So, What Are You Doing These Days?
People are kind and interested, especially if they haven’t seen you for a while. You’re sitting at a table at a community dinner, you’re chatting away, and at some point, that question comes up. Oy.
I come from a family of intellectuals, mostly academics. My maternal grandfather was a university professor. My father and sister still are. My maternal grandmother was a social worker. My mother was a teacher for thirty years, then got her Ph.D. in psychology and became a therapist. My husband is a research scientist. And me?
I tried to be a scientist. I tried to be a teacher. I got all the credentials, right up to the doctorate and the bachelor of education and everything else. In both fields, I was offered fabulous jobs practically the day I graduated. Great working conditions, interesting work, good people. I wanted to do these things because I saw my family members having such a wonderful time doing them. I like science. I like teaching. But these jobs didn’t light my fire, and I ended up blowing each of those opportunities as thoroughly as possible, while my health suffered greatly from that stressful process. What next?
There’s a limit to how many times even a stubborn person like me can bang her head against the wall. I got involved in the Paleo community, started this blog (in its previous incarnation on Blogger), and found myself intrigued by people who made a living serving their online communities. I read Seth Godin and followed Pat Flynn. I fell in love with David Wood and listened to him talk about network marketing, and how it was the way of the future. I found BlackBox Cosmetics and started learning all this fascinating new stuff. The genes of my paternal grandfather, who ran a grocery store in Duluth and flipped houses as a hobby, ran strong in me. The whole delicate balance, the game of sales, serving my tribe with excellent service and a marvellous product, just excites me and makes me look forward to doing these new things every day.
Then I have a kind, interested person ask me what I’m doing nowadays, and I choke.
Thirty years ago I spent a few months working for a shipping container broker, and I had an absolute blast. I loved the container Tetris (finding space on the right ship at the right time for the right price), negotiating with the various companies, the feeling of doing something useful for the world. Then I left and went to university to study physics, because I thought I needed to be a scientist, an intellectual, a person who was above the pursuit of money. There, I said it.
I can call myself a writer, a blogger, a health and wellness educator, and still be within the pale. Writing posts about making kombucha and swinging kettlebells is fine. Teaching classes on the subject, even writing books and selling them online, would be excellent. But network marketing? What kind of intellectual does that? Surely that’s a sleazy business in which your relatives and friends end up avoiding you because you keep trying to recruit them to sell dubious shakes or room scenters?
I know that that is not what I’m doing, just as it’s not what David Wood is doing or any of the other people whom I respect, online or in real life. But I still need to find the right words to express how I am bringing value into the lives of people, and why what I am doing is just as valid as teaching or research. Then maybe I’ll stop choking when people ask me what I’m doing nowadays.
How about you, does this discomfort speak to you? How do you deal with it?