When I registered my car in Virginia, the lady helping me asked, “What do you do?”
After a brief hesitation, I said “I teach music,” because, that was the job I’d had before and the one I was going to start again in another couple months.
“Oh, so you’re a teacher,” she said, slightly more enthused than before.
At that, I kind of – hopefully imperceptibly – squirmed.
I really like teaching music. I’ve always enjoyed teaching people things. Showing them something new, helping them to understand something they didn’t understand before.
My mother calls me “the endless fount of useless knowledge,” which is another way to say it, I guess. (I do have a proclivity for volunteering factoids that are only marginally related to the subject at hand, if even at all.)
I can quickly name several teachers who have had a lasting positive impact on me. People who took the time and had the patience to deal with my smart-assery, helping whittle me into a decent adult.
But, when the DMV lady said I was a teacher, I felt like she was attaching an identity to me that wasn’t my identity. Even now I usually say, “I teach music” instead of “I’m a teacher.” I teach music; it’s one of the things I do. It happens to be the thing I get paid for doing. It’s not who I am. It’s not even what I expect will be my “career” (and what’s that supposed to be, anyway?). I love music, and I find joy in watching little brains light up as they play the right chord or listen to a new piece of music. Yet, “music teacher” is not who I am. “Teacher” is not who I am. Even “musician” is not who I am.
I am much, much more.