What do you do?

I met a woman on Monday night whose answer to that awkward introductory question was “travel.” She’s staying in Melbourne for a while so she’s changing her answer to “I’m staying until I travel”.

It’s a horrible question and it really means “Who are you and what common ground can we find quickly? How can I fit your experiences into my areas of knowledge?”

I hate answering that question because people expect a job-related answer, or so is my understanding. I do lots of things. The things I’m most passionate about are not actually the things that make me the most money. If I hear that question from you I’m going to assume that you are a boring person or, at the very least, unimaginative.

When I was in high-school the question was: “What bands do you like?” That’s so much better. We can get a great sense of people from the art they appreciate.

I’m 36 years old and there seems to be an expectation that in the last 18 years I’ve devolved from being a complicated person with emotional connections to art to being summarised by referencing a single task.

Maybe, though, I’m so antagonistic and petulant about that question because I’ve strayed so far from my area of expertise that I don’t know the answer anymore. I’ve bumped into jobs where I could use my skills to sustain myself financially.

Last weekend I wrote for the first time in ages. I wrote a 900 word piece over several days, doing numerous rewrites. That felt really good. That felt like what I should be doing. That’s not what I get paid for, though.

So I’m doing something wrong. Thanks for pointing that out with your stupid we-just-met-each-other-at-a-party question.