Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What do you do?

Whenever I go someplace new or meet new people, I always get The Question, and I have come to dread it somewhat. The question 'what do you do?' It's like we as a society buy into all the 'what we do defines us' stuff, and it comes out in the first question we ask a new person.

Now, I'm not completely innocent of this myself. Let's face it, it's often a conversation starter, and can help get a picture of a person. But for the person who doesn't feel able to respond with anything much it can be at best cringeworthy and at worst depressing or even terrifying. You're stood there thinking 'she'd going to ask what I do in a minute, and I'm going to have to say nothing, and she's going to be thinking this or that' etc. When in all reality we know they won't really be thinking very much at all apart from the mechanics of being friendly, because that is generally all it is.

I think there's something deeper behind the whole question that makes those who feel they don't 'do' less than useful. It's like you have to do to be worthy, to be productive, to contribute to society. But do you? Is your worth in your productivity? I think not.

Creativity and productivity are of course important and beneficial to our humanity. But there is the question of who we are which goes deeper than anything we do. For me, how God sees me is 100% more important than any label I can give myself, and I know that God's more concerned with stuff like compassion and justice than whether I have a job. And so that's what I'll strive towards, even in my worst times.

I keep pondering on good answers to The Question. For a while I really rebelled and told people I 'slobbed round watching Jeremy Kyle and eating cake all day', and for a while decided to be honest and tell people I used to teach but now I can't because I have lung disease. But I don't really like that one because it has undertones of not being any use any more. It's also possibly a bit in your face to start listing health woes as soon as you meet someone, poor individual! So I generally mutter a bit about working in a team with Tim, doing bits and bobs of admin and voluntary work and web stuff etc, but that's muffing it all up really, and again coming up with something that is endeavouring to label what I do, endeavouring to sound like I am of use.

One day I'll have the bravery to answer something such as 'what do I do? You mean who am I? A child of God.' And that is where it's at, because I don't need to be more than that.

However, I know in reality I'll keep dreading it and keep avoiding it and keep giving half answers. Because I'm English, and polite, and all that, and not very brave really. Never mind.

3 comments:

  1. I really relate to this! I have often dreaded the 'what do you do?' question because I always feel I have to explain myself. I don't fit the tick box society we inhabit...and so often it feels achievement is based on our profession. So glad God sees it otherwise :)

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  2. I think my best answer to this is "depends which day we're on".
    I found it more weird when I did 1.5 days work and was therefore summed up as an accountant rather than by the random stuff I did on the other 5.5 days!
    I think you should say you're a blogger - most people, as you say are just trying to get a conversation going, so this would serve that purpose with most people :)

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  3. You have just explained the exact same thing I struggle with! I had to quit work earlier this year because it was driving me into depression. Eventually I sorted myself out and began working full -time on the thing I really wanted: music. Now when people ask the dreaded Question, I simply say I'm a musician. It took me years to be brave enough to say that and I'm very grateful that I can.

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