I really dread the question “so what do you do?” We all ask it. It’s the classic way to start a conversation with someone we’ve not met before. We have questions we’re “expected” to ask, and in turn we’re expected to answer them. What do you do. Where are you from. What are you studying. Where do you work.
You all know the drill.
I dread the question because here’s the thing: I don’t currently work. I previously have studied (and graduated). I have had jobs on and off over the last few years but haven’t maintained anything for a good long while. I have deferred a social work degree which I probably won’t return to anytime soon. It’s not because I’m not smart or capable, it’s not because I’m “lazy” and “a bludger”. The reason I don’t currently work is as simple and as complicated as this: I’m not well, I haven’t been for awhile now and my life essentially revolves around my eating disorder. Recovery from anything is in itself a full-time job, anything mental OR physical. Recovery requires time and effort and commitment and intention, it involves conversations and appointments and more conversations and more appointments. It’s hard, it’s really hard work. But I won’t be stuck in this position forever. I won’t always be unemployed, I won’t always have so many appointments and blood tests and rigidity and structure and routines and days that look exactly the same as the one before; I won’t always have so many days that look exactly the same as the next.
However, here’s the thing. I feel shame. I feel shame when someone asks me “so what do you do?” Truth be told, I’ve rehearsed my answer before you’ve even asked because I knew you would ask. It’s what we do. Heck, I’ve even caught myself asking people this a few times. How would it be though, if we answered with the entire truth? Would my honest answer make you feel uncomfortable? Would you judge me? Probably yes, to both of those things. Would you get it? Probably not. And so I rehearse my vague answer and quickly deflect. I turn the question back on you.
This is how my life is now and this is where I’m at. It’s not always where I will be, it is just a snapshot of a moment of time. It is a snapshot of how my life currently looks. It’s how it is for now and it is how it will continue to be, for a time.
I don’t need to be DOING anything in order to contribute to society in some meaningful way. I’m a daughter and a friend and a granddaughter and a sister. I’m a cat lover and a dog lover, in equal measure. I’m assertive. I have a deep love for peanut butter and reading and writing and making bagels. I have a penchant for purchasing books at a faster rate than I can read them. I can make people laugh and I can make small talk and I do my best, which is all any of us can do, really.
I don’t need to justify my existence by doing all of the things society expects of me. I’m no less of a person because I’m not working or studying or having my own family or saving to buy a house. Each day, I’m striving to grow and striving to better myself as a person. My worth doesn’t stem from the things that I do in this world, I simply am worthwhile because I am here. The same goes for all of us. We exist and that’s the most important thing of all.
Today my psychiatrist told me that when people ask him what he does he often says “nothing”. Let me assure you, he does a heck of a lot but he knows his worth doesn’t stem from that and that whilst his work does form part of his identity, it’s not WHO he is. Today he told me that I need to bring all of myself and nothing more. So here it is. Here I am.
More than anything, I want all of the people in my life to bring all of themselves and nothing more too. All of their flaws and imperfections, their snorty laughs and their accidental mispronunciation of words, their dislike of broccoli and their undying love of dark chocolate digestives. Their not knowing their right from their left. Their bravery in standing up to bullies and their fear of public speaking. Their courage to speak to strangers and their inclination to avoid parties with friends. We’re all works in progress, and that is what our lives are made up of.
We’re becoming who we’re meant to be, and that’s the most successful thing we’ll ever do.