Friday, March 23, 2007
What do you do?

This is such an L.A. question. I don’t know if it’s a question that gets asked everywhere but I know that when you go out in L.A. and you meet new people (also called strangers – how I do love that word) they ask, “What do you do?” It’s one of the first things I was asked by my new neighbors.

There are two issues here:

  1. Do you define yourself by your career?
  2. The problem of actually explaining what you do in a way that you are not instantly dismissed as not sufficiently useful or interesting

I don’t think I generally get dismissed. I think most people find the fact that I work in a medical field with a disease that is so misunderstood and feared as enough to want to know more. I’m happy to talk. I do define quite a bit of my identity through my career. I have been working “in HIV” for a good 18 years now. I have no interest in someday working in, say, the ALS field or for the American Heart Association but I have held a number of jobs “in HIV.”

Some people can say, “I am a paralegal.” or “I am an actress.” I cannot. This seems so nice and simple. People know what you do FOR A LIVING and you can just go on to say, "but in my other life, I'm an amazing chef!"

Currently, I am a research administrator. Which means absolutely nothing to anyone. And yet, it does.

It means I’m not an assistant, which somehow makes that person less interesting, as if, “Oh, that person types for a living and clearly has nothing else in her past or future that I might be interested in knowing about.”

It means I’m not a doctor, which somehow makes me less valuable than my officemate who is, in the eyes of those with letters after their names.

But honestly, what am I? Is my identity “Research Administrator”? I hope not. I am a lot of things. I suppose if you divided me up into some pies (I’d vote for apple, pumpkin and lemon merengue), I’d look like this.

Yeah, I'm a dork. Sue me.

Next week, a little yummy taste of what I actually do for 8 hours a day at my desk.


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Blogger Orangeblossoms said...

Awwww. I wanna pie-chart for my life, too. (Now, I'm just blogstalking... sorry!)

Blogger Psychomom said...

Apple, pumpkin and pecan pie. Yum, I love pie way better than cake.

I was soooo happy when I was finally promoted from Drafter to Designer, it sounds all creative and fun but in reality it is just documenting military parts which is kind of lame.
I remember when I was little I said I wanted to be an Interior designer, I didn't even know what it was but I thought it sounded cool.

Blogger WineGrrl said...

Nice pie charts!

Blogger K8 said...

Pie charts are fun!

I've been on a pie baking spree, so I'm biased.

I think it's really hard to describe what you do - I've met alot of people who didn't really care about what I did (at the time I was in grad school) and would actually walk off as I was talking. The pie charts are probably a much better answer to "what do you do" instead of any one thing.

Blogger Uccellina said...

Mmmmmmmm . . . delicious pie . . . charts.

Blogger miss kendra said...

i LOVE your charts.

Blogger jenna! said...

heh, one of the guilty ones asking what you do...

i can honestly say, after growing up here in la-la land, i am absolutely facinated by what people do "for a living." i'm overly interested in the different paths people take & how they become the people they are.

and let me say, your answer definately encouraged me to keep asking.

and your pie charts do indeed rock.

Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

It's NOT just an LA thing, believe me. And my standard response to that question is, "For what?"

Because I don't want to volunteer any information they don't want to know (for fun, for kicks, for getting into trouble, for self improvement, for world peace), if all they want to know is for $$. AND, if that's all they want to know, then they don't really want to know me. And really, being a secretary (some folks try to elevate it by being an executive assistant, but I'm not one to put on airs) is kind of a conversation killer. :)

Of course, there was a time when I answered "I'm a Victoria's Secret underwear model", or "I'm a movie body double" and people actually believed me. (Drunk, stupid, male-type people, natch)

Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

Hey, I just got my directory questionnaire from grad school. Faith (and anyone else who wants to weigh in), go to my blog and give me suggestions!!!!

Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

But wait! I thought you were a Burbank house-frau!?! Cooking, baking, knitting, crochet...fits the profile perfectly!

Blogger Allison said...

Jeff's answer is usually "I sell potties" and mine sometimes is "I do what I want."

Blogger Laurie Ann said...

I like to think I never ask that question unless the person starts talking about work and the bad day they had.

And your fire-eating skills are grossly under-represented. (is that a word?)'re a peach pie, to match your peaches and cream complexion.

Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

I like the "I'm a dork" answer - can I steal that? I like the pie charts too - but they would make me look too um, organized (or just off the OCD medication depending if I had 32 catagories in the chart).

Blogger Jessie said...

Great pie charts! Dorks rule. Now...we'd like to see your tattoos :)

Blogger Kathy said...

I live in BFE, Colorado and can't remember the last time I was asked that question. I had new neighbors move in six months ago and we still haven't exchanged that information. Maybe it's a 'big city' thing?

Blogger Lisa said...

When two slices of the pie are the same color but are proportionately different - skinnier, larger - how are we suppose to differentiate - for instance if you are only a little crazy or a lot atheist or vice versa? You didn't have the option of using more colors or the ambiguousness of it is intentional?

Blogger Tactless Wonder said...

I think I'd like to be a card-carrying pie charter, personally.

"What you do" seems to mean "Who you are" in lots of places. Seeing as we're doing whatever we're doing for at least 1/3rd of our days...and sleeping another third...

My stock answer is usually "A lot."

Blogger kinky Karma said...

yes, people ask this question everyelse too, or at least i toront as well. occassionally, when i'm feeling brave enough to admit it i tell people i'm a writer, but they inevitably ask what do you write?
"shit," i think to myself. "what am i doing. i'm just lying to myself."
a little insecure of me i know. but more recently i've been telling people i write muslim lesbian erotica - those that don't get it stop talking to me soon after and those that get the joke are generally a good time.
I want a pie chart too!
much respect,

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