What you do vs who you are

What do you choose when you have aspirations? What you do, or who you are? When I was 9, I wanted to be a librarian. But it was because librarians get to be at the counter to see who borrows what books, and to put the date due stamp on the books. They get to change the date due slips on the books when they are full, and they work in a quiet environment.

I was thinking about what I want to doing rather than who want to be. Because what being a librarian is about organising information, about helping people to access to knowledge they want. It is also about safeguarding the ability for libraries to do so, by making sure people return the resources they borrowed on time so that others have access to it too. It is also about increasing public education and awareness of things that matter: culture, heritage, arts, science, and lots of common sense. The 9 year old me made no such connections nor cared that much about all that.

When we are younger, our parents explained professions and jobs in terms of what they ‘do’; very practical elements. A police catches thieves, the lawyer fights court cases, a doctor sees and diagnose, then treat patients. But in order for us to appreciate the greater purpose of these professions, to be able to aspire ‘to be’ rather than to aspire ‘to do’, we will have to develop greater appreciation of what these people are ‘being’ when they take on the roles. It will involve understanding what policing does to public security and now, to the cyber space. How the legal profession creates avenues to address justice on all sides, and means to ensure laws are applied properly. Or that doctors not just make people better but play a role in public health, confidence-building and psychological comfort to those who are unwell.

As we learn to train ourselves to develop visions for our role and professions, we become better professionals, and work with greater motivations.