Simon Kuper has a thoughtful essay in the Financial Times about how people, especially younger generations, are identifying less and less with the jobs they have or the work they do, and more with stuff they put on their blogs or in their Twitter bios.
This is nothing new to many of us (I mean, my Twitter bio is “your emotional IT department” and it’s kind of what I want on my gravestone), but I appreciated his point that carving an identity around the career you have is mostly a particularly middle class thing to do, that it’s after all, “difficult to construct an identity from servile work,” and that “we middle classes are simply experiencing what the working classes have been through since the 1970s.”
The piece opens with a bit about independent bookstore owners, which is a far-off identity dream of mine, that is when I am in the mood to embrace putting all my money in a pile in the center of the room and lighting it on fire.
How, I asked them, do people end up running their own bookshops? Oh, they said, there was a set route, pretty much the equivalent of taking holy orders.
It went like this: you are writing a graduate thesis. You start working in a bookshop to make a bit of cash. Your thesis tails off. You increase your hours in the shop. Eventually the ageing bookshop owner forces you to take over the thing. This is a profession of erudite drifters with completion anxiety.