One of the first questions that we ask when meeting someone new after the customary 'where are you from?' is 'what do you do?'. I find this question incredibly hard to answer now. For most people, I usually just say that I am a recreation therapist and leave it at that. There is no point going into detail when I'm never going to see that person again. Much like "How are you?" (See earlier ranting post), it is the people who I see occasionally or people who I am first meeting but I know I will see them again.
I find that our society is so focused on forming the persons career choice as their identity that it is easy to feel that you don't have an identity if you don't have a career or job. You aren't allowed to answer the question of 'what do you do?' by saying that 'I read books, I paint, I cycle, I cook'. Those things aren't enough for a society that places ones career at the same level of a persons worth.
Why do we do this?
I imagine it is so we can place each other in our categories and put them in our imaginary hierarchy of how they fit into our world. We divide people's worth based on their employment choice. Nurse - good job, probably a good person; Garbage person - not so great job, maybe not a great person; CEO- excellent job, must be a really awesome person. We make assumptions based on a persons income level or even perceived income level that immediately effects how we treat that person from then on.
So what do you do if you have no employment?
You become the lowest form of society. You are the ones who want the handouts, the ones who will do anything to get out of a day of honest work, the ones with a sense of entitlement who want freebies from the government. Right? If you listen to the politicians and policy makers and some of society, that is all you become.
No wonder people get depressed when they lose their job or retire or have their permanent disability deteriorate to the point where working might actually kill them. It is hard to be positive when society tells you that without work, you have no identity and do not contribute in a meaningful way to the existence of humanity. Not that I really know what it means to 'contribute to humanity'. I would argue that the oil companies or bankers or stock markets do not positively 'contribute to humanity' so why is my unemployment so offensive to the politicians?
Trust me, I would rather be working over waiting at home for a lung transplant any day. Everyone I know who is un or under-employed would rather be working at a better job and it is not for the want of trying.
How do we make this better?
I propose that we should be asking people what they do for fun rather than asking what they are paid to do. We will learn much more about each other person by knowing what they do with their leisure time than learning about a job they might hate or might not have. I can guarantee we would find each other much more interesting and if they are between jobs or out of work, they will very much appreciate talking about their passions instead of trying to awkwardly explain why they do not have a job at the moment.