In reading “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, a point struck me:
Avoid making any single aspect of your identity an overwhelming portion of who you are. In the words of investor Paul Graham, “keep your identity small.” The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you.
For almost 20 years, my identity was that I was a journalist. By the time I graduated with honors from Fresno State’s Department of Mass Communications and Journalism in 1995, I had already been working two years as a reporter for The Fresno Bee’s community publications.
I continued on that path — becoming an editor, launching a new publication, joining the Fresno Bee copy desk at the mother ship in downtown Fresno, and finally as an associate editor on the Opinion Pages for the final seven years of my journalism career.
Things took a downturn in 2008, the year our daughter started kindergarten. Along with the overall tanking of the economy and housing market, newspapers took a beating, all across the nation, not just here.
I hung in there for four more years. And then it came to an end. In August 2012, I was laid off just shy of 20 years with the company.
Journalism isn’t just a job or a career. It’s a passion, a calling. With that part of my life over, what was my identity now?
“When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle. Lose that one thing and you lose yourself.” ~ James Clear
I knew in 2012 I had to refocus on who I was and what I could do. I needed to be flexible, not brittle. Easier to do in your twenties maybe, but I still managed to do it in my forties.
That was eight years ago. I started over, in a new direction, working off what I knew how to do — to tell people’s stories, to communicate. Along the way, I learned some new strengths that I possess, and I figured out some things that I don’t really have an interest in doing.
On my final day at The Bee, I wrote this in this blog:
Change is the only constant in life. If you can cope, adapt and thrive with that, you’ll be OK.
Make your identity broad enough that it doesn’t limit you. I am not only a journalist, not only a communications specialist, not only a public information officer.
I am a writer, a storyteller. And there are so many places that can take me. There will always be stories that need to be told.