I often find myself dreading the thought of meeting someone new or running into someone I haven’t seen in years. I came to learn that more often than not, I’m almost always immediately hit with the default question: “What do you do?”

The mother of loaded questions.

When people drop this cocktail conversation starter, before almost anything else has been said, I get a bad taste in my mouth.

While the question seems harmless, I find it to be a dangerous habit of associating who we are with what we do.

I see the danger in fusing a person’s work with their self, even if work consumes everything they do. In a world with a success-driven culture, it’s easy to compare who we are with the work we do. Every now and then we all can use a reminder that we are not our jobs.

What do I do?

I spend time with family and friends. I exercise, eat food, read, write words onto paper. This morning I spent two hours trying to catch my recently adopted 11-year-old cat who darts for the door every chance he gets.

I do a lot of things.

I think if you peel away the broad question of “What do you do?”, you’ll find that it’s made up with smaller questions like “How much money do you make?” and “On the socioeconomic ladder, am I above or below you?”

By removing the importance of a job title from someone’s identity, it’s simple to turn the conversation into something that inspires passion, not predictability.

– Emily Wilbur

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