Any normal conversation you pick with a stranger, the first thing they would ask you, “What do you do?” I wonder, what I do for a living doesn’t have anything to do with who I am and yet a strange person is all set to form a complete characterization of my identity based on this one question.

That’s why it is annoying that all our conversations have to start with the dreaded question, “what do you do?”

As a society, we are obsessed with our jobs. Our obsessions stretch to a level where our profession becomes our self-identity and our job defines who we are. We don’t even know how to take vacations. A recent survey of working professional revealed that even on vacation they keep replying to work emails on phone.

Last week I was at a family gathering, a cousin of mine who is really obsessed about his work wanted to leave early. I asked him why the hurry and he replied, “My client’s mother passed away and I have to attend the funeral. I wouldn’t go if it was any neighbor, but as it’s my client I need to go anyhow”. Really annoying, but well, that’s what is reality, people eat, drink and sleep their jobs these days.

When I was working in Mauritius, I met a French couple. Inevitably I asked them, “what do you do?” (sorry about that). They simply replied, “we are divers”. It was not something they do for a living, but it was something they were passionate about and felt proud of.

It was a refreshing answer unlike all the other people I met who were “accounting manager at PWC”, “software engineer at Dell” or “marketing executive at KPMG”.

We live in a society where people are judged by what they do for a living. Your character is already set in people’s mind based on your profession. A doctor, lawyer, or an engineer top the list, followed by finance executives, accountants and teachers.

So, when I was brooding in my solace and doing nothing, I asked myself, “what do I do?” I got confused, I have taken up so many roles, not sure how to answer that. Should I reply straight from my resume and brag about the director position I hold in my company or should I talk about the real me whose passion is to write. I write on this blog without getting paid for it, I just write coz I love to pen down my thoughts. So maybe that’s what I do, “I write”.

Knowing what someone does for a living is good, but not really the first choice of question. How about you ask me, “where do I live” or “how many kids I have”. At least you would have known me better to form an impression about me.

As I write, I’m reminded of an old poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, this is how it starts:

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 longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

Such an amazing thought, may we all share this vision one day and live for our passions and not define our identities based on our professions.


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