“What do you want to do when you grow up?” It doesn’t require too much commitment from the person providing the answer: “I want to be a fireman.” “I want to be an astronaut, a pilot, a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, an electrician, a photographer, an artist.” To each of us, some of these answers are things that you do, some are what or who you want to be. That list wasn’t really fair for a couple of reasons though.
First, both of us are currently practicing as lawyers in Toronto. We’ll get back to the lawyer thing in a moment.
Second, using the term artist was intentional. In our view, being an artist isn’t really something you can do. You could be a photographer, a painter, a sculptor, sure, but an artist is something you are, not something you do. You could be a photographer or sculptor, but still not an artist. Yes, perhaps we’re loading the the term artist with something grander than it may inherently mean to most, but, please, bear with us. To us at least, an artist is something that informs what you are as a person, not something you do. If you’ll allow us to play with language, each fireman is a fireman, but not all firemen are heroes (though likely most are). So, if you’ll accept this distinction, being an artist isn’t something ‘to do,’ again, like a hero, it’s something you are.
Perhaps the more challenging question then is: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Quite a loaded question. Again, we’re defining who you are by what you do. Even more so if we consider the word ‘what’ along with the phrase ‘to be.’ Certainly what you do affects who you are, but it can’t be who you are, can it? If we rely on the second question, we’re saying: “I am a fireman”; “I am an astronaut”; or, in our case, “I am a lawyer.”
So, if you’ll allow us to play with the phrasing again, we are currently practicing law (or ‘to do’), and to a certain extent, we are (‘to be’) lawyers. We’re both extremely proud of the efforts that went into working through school. We’re both proud of how hard we work at times thinking through problems and helping out clients, as a lawyer. But, we’re not simply (‘to be’) lawyers.
There are other things we both aspire ‘to be’: world travelers, bringing to bear our experiences in order to be understanding; friends and partners that puts into practice the understanding each of us has developed to build a life with those we’ve chosen to gather around us. We want to be respected and successful in what we’ve chosen ‘to do.’ We need to find a way ‘to be’ an artist − to develop a way to express our unique ways of looking at the world to everyone else.
Which, after all of this, brings us to where we are: we are (‘to do’) a lawyers, but we also need to find a way ‘to be’ photographers and artists.
m- & N.