Have you ever reflected over how we define and label each other and ourselves? The most common opening line at a cocktail party is, “What do you do?” But what people really mean is, “What do you do for a living?”
We are so used to valuing things in money that we–subconsciously–label people by the way they generate income. But this is horribly reductive, especially against people who are unemployed or whose work is misaligned with their interests.
This has been a long-held opinion of mine, but I really felt the sharp edge of it when I left the bank to become a nomad. When I now reply to the ubiquitous, “What do you do?” I say that I am a nomad. This never goes down well. The immediate follow up question is always, “But how do you make money doing that?”
It is starting to piss me off. I think that my nomadic lifestyle is rather interesting, but if you reduce me down to my paid work then I am, at least for the moment, simply unemployed.
I’m not saying that we must divulge every hidden corner of our soul when presenting ourselves. Of course we need a shorthand way of painting a quick estimation of who we are, in a minute or two. But does it have to be so focused on our income?
The next time you meet someone, ask “What do you like to do?” This gives him or her the freedom to express what they think is important, be it their work or hobby. Trust me; you’ll learn more about your new friend this way.