What Do You Do?

So what do you do?

It’s a pretty standard question, and when asked, you might answer something like “teacher”, “finishing carpenter”, “waitress”, or “dietary aide” – whatever it is you do that bring in your cash.  I myself am a barista – I serve people lattes, I dish out delicacies for people, and of course, smile very friendly-like while taking their money and hoping to hear that sweet clink! of their change falling into the tip jar.

I like my job.  I truly do, and it’s been a very long while since I’ve been able to say that with any real note of sincerity.  I might previously have said I like the paycheck from my job, or maybe my coworkers, but finding work where the whole package is enjoyed is rare.

But Jenae, you might say, you aren’t going to work there forever, are you?  After all, who wants to be 35 and say that they serve coffee for a living?  And besides, you have a college education, and you’re not going to let your talents go to waste, right?

Well of course I’m not.  But there is an attitude we have about jobs that I have been finding increasingly worrisome, as I’ve been thinking about more post-secondary education, jobs, income, and just generally what I am going to do with my life.

It seems to me (without actually putting in any real research), that we here in North America have this fixation with what we do for work.  There is a huge emphasis from early on – what are you going to do, how are you going to make your money – that doesn’t seem to really exist anywhere else in the world.  I have started asking myself: is it normal to assign the source of our individual income such a high value on the personal scale?

I heard once that if you were to ask a person in Asia what it is that they do, they will tell you, “I am a painter”, or “I am a soccer player”; they will not necessarily tell you what they do to earn a monthly paycheck, rather what it is that they enjoy doing.

I like that.

And I have to say that I would find it far more interesting if we told others what we do for fun, rather than for a living, when asked “what do you do?”.  And I wish that these things were allowed to define us a little bit more, and our jobs a little bit less.

Am I content to serve coffee the rest of my life?  No.  I am thoroughly grateful to have found a job where I have a great boss and coworkers, and enjoy the work, I do have a dream of being a teacher, and am currently working toward that goal.  But it’s not because I feel like I need a more “respectable” career or a bigger paycheck (although bigger paychecks are never a bad thing), it’s because I want to.

And you know, I am still fully capable of pursuing my talents and interests right now, even though nobody is writing me a paycheck (currently) for it.I think that those are the things I would prefer to define who I am anyway.  It’s much more fulfilling.

So, what do I do?  I am a writer.  I enjoy making music.  I am a teacher (though not necessarily in as formal a setting as a classroom).  I am a photographer, a philosopher; a wife, daughter, sister, and friend.

What do you do?

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