In Praise of Occupations

‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives’— Annie Dillard

Before joining OTA in March 2018, if anyone had asked about my occupation, I would have told them simply that I was a marketer. And before that, a media analyst. And before that, an engineer—it’s been quite a start to my professional journey.

After working alongside and learning from occupational therapists these past two years, my response is quite different. And more nuanced.

The occupational therapists on staff here have kindly let me into their world and shared their definition of what occupational therapy is—and what it isn’t. They continue to offer overviews of the core principles of occupational therapy. Their passion for supporting others to reach their potential is both sincere and contagious.

Writing for Occupational Therapy Australia’s website, newsletter, and social media has illuminated just how vast the areas that occupational therapists contribute towards are. Likewise, collaborating with our advocacy, practice support and CPD teams has crystalised the vital role of enabling meaningful participation in people’s lives.

Through the association’s programs and events, I’ve met a multitude of members, from new graduates to clinicians to seasoned academics. They have varying experiences, work across a range of domains and come from all corners of Australia. Yet they share one thing in common. They have chosen to work in occupational therapy to support people with their daily activities. They’re genuinely enthusiastic about helping others.

Now if someone asks me about my occupation, I’ll let them know that it isn’t (just) my 9 to 5. My occupations are the activities I engage in that I find meaningful.

My occupations are how I choose to spend my days. They are the occupations I engage in for relaxation and enjoyment. The occupations that enable me to remain active and independent. The occupations through which I derive meaning and contribute to my community.

Those outside of occupational therapy may define themselves according to their professional occupation. Yet attaching our definition of self to a single label can place us inside a box, limiting our potential.

Instead, we’d all do better to acknowledge and appreciate the diverse range of occupations that exist—and the diverse range of ways people engage with them. This is an ideal we are making slow and steady progress on through our consumer awareness campaigns and resources.

Some occupations take a moment to complete, while others take hours. Some benefit ourselves, while others benefit our community. Some are automatic, while others require constant concentration. Some need to be learned, while others need to be relearned.

Our lives are full of occupations—occupations that are many and varied. Sometimes we need assistance to participate in these daily activities.

I’m proud to live in (and contribute towards) a world where occupational therapists exist to support people to engage in their occupations. It’s through our occupations that we feel empowered to achieve, connect and contribute.

Now when someone asks me about my occupation, I’ll let them know that I’m a content marketer. And that I’m a creative. I’m a photographer. I’m a larrikin. I’m a reader. I’m a writer. I’m a hiker. I’m a coffee snob.

Our occupations don’t define us. But they do give our lives definition. They give it form. They give it colour. Occupations give our lives meaning.

About The Author

Mitch Green is OTA's Content Marketer, producing Connections magazine and OTA's range of communications and pieces of content. He is also a landscape photographer.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2020 issue of Connections magazine, which can be read here.

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