What Do You Do?

I spent last week at a training. I was early to a session so sat with my crochet basket watching people (developing characters, of course). An older man introduced himself, shook my hand, asked me what I did. Understandable in a work environment.

He was the keynote speaker. And he talked for a couple hours about leadership, about how to change energy at work, about how we focus on what we do rather than who we are and what our stories are. Once he mentioned stories I started paying attention.

Afterwards, I pointed out that his speech had been about who people are and asked him why, then, when he’d introduced himself to me, the first thing he asked me was what I do.

Jennie Aug 2010 011

I’m a mother

Granted, as I told him, if some stranger had asked me ‘who are you’ or asked me to tell them a story about myself, a big defensive wall would have immediately come up. Because it’s not normal in society to ask who we are. It is normal to ask what we do, and to judge and label and assume based on what that label is. On what we do.

Which really, has nothing to do with who we are.

Arts birthday & climbing 081

I’m a wife

He told me I was observant (of course, that’s what storytellers do, and it was smart of him to compliment his audience), and said I was right about how people would react.

If stranger said, ‘tell me about yourself, tell me about who you are, tell me a story about you,’ how would you react? What would you tell them? Would you be able to answer immediately or would you have to pause and think? Not only because it wouldn’t be something you expected, but because maybe you also label yourself by what you do.


I’m a friend (who makes friends work)

Honestly, it’s also about words. If a stranger said to me ‘tell me about yourself’ I might feel my personal space encroached upon (in spite of this public blog, I am a private person). But I wouldn’t feel as defensive as if the stranger said to me ‘who are you?’.

But the two questions ask the same thing, don’t they?

He also asked us during the session to tell the person seated next to us what gave us joy, and to think about if the thing that gave us joy, that was our passion, aligned with what we did.

Does it?

Tell me a story about who you are.

lincoln city jan 06 017

And I’m so much more

24 thoughts on “What Do You Do?

  1. I think it would definitely depend on the setting in regards to someone asking me “who are you” but in a seminar I would be fine with it. I think because I’m learned so much in life I don’t mind sharing my story with others. It gives me the opportunity hear their story as well.


  2. My first quick answer to a “bold” question like that would be “I am me” and maybe say my name, because thats me. I associate with my name and birth date which I love both. I love having my birthday in August, being a Leo, and having it in the summer, when its warm. That would bring me back to memories of birthdays past. And I would next say that I am my mother’s daughter, which I am proud if. I am proud of who she was as a woman, a strong woman, how she treated other’s with love and kindness and fairness and how she loved her family. This would bring me to her mother, my beloved grandmother who was also a strong and kind woman who had a pretty similar life like my mother in a way. Then I would try to come back to myself, realizing I ventured off, which reminds me of my father, who always ventures off in conversation. Even though I am not particular proud of him (compared to my mother) or what he has done in his life, I still know I am a part of him as well and I embrace it. It is part of me. And then I would point out the things I am passionate about, like traveling, children, music and dancing, stories and the ocean and I can see how it brought me to where I am and who I have become. But not to forget my nationality! I am German and I am proud to be standing for all the good things about my country. I am definitely German, the way I was brought up and the way I present myself to others. I love bread and meant/sausage! But I am me, just Jennifer, I am trying to be a good person, while trying to live a happy life. Sometimes I have to fight my own demons and sometimes I just let them be. Sometimes life really sucks, but then I remind myself to find the good things and enjoy them. I have strong roots and wings to carry me away to see new wondrous things. I know I will be fine, whatever happens.

    What do I have in my hand in the picture????


    • Your baseball cap. You’d taken it off as I took the photo so it came out blurry. And nice response here – someone who didn’t know you would get a good sense of who you are.


      • Like the others said, it depends on the setting and on who is asking you. DO they really want to know? 🙂 And YES, YOU are so much more, but being a mother, a wife and a great friend and 3 very important parts of you. Very important in my eyes is that you are a story teller, a forest dweller and a wonderful calm and kind person! ❤


  3. I was just thinking about this very question, although I have to admit that if someone asked me who I was, I’d respond with just my name…because that’s usually all they are interested in. But I digress. The reason I was thinking about this question is because my sister just started a new business. At an age when most of us are settling into retirement, she is going forth on a new venture. It is something she knows how to do, and to be honest, it probably won’t interfere with her golfing, but it is something grand and will put her in contact with new people who do interesting things. She will get to travel and be in charge. The job suits her very well, and she’ll probably make good money at it (that’s kind of besides the point, since she’s pretty well off anyway). I admit, I was envious. I would like to do something grand and adventurous. And, it wouldn’t hurt to make some money at it. But, the truth is, I do DO something. I do several things, and they are who I am. Part of who I am — after all, we are multidimensional. I actually do get paid a little … okay, a very little (I’m glad my husband’s income is there!). Perhaps, I concluded, I shouldn’t take me for granted so much. After all, it’s taken me a lifetime to get here.


    • I love the picture I have of who you are, even though I am sure I dont know half of it. And yes, do not take yourself for granted, you are unique, a one of a kind. 🙂


  4. No one is just one thing. Perhaps the best response to the question “what do you do?” is “Lots….how much time do you have?” Of course, my usual response is a defensive one like “why do you wanna know?” I’m still working on me.


    • Love the defensive response! I have a lot of work to do, too. My knee-jerk reaction is mentally thinking ‘if I wanted you to know, I’d tell you’. Luckily I keep that to myself. Most times. Same reason I’ve never liked name tags! Seriously though, you’re right. We are way more than just one thing.


  5. As a disabled person, who does not have any physical characteristics that would make it obvious, I have often avoided social situations where “What do you do?” would possibly come up. When I tell, it usually results in even more questions, medical questions. I certainly don’t want to share with them an unfortunate aspect of my life. When I was working, it didn’t bother me quite so much, but there is a sense of curiosity in it. Maybe this person is comparing himself or herself to me, and sizing me up. In answer to a question of “Who are you?” seems much less competitive, more in tune with an authentic interest in the person, even if it might be more an affront to our personal privacy. If I had a choice, I would much more prefer to share what I am, including my hobbies and interests, rather than to be questioned about my occupation or wealth.


  6. Telling a story about who I am to a stranger causes me to instinctively turn that question around on the person asking the question. I’m a skeptic, but I’m not sure I was born this way. I think my skeptic tendencies rubbed onto me from me dad. But I would probably say I’m someone who loves to hear about the lives of others, so tell me about you first! I’m a friendly person by nature, so it is said with sincerity.

    After that, if I felt the question was genuine and they had gone first I would open up about myself using their answers as a gauge as to what and how much I would reveal.

    Like you, my blogging life sometimes reveals much, but in person I tend to be more watchful and trying to always feel the room so to speak. It’s part of my human desire to be accepted I suspect. I don’t like it that I have this desire but it is what it is. I’ve noticed that while it’s not gone away, the desire is waning as I age, thankfully.

    P.S. I had to look twice and gasped both times at your son hanging off that rock. Your life isn’t for the faint of heart Lisa!


    • Good thoughts here. There’s a vulnerability that goes along with being the first to speak, and that can be a hard threshold to cross.
      And yes, it’s difficult watching the kid rock climb! It’s one of those weird things where I feel he’s safer if my friend Sabrina is there. She and her family are expert rock climbers so I always think she could rescue him if needed. Where if it’s just me? Nope. I’ve been on search and rescue calls with rock climbers, but hiking in for medical response and letting high angle rescuers do the technical stuff. So once he was on the ground I’d be good!


    • Oh, adding disabilities to the mix brings up so many more layers of issues. My husband has disabilities but they are not visible and wow, the judgments that happen because of that.


      • While I’m grateful for your validation and understanding, I am sorry you and your husband have to grasp this topic on such a personal level. May you have strength and abundance in your journey.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a complicated person, what ones sees at work is not the same as the person they see out with her husband, family, friends, or grocery shopping. I answer the question differently depending on who is asking. Sometimws I want to tell them everything but wouldn’t that scare them off!? Can I call myself a storyteller now too? That is a beautiful description of one of the “things” you are.


  8. This is absolutely one of my pet peeves. I don’t like talking about my work or particularly enjoy my work. I realize that this is a horrible fact about my life, but none the less. Even if this was the job that I enjoyed, that is not who I am. I have so many other varying topics that I want to discuss. Life. Faith. Love. Adventure. Your life’s best story. Anything that shows me who the person is. Anything that lets them see who I am. Not work, ugh. The passion of the soul is a much more interesting topic. You can share some of these things and still remain private, you may, however, gain insight to those around you. You may learn something about yourself. That conversation excites me!


    • The story is everything, like you point out here. I want to start introducing myself to people by saying ‘tell me a story about yourself’ instead of ‘what do you do?’. I’m sure I’d get odd looks and people might sidle away because it’s not socially acceptable to step outside the norm. But why not ask what truly interests me instead of asking something just because it’s expected?

      Liked by 1 person

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