Did you kill the President of Paraguay with a fork?
No one asked me this. I was so disappointed.
The first high school reunion I manage to get to and practically everyone asks the same question: what do you do? Oh there were riffs on the theme. The most encompassing being: “So, the past 20 years in a nutshell?”
Can’t say I asked anyone the Gross Pointe Blank question either but I blame the bubbly for that. (Alcohol plays hell with my ability to recall witty quotes and the punchlines to jokes.) I did ask someone: “What’s the most fun you’ve had since high school?” Only to have the response: “Are you talking rewarding or hedonistic?”
Last time I checked Roget’s, fun ≠ rewarding.
And so I drew a line in the sand and sorted my old schoolmates mentally from one side to the other. On the left, the ones who were intrinsically happy. On the right, the ones who might be happy for all I know but who seemed more concerned with status. Specifically, theirs.
Because here’s the funny thing… My lefties talked about what made them happy and then spent the rest of the conversation handily turning the tide to find out what made me happy. Those on the right side either engaged only with a sub-set of those attending or spoke only about themselves and their jobs.
Because the latter is not something I have right now. And if you’re not in employed work, you’re off the status playing field.
Motherhood has me out of the corporate scene at the moment so the “what do you do” question becomes sharply double-edged. It’s very present-time focused. It tends to jack-knife you into the realm of kid commentary (how many, how old, etc), where it’s hard to follow-up with the more important issues of contentment, esteem and identity. Don’t get me wrong that becoming a parent isn’t something to be proud of: my husband and I fought hard to have kids and we don’t regret a day. (We just miss our sleep.) I don’t, however, define who I am on that basis any more than I define who I am based on what my husband does for a living.
What I would have liked to have talked about to the occupation-driven set is whether or not they would do the same job unpaid. This is something I’ve picked up from being a mum. Personal time is in short supply, so when I have it, I do what I love: writing. The best part being that the more I do it, the happier I am. It’s intrinsically rewarding. And fun.
My only regret is that I never stuck to it when I was seventeen but chose the “get a haircut, get a job” pathway first.