Saturday morning I was eating cinnamon chip pancakes and catching up on my DVR when a line of dialogue sparked my attention. It took me by surprise, caught me off guard, and lingered with me all afternoon. I rewound the episode several times and even recorded it on my phone because something about this quote was so perfectly on point that I needed to remember it.
“Because I read these obits and you know what I realized? For most of us, what we do for a living is gonna be like one line in it.”
This line comes from last week’s episode of Chasing Life, an ABC Family show that I’ve talked about briefly once before. The main character is a 20-something year old girl named April who’s been diagnosed with Leukemia, but the show itself is about April’s whole family and their lives as they happen around the diagnosis and April’s health.
Cancer-centric stories are sad by definition. Losing a life is never an easy thing and watching it on TV or reading it in a book is like asking for a Kleenex subscription. But what I like about this particular show is how accurately it depicts the joys of life in contrast to mourning. April knows she’s sick, but she never stops living her life because of it. Cancer, of all things, won’t be what stops her.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with defining myself on my own terms. Because I think a lot of the time we define ourselves as we are in relation to other people instead of deciding for ourselves. We are sisters, daughters, friends. We are employees of Company X and fans of Team Z. But who are we when we strip those things away? This was the main theme for last week’s episode, something that April consistently struggles with as a character, and that’s what the quote got me thinking about.
I worry about my career and a hundred other little label-inducing things in my life because that’s the only way I know how to define myself right now. But without them I’d still be me. I’d still have a defining value all my own.
What I do for a living is never going to be the central focus of my life. Sure, I want to like it and yeah, I’d like to make a difference doing it if I can. But ultimately there’s a reason that I feel most like myself on the weekends and that’s because right now my free time is the most precious commodity I have. It gives me the opportunity to explore that unlabeled part of myself, to try new things and grow as a person. It allows me time to revisit old loves and step back from self-imposed parameters.
I don’t want to live my life for a resume, don’t want my personality to fit into one line of an obituary. Hearing that quote just reminded me of that, reminded me that I, as a person, have so much more to offer than my professional skill set.