caught between worlds

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It’s an interesting dynamic, the position I find myself in these days. I’ve only recently found that I no longer fit any particular mold. Better yet, I can no longer pretend to fit any particular mold.

Before, I had a socially respectable and acceptable office job, worked the traditional 9-5 lifestyle, and for all appearances I thrived in this Midwestern working culture in which I had immersed myself. I fit a mold. Granted, it was one I didn’t care to be a part of, but I played my part and I played it well. I threw myself into my work, I made appropriate social and personal connections, and I gradually moved upward in the white collar food chain.

When I went out somewhere and got introduced to someone, I would tell people where I worked and could watch their eyebrows raise in a moment of genuine curiosity as they told themselves, “This guy’s secure. Must be doing well. Who’s that hottie across the bar?” It’s a natural phenomenon for the world to judge you based on your occupation. It’s a form of identification:

A: How’s Jeff doing?
B: Great! He’s working downtown at the science center!
A: Well good for him!

A2: Hey how’s [insert name here] been?
B2: Funny you should ask! S/he just got a job in [insert city here] as a [insert title here]!
A2: Oh, how wonderful!

The only other things that affect social status as much as occupation seem to be marital status, babies, and geographic location. Your occupation serves as a method by which people can identify you, discuss you, and categorize and file you away for future reference.

How do you get categorized by people when you have no occupation?

the nicaraguan chronicles

I recently spent nine days in Nicaragua, bouncing around from city to city, hostel to hostel, meeting dozens of new people from all over the world. When they learned that I’m only traveling for a week, they ask me what I do back home in Cleveland. I’m still struggling for that perfect answer. If I say I cook, they assume chef. If I say I work at a bar they give me an idle “Cool” and dismiss me. If I say I just quit my job and am currently working on writing a fantasy sci-fi series, they say “That’s awesome! Have you read Harry Potter?”

It’s funny…I thought I would fit in with the transient hostel-jumping, world-traveling, lost-soul crowd that I found in Central America. Truth is, I’ve never felt more out of place among people than I did at these hostels. Maybe it’s because I expected to fit in so well. I always try to go into something with no expectations, but failed miserably on this point. I went in with the expectation that “these are my people,” and came back with the stark realization that I have no people.

I’m in il purgatorio della vita, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

……………………………………………

The next ten blog entries will be entitled “the nicaraguan chronicles” and will detail my first international trip to a country that’s not Canada. Stay tuned and hope you enjoy!

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3 Responses to “caught between worlds”

  1. canopyglow Says:

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/25/opinion/granderson-what-do-you-do/index.html?hpt=hp_bn9

    • jeffhirz Says:

      Haha are you shittin me?! Good timing.

      That was a fantastic article. Well written and spot on in just about all of its observations. Thanks for sharing!

  2. janelle Says:

    nice post, jeff. i think job association is definitely a first world impression in which we immerse ourselves. most people are working to live, not vice versa, and it quickly becomes a game of following what’s socially acceptable and not following true passions.

    again, proud that you’re on your pursuit of happiness.

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