Does A Man Need A Job To Be A Man?

Have you ever been without a job?

I can tell you, for a man, it can be hard.  Of course there’s all the practical aspects to it:  The money issues.  The awkward moments when people ask, “What do you do?” and you have to decide whether to say that, well, you’re between jobs, or you answer in a very general way, “Well… I do marketing…” without mentioning that you’re not actually doing marketing.  The time spent searching, resume-ing, cover letter-ing, interviewing, being-tested-ing, getting-rejected-ing.

But I think there’s something more to it too.  Something on a soul level.

In some of my positions, I’ve had to interview people.  From hiring dog walkers to marketers to programmers.

I’ve always found that fascinating.  To see it from the other side.

They come in, and you already know if they have a job or not.  You don’t even have to look at their resume.  When they carry themselves like they’re normal people, they have a job.  When they come in with a weight on their shoulders, doubt in their eyes… they’ve gone a certain amount of time jobless, and they’re hoping this, this will finally be it.

I see it also in my friends.  One day they’re full of air, they’re inflated balloons pulling their string practically off the ground.  The next, you’ve found out they’ve lost their job and looking, and they’re deflated.  Their bodies hardly rise off the ground.  They speak in mumbles.  They seem lost, confused.  They ask quietly, “Have you heard of anything?”

There’s a Jewish saying that a man is only half a man until he is married.  Well, the job must be the other half.

I remember when I finally decided to leave my latest position, that feeling started to come over me too.  People knew me as that guy with that job.  The guy who made viral videos and pro-therapy websites.  Yes, it was me.  And now… I was nothing.  Okay, I had a blog, but… who cares?

Suddenly, I had moved from dry, hard, solid land to a rickety raft, floating alone on the vast ocean of joblessness.

 

This is, unfortunately, the experience so many men go through when they lose or leave their jobs.  We feel this lack.  This loss of purpose.

And I think that, no matter how modern we are, how advanced we become, how liberal or thoughtful, that most men have this sensation when they lose their jobs.  This listlessness.  This emptiness.  This deflation.

I suppose the question, then, is whether it’s a good thing.  Or, at least, a healthy thing.

 

To be honest, there always seemed to be something so wrong in this equation.  A man is suddenly nothing when he has no job?  How could it be?  When I’d see them, the way they grovelled, these men without jobs, I couldn’t help but feel a measure of sickness in my stomach.

It was only when I left my own job that I understood it.  This need within to be something, and this desire for their to be proof of that being.

But it was interesting, because as the search wore on for a new job, I realized that I needed to approach things differently or I might collapse inwardly like some sort of dying star.

Did I really not have value, I wondered?

I meditated on this for a while, as that feeling of collapsing continued.  As I spoke in my hushed tones, asking people, “Got a job, buddy?” as I scratched my arms and sniffed my nose, “You holdin’?  I got a bad craving, man.”

And soon, as that addiction stopped getting fed, that addiction I had with my old job, where I thought I mattered simply because of what I was doing, I started to find a different meaning within those meditations.

I had to find an inward meaning, an inward sense of who I was.  A definition of myself as a “success” beyond the way the world looked at it.  I had to see that I was more than any job or any title.

I had to tap into my mission.  Into my essence as a human and what I was truly here for.

Yes, a job is a part of that mission.  Yes, I like it when I have a job that fits my mission.

But my job… that’s not me.  That’s not who I am.

And I think this is what always gave me a bit of a sick feeling when I saw the way men would seem so empty without jobs.

Because it has become clear to me that this is not a healthy thing, this needing a job to feel like a man.  This inflation that we feel when attached to a job.  This deflation when we lose it.

Because these situations can only have one explanation: that our job has become our mission.  It has defined us.  And thus, just like a love that is dependent on a thing rather than on giving, when it is there, we are soemthing, and when it is gone, we are nothing.

And thus, even when we have a job, us men, we are living a false life.  A life where our mission is limited only to the scope of who happens to be putting money in our pockets at the moment.

 

Today I start my new job (at CrowdMed… check it out!).  I am writing this right before I start my day.

I am hoping this will be a reminder to me.  A reminder that this job is awesome, that it’s a dream job in so many ways, and exactly how I want to spend my time… but that it does not define me.  A reminder that a job is one aspect, albeit a large aspect, of an overall mission, a larger mission in life that is connected to the root of our souls.

I hope that men will grow out of this desire for a job for meaning.  I hope that we will tap into something larger.

And thus, become themselves something larger than we ever imagined.  More than men.  Men with missions.  Men with souls.

Note: This is not an article that’s meant to exclude women, but just my own experience as a man and with other men.  I do not understand women one iota and thus don’t feel qualified to write about them in this post.

  • There’s a Jewish saying that a man is only half a man until he is married. Well, the job must be the other half.

    This might be the single best thing you have ever written. And I say that as a thirty-something Jewish man who has never had a wife or a paid job. This bothered me for years (and still does, sometimes, if I’m honest), but eventually I came to the same conclusion you did: I have a mission on Earth and hopefully one day a job and a wife and kids will be a part of that, but until then, there is other stuff for me to do.

    • Elisheva Har Shoshan

      Daniel,

      I always appreciate your comments on PopChassid. Pardon me for asking, but is there some way to get in touch with you?

      Thanks,

      Elisheva

      • He’s the best, right?

        • Elisheva Har Shoshan

          Yes! He’s very insightful. As is this blog! 🙂

      • Thanks, but do you mind if I ask why? I’m slightly apprehensive about putting my email address on public view in a comment here and there isn’t really any other way to contact me online (I’m not on Facebook!).

        • Elisheva Har Shoshan

          Hello again Daniel,

          I was thinking that we shared some perspectives, and I also completely understand about the concerns of a publicly displayed email. I don’t do Facebook either (another thing in common)! Below is a temporary email address of mine that you’re more than welcome to use to send contact info privately, if you wish, and I could then give you a “real” address. If that doesn’t work for you, no big deal. 🙂

          serenityskitchen@yahoo.com

          Best wishes to you,

          Elisheva.

  • Rebecca K.

    I was having this serious contemplative moment at the end of the post, wondering what my husband would think of it, and then I read the brutally honest disclaimer and I had to laugh!

    • Haha. I mentioned to someone today that I should add it at the end of every post.

  • Chana S

    very relevant article! my husband has entered forced retirement, and feeling like an empty shell, lifeless, purposeless, aimless…even his ability to learn in kollel is not the same any more, the passion is gone, and certainly the concentration is not the same anymore either
    .I wish you much mazel on your new job, but I do not think it shayich to say anything about it in the midst of this article. It is as though you are saying I am nothing w/o the job, but oh boy, look, I got one, and this is the name of the place where I am going to work, check it out, look at ME! now I am a somebody with a job. You are kind of contradicting the whole gist of your article.
    Perhaps this is not the place to mention about this new job, mention it with your firens, make a party, say l’chaim! . But in this article where you are tyring to make a point..not such a good idea. You won’t get an ayin hara from me,my husband is 60 yrs old+, he is finished with this parsha and trying to re-invent himself (not easy)..but still, be smart.. Thanks for your insights

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