30 July, 2009

What Do You Do?

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's desire

- The Invitation as noted by Positively Present.


From the time we are kids, we are looking at professions and dreaming of what we want to do when we grow up.  It is a question that we are asked at an early age.  I believe my daughter was asked what she wanted to be when she was in Junior Kindergarten.  At that time, she wanted to be a firefighter.  While the other girls in the class wanted to be moms, my kid dreamed of fighting fires.

Within a year of that asking, she had changed her dream to dancing where it has remained.  She dreams of dancing.  That is what she wants to do. 

I wonder though, what kind of person she wants to be?

In late May I walked and talked with a friend while our kids ran from carnival ride to carnival ride.  We chatted about lots of things to include this idea of people identifying themselves through their profession or what they “do” over the person that they are. 

When we meet people at a party or at a dinner, the first thing that is often asked is….”What do you do?”

I always answer the question with honesty and without a second thought.  But I wonder if there is a better question to ask or a better way of responding?

The person I am is not defined by the job I hold or the work I do during the day.  I am not defined by my child, relationship status, or the clothes that I choose to wear at any given moment.  Yet these are often the characteristics that others use to define me.

Many of us define ourselves through the external.  The thought of no longer having those characteristics is frightening.  Men are, traditionally, defined by their jobs where women… are defined by or find their identity in their kids and husbands.  Loss of job or divorce become very scary ideas as each means a loss of identity.  A girlfriend recently told me that in order to divorce, one truly has to be okay with the reality of being alone, possibly for the long term.  Some women feel that they will lose their livelihood and identity if they take that leap.  We choose to allow our status, title, kids, profession, and lifestyle define who we are, when, are they true reflections of the person within?

It is easier to stay in a marriage that lacks than it is to take the risk – one fears that loss even though one may not really lose anything but often gain much.  Identity is about status, title, lifestyle, profession, rather than being about the person we are or that which we are striving to be. 

What, therefore, is a better question to ask at parties or at a dinner?  How can we ask about the person that lives within the body that performs this or that job?  What can we ask kids, and adults alike, that allows them to explore the ideas and thoughts surrounding the person that they want to be?

I ask myself – who is the person I am?  Who is the person I want to be?  Are they different?

I know that I have a lot to learn.  I know that I have a lot to teach and a lot to experience.  All of these things will contribute to the person I am and that which I become.  At one point in my past, I learned to love unconditionally and without expectation.  In the past few months, I have learned to forgive as completely.  Neither lesson is easy to learn – especially the latter!  And yet… they are each part of the person I am and that which I strive to be.  Now I want to learn to be a person who can give the same unconditional love and forgiveness to myself – I need to figure out how to give myself the grace and compassion that I so easily give others.



Mark said...

I love where your thoughts took you on this topic. You are correct, asking someone what they do reinforces the false idea that we are what we do. I love that you are learning to love and forgive yourself unconditionally.

I think the better question to ask someone at a social event would be "What is the best thing about being you". That question would catch people off guard, however it would really get them thinking and then what they shared with you would be incredible!

The Exception said...

Thanks Mark - It is a journey worth taking!

dadshouse said...

I hate the "what do you do?" question to! We are so much more than our jobs. I often ask "how do you spend your days". People are sometimes thrown by that, and I just tell them to answer however they please. Many suddenly start talking about something other than work!

Paula said...

I often ask myself the the who I am & who I want to be Q. My work is some of who I am and who I want to be but not me as a whole.

We focus too much on career and/or education, looking down on 'lesser' jobs or less educated persons as a failures in life.

Behjamin Franklin said, "I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life."

Maybe the question is, "What do you do that you really enjoy -that brings meaning into your life?"

We should all talk about this more often.