Follow by Email


Saturday, August 11, 2012

What do you do?

How often are we asked that question? What they mean is “what do you do for work.” It means more than that, of course. So many of us are defined by our jobs that we usually get a good idea what someone is like by knowing their job.

Most of us self define ourselves by the work we do. I am an engineer. I am a factory worker. I am a nurse. I am a carpenter. Instead of doing that, change your mental landscape a bit. Say: I am myself, who currently is making a living as a carpenter. You job is something you do, not what you are.

In a busy life, we do many things. We are more than a cog in a machine. Defining yourself by your job is self limiting. It’s one of the things that keeps people doing the same thing year after year.

What happens to a person who identifies with their job and then loses it? They have a bad time. They don’t know who they are any more. Not only do they have to deal with a loss of income, they have to deal with a loss of identity.

I think that’s why so people complain about being retired. Retired has a lot less status than worker, professional, manager, boss, or whatever the job was. Retired -put out to pasture. Useless.

People who’s lives are full of other things look at retirement as a blessing. More time is now available to do the other things they enjoy. Sadly, too many people have too few other things to enjoy -even people who don’t even like their jobs.

Imagine being defined by a job you hate. Why would someone let that happen to themselves?

Yesterday I was hanging out at the farmer’s market, talking to a farmer. We were talking about tractors and diesel engines, among other things. Eventually, he asked the question, “what do you do?”

“I’m doing it,” I said.



  1. Couldn't agree more sir. 30 yrs in apt const and in 2008 I was canned along with the whole TX office of our company. ALl my const buddies out of work too. 3 yrs of tinkering around the house, building sheds, fences, researching off-grid living, etc was actually pretty neat. Now I'm back at work for the last 10 months and not having fun. Paycheck is nice, but we've paired down to no bills other than food, gas and elect. Looking forward to no job again.

    Bigfoot in TX

  2. Excellent post. I can't agree more. There are times I have a problem with this boring retirement life with nuttin to do that I've built my life around on the job. I was fortunate. I had many jobs....diversity. Keep'n up with the Jones was never an issue.

  3. When people ask me what I do I tell them "Whatever I can get away with." That either starts a good conversation, or sends them scurrying off : )

  4. I respectfully disagree. What someone does or used to do for a living before retirement can be fascinating to some people. I've never felt insulted or demeaned by that question. And it can be educational to answer questions that some people might have about my job, and vice versa.
    With that said, I realize that I'm also one of the lucky people that actually enjoy their careers.
    I think a lot of it has to do with how the person being asked feels about the question. I know my father doesn't mind telling people that he's a retired firefighter. If anything, he emphasizes the "retired" part with a big ol' smile.
    ... and I'm not clever enough to come up with "Whatever I can get away with" on the spot

  5. I like Craig's answer. BTW, when I am asked I just say that I am semi-retired, can't afford to live on SS alone. But, I don't want to work too much. I have become accustom to loafing.

  6. am been always working despite being a DAV with a half crippled body

    being lazy is a hard thing to do


  7. Someone asks me that question, I say: "Living. Enjoying life."

  8. One thing I'm noticing a lot with my generation (X) and younger is how they answer that question. Rather than saying "I am a...", they say "I work as/at...". They will answer the question, but they don't define themselves by their work. The notable exception is when it represents some level of accomplishment that they are proud of.

  9. I am pleasantly amazed how you consistently write about things that are going on in my head or in my life.