"Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance."
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Yesterday morning I was thinking to myself how much easier it was to answer the question "what do you do?" when I reported to a corporate office every day -- and yet, the question always had the somewhat delayed effect of making me highly uncomfortable. "I'm a lawyer" used to just roll off my tongue, and then I'd wait for one of two reactions: an appreciating nod and a request to hear more, or mild disgust, followed by a long discourse on why attorneys were the scourge of the Earth.
What was interesting, however, is that both these reactions bothered me. "Wait!" I'd want to say. "There's more to me than just what I do to earn a living. I promise!"
Nowadays, of course, I don't report to a corporate office; however, given the breadth of what I do each day, I find the question even more difficult to answer with a simple, pithy response.
What do you do?
"Well, I'm a writer," I start stammering, "and a photographer. And I do some public speaking. And, you know, blogging ..." and slowly I can see the questioner's eyes begin to glaze over. Oh, I can almost hear the person thinking. You're a slacker.
And again, I have to resist the urge to protest: "No! You don't understand! I work hard!"
So yesterday, as I was thinking about this, I whipped myself up into a little daymare, imagining myself at a party and being asked at every turn "What do you do?" Everyone I spoke to would become bored and unimpressed and drift away. Then, before full-blown panic really set it, I wondered: what would happen if every time someone asked what do you do, I'd answer with a different, but truthful, response?
"What do you do?"
"I photograph beautiful people and things."
"I speak at conferences and other engagements."
"I scuba dive."
"I love my husband."
"I make a mean grilled cheese sandwich."
"I sing. Badly."
"I wrinkle my nose when I laugh."
"A lot of laundry."
"About a 15-minute mile."
"Cringe at the smell of peanut butter."
"Cry at sad movies."
"Daydream. I do a lot of daydreaming."
"Get impatient. Often. But I'm working on it."
"Try hard to be kind."
Eventually, I decided that from now on, when I get asked this question, I'm going to respond with, "I live a very full life." Because given how abundant our lives can be, between the things we do all day long to keep everything going (not to mention the things we do that fully light us up), why would anyone -- even the people for whom answering the what-do-you-do question is easy -- why would any one of us ever want to be defined by merely one small part of it?
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The image at the top of this post is the 3rd image of Photovent 2010. You can download the pdf for it here. And click here to learn how to use it to assemble a beautifully different photo garland.