BY: NADIA ZAIDI
When people ask me what I do for a living I often find it a difficult question, and not because I don’t have a job — because I don’t think of what I do as work, per se. It’s also not because I don’t value what I do as work that should be compensated, but rather that I see my creative endeavours as an extension of who I am. There is a belief that creative people are “crazy.” In actuality, they are crazy about what they do – their craft. The art of living, seeing, creating, constructing, communicating. (You get the point).
I don’t know where to begin with this question. Technically, I am a multimedia journalist. But what I do on a daily basis varies. Some days I am a filmmaker. Other days I report on municipal issues. The nature of creativity is fluid, not static. I am a writer, but I’m also a photographer. I am a documentarian, but I am also an editor. I heavily identify with my occupation because it is an extension of who I am.
I’ve read that you shouldn’t be labelled by what you do. I completely agree. The lines, however, are blurred when you are in a creative industry because your work is your craft, and your craft is an extension of who you are and how you see the world.
I was born knowing that I wanted to tell stories. Well, maybe I wasn’t holding up a camera at age two, but by the time I was seven years old, I knew stories were more than just my favourite pastime. I nurtured this vision until date and I never turned back. It bothers me when people assume that because I don’t have a conventional “sit-down” office job that I must be one of those passion-project “hippies” who eats beans out of a can, while pouring over her art in a cramped, barely furnished, closet-sized apartment. (And even if you are one of those people, no judgement.)
I don’t think that people want to acknowledge what doesn’t make sense to them. Being conventional is always comfortable. It’s passable, acceptable. Being different may be revered and glamorized in popular culture, but it’s sometimes outcast in society. I often feel obliged to give a response that makes sense in standard job market terms.
When I tell people that I am a journalist, I have to delve into my employer(s) and the summation of what I do. In an unconventional industry like new media and online journalism, what I do isn’t exactly what people have long imagined.
But how do I explain this? And must I, always?
If you are someone who can justify working for an employer solely to pay the bills, I commend you. I understand that money is security and wellbeing. In fact, being able to choose your profession is a doggone luxury. But, I am not someone who can fake it till I make it, so to speak. And apparently, I might just be an anomaly.
I understand that asking someone what he or she does for a living is a prerequisite for getting to know him or her. But I wish it didn’t have to be so merchandized. I don’t have a simple answer because my work isn’t routine, consistent, or common. And no, I am not a work snob with a holier-than-thou complex about what I do, or my capabilities.
I don’t think that anything that is associated with monetization should be used to define you, and certainly not as a measure of social status. When you ask me for my job title, just don’t look at me awkwardly when I say I’m a creative.