In preparation for an imminent city break, I dig out my passport to make sure it’s still in date. I know it’s due to expire sometime this year and I hope it wasn’t last month. Relieved to find I can roam the world till October if I want to, I go on to check other details. To my surprise, I discover there‘s no space marked “Occupation”. Shouldn’t there be one?
Or is it an urban myth that you once had to state your job on your passport? I’m sure I’ve heard of business travellers who had to maintain two passports, one to enter Israel, the other for Palestine, and of journalists treated like spies at certain borders, even if they worked for Knitting Monthly. (“A cunning disguise, Mr Bond.”)
There used to be a space for “distinguishing features”, too. A friend was mercilessly teased on a school exchange trip because his father had put down “freckles” on his – hardly the stuff of wanted posters. But no more. So I won’t have the opportunity to draw attention to the impressive scar I recently acquired on my wrist going down a helter-skelter with my daughter. But I do mourn the fact that I won’t have the chance to put “Writer” on my new passport – so much more exciting than all my previous job titles put together.
Until now, I have resented the fact that your paid occupation was often taken as shorthand for your whole person, as if it was the most important thing about you: as immovable as the letters on a stick of rock. Why should you list yourself as a dustman if you’re a poet at heart? There may be more demand for empty bins than rhyming couplets, but that doesn’t make it the more important occupation.
But now that my passion and my day job will be one and the same, and I’m about to become what I always wanted to be when I grew up, I’d even wear my occupation as a tattoo if I had to (and I really, really don’t like tattoos).
From now on, whenever I’m filling in forms, I’ll be completely at one with the word I put in the occupation box. I’ve come out of the closet at last. I’ve revealed the secret that has been hidden for so long, like Superman’s red and yellow logo, beneath my shirt – except mine begins with a W, not an S.
So what occupation is in your closet? Go on, take a look. You know you want to.