This past week I was meeting some folks, and as the usual first time greetings go, was asked, "What do you do?" Sometimes when people ask me that, depending upon the tone of their voice I really am tempted to say in a snarky voice, "precious little."
I really shouldn't feel so defensive about it. He was just asking. In this conversation, I explained that I was a writer, which then prompter him to ask what I have published? And then he proceeded to tell me about his son who writes, but he has a "real job" doing "xyz" (something lucrative and other than writing).
Oy vey. Here we go. I cannot tell you how many people over the last two and a half years who just don't get the creative life. Sure, there is not a weekly paycheck but there are still set hours each day that are spent writing, creating or doing research. It is a sit down job. I have heard back from people who say that (in no particular order) I am, "retired, ill, or moving", that it "must be nice to be a lady of leisure", or imply that I have "loads of time to do....." (you fill in the blank). I want to counter- what is a fake job? Working for no pay? Is a real job one that only exchanges money? (Then by that logic you can see there is a problem between the difference of prostitution and monogamous married sex? Which is "real love"?)
To be fair and if I am honest I have also been judgmental over someone's work. I am ashamed to say that in my younger working years, I would think, "Gosh. Must be nice to have a cushy (fill in the blank) job" where it seemed as if the person didn't have too many responsibilities, too many hours or too many physical demands. Boy was I naive and stupid.
The thing is- work is work. Regardless. It doesn't matter what the type of work it is. If it is satisfying a calling, producing a good or service, helping another, providing an outlet for creativity and beauty for others in the world, it is all work. I like the google definition: work is an "activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result."
While I may bristle about the "real job", I am pragmatic enough to understand the whole concept of "starving artist" and "real jobs". At the end of the day, you cannot eat your artwork or prose.
It is just that so many jobs nowadays are not "real" or regular in the sense of the nine-to-five jobs of yesteryear. The way we do jobs have changed. No longer do people have to have face to face meetings; you can conference anyone, anytime, anywhere around the world without having to leave the comfort of your home. There is medical technology where the doctor can be on one continent and control a surgical robot performing on a surgical patient in another continent. Money can be transferred from one bank account to another with the swish of a finger.
I know I need to chill out over this issue. I guess after this latest encounter I am becoming a little less antagonistic. When people make comments, they don't really think about others' sensitivity and the comments are generally made for conversation not for any harm. I also am getting more comfortable to say that I am a writer. (Although I haven't gotten to the point where I truly believe it- I will need a little more professional recognition for that.) I guess I am defensive because I would like to say, "Yes, by gum. I am a very successful writer. I have name recognition, speaking engagements, and lucrative advancements." Falling short of that, I need to comfortable with my current situation and my sense of calling. Like so many things in life, if we feel self-assured then we are more likely to be open and gracious to others regardless of what they may or may not say to us.
What about you? What is your job? Have you ever switched careers? How did that work out? Did you feel that you had to justify it to others? Do you feel that you have a conventional job? Does what you do involve a mental or physical effort to produce a result or achieve a purpose? Do you pre-judge people based on their work? Do you feel comfortable with your calling and your work? How did you get to that place?