at a desk for 40 hours a week doing menial work just to make money. But I think I WANT to be defined by my job. I want to be passionate about what I do and to be excited to go to work every day. When I spend so much time working I want to LOVE it. I want to be fulfilled by it. And I don’t think that’s wrong either. For now, I’ll keep searching.
    Brittany recently posted..Two All-Day Superdates Make for an Epic WeekendMy Profile

  • Chesson says:

    Laura ~ This is so me, too! For the past few years I’ve had different jobs, but none that would have me climbing up promotion to promotion. I feel like my “different” desires and passions – that are very similar to yours – just don’t lead me in the corporate ladder direction. Here I am, 27, and still babysitting? Am I going to be the old Labrador lady that takes care of babies (because I love them) my whole life? Although I am in school… I still have the same feelings as you. Thanks for this reminder. Proud of WHO you ARE and pumped that you’re headed to Uganda today. I’ll be praying for you!!! Love on them for me, too.

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