What do you do for a living? It’s the standard question when meeting someone new. Everyone asks it and most people have a simple answer. It’s as if that one question can tell someone who you are so they can decide if you’re worth their time. If your answer is interesting, they will want to know more. If you say accountant or banker, they change the subject quickly. If you say that you work at McDonald’s, well… you get my point. We’re all guilty of it; judgement. It comes as naturally as breathing unless we fight against it.
The “what do you do” question is kind of scary to someone like me. I don’t have a quick answer. I don’t even really have a long one. People are always telling me to make one up but I don’t like to lie and have never been good at it. When I meet someone new, I usually say that I’m on disability and can’t work. For some people, that is enough because they realize it’s none of their business. Most people, however, are curious by nature. They follow up with question after question until I’ve explained everything I would rather not talk about with strangers.
So, what do I do? What does anybody do when they don’t want their job to immediately define them? I spend most of my time writing. I’ve published one book and have one on the way but I will probably never make a good living from my writing. Can I tell people I’m a writer?
There is a lot more to my life than my disability. There is a lot more to a lawyer than the law and a homeless man than his lack of a house. If we can’t change the stigmas attached to our employment, maybe we need to change the question.