What Do You Do?

“So, what do you do?”

I used to look forward to this question.  I had enjoyed different, successful careers and was able to give the following answers:

“I manage a $350 million energy spend for a Fortune 500 company.”
“I sell natural gas and power to utilities and national accounts.”
“I have my own business.”

Then I sold my business.  Suddenly, was as if I had lost my identity.  Unable to find a full-time job in the energy industry at the time (it was 2015 and I was living in the unofficial energy capital of North America), I became a consultant.   I thought this would solve my work identity crisis, until I learned that telling people “I’m a consultant” is code for “I’m unemployed”.

It bothered me that I didn’t have a what I thought was a satisfactory answer to that question.  I felt as though I were defined by what I did for a living.  And it didn’t just bother me – when I gave these answers:

“I’m a consultant.”
“I teach energy seminars.”
“I feed homeless dogs.”
“I’m looking for a new opportunity in energy/business development/marketing.”

Nobody else knew how to respond.  I became a master at changing the subject.  And here’s the kicker – I was writing a book, but that never felt like a good thing to say, as it wasn’t finished.  Then one day, I thought, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  Now, when someone asks what I do for a living, I say:

“I’m a writer.”
“I have a blog and I’m working on my first book.”

And for some reason, this satisfies people.  I get reactions like:

“Wow, that’s awesome.”
“I could never write a book, that’s impressive.”
“What’s your book about?”
“How do you write?  Do you set time every day, or just write when the mood strikes?”
“Do you know how you’re going to publish?”
“Let me know when your book is published – I want to read it.”

I feel much better now that I have an answer for this standard question.  I guess we all need a work identity, a purpose in life.  And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – it only matters what I think of myself and what I’m doing.  I just need to own it.

Like anything else, not everyone understands – there are some well-meaning people who don’t seem to accept the fact that this is what I’ve chosen to do.  So now, I get comments like:

 

“So, that’s all you’re doing?”
“You’re lucky you have a husband that supports you.”
“But have you gotten paid for anything yet?”
“You shouldn’t give up on finding a job.”

I can’t please everyone.  And that’s on them.  I have a book to finish writing.

 

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