The Dreaded Question

“What do you do for a living?” Ah, yes. The dreaded question we all face when on disability. Even more so if we are enjoying ourselves at an event. OH-MY-GOD! What do I say?

“I’m retired, ever heard of a little thing called Yahoo?”

That was my immediate answer that caught people off guard, then to guide the conversation in a new direction I’d follow-up, lean in, and faking a loud whisper I would say;

“I’m really a kept woman, my man doesn’t want anyone to know.”

Then wait, (pregnant pause), I look at the face that asked me the question and start laughing, and the rest would join in. It worked like a charm. The topic was closed, and my secret was safe.

What you do for a living is your identity. But who you are, as a person is not defined by what you do.

Going to a social event doesn’t mean you need to be an open book. You were not invited because everyone is interested in hearing about what you do for a living. When’s the last time you asked someone what they did for a living because you wanted to hear a laundry list about their specific job responsibilities? Probably, never! This question is a pleasant enough conversation starter but really, no one is dying to know ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ behind that innocent question. 

Now, having dealt with this issue for over 20 years, I have come up with a few different answers. (Some fascinating answers!) Since starting this blog, I can say I’m a blogger… no big deal. That is as far as it goes. If a person is interested, they may ask what I blog about, and I will answer chronic illnesses. Then it is up to them to decide if they want to know more. Nine times out of ten, they do not ask for additional information. The social event continues, and I am known as ‘the blogger.’ Let’s face it, when we feel well enough to be out socializing, the last thing we want to talk about is our disease!

So, let’s take the anxiety out of the dreaded question, “What do you do for a living?”

Practice your answer. That is all it takes, practice. Do you quilt? Are you a blogger? Maybe you are a crafter? Paint furniture? You may be an artist? What are you comfortable with as an answer? Practice. Practice. Practice.

The people who are IN your life know what you are going through. The people who WANT to be in your life will ask the right questions, and you can share that part of yourself if you feel safe. Strangers and acquaintances are owed nothing, but a kind answer defines the quality of your character. I’m not telling you to lie to people, I’m just encouraging you to do and say what feels right to you. Leave the anxiety at home and practice a few answers. Socializing should be enjoyable, and the ‘dreaded question’ need not be so dreadful.

“So, what do you do for a living?” (Practice in the comments section below!)

Live your best life!


28 thoughts on “The Dreaded Question

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  1. Absolutely. I fear the same kind of look when I say I’m a stay-at-home mom (who also teaches on and off and writes a blog) but those with selective hearing will hear only the mom part and give me the ‘oh’ look. So, I have to be ready and do/say
    what feels right to you, as you nicely said.
    Great post, Kim.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I just hate the eye roll. Tell them you are CIA because everyone knows the KGB NO LONGER exists… Ha! Very frustrating. i believe being a stay at home mom is the hardest job a woman can have! Then put teaching and blogging on top of that? My hats off to you! But in the end, polite conversation constitutes character. So you win!!! ~Kim

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Kim, this is so spot on with a lot of the stuff that’s been going around in my head lately when it comes to money, work, career (or lack thereof!) etc. Having lost my job due to ill health & surgery, the question of ‘what I do’ is one filled with anxiety. I love this post!! x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, that question is now solved! You are a blogger! Heck, at one rime I restored antiques! The most I’ve done is stain a dining room set I bought but my uncle had a restoration business so I knew I could ‘talk shop’ if I had to. You got this Caz!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks again for another great post Kim! This is a question I’ve been fearing since having to quit my job and then moving into a new community. Avoidance creates isolation and my illness already isolated me enough. I need to really think about this more and come up with an answer. Unfortunately my self-esteem has taken a massive hit and I think that makes it even harder.
    ~ Tamara

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It was such a BIGGGGgggg struggle for me too. All my life I worked to get to a career I dreamed of, I mean I started candy striping at the local hospital at age 14! I held down two jobs in high school! I was bound and determined to have a career! And I got it, then BAM, car accident. Mid 30’s and career over! I was just a passenger in a car.

      But you didn’t do this to yourself, nor did I. So, we have to practice for our new life! Just like getting an education, practice and do our homework. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies? Prepare for the question and it becomes a non-issue. You got this lady!~Kim

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this Kim – it is so spot on and so important. The idea of prepping for it is so smart. I used to feel so much shame after I stopped working out in the world and it was increased whenever I was asked the dreaded question. Now, I so fully identify as a writer that the answer is easy, but when I was figuring out how to be a non working person, it was incredibly difficult. Everyone needs to read this post.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It was so hard, right? I almost lost my composure many times until I figured out my ‘formula’… We can definitely be prepared and ready for this question. I’m glad you got to a good headspace too! It takes a lot of anxiety off our plate. ~Kim

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve answered the basics, I’m disabled and I’m a professional patient , and both answers left me feeling bad, either criticized or pitied so I switched to subject change. Depending on the company I was with I would bring up one aspect of what I do, be it 3d printing, web page design, etc. Your post got me thinking though, (AGAIN)…. I think my new answer may be that I am a counselor….sure I don’t have the title, but I do have the experience. I am everyone’s go to “help me person”….and I wonder why I’m so tired all the time. Great advice my dear 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Fantastic post, and it couldn’t come at a better time for me! I have just mad the decision to stop work, something that I trained for for 6 years in total, as my health has let me down. But I am more than my job!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your job is just an identity. You ARE -without question- more than a job… I put years into my education as well. It can be frustrating when your body lets you down but you WILL go on to find purpose. Thanks for following my blog! I need to pop over and check out yours very soon! ~Kim

      Liked by 1 person

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