What Defines Me.
I recently read an article that stressed the importance of asking new acquaintances questions other than the generic "What do you do for work?" when striking up a conversation or getting to know each other. The article challenged its readers to ask people questions like "What drives you?" or "How do you spend your free time?" or "What are you passionate about?", instead.
I found this all pretty intriguing, as there have been many times when people asking me "What do you do?" has made me feel a little bit self conscious. Like what I do for work is below my potential or something. Or how it somehow indicates my worth or significance, or proves in less than five seconds whether this stranger at the bar and I have anything in common. This article honed in on the assumption that our passions and self-definition lie most squarely in our work.
This all got me to thinking, how would I answer these other questions if asked?
Like, what happens when what you enjoy to do outside of work involves sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, a bowl of stove popped popcorn, and 10 episodes of Gossip Girl? Or when what you're passionate about is the most perfect Sunday imaginable: iced coffee on the porch, barre class, bloody Mary brunch, afternoon al fresco, sunset dinner and wine, and a cozy night in.
Of course, there's more to me than this. But do I tell a stranger that I think the thought of having a career that I'll report to for the next 40+ years of life depresses me? That I'm 26-years-old, four years out of college, and still negative one hundred and fifty thousands percent certain of what I want to do with my life? That leaving my agency job was one of the best decisions that I've ever made, and that I've never had a greater weight lifted off my shoulder? Do I tell them that all I really want in life is to one day be the best wife and the best mom I can be? To wake up on Christmas morning in matching pajamas eating french toast and watching the snow fall? To be lucky enough to get to tell my husband how cute he is every single day, even when we're 101? Because that is what I see as happiness. That is what defines me.
Living in Boston, I felt like work was the center of every conversation, and that I was supposed to have some amazing job that paid well, sounded "cool" and "fun" and above all, was personally fulfilling. I felt these pressures daily at my office, with my extended family, and even with some of my close friends. A big factor that went into my choice of making Charleston my new home was the quality of life that I've come to experience here. People go to work, they pay their rent – but what they do to make that possible is not all encompassing of who they are. Here, what I do for work does not define me as a person.
Do I tell the stranger that and let them think I'm practically out of my damn mind? Or do I simply smile, say that I work at a candle shop, and proceed to order another ten vodka sodas?