I dread this question.
Well, that’s a little strong. I don’t like this question. I avoid asking it and I don’t really like when others ask me.
Why? Because it’s hard to answer. The expectation is that I say one thing – my career. I often go with the easiest answer – I’m a lawyer. Most people don’t really want to hear the full answer: I studied law so I do some work in the area, but I also take care of the kids and house and I’m spending more time writing also; you may also be wondering how we provide for ourselves, and my wife is the full-time breadwinner and she’s an engineer.
There’s also residual guilt from growing up in a culture that teaches the man must be the full-time breadwinner, so I want to provide the context that my wife finds her work more fulfilling and engaging than I did and she had better opportunities and I also think it’s important that a parent is at home and…well, it could get long and full of details few people want to know.
But does that mean it’s a bad question? No, I just need to work on my answer.
So, what do I do?
I’m a father. I know, I know, it doesn’t really answer your question. You could see I’m a dad from the toys around the house, the cheerios in my hand, the kids running around. But I list it first because, to me, it is the most important thing. I’m willing to sacrifice career for it because my family has the blessing of being able to be a one-income household. I also think that it should be more acceptable, and more expected, that fathers sacrifice for their families. It’s far too common for us to accept and expect women to sacrifice career goals for family while men are expected to sacrifice family for careers. If we seek more balance, our workplaces and our homes will be all the better for it.
I am a lawyer. I became a lawyer because I believe in the importance and value of law to our society. I believe that society is better off with lawyers – people who dedicate their careers to understanding the rules of society and using those rules to keep things running relatively smoothly. I do some work for local clients to, hopefully, improve their lives a little. I will also probably write about legal things in this blog because these are the kinds of things I think about. Though I’m not in love with the little details of the law. I like the big picture stuff, policy-level stuff. I did a lot better at Constitutional Law than Civil Procedure (though I did learn from Civ Pro why the “due process of law” – how we interpret it – matters).
I am a writer. I write for lots of reasons. I want to tell stories because stories help us understand our world and ourselves better. I want to ask questions because questions lead us to better ideas. I want to discuss ideas because it is fascinating and fun to explore how ideas connect and relate to each other. I want to get things out of my head because I am in a better place mentally and emotionally when I have time to write.
One final note, because this relates to why I didn’t become a writer from the outset of my adult life. I want to write a little defense of those who dedicate their lives to “entertainment.” These storytellers are important to society. I’m broadening storyteller here to include not just authors, but also screenwriters, directors, actors, singers, maybe even painters and video game programmers and more. Some people rag on these professions because they aren’t doing “valuable work.” They couldn’t possibly provide any valuable input for society.
I beg to differ. First, if society didn’t value their work, then why do we spend so much money on it? Second, they’re just people. Some of them, particularly the most visible, are wealthy and some act badly. But that has less to do with them being in entertainment and more to do with them being people. Finally, storytellers, in trying to tell stories, seek to understand people. They may not understand all the complex interactions of law, economics, foreign policy, etc., but I think we should be grateful when these people who we accuse of being self-centered use their platform to speak on behalf of others. Even if we don’t agree with what they advocate, telling someone they shouldn’t engage in trying to improve society is the wrong approach.
Storytellers also, in trying to perfect their craft, learn truths about the world that go deeper than the creeds of religion and politics. That doesn’t mean everything they say is true, just that we should see if there is something we can learn from them. I’m not arguing for the worship of celebrity, just that we shouldn’t discount an opinion because it came from a storyteller.