Made up stories

"What do you do?" I hate myself for asking this when meeting someone for the first time but I keep doing it. It is such a social norm. And of course having asked the question I invariably get the standard response of a job title. But what does that mean? Do I really care that the other person is an accountant, a lorry driver, a marketer or a judge? They are all just labels. Shorthand that we all too readily slip into. Even to ourselves.

I am a "fill in the gap" is all too tempting, too easy. But it becomes a problem when we do it for too long. It becomes a self made cage. It becomes brittle and fragile. When our labels slip or become inapplicable, through job loss or other life change, we face an existential crisis.

But they are just words. Just words we put into stories. Stories that we made up. Stories that we can change.

3 thoughts on “Made up stories

  1. Indeed. We are all prone to this. I couldn’t care less what people do but I am nevertheless fascinated by how people survive, get by, make their way, stay sane. I’m still at a loss to finding a social shortcut for this line of enquiry.


  2. This is an interesting one and certainly something I can identify with. In my experience, the trouble is less with the question and more with the answer. When we get asked ‘what we do’, we rarely give a straight reply and answer the question – i.e. explain how we spend our time day-to-day and the value of what we do. Instead we tend to just give our job titles. I do it, I’m sure most of us do it and I can understand why – it’s quick and easy, and avoids us getting stuck in a long, detailed explanation of what your career involves, or coming out with something that seems vague and abstract, and leaves the person your talking to none the wiser. It can be a tricky balance to strike. That’s why when I get asked what I do, I tend to say "as little as possible". 😉


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