According to statistics, the weather is far and away the most common conversation starter and topic among people in the western world. these days I am privileged enough to work with older adults – the senior citizens among us – and I don’t mind saying that it is probably the ONLY topic of conversation for many people. But to be fair, the weather affects ALL of our lives, it is no small thing. It provides common ground with which to relate and, it affects us physically, emotionally, intellectually, and even spiritually providing a gamut of possible conversant permutations. Who knows, it may be possible to hold a weather conversation for a whole afternoon or more?
Ignoring age for a moment though, and in my experience, there is another almost as common conversation starter or apparently automatic ice breaker. At least in my estimation and in particular, in and around working folk or situations. It is the question:
WHAT DO YOU DO?
And this question is portrayed as something of a revelation. The insinuation being that a) you are what you do so in answering the question you will reveal who you are and b) what we do is apparently definable and thereby offering some type of factual data with which to judge ourselves and others. So how would you answer, if you were me?
Last week I had coffee with my daughter, spent 90 minutes on the phone with a friend, counselled a person challenged by mental health difficulties, offered a phone reference for a job seeker, applied for a new position, and wrote a 12 page event analysis on coordinating, delivering, and recording data from a particular style of community event.
I taught a community ukulele class for 2 hours, I replaced the broken toilet cistern and plastered up broken walls, I had supervisory meetings with 2 staff members, painted a tea trolley with 3 coats of gloss white and lined its shelves with hand cut marbled vinyl, reviewed the budget, and cooked a hot lunch for 15 people.
I taught someone how to use a security system, showed someone else how use a digital camera, I drew up two creative white board charts for a managers presentation next week, completed week 6 of my current music study at the Australian Music College, wired up a new power amplifier to my computer and recording software, rowed 5 kilometres every weekday morning and I played with the dog.
I conducted 2 health assessments with community members, assembled a BBQ, and on the weekend, replaced the spark plugs and leads on my Hi Lux utility and after that I washed my hands and cooked bread.
This week I will be preparing a catered afternoon tea for our visiting executive team, delivering a half hour presentation around program semantics and potential, replacing the tuners on a baritone ukulele, lowering the action, and adding new strings at the same time, starting my 6 week practice schedule for up and coming gigging parts, practicing scales, conducting more online certificate study, helping a friend to move a kayak, attending 3 community forums, building a new website, and visiting my Mum.
It reads a bit like a Berocca add doesn’t it? But obviously I am painting a broad picture in order to show the illogical nature of such a question or more exactly, a supposed meaningful answer. How can I possibly answer the question when what I do, depends on so many different factors and on so many different days? Imagine if the question was:
WHAT CAN’T YOU DO?
I would have much more success answering that! For starters, all the things I don’t know yet that I cannot do wouldn’t factor in. And secondly, all the things I can do, aren’t part of the answer either. All I would be left with, are the things I have tried and found I cannot do and that’s a small group by comparison to what I mentioned above over the course of an average week.
Not that I am complaining. With a diverse lifestyle and workplace, I am able to stretch my creativity and make things happen where others may not. This momentum inspires those around me to do the same and collectively, we are far greater than we would have been individually – and more beneficial to the world around us. People ask me often “Is there anything you can’t do?” and I just smile and say “your kind, thank you” because like anyone, there must be millions of things to be sure. If nothing else, it gives reason for meaningful exchange and quite possibly topics for deeper conversation that aren’t the weather and that aren’t what you do.
You and I, we are so much more than what we do. And while I, unlike most people, have a blurry line between work and home lives, what I do at work is still only part of who I am becoming. We are conversant sometimes, good speakers – some of us, great thinkers maybe, artists of various natures, good listeners, funny people, carers, writers, good drivers or planners, and above all creators – every one of us. Don’t ever sell yourself short by answering that you do one thing which supposedly defines you. That is by far, just a small part of the who that is really you and while the real you may be difficult to sum up in a sentence to answer someones question, think about ALL you really are and do before you go ahead and offer a response.
At the end of the day, I personally do not understand the question or the logic behind believing its relevance. Whenever anyone asks me, I smile inwardly preparing as creative a response as I possibly can ensuring this automatic question does not get an automatic answer. But people always walk away and that is because it does not compute, I do not compute. It does not fut into the boxes with labels that others have already prepared, I do not fit into the boxes with labels that others have already prepared. And that’s OK, I don’t want to be in those boxes, what true Rebel would? I am me, and that is enough. I may or may not be great but either way what I do doesn’t really matter. I can do something today, it may be different to yesterday or tomorrow, but whether anyone cares or not, I can still do it, if I choose to. And that’s all the matters right now, I have no time for silly questions and pre-selected answers, life’s short after all.
Looks like rain