If you don't work for a paycheck, don't have a simple job title, or feel awkward letting people know you are wealthy, answering the simple question, "What do you do?" can be a challenge. Here are a few time-honored ways to deal with that insidious question:
a) Avoid the question: "Oh my god, do you smell smoke? Let's go look!"
b) Proclaim the obvious: "I'm a civilian."
c) Act as if it were still the '60s: "I do whatever I feel like, man!"
d) Lie: (In the heat of summer) "I'm a ski instructor." (In January) "I'm a roofer."
e) Fudge: "I got some money from my family, and am taking time off to write childrens' books." (They don't need to know it's $2 million or that your "time off" has been 5 years now and you've never been published.)
f) Tell a partial truth: "I coordinate volunteers at the shelter." (So what if it's unpaid and only 5 hours a week?)
g) Tell more truth than they want to hear: "Well, I really wear many hats. For a while I was in engineering school, but then I dropped out and opened a chain of pizza parlors. That made so much money I never have to work again, so after a year in Bali I opened an import/export business plus offered my psychic services free..." [This option is not recommended for CIA agents.]
Of course, there are additional ways to deal with your discomfort about "what do you do?" Perhaps the most powerful (if not the easiest) is to become totally comfortable with your own choices. The more your spending, earning, and work life are in alignment with your values, the more relaxed you'll probably be about the question.
You might embrace talking about money as part of your work in life. Talking openly about who you are can help open up dialogue among people of different class and financial backgrounds. It can even be fun to break taboos and talk with people about provocative money topics.
And remember: You may benefit from an unjust system-but you didn't cause it-and your individual choices alone won't turn it around. But you can add your energy to the work of countless people and groups working toward a more equitable society. Together, we can move toward a world where all people have enough and everyone has the freedom to pursue meaningful work.
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