I was at a dinner party the other night and one of the guests asked me, “What do you do?” I replied, shoulders slightly shrugged, “Nothing.”
His reaction, as well as those of the various people around the table, was a mixture of shock and nervous laughter. My friend Donna, a really nice person, quickly tried to cover up for me and retorted “She’s a writer! Tell him about your blog!” Now that made me really embarrassed, enough to blush, because, although it’s nice for somebody to give me a title, I have only written a couple of posts in less than two months on a blog that I never meant to have. I am not a writer.
I have always had a tough time with the question “What do you do?” especially when it is asked within 10 minutes of meeting someone. As if finding out what someone does for a living will give insight into who they are! Most people have jobs in order to make money; few have jobs they want or are passionate about. In fact, almost every girl I know who went to college for something, photography or fashion design for example, ended up a teacher. People do what they have to do to make money or, worse, get health insurance. So asking what they do isn’t going to tell you much about who they are.
Now, ask me what I’ve been thinking about all day or week. That’ll indicate who I am. Ask me what I think about any current event; or how, when I hear on a news report that 109 Syrian people were shot to death in their homes while I’m making my kid’s school lunch, it makes me pause, my heart breaking in 109 pieces, and silently cry as I squeeze the edge of kitchen counter. That’ll tell you who I am. I think and I feel. And mostly wish I could take the whole world into my home and teach people how to be good to each other, to forgive. And make them all lunch too, even the creeps.
I never ask people what they do. I just don’t care. Now that I think about it, just as when the doctor makes me sit and wait over an hour and I plot to get him back by turning off the lights, jumping out from behind a chair and shouting “surprise” when he finally opens the door (I’ve yet to have the guts to do this), maybe the next time somebody asks me what I do, I’ll make something up. Like “Oh, I am a professional compassionate lazy prankster.” But maybe that’d get the same nervous laughter reaction as saying “Nothing.”
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