I created this pie chart to show the breakdown of my professional identities:
I've been a lawyer the longest*, so when someone asks me what I do, that's my default answer. It's too complicated to say "I'm a lawyer, but also I'm writing my first novel, and I also try to take care of all the home stuff since my poor husband has a crappy commute/hectic job, while my biggest concern is waking up in time for my yoga class."
But if I tell a stranger I'm a lawyer, they might get that look in their eyes: the "I need some free legal advice" look. Last month, our roofer had a complicated question that involved landlord/tenant and estate law. Last week, a bank teller wanted advice about contract law in the context of purchasing a house. And I've been asked countless questions about criminal law, no matter how many times I repeat the fact that I'm a civil litigator and know less than nothing about criminal law. (Seriously. The writers for Ally McBeal know more about criminal law than I do).
Legal advice questions from strangers make me uncomfortable because the law is so messy. There are so many "what if's" and "it depends." You need tons of information before you can even begin to give an educated answer. And if the advisee omits a critical fact, then the advice will be completely wrong. (Note: I welcome questions from family and friends. But from strangers? No thank you).
So I need a fake profession. But what should my fake profession be? I'd love to say I'm a "ninja" or "lion tamer," but I won't be able to keep that bluff up for very long. I could say "waitress" or "school teacher," but if the person I'm talking to is an ex-waitress or ex-teacher, they might want to swap war stories.
Here's the problem: I want to lie about my profession to strangers, but I'm a terrible liar. I have no poker face and lying makes me feel bad. And my career history is very short: babysitter; summer camp counselor; lawyer. That's what happens when you go to law school right after college.
I guess I have to start telling people that I'm a writer and working on my first novel. I've been embarrassed to tell people that I'm a writer because things might not work out. The novel might suck, or worse, the novel might be great but never find a publisher. But, I'm proud of my novel and happy with its progress. I guess it's time for me to embrace my writer side and when people ask, announce that I'm a writer. (Hopefully no one will ask me to write their kid's college application essays).
* Technically, I've been a crime fighter for the longest, but I've been forced to keep that identity a secret.