When you meet someone new, one of the first questions you’re asked is an obligatory, “What do you do?”
I know it’s an innocent query, but that question always makes me a little uneasy. What do I do? I do many things.
Of course, the expected response is merely a profession, but answering that way feels limiting. I hope I can say that I’m more than a job title.
Many people devote all their time to their careers. They see themselves as their job, and work becomes the center of their lives. While that might be admirable in some ways, it’s also risky. If you identify so strongly with your profession, you run the risk of forfeiting vital aspects of your humanity.
Despite what our culture might say, there is much more to life than a career.
Like personal interests, for example. It should come as little surprise that writing is one of mine. And when I graduate in a few weeks, I will pursue writing as a way of life.
However, even though I’m dedicated to writing, it will never define me entirely. I don’t even feel comfortable saying that I am a writer. Writing is something I do; it’s not who I am.
Admittedly, it would be a stretch to say that being asked so often about your occupation implies something out of order in our social system. Nonetheless, it is true that our society is entirely too career-centric. Because work is so emphasized, too many people neglect things like family and friendship, and not enough people take time to enjoy nature and appreciate the world around them.
For me, there are many things I value in my life, including my family, my friends, my hobbies and my beliefs. As much time as I will likely spend working the rest of my life, work will never push aside the importance of those things.
With school just about out of the picture, it will be incumbent on me to arrange my new life so that I can continue to honor the things I value while pursuing my career. I encourage anyone about to enter the professional world to do the same.
That way, if people you meet ask what you do, you can give them the right answer. A long one.
Ashwin Verghese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.