Monday, November 16, 2020

What Do You Do?

Making friends as an adult is quite different than when I was a kid. In my younger days, I used to walk right up to someone, ask if they wanted to play, and off we would go! —racing toward the swings or the merry-go-round, all arms akimbo and giggling. We didn’t have to pre-screen one another for common interests or make polite small talk until we felt safe enough to share more intimate and personal details about ourselves. We both had the same agenda: to play. We didn’t have to worry about anything other than the pure connection between us as kids. 

Adult interactions typically all start the same: 

“Hi, my name is Missy.” 

"Hi, Missy; it’s nice to meet you. What do you do?” 

What do you do? I never realized what a loaded question that is. When asked this question, we are expected to talk about our line of work. What they are really asking is: what do you do to make a living? I am one of those fortunate souls whose career—how I make my living—is something that I love. Medical technology is a fascinating, challenging, and rewarding field, and I greatly respect the healthcare system that employs me. In our capitalist society, we are taught the unspoken rules about the power of money and its use as a measure of success. How we make our money—and how much money we make—award us social privilege based on the caricature of success against which we are compared. 

But making money isn’t all there is to life.  As author John Beckett puts it: “how you make a living and how you make a life are two different things.” While I enjoy my line of work, it is how I make a living. It is what I do to earn money to pay my bills and to buy my groceries. If there’s anything left after that, I spend it on what is truly important to me: the things I do to make a life. 

Next time someone asks me, “What do you do?” I think I will answer them with the things I do to make a life. It’ll go a little something like this:

I am an early riser, preferring the company of the sunrise to the company of the stars, though I am happy to share a view of the night sky with a friend.

I enjoy cool, rainy days and fresh, warm coffee; red wine and soft cheese; crisp salad and seared red meat. 

 I am a fan of Sumo and am learning Japanese so I can understand the commentators.

I spend more time with my husband than anyone else, because he is the love of my life and my best friend.

I find vaguely relevant times to insert fandom quotes from books, movies, and TV series that I constantly revisit to escape into my beautifully vivid and hyperactive imagination—especially if the other party will understand the reference and smile. 

I watch the lives of my children unfold as these tiny humans who once lived as a part of me now exist apart from me, becoming with every new day independent lights in the universe. 

I cry at television commercials, laugh loudly at awkward times, and get frustrated with jar lids. 

I pray to the Old Gods and to the gods of the natural world who are best observed when wind whispers in the trees and dewdrops glisten on flower petals. 

I play guitar until my fingers hurt and sing loudly in my car. 

I laugh, I love, and I live. I live.

That is what I do to make a life. What do you do?