Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who Am I This Time?

Evan's jazz gig in Honolulu
If you ask my family members about their work lives, prepare for quite an earful. It occurred to me the other day that, among the eight of us Seyfrieds, we hold no fewer than 25 jobs. Steve is a writer, actor, producer, director and teacher. I am a church worker, actress and writer. Sheridan and Ya-Jhu are composers, instrumental musicians, church music directors and teachers. And so on. We are always heading off to work in a million directions, and let me tell you that can be confusing. It reminds me of the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, "Who Am I This Time?" In the story, Harry Nash, a shy hardware store clerk, transforms himself regularly in his very different little theatre roles.

Only with us, our transformations happen daily, if not hourly. The Evan who toils away at a Navy job in Washington DC becomes pianist/accompanist Evan by night and weekend. Rose juggles so much
Rose performing
freelance work that I can't begin to keep it all straight, and don't know how she can either. PJ the full-time college student is also PJ the deliveryman for a local apothecary. Besides the eternal challenge of arriving where we are supposed to be on time, we are constantly switching skill sets. Jules is Jules, but Jules with a dust rag in her hand as a housecleaner is not quite the same as Julie the elegant stylist for a jewelry company.

As children, our kids had the usual ambitions, but often in multiples. Sheridan in particular planned to be a pitcher for the Phillies AND first violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra (he figured the seasons didn’t really overlap, so why not?) As they grew, it became clear that they would not be pigeonholed. They have too many interests to limit themselves to doing one thing. for a living. The other issue, to be honest, is financial. No one job will fully support most of them at this point. But even if that weren’t the case, I can’t see them all settling into a single groove happily. This diversity of activity energizes them, and energizes their parents too. It’s stimulating to wear different hats, and to tap into different parts of ourselves to suit our various tasks.

In my case, I do wonder if it’s partly my attention span (or lack thereof.).  After a certain number of days, I simply have to jump over to an entirely other position for a while because I’ve lost focus on Job #1. For example, I do nothing but write on my day off, Thursday. Shopping and chores be darned! This literary hiatus is just the change I need from my busy church life.

There are times I know that I, at least, envy those with only one job and regular hours (not to mention such niceties as good benefits and retirement plans). But clearly the single-career life is not for us. And so, when we look in our morning mirrors, we ask ourselves, “Who are we this time?”


  1. Elise, this was a joy to read, and I'm so impressed by what your kids' diverse talents and working lives say about their parents raising them to embrace their many gifts. I, too, like the different hat approach to work! Teaching, writing, tutoring are all part of what makes me feel engaged in the world and, let's face it, I'm an adjunct, so necessity being the mother of invention and all that...well, you get the picture :-)