The question came from behind, casually tossed towards my shoulder by the young man in the suit. Rum and Coke in one hand, the other thumbing a smart phone, he reiterated. “What do you do?”
As if I’d missed his meaning the first time…
“Whatever the hell I want.” Flipping my hair in his general direction, I hoped this adequately conveyed aloof confidence – and I once again wished that they made business cards for the long-term traveler.
We were both in line for the open bar at a wedding. My ‘date’ was a close female friend, and I did not have any fresh babies in tow. Naturally, this young American professional thus assumed that the smoothest entry into conversation was an ‘open sesame’ inquiry about my occupation.
Unfortunately, I do not have one.
Nor have I ever liked the idea that employment could define me. Self-worth is not dependent on a well-kept portfolio of earnings, nor the initials following your name.
So as the line moved forward, I dredged the remains of my drink and reminded myself why I was here. Not just here at the celebration, but here in the States.
Because I’d used up my foreign visas and needed cash. Not because I wanted a two-year contract.
Someone once told me that in England, societal judgement is passed according to what school you attended. In Australia and New Zealand, they cast stones depending on what countries you’ve visited. And in the US of A, characters are admired or assassinated based on jobs.
This was something I’d prepared myself for when I decided to return home. “Where are you working?” I could handle this question with the simple name of a business establishment. But “What do you do?”
I’d tell you, but the list no longer fits on my business card.
What do you tell someone who does not understand that who we are transcends the title on our desk? (If we have one?)