Why I HATE the Question, “What do you do?”

I used to think that we were defined by what we did.  That my job had to reflect who I was and that making a difference in the world was crucial to being respected.  And with good reason too because isn’t it often that the first thing people say when they meet us is,  “Hi, Julie.  What do you do?”

It was the reason why my first job out of college was for the Discovery Channel.  I took the job because I wanted it for myself, but I stayed in the job for far too long because I liked people’s reactions when I told them I worked there…how sad is that?!  I felt like my soul was unhappy, I wasn’t getting out and interacting with people the way that I wanted to and I felt like my dream of making an impact on the world was too far out of reach so I quit.

I went back to school to get my Master’s Degree in teaching.  I thought that for sure people would respect me and think that I was a good person because I was an elementary school teacher… I truly enjoyed working with the kids and teaching them how to be good people and to stay true to themselves no matter what, a lesson that I was still struggling to learn myself.  I got to the point as a teacher though where my creativity was being stifled and I began feeling more and more powerless.  I decided to go on child rearing leave to stay home with my kids and in that time I found myself.

A month later I started my photography business.  I once again was feeling alive, creative, inspired and filled with passion.  I faced great critique with this choice as well though.  It seemed that EVERYONE was asking me when I was going to return to teaching, when I was going “back to work” and would even flat out ask me if I was able to make any money with photography.  I couldn’t believe the nerve of people to ask me such personal questions and to dismiss my business as simply a temporary hobby and wonder when I was going to start working again…I so desperately wanted to tell them my average sales to shut them up because the truth was that I WAS able to make a great living as a photographer and still am.  But I learned that my energy was better saved than to try to justify my choices to them. 

My question is, “Why does our culture define who we are based on what we do?”  If we are all divine beings of God, why does it matter what we choose as our profession?  As long as we are passionate about it, are contributing to society with our God-given talents, why is it anyone else’s business in the first place??

After being asked AGAIN yesterday by a family friend when I’m going back to teaching and being triggered by this question yet again, I decided to get to the bottom of this trigger once and for all.  The danger in defining who we are by our work is that one day we will retire and it will go away or like my dear friend we could get in a horrible accident and have it physically impossible to return to.  Who we are is NOT defined by what we do.  We are love.  We are divine and we are enough just as we are.  So before you ask a Stay at Home Mom or small business owner when they’re going back to work?  Please bite your tongue. 😉