What do you do?

It usually comes about while at a party or meeting new people for the first time. After you’ve said your hellos and how are you doings and you want to get to know the person a bit more.

‘So, what do you do?’

It’s the question that everyone hates to answer, (I find) is really awkward to ask, and ultimately ends up defining your ‘career’ as who you are. Culturally speaking, there are few other phrases that get the point across – you just want to learn more about the person – but has come to mean ‘where do you spend 8 hours of your day?’ or (not so subtly) ‘where does your paycheck come from?’

I’ve tried rephrasing it as ‘what do you do for fun?’ or ‘what are you interested in’ – but my (super awkward) personality just isn’t able to carry those phrases with the same fluidity as ‘what do you do’. I admit, I want to break the cycle, but end up continuing it.


In answering the question, I find that there are a couple different sides to be on:

1. The most ideal is if you’re in a great career you love talking about that is synonymous with what you love to do in your free time. Done.

2. You’re in a job that looks great on paper but you don’t exactly love it and don’t want it to define you. So the answer takes and little longer and you’re not sure how much of your personal views you want to divulge to the person you’ve just met. For an awkward one like me, this is hard.

Or 3. Your job isn’t exactly one that’s noteworthy, but you want to share everything that you love to do instead of work, so you quickly skirt around the job question and go right into the ‘meat’ of your life.

I recently began working at a well known ‘healthy’ grocery store. It’s given Joda and I more freedom to live and play where we do. And, while taking the fall from ‘Public Health Professional’ to ‘grocery store employee’ has taken a bit of getting used to, I’m beginning to like it more and more. When presented with the question, ‘what do you do?’, I have created this crazy hybrid monster of an answer incorporating a bit of shame and my life story from the past year into a 10 minute answer.

I recap how ‘I used to have this great job… but now… and we were in Alaska… and blah blah blah’. I’m using the past to justify my present, so much so that when people ask what I’m interested in now… I have nothing. And when you work in a beautiful, mountainous area, in a health-centered grocery store, it goes without saying that you love food and to be outside. So I’m faced with a whole new situation – what do I love to do, what do I want to do, and what am I working towards?

And that’s where I’m beginning to like my current situation more and more. In working from 3-11pm, I have a large chunk of the sunny part of the day to do what I want. Before, I would get so frustrated working 9-5 because the entire light part of the day was when I had to be in the office – now I can hike and run and be outside all morning if I choose. Also, I get to sleep in and work on my other interests during my most productive time of the day and then go to work. Typically, after 7pm I was useless, watching TV or movies or just sleeping. Now, it’s just defining those other interests and pursuing them.

I feel I’ve been out of the nutrition realm for a long time. Public Health nutrition is a lot different than biochemical nutrition and I’m really interested in learning about all of these new diet and food crazes – paleo, whaaat? Coconut oil? Mined salt? – there’s so much happening and I’ve let it whirl by me for the past couple of years. Also, I’m excited to get a garden going and learn more about permaculture. And I’m ready to get back into triathlons and exercise for fun! I will still be applying to jobs and hoping to continue to help people, but I really need to start valuing my situation – not looking ahead to the next thing or defining who I am now as the situation I was in before, but taking the time to love where I’m at, because it is so good.


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