This Is Why You Need To Stop Asking People What They Do For A Living

by Michael Lee
Jesse Morrow

“What do you do for a living?” he asks with a stern look etched on his face, eyebrows frowning in a serious stance as my date for the evening sips the stained glass of cider perched in his left hand. He takes one gulp before returning his tense gaze on me, waiting in baited breath for my response to his tantalizing question.

So, out of the indefinite number of questions floating in the universe amongst shooting stars and asteroids that you could have plucked from obscurity and asked me, you choose instead to interrogate me about what I do for a living? Do you feel my job defines me as a person? Is my job title worth more than the challenges and experiences I have faced? Does my monthly wage measure my intelligence and worth? Does the net-worth on my pay slip determine what kind of boyfriend I would be?

You wish to enquire about a job I only tolerate in order to continue to exist in a world where I spend the vast majority of my time slouched in front of a fuzzy computer screen, breathing in recycled air, scoffing endless sugary snacks and surrounded by work colleges I hate and despise. As he sits across from the table, his beady pupils looking straight through me, can't he see the emotions and world that lives inside of me? Can't he see the passion and character twinkling in my eyes like a distant galaxy, as I sip through my straw and stare distantly into the swirling colors of my Cosmopolitan and see a trillion stars sparkle amongst the vodka and cranberry juice from the bottom of my cocktail glass?

We could have had a stimulating conversation about literally anything, and yet, you chose the most generic, boring, repetitive, redundant, uninspiring and unoriginal question ever imagined. We could of spoke about zombies, serial killers, aliens, nightmares, ghosts, demons, murder, fantasies and the list is endless as far as the eye can see, yet I sit here with a blank expression, disinterested and disheartened as I tiredly list from the top of my head a list of duties as stated by my work contract.

I recount my weary existence as my fingers painstakingly type data robotically into databases. I describe how my strained and tired eyes feel working five days a week from 9 to 6. From Monday to Friday, I am a drone programmed and conditioned to do my master's bidding. As stories grow inside my mind of romance, heartbreak and woe, my creativity lays dormant until I walk out of the office door. My nostrils breathe a sigh of relief and inhale the oxygen and air anchored around me as I leave the barren office, falling autumn leaves fall to the ground, trodden on by briefcase-gripped commuters as the train conductor announces the trip home is delayed.

Rather than talk about what I do for a living, let me tell you what I really want to talk about. I want you to explore the deepest, most hallowed corridors of my soul and exchange sorrowed tales of broken hearts and suicidal thoughts. I want to go in great depth of the music that takes you back to a depressing moment in your life, lies and secrets you've never told anyone else, your favorite scent and smell, your insecurities and fears and what keeps you trembling at night. I want to see your flaws and scars as you weep tears of pain and bruises. Let me see the real you, and you'll discover the real me.

In a society in which faceless people brush idly by one another with a business card and job description attached to their forehead, let me show you who I am rather than my name badge. My life is a poem, yet you wish to conform. I want to travel to the moon and back amongst the sparkles of stars, yet your vapid questioning brings me crashing back down to gravity. Desperately searching for extraterrestrial love and a feeling like no other as my heart skips a thousand beats, it's like I'm floating aimlessly out of space and lost in unfamiliar territory.

''What do you do for a living?'' I'm an astronaut.