I truly dread meeting new people. Small talk and idle chit-chat usually lead to being asked anxiety producing questions like “So, what do you do? Where do you work? Are you working full-time?” Where is a trap door when you need one?!
I never ask anyone these questions because I don’t want anyone to ask me these questions, because I don’t have an answer, well a good one anyway. Since I was 15 years old, I’ve always had at least one job. I haven’t had steady work for about six years now and I really don’t like to talk about it all that much. As a person living with chronic illness (that sometimes needs a two hour nap after a trip to the grocery store) I just don’t have the stamina, for a job or the conversation.
When I meet someone new that asks me about my work, I usually say something like, “I’m between gigs right now.” If they press for details, I start stammering a long and turbulent story of my work history (AKA: my resume) in a desperate attempt to let them know that there is nothing wrong with me, I am employable. I usually leave my medical resume out of my ramblings. I’m not sure, but I bet there is probably some Emily Post rule out there somewhere about the timing of introducing the topics of brain surgery and bowel habits into a conversation with someone you’ve just met.
It’s when we part ways that I beat myself up, wonder why I said all the dumb things I said. I get caught up in comparing myself to others, thinking that I’m not good enough or worthy of their time because I am not gainfully employed. I find myself projecting what they may be thinking, are they judging me because I do not have an employer? Do they think I’m lazy? If only I tried harder? Am I too picky? I berate myself for not having a job; if I had a job, I’d have an acceptable answer. Over-thinking: 1 Kelly: 0
I’ve tried making my employment status into a joke by giving clever yet evasive replies. After a few chuckles from the crowd, I somehow end up apologizing for being flip and go back to my old spluttering script. Here are a few of the responses I have tried:
· Self-unemployed –One time someone responded, “Oh, an entrepreneur, how exciting!” I’m not sure if they missed my joke or if they were playing along and I missed their joke.
· Domestic Goddess -stole this one from Roseanne Barr. Usually makes people laugh but I think most don’t know of its origin, I’ve actually had to explain who she is and it kind of takes the fun out of it.
· Alchemist-I can take ordinary water and make the most fabulous soup you have ever tasted. And at Thanksgiving, give me the picked over turkey carcass and I can feed you for days. Actually, I’m very much like Jesus; water to wine, loaves and fishes? Please!
· Professional patient -While true, it does catch people off guard, makes them uncomfortable and head for the hills. Essentially it gets me the result that I claim I want; to be left alone.
Seriously though, after some much needed self-reflection, I’ve come to realize that yes, I indeedily-do have a job, it’s called, Taking Care of Myself. What I don’t have is a paycheck.
The other day, I decided to test this new response out. I was attending a conference and someone asked me one of the million dollar questions, “Do you work full-time?” I calmly answered, “Yes, I work full-time at Taking Care of Myself and waited for her reaction. She didn’t ask for details so I offered none (I thought my head was going to explode!) She just smiled at me and said, “Good for you!” Over-thinking: 0 Kelly: 1