While searching my brain for something to write about tonight, I found this gem on Facebook. I love the idea of flipping the script, taking something basic and turning it upside down until it looks a little more intriguing. When I was years and years younger, I did this with my career as stay-at-home mom. I told people I was a “Wildlife Manager,” which was infinitely more descriptive and appropriate. Seriously. Have you ever tried to manage two boys under the age of 5? They are a bit much.
So much of what happens in life is predictable, prescribed, and ordinary. We fall into boxes readily, like cats into taped off squares on the floor, because they make us feel secure. Student. Business professional. Realtor. Doctor. Parent. Dog mother. Athlete. When you meet someone new, what is the first place the conversation naturally flows? “So, where do you work?” If you’re lucky, you get a more nebulous, “What do you do?” We are comfortable when we can rely on these scripts. We feel good about ourselves when can give someone the elevator-chat, ten second version of our life, a version that usually revolves around what we do, not who we are, not what makes us happy or interesting or passionate. I think this is a crime.
I propose that we mix things up. Let’s stop talking about what we do. Let’s start talking about who we are. Wouldn’t a cocktail party be much more interesting if instead of starting with work talk (because who wants to talk about work when not at work, anyway?), we asked what someone’s first concert was or which television character they would invite to dinner if they could. And what if our ten-second, elevator-chat personal description went more like this:
“I’m Justine. As a child, I was terrified of anything having to do with UFOs. I played cymbals in high school marching band. I suck at throwing frisbees. I’m a die-hard introvert, but I love to plan parties that I preferably would not have to attend. Oh, and even though I’m 53, I sleep with a stuffed dog I named Eliot.”
Imagine what we would know about each other, imagine what we would learn about ourselves, if we stopped putting people into boxes based on religion, politics, and career and began talking to each other as if we were all the unique, interesting individuals we are. What barriers might we break down? What assumptions about others might we lose? I think if we started flipping the script, we might be able to raise the level of discourse in this country. Let’s re-enchant life by focusing on the parts of our human experiences that make life worth living.
I so love the first sentence of the little gem you found on Facebook. And in response to your question in your first paragraph… Yes! I have managed two boys under the age of five and wildlife manager is an understatement! LOL! I HATE that often the first question someone asks me upon meeting me is often, “what do you do?” Or “where do you work?” It’s SUCH a complicated answer for me since I gave up the career I chose for myself and no longer work in that field. And oh, the looks I used to get when my answer would be, “I am a stay at home mom.” Why does that have to be our identity (what we do for a living)?
I love this post Justine. It’s an important little topic you touched on. We really do need to stop putting people in boxes!
Gail…I struggled so long and hard with the stay-at-home mom statement. It seemed the minute I told someone what I did I either got dismissed as unintelligent and unmotivated or given grief for being fortunate enough to have that choice or talked down to. I believe stay-at-home parenting is the most underrated job out there. It’s like a teaching career but with even longer hours, zero benefits, and no paycheck. Still, if I had it to do all over again, I’d make the same choice. Best thing I have ever done. Hope you are well!
I agree 100% with everything you’ve said. And I would do it all over again too. I have no regrets whatsoever with my decision to stay home with my sons. It was the best decision I ever made!
Couldn’t love this more! I’ve shared this post with my girlfriends, we are getting together next weekend so I’ve tasked us all with coming up with our revised elevator pitches. Today I have to do grocery shopping, but I’m going to say I’m going foraging for delectable edibles. 😉
I despise people asking, “What do you do?” it makes me want to scream I am not defined by my profession. My favorite question to ask is “What did you eat today?” You can learn a lot about someone from such a simply question. So, yes lets mix things up!
I love that you ask what people have eaten. You can probably glean a lot about people from that question. When people insist on talking about their career, I like to ask how they got into that profession because that is far more interesting than the profession itself.
I do learn a ton, and I love how you redirect the career question 🙂
I just love this. I shared it with my girlfriends who I will see this weekend and told them we all need to come up with our new revised elevator pitches about ourselves. Also, I have decided that grocery shopping is now “foraging for edibles.” On another note, bravo on keeping up with your daily posts!
Thanks for reaching out. I love “foraging for edibles.” It sounds so much more adventurous, although in the age of Covid a grocery store trip can be an adventure. 🙂