I loathe, detest, abhor, hate, despise this question: “What do you do?” And I always have!
In fact, unless you are a creative whose art spills forth from your soul; or someone with a large heart trying to feed the hungry or make a small corner of our planet a kinder, gentler place; or a scientist searching for the cure for cancer, I could not give two rats’ behinds “what you do!”
Seriously, do we really need to discuss the finer points of life in a blah, gray cubicle or corner office, pushing paper and pens from file cabinet to desk and back again?!
Er, I think not!
I have never placed any stock in career or job choice as symbolic of our ultimate value. Truth is, for the greater majority of us, work is simply a way for us to finance this life — that is, food, shelter, health care, and our chosen distractions!
So this question has always left me feeling inadequate, because I know that this question is almost always about valuing and devaluing and that whatever my answer it was sure to disappoint and/or label me into a too small box of assumptions.
What?! You’re not a doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief!
But I have always been flummoxed about how to respond to the tedious and uninspiring “what do you do” without seeming annoyed or evasive at best or hostile at worst.
It was only recently that I learned of one wise woman’s perfect response to what has to be the most insipid but loaded question in the history of civilization:
[Drum roll, please!]
“Whatever it takes.”
I like to imagine that behind this very short response is this essential message:
In other words, my value is in no way limited to a subjective job title. I am a multi dimensional human being. What is in my mind and in my heart is my real story and where my authentic value is derived. Now, with that said, is there a more substantial question you want to ask?
Over to you: Do you have a more substantial question to replace “what do you do?” What has been your experience — positive or negative — with this question?