“What do you do?”
The age old question that defines you and your life. Apparently. (I’m not sure if it is “age old” but I like how that sounds in there).
I loathe this question. It’s asked as if my life depends on what job I do for a living.
Sometimes I dread going to meet new people simply because I know that question is going to pop up at some point, and I know that my honest answer is going to shock a few people so I try to tell half the truth, and then they just end up staring at me blankly because well, it seems that if you don’t have a job title, then there is nothing to talk about. I’m not talking about everybody when I say this, I have made some amazing friends where our relationship does not depend on my job title, but unfortunately, reality is that to most people, my job title is more important than me.
So let me clear this up. My status at the moment is: Broke, unemployed and not looking. I’m just a little above rock bottom (Rock bottom is where I was a couple months ago so I’m making progress). I am currently writing a lot, reading (I just finished Amy Schumer’s book, it’s fucking awesome), researching volunteer roles & opportunities, but really, right now, I am in full-time recovery mode, so lots of therapy and therapeutic type activities.
I am not well enough to return to main stream work just yet. I do receive disability allowance and this is what I have been using to pay for my therapy and other self-care wonders like acupuncture and cupping. I am now living with my mum and brother (I’m lucky that we get on well) and I struggle to get out of bed, cook for myself and cannot be trusted to manage my own medication. In times of crisis, my mum has to even help me shower. Yep, that was rock bottom.
Things haven’t always been like this, actually they used to be extremely different, but this is my current status.
The first few times I answered the “What do you do?” question, after I broke right down to the ground, I was very honest and said: “I am seriously mentally ill and can barely function right now. I broke down too many times and almost died. I really only recently learned that I have a Personality Disorder, and that my anxiety is actually quite severe and when I really cannot get out of bed, that’s probably my depression. I am an expert at self-mutilation and in the past year I have struggled a lot to simply stay alive, and keep myself safe from…well, myself. As a result, I had to quit working and let myself hit rock bottom. I also have psychotic episodes and some serious paranoia, oh and I experience some torturous flashbacks…similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Yes, people who go to war usually have this). There are other symptoms and aspects of my life that I am struggling with right now, in addition to the above, but there, that’s my status; a full-time mental health patient” (And I am very inpatient! Haha a joke).
Needless to say, the very honest answer left some people standing in front of me looking terrified, as if I going to lash out and murder them. I started to feel like Twisty the clown in American Horror Stories.
(Google ‘Twisty the American Horror Stories clown’ if you don’t know who I mean, and then click on ‘images’. I was going to add a photo here but he’s just too disturbing so I’ll give you the choice of looking at him.)
I have to admit, I did enjoy the look of horror in peoples’ faces sometimes, but after watching people awkwardly wishing they never looked my way, and making me feel like I’m worthless because I don’t have a job title, I decided to soften the blow. Now I say something along the lines of “I’m taking some time off, and focusing on writing”.
This gives people something to cling to and then go “Oh writing, that’s amazing…” and so on. I hate this small talk, but I also hate being reminded of the fucked up society we live in; where if you don’t have a job title, people don’t have much to say to you. Also, one where you are made to feel guilty for being ill, especially if you have an invisible illness. If I had a broken leg in a cast and wasn’t able to walk, nobody would look at my leg feeling scared; they would be queuing up to fucking sign and decorate that bad boy. By the way, I have never broken a bone, I only get weird and rare illnesses.
My hatred for the “What do you do?” question is not a new thing for me; I have always struggled with this, even when I was a “somebody” with a job title that sounded half important. I hated it then because I have never related to my job titles at all, most of them went completely against all of my values and created some unhealthy boundaries. When I told people in bars and gatherings that I was a project coordinator for an events company (my last job), they always got overly excited asking what type of events I worked on and where did I get to travel to, blah blah blah.
It all made me feel very strange, because I hated the job.
I hated the job and wanted to leave it and run away, but everyone was congratulating me on my “success”, so I stuck it out. That is what you are supposed to do. Right?! Even if you’re unhappy and feel like dying is your only way out, when society is telling you to keep at it, that’s what you do. Right?!
It’s like all of a sudden I simply became an events coordinator working on sporting events that everyone wanted to go to. I was no longer the emotional-impulsive-tattoo loving-wannabe hippie-dirty dancing-hip-hop loving-Eat-Pray-Love hungry-book addict-Elly. I just became this hollow job title that I hated; I was “event project coordinator” (Just writing that makes me gag because, even though I may be having an identity crisis, I know that project coordinator is NOT me).
What a fucking narrow minded question. Especially when it’s the first thing you say to someone. Can we stop that please?
This one time, in Australia, I was completely shoved aside at a dinner party because I didn’t have a job title. I had been in Oz for like two or three months, and I managed to get very, very, very sick after day six. On day six of the Down Under “adventure” I woke up with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and my mental health also began to deteriorate, rapidly. I’ll write more about this precious time of my life in another post.
Anywhozzle, I was so sick during my time Down Under that I couldn’t even leave my room without my (ex) boyfriend’s help, because I could hardly move due to pain and sedation from medication, and also I was too severely anxious to go anywhere near my flatmates. It got to a point where I needed a raised toilet seat frame because I was in so much physical pain and so stiff that I couldn’t even go low enough to reach the toilet!
For some reason though, around this time, my flatmates decided to have a dinner party and invite myself and my (ex) boyfriend along. As you can imagine, with my anxiety, emotional instability and physical pain, I was “thrilled” to be asked to spend the night making small talk with a bunch of strangers I couldn’t care less about.
The (ex) boy got loads of attention this night; people wanted to talk to him and they had very interesting (Not) questions like: “I hear you’re working in events?” “What’s that like?” “What kind of events are you working on?” “Where is your events company based?” “I have my own business” Yeah, they were a fun bunch.
I apparently became completely invisible this night (Oh hiya mutants) and was ignored most of the time; the only times I was spoken to was when I seriously piped up. I know what you’re thinking “But you have anxiety anyway so this is good, no?” Yes I was anxious, but I am also emotionally unstable and people acting like I don’t fucking exist pisses me off. I was right there!
After that “party” I thought “fuck those people and fuck that shit. I don’t know who I am yet, but I know I don’t ever want to become THAT.”
I’m still learning about my worth, it takes time to get that you are special. This year though, I have come to believe that I am superhuman and I also believe I am super cool, I’m getting there. I’m more aware of my worth now.
Job or no job, we are people first, with values, emotions and deep fucking thoughts. We are made of stardust, we are a part of the universe and we’re only floating by. Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us every day. Life is a journey. Life is so much more than a job title, so please don’t be one of those pricks who only values how much stress your job gives you.
Don’t get me wrong, I know having a job is important and necessary for most of us (There is that lucky billionaire 1% out there), but it’s taking too much space in our lives. Even when I do return to work, I don’t want the first question somebody asks me to be “So, what do you do?” I’m still working on an ideal response to this, and I also want to add that the times I had the most money, were also some of the worst times of my life. So. Can we instead focus on the person standing in front of us, rather than their job title? Chances are, most people you talk to actually hate where they have to go every Monday morning.
Am I the only one that feels this way?
Please say it isn’t so.