Who you are vs What you do

A few years ago my sister and I went to a local police station to have some documents certified. The police official who assisted her wasn’t too friendly until she noticed that amongst her documents was her law degree. A cheap piece of paper elevated my sister’s status that day. Dressed in her faded jeans and a hoodie, she was immediately treated like royalty. And this seems to be the trend whenever people get wind of her profession. It never gets old.

Mind you, my sister is not a down to earth person. Calling her that, would be a slap in the face. Degree and bank balance aside, she is a woman. Just another woman who works for a living. A mother who juggles her life, one twin at a time. Just because she’s a lawyer by profession doesn’t mean that she is one step above anyone else. Just because she earns a good salary doesn’t give her the right to be snooty. She’s not. Nor does it mean she’s above the law. She all kinds of awesome and a giver by nature. Being a lawyer doesn’t define her. So calling her down to earth because she works for a living is a no-no. She is a woman. A pretty amazing woman who lawyers for a living. Big difference. Which brings me to my next point…

Now before you go thinking that race is a “thing” for me, let me assure you it’s not. And as off topic as this may seem, bear with me. I’m going somewhere with this. My black and white friends are just my friends. They would be slightly pissed if I were to differentiate them like that. We don’t do boxes and labels. Except sometimes when they make me mad and I want to toss them into a box. Maybe stick a label onto it and ship it off to some far off country. Ok, I haven’t gotten that mad at any of my friends yet, but if I did…

Every so often when I shop, I find that the service I receive at some stores is categorized by skin colour. A mere observation, but one that irks me nonetheless. White people get smiles, black people get courtesy and I get a mere meh. It happens. I’m not too phased by it, but it happens. I get by. I’m not about to get too mad about it and die of a stroke because of it. Admittedly I do want to tell the store assistant that peoples skin colour is not who they are. I want to shake them to remind them that everyones money has the same value. But I don’t. Let them figure it out for themselves. It happens. The funniest thing is that the people they deem more important often don’t give a crap about social status or racial privilege. White people are not nice. Black people are not nice. Nice people are Nice! Except for when they’re not. That happens too.

Very few things in life grate me more than people who think they are better than the next person. People who think that their profession and degree gives them the right to ill treat others. People who feel that their bank balance makes them superior. I guess this comes a close second to my number one pet peeve. Selfishness. But before I lose the plot, allow me to continue.

The other day I heard someone complain to their superior about a colleague. As I heard the complainant rant, I nearly lost it. I stopped listening when the woman uttered “Who does she think she is? I am a “…..(insert profession here)!” All I heard thereafter was “Blah, blah, blah… I went to uni…. Blah… I am so important… Blah, blah… I think nothing of a cleaner… Blah… They don’t deserve respect. Bleh!” Not voiced but obviously thought and very much implied. Oh, I got the gist of the rant. I heard enough to know that the complaint was one of mutual respect or the apparent lack thereof. I heard more than enough to know that the actual complaint was about the pecking order of life. Mutual respect being a smoke screen.

I’m a secretary. Not just a secretary. There is nothing just about what I do. I am a multitasking administration ninja who has the ability to maintain my composure with even the biggest idiots around. The one who smiles and bites her tongue when all I really want to do is call Bullshit! I solve problems no one even knows exists. I enable laziness because it’s my job to. I am the PA who gets sold to other bosses because of my knowledge and skills. As good I am at doing my job, being a secretary is not who I am. And this is not a rant about my job. This post is not even about me. But every once in a while I am spoken to like a second rate citizen. Like I have no relevance. Saying that I don’t mind would be a lie. I do mind. For a minute. Until I remind people that I am in control of how I allow people to treat me. Often a look and the occasional “Excuse me?” Or “Seriously!” usually does the trick. Because let’s face it, if I wanted to be anything other than a secretary I could do it. I probably have to tell you that I am educated. I choose not to use that specific piece of paper. Tourism was all the rage when I matriculated. Talk about a waste of money. I am a secretary by profession but a secretary is not who I am.

Everyday I see people who believe that a piece of paper qualifies them to treat others less than.

If you’re a cleaner you don’t count for much. If you’re a MD you have the right to be a cad. If you’re somewhere in between, you may have mixed feelings. Some people still think that even a higher pay grade makes them some kind of special. I kid you not. But then again, I think you can relate. We all can. The security guards are called “Security” when their name is Mandihlume or Nandipha. The petrol attendants are “Chommie” or “My friend”. That’s not his or her friggin name! When does it end? The car guards hustling for a loaf of bread are just an annoying nuisance. Totally undeserving of a greeting, not to mention tip. Especially not from someone with an office job. Or any job with a monthly salary. Shall I toss race into this equation too or did we about cover it?

A while ago I told a senior educator that I don’t think much of educators. Which is the truth. I don’t think too much of the degree or diploma. It’s a piece of paper. The same as any other. All educators have to adhere to a curriculum as determined by the education department. It’s not like they came up with all this knowledge themselves to pass on to kids. They even have to grade students as per the guidelines too. Thus an educator by profession does not impress me. That’s not who they are.

The man or woman who lives and breaths the vocation has all my respect though. The educator who is not what they do is just another man or woman who can be awesome as hell or just hell on earth but still authentic. They impress the heck out of me. Not because of their profession but because of the person who works hard at their chosen career path. The man or woman with character. Who makes a difference daily and who knows the difference between who they are and what they do. I guess I do have a high opinion of educators after all. Just not those who put themselves on a pedestal. I merely tolerate it the same as I tolerate any other walking profession who believe they are what they do.

Your abilities are not defined by your social status or race.

I don’t care what you do or how you make your money as long as you show me who you are. If stripped bare of your titles will you know who the person in the mirror is? It doesn’t matter your education or title, I want to know you, the person. Whether it’s good or bad, I’ll bite. Just show me you. Unfiltered. Being black, coloured or white is not who people are either.

PS: I used education as an example as I find myself surrounded by educators who may or may not kill me for this. If you’re an educator please don’t hate me. Unless you’re guilty… Well then grade this post and have it moderated 😉

With love,

CJ

1 Comment

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