‘So… What do you do?’ And Other Absurd Questions




The scene is set – you walk into the room and scope it out: small clusters of people are dotted around the room; there are a few sideways glances as you, the newcomer, enter. You finally pluck up the courage to walk towards a group, which you reckon is the least intimidating, and ask to join them. And then it comes – the networking question to end all networking questions: ‘so… what do you do?’

Asking ‘That Question’ at Misfit Local events is actively discouraged. And why is that, you may ask? Well, let’s explore a little further. The great Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life’”. In other words, what you do does not have to define you.

All around us, it may seem that people are doing what they want to do, what they’re good at, and getting paid for it. Or the opposite – people are making a living doing one thing, when their real passion is something else entirely. What do you do when your day job (or night shift!) is not your passion, and people ask you ‘That Question’? Sometimes it’s difficult to say what you do, because you feel that it’s only a means to an end. It may not be that its your life’s calling, passion or vocation – it may simply be that it pays the bills, rent or buys food. There’s that word, “only” – “it’s only a means to an end” or “it’s only a day job” or even “it’s only a job.” This implies some kind of value judgement that isn’t helpful for anyone.

Now, this may all seem like semantics, but the way you think and talk about your work has a powerful role to play in your well-being and self-worth – and therefore in your ability to work towards something different (if that’s what you want). Money you earn from your ‘day job’ will keep you sustained nutritionally and put a roof over your head whilst you plan, achieve and go after your dreams with determination and courage; Revel in the knowledge that whilst you may be doing this now, you won’t always be. Don’t become deterred if your dreams take longer than expected to come to fruition – as the old saying goes, ‘all good things take time’ – and find a supportive community that can help you stay focused and motivated.

On a personal note, I’ve had to learn to ‘enjoy the struggle’. I took a pay-cut from a high-flying corporate job to become part-time doing something I love. Whilst I may not be earning as much, I’ve definitely opened up a great deal of free time, and now find the time to look after myself better physically, mentally and socially, whilst pursuing other interests in these newly-acquired pockets of free time. Use the principle of hedonism to weigh up your options – pain now, for gain later? It worked for me, and I sure hope that it works for you too.

If you want to find a space to discuss ideas and dreams in an environment of support and non-judgement, or need a little extra input to get an idea off the ground, or are indeed weighing up the options for your next move towards living with purpose, come along to one of our Misfit Local events. Misfits are artists, writers, community workers, designers, entrepreneurs, coaches, activists and anyone who wants to live life with intention, doing work that matters. Maybe that’s you. If you do come along, just please remember not to ask ‘That Question’.

Click here to check out upcoming Misfit Local events in Cambridge.

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