Why Do You Do What You Do?

I vaguely remember when I was five – I wanted to be a bus driver. It was one of those passing fancies. I don’t remember if it was driving the big vehicle around the town or picking up and dropping off all the people, but that was what I wanted to do. For at least a week.

There were random other thoughts between that time and when I started thinking seriously about The Future. When do we think we’re old enough to decide what we really want to do For A Living? And why do we think we have to focus on one career?

Some careers, like medicine, may very well need that kind of emphasis. When you go to the doctor, you want to have an expert, right? Well, I see a doctor who adjusts my back who also has a photography hobby – and they sell. I might even buy one at some point, but I love waiting in the rooms with his pictures. [Even the one with the pink flowers.]

Maybe it’s part of the mentality of ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ It might be true that a person will never master a subject by flitting from this to that. But what about the people who don’t necessarily know what they want to do, or can’t support themselves doing it? And I suppose we also have to consider the lowly jobs we take to pay the bills that were never what someone would choose to do.

On the other hand, there’s a certain appeal to me for something like a toll booth operator. During the slow times, I’d have a notebook or laptop or something and be writing. Well, at some point I’m sure I’d rewrite and edit and do all that other stuff.

I get asked a lot how I go from a career in engineering to staying at home as a mom and writing books. I think it’s only because people aren’t accustomed to people who are good at math and English; so many times a person is strong in one or the other. My husband can’t spell to save his life. When out with my friends, I often split the bill because I can do the math without breaking into a sweat or punching it into the calculator.

But I’m still curious when we start with our little dreams and go to The Future Career. Are we really given the tools to prepare in high school? How many kids know what most jobs do, and how many dream jobs are difficult to break into? When did we decide we’d major in Underwater Basket Weaving (code in my parent’s household for a major where no one could land a paying job) and then wonder why we couldn’t pay the bills?

What about when you study to be an engineer, like a girl I knew in college, and decide a semester before you graduate you don’t want to do it? She was a waitress, then became a bookkeeper.

How much of what we do defines us as people, versus the things we do outside our jobs? Do you dabble in different things to know who you are and what you like? I tend to dabble, if only because it amuses me when other people say they’re bored. I can’t say I play guitar well, but I know a few songs. I read books about anything that captures my fancy, figuring at some point knowing how to knit might serve me well – even if I only do rectangular things like scarves and dishcloths.

Being a dabbler also means I have many hobby items that lay untouched for periods of time, like the harmonica and the bead board and the calligraphy pens. I’m not sure any of it defines me.

I’m also not always sure how to answer the question of what I do. If I’m a stay-at-home mother, I ought to have an awesome home and that would be my focus. That’s a stretch, though I do put effort into it. If I’m a tutor, I’d have teaching plans and ideas about that, but I don’t always. If I’m a writer, I spend most of my time shaping words into the ideas I wish to convey.

Haha, I’m probably a writer, but I retain a few technical skills and an ever-widening domestic ability. I’m still at a loss for what that means. One day it might come out in a story, but I’d probably have mixed so much fiction into it no one will know which parts are true, including me.

And I won’t lie, I like it that way.

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1 Comment

  1. Jamie said,

    23 July 2010 at 09:34

    I think people still know me as a carpenter, much more than a writer. When I was younger I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot.


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