Lately I’ve been asked a very difficult question by a lot of people: “So, Pat, what do you do?” With old friends, it’s a variation: “So, Pat, what have you been up to?” or “What are you doing now?” This weekend I’m going to a 30-year reunion of a group of friends whom I haven’t seen in almost that long, but who were very important to me back then. I know the question will be asked many times, and I’m really struggling to come up with an answer.
It was easier when I had a job-job, and I could just say where I worked. Even when I was a self-employed mediator, I had an easy answer. But in the past couple of years my life has kind of exploded (in a good way), and it pretty much takes an entire website to explain what I “do”. Seriously, look at the menu bar of my website and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s not so hard when new acquaintances ask the question. For them, it’s really just a social convention to begin a conversation. And I’ve recently come up with a quick sound bite answer: “I’m a communication consultant”, which either satisfies them entirely or opens up a discussion about my singing with Alzheimer’s patients, or my mediation practice, or my poetry or advice column or blog, or some other thing that I’m “doing”.
It seems harder when the question is asked by friends and family who really care, not only what I’m doing, but how I’m doing. For them, my quick sound bite seems withholding, but a litany of all my current endeavors seems self-important and self-serving. I guess I could just answer with complete honesty and say that “I’m living my life, enjoying my freedom, and exploring what makes me happy.” The only problem is, that sounds kind of goofy…doesn’t it?