I've never felt comfortable with job titles. Instead of explaining what you do, they seem to denote what you are. Some of them sound cooler than others. Sometimes they can diminish your value, and sometimes exaggerate it. (Why is everybody who works in finance a Vice President?) Titles can trap you.
They sound more like immutable character traits than descriptions of labor. They encourage you to size up others, in your organization and elsewhere, to establish a pecking order based only on a parsing of some key words. Are you a manager, director, vice-president? Who's higher up the chain, a senior director or a junior VP? Why is it that, no matter what level of the hierarchy you're at, you'll find people who are amazing and people who totally suck? Because once they've got the title, they're stuck with it, for better or worse.
But the thing that bothers me most about a job title is that it's something you're given, and that means it's also something that can be taken away. Case in point: yesterday I was a "Senior Story Developer and Narrative Designer," and today I am not.
I haven't changed in these past few hours. I can still design narratives, and develop stories... seniorly... but my relationship with a company that requires these skills has changed; to wit, it is non-existent.
Yes, I am Unemployed. This is another title with which I am uncomfortable. I hope not to become comfortable with it. An anomaly in the 21st century workforce, I had been with the same company for 12 and a half years, beginning in an entry-level editorial position and working my way up to a senior-level creative. On Monday, I was informed that my position was being eliminated. Here I am.
It is a strange feeling. The words run through my head like a mantra: unemployed, unemployed, unemployed. I feel like I'm glowing with my unemployment, like a Final Fantasy character with a status ailment. Can people see it on me? Do I have cartoonish stink lines radiating from my head? Although I never defined myself by a job title, I have to resist the temptation to define myself by its absence.
My title changed often through the years. Sometimes I didn't even know what it was. But for that decade-plus, the common thread was that I wrote. I wrote articles, blog posts, and game scripts. I wrote for kids, for parents, for educators. I wrote directly to consumers and I wrote to other businesses. I wrote marketing and PR copy. I wrote fantastic emails and delightful Slack messages. I wrote books. From my first day of employment to the last, I was always writing.
Forget a job title. What am I? I'm a writer. That's not something anyone else can grant me, and it's not something they can take away. Writers write. I did it yesterday, I'm doing it today, and I will do it again tomorrow.
The future's uncertain, more uncertain now than at any point in my adult life. If every crisis is an opportunity, then this is a crisitunity to be met head-on. My backlog of unfinished books, short stories, and screenplays make for fertile soil. After all the years of delaying and deprioritizing my own projects, this is at last the chance to attack them with the vigor they deserve.
Whether there's a payoff at the end, or it just bridges the gap between jobs, this is the chance I have been waiting for. I have no title. I am a writer. So I will write.