What do you love?

Is my job who I am?

Instead of asking about the weather or what someone’s job is, perhaps consider this random rant.

When I meet people for the first time and they ask me what I do two things happen. The first is confusion and the second is mild annoyance. Let me explain.

First the confusion part. I have a lot of difficulty explaining what I've been up to for the past 20 years of my life. During an interview, if you were a potential employer considering me for a position with your company, you may end up leaving more confused then before we had met. Chances are really good I can do whatever task is required to fit into your organization but it takes forward thinking souls to except non status quo types for who they are. The experiences on my resume are all over the map so it’s no surprise that my first interviews are lengthy, and interesting. Or so I hope that’s the interviewers reaction. I don’t recall any occasion where I didn’t get the said job. Plainly put, I kill it at interviews, just saying. Plenty of negatives to combat this egotistical comment, trust me.

The problem is getting the interview and finding opportunities that I’m keenly interested in. Being able to self teach any challenge thrown at me is gift I accept with gratitude. The catch is selecting those challenges based on pure interest alone. I always tell people I’m pretty good at everything but not really good at anything. That’s always been my mantra therefore explaining that when people pop the cliche question, “what do you do?” , I’m not entirely sure how to answer.

Last week I was drinking at the Green Door with some skaters after a splendid Hanami Party (Cherry Blossom picnic and drinks gathering).  A guy that was sitting a few bar stools over asked me the question I dread, “what do you do?” It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts. I responded with a lame attempt at humour and said “how much time do you have?” My hope was that his question would either go away or he’d have the time to allow me a proper answer. I could have just said I teach English. I’m certainly not ashamed of being a language teacher in Japan but I don’t think it dictates who I am. Nor do I like brushing off people after an apparent opportunity to make a new friend. 

This is my segue to mild annoyance. I get it, asking me what I do was this fellow patrons attempt to striking up conversation. I’m glad he tried and it would’ve worked well if I had worked on the same thing for 20 years like most people I know. 5 years ago I could’ve said I was a union man in the grain exporting industry in one of Vancouver’s oldest unions, GWU Local 333. Go back 10 years ago I would’ve said I was a filmmaker and 15 years ago I would’ve answered, “I’m a downhill skateboarder!” Holding down a steady job is talent I don’t have. Although it appears that I lack discipline that is not the case. When  found the below Ted Talk last night, I immediately felt he hit the nail on the head. It’s no wonder his Ted Talk one the contest. I couldn’t agree more so have a listen. 

In order to close this post i want to say this. Asking people what they do in the first few minutes of meeting is about as lame as talking about the weather. It’s lazy, unoriginal and to some can even come across as insulting if it means judgment is going to happen. If you’re proud of what you do and for some reason you think that dictates who you are then so be it. As for me, it’s my thinking that I’ve always had employment and passion projects. When people ask me what I do I seldom if ever talk about my employment. The conversation about employment, for me, is simply a segue into talking about what I love.

Next time you’re striking up conversation with someone instead of asking “what do you do?”, be brave and ask a real question, “what is your passion?” or “what do you love?” - that’s what’s up!


Dan Pape