I’ve never liked answering the question: “What do you do?”

It makes no sense, because I worked hard to become a lawyer, and I like my job, but admitting to it to strangers has always made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the inevitable follow up scorn (for the profession), excitement (for the prospect of free legal advice), or bad lawyer jokes; or, maybe it’s because it’s not really ME. Not who I AM or what I’d want to be most known for doing.

Recently, I was at a networking event, an opportunity for lawyers to talk about lawyery topics and say lawyery things to one another using long words and superior intelligence.

I was carrying on, participating in the discussion, when it occurred to me that what I really wanted to talk about was my writing hobby. I could see the focussed passion in the eyes of my colleagues, and all I could think about was getting home to revise my WIP.

Does this mean I’m starting to identify more as a writer than a lawyer?

But, I have zero comfort level answering the question, “What do you do?” with “writer”, either. It seems like a lie, or at least a pretty glaring omission. (Wait, I googled you – I thought you said you were a writer, not a blood-sucking shark… Sigh).

I don’t know what the answer is, or if I’ll ever confidently commit to one identity. Maybe I’ll come up with a hybrid answer, like, “I’m a writer who practices law in my spare time”, it’s closer to the truth than I’d like to admit.

Is your identity tied to your job or your professional designation? Or do you FEEL LIKE some other aspect of your life? Do you have no flipping clue what you are? I’d really like to know if I’m the only one who’s worried about this.

Published by Rita

I like to write things.

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  1. I still have trouble. For the last seven years I’ve been a race director. My main business has been putting on trail running and small triathlon events. In 2017 I finished and published my first novel and I started to self-identify as an “author.” Even with my second novel published this past March I still struggle–mainly because the books just aren’t making money. But, neither is my other business because of my greater focus on writing. It’s a shame that so much of my identity seems caught up in the income produced–even though when I look out at the world I look out as a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s such a good point. It can be easier to justify “being” something when it’s how you make your living. Although, I’m sure a lot of people identify first as “mother” or “father” which, I’m not an expert or anything, is generally unpaid.
      Congrats on your 2 published novels – definitely makes you an author in my books (ha)!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An amusing answer to the “What do you do?” question- “I don’t like to talk about that. What’s your favorite food?” Haha. I’m sure that would get some looks but it’s more fun than trying to explain yourself, especially to a stranger. When I meet people, I try to focus on activities to do together. Grab a drink or a meal or see a movie. I guess I’m not big on public events where people ask these kinds of questions. Like at family get togethers, I hated sitting around and everyone is talking about whatever. Nah, let’s play a game or do something interactive. That’s way more fun and you learn about each other. I hate giving that fake smile and answering stupid questions. I wish you luck in your future awkward conversations. My advice? Hell, you can always change the subject or even walk away. What are they going to do about it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, the refusal option. Always a wise choice.
      I recently moved cities, which is why the ‘what do you do?’ question has been more frequent, and my patience for responding has been higher (since I’m hoping to make new friends).


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