On my ride in to work this morning I was listening to the latest podcast by The Minimalists (Education) and it got me thinking how far I’ve come since graduating high school. It also had me thinking how I’m still the same person and how little it all means. Before realizing I had what it took to go to college, I was working 40 hours/week in an electrical components factory soldering parts together all day long. I was dating one of the engineers I had met there and that was my introduction to dealing with people who had an education. I would D.R.E.A.D. going to parties or family functions with him because I was embarrassed of my job and that I didn’t have a college degree. What I would DREAD most of all was that all too familiar question…
Hello! What do you do?
What Do I Do?
Fast forward to present day…
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m a microbiologist for a major pharmaceutical company.
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m a wife.
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m a mother of a wonderful 6-year old girl.
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m a real estate investor.
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m an artist; I like to paint with oils and draw with charcoals.
Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m a personal finance blogger!
Obviously, the expected response is the first response. The person asking this question wants to know how you earn your money and how much money you earn. To some, that defines the individual.
I wasn’t always a microbiologist at a major pharmaceutical company. I was the youngest of four siblings. I grew up in a trailer and I had no idea I would ever have the chance to go to college. After all, my parents never graduated high school and they continuously apologized during my teenage years for not being able to afford to send me to college. Because I didn’t have any models or mentors, I assumed I wasn’t part of that world. My plan was to graduate high school and get a good-paying job and live my life. Full stop. Good-paying job was a relative term.
Working 9 to 5
After high school I worked at an electrical components factory where I met my first real boyfriend 🙂 He was an engineer with a master’s degree; his family was highly educated and wealthy. It made me nervous. Whenever we had a party or family function to attend I would sweat bullets waiting for that awkward question. Inevitably a doctor or lawyer friend of his would ask, “So, what do you do?” I would turn as red as Santa’s suit and sheepishly reply, “I work in production at a factory.” In those moments all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and never come out.
During my podcast this morning, I was floored when they started talking about THIS VERY THING. They pointed out something so obvious. This question isn’t a get-to-know-you question. It’s a question to gauge the other person’s socioeconomic status and, ultimately, their success. I suppose I knew subconsciously knew this way back when I was attending those parties. That’s why I felt the way I did. I was always on the short end of the stick. The Minimalists used some pretty harsh language to explain the real intentions behind this question and offered some pretty clever alternatives. If you’re unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of that question and don’t really want to go into a conversation about what you do to earn a living, you can simply state, “I’m passionate about [insert whatever here].” For me, I could pick any one of the above items in response to that pompous question, depending on my mood. I suspect the same goes for you!
All told, I achieved a master’s degree and a high-paying job (again, relative). I am successful according to standard, middle-class expectations. But…what does it all mean? I’m the same girl from the trailer park who didn’t think she was smart enough to go to college. Ironically, having made it, I feel like my new goal is to get out of it. Ha! It’s funny how perspectives change over a couple decades. Next time I’m asked that question, I think I’ll respond with any one of my passions. Maybe I’ll be the real estate investor. Maybe I’ll be the artist. Maybe I’ll be the mother. We’ll see how I feel at that moment.
The point is that our jobs are not the entirety of our being. Our being is made up of our inner circle of people, our MANY passions, and finally, our jobs. In my opinion, this question has risen to the top of the social status pile because our jobs equal income and income equals how well we are doing in the American consumerism rat race. The End.
Let me rephrase that original question, Hello! What are you passionate about?
As always, Mad Money Cat encourages you to read Our Story and use the super convenient social media buttons to spread the LOVE! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! You can also Sign Up For Emails so you know exactly when we hit PUBLISH!