What Do You Do?

By Patrick McNerthney

Have you ever noticed when you meet someone for the first time the only socially acceptable thing to talk about is what you do for a living?

Super weird, right?

You can’t talk about what really matters: your passion for baking lemon cakes, your secret plan to invent flying cars, or your dream of owning a pet lion that’s somehow a vegetarian. Nope. You gotta talk about your work, because the first question you’ll be asked in any introductory conversation is, “Oh, and what do you do?”

Note: Please feel free to follow my lead. I make up stuff to freak people out. I’ve claimed to be a submarine captain, IRS agent, priest, acrobat, and pineapple farmer. Because normal people are forced to answer, “Oh, I’m a [insert profession here],” and the listener subsequently draws all sorts of conclusions based on how our society views said profession. 

Something along the lines of:

“Oh they’re a lawyer, they must be rich.”

“Oh they’re an accountant, they must be boring.”

“Oh they’re a writer, they must be poor or delusional or most likely both.” (Ok that one’s accurate).

“Oh they’re a homemaker, they don’t do anything.”

“Oh they’re a caregiver, they must be… (feel free to chime in based on your experience as a caregiver.)

(Ugh…but lawyers do get a bad rap; know any?)

And that’s the irony of this ridiculous dance. Our professions seemingly define who we are based on cultural mores, while nothing could be further from the truth. What we do for a living doesn’t even touch on who we really are any more than a resume does. Because how could a job title possibly encapsulate what we believe, why we do what we do, what we value, or explain what our hopes and dreams are…or how we see the world? 

It simply can’t, it’s impossible.

So next time someone asks “what do YOU do?” … I hereby challenge you to NOT talk about your work as a caregiver. No. Talk about what you dream about, what’s most important to you, how you seek to make a difference in the world, or how you like yellow shoes for crying out loud…as long as it’s anything but your profession. 


Because you may be surprised at the reaction you get. When someone (you) has the courage to BREAK A WELL-WORN PATTERN, OTHERS TEND TO WAKE UP AND REALIZE HOW RIDICULOUS OR USELESS (OR BOTH) THAT PATTERN IS.

There, I said it. 

It’s like the Matrix: Neo basically wakes up and goes, “HEY, wait a second! All is not as it seems! This is messed up! I need to point out to other people how bad this system is, instead of succumbing to it!”

(Don’t succumb, resist!)

And, by the way, that’s what your work caring for your residents or loved ones is all about: breaking patterns. Patterns that foster anxiety and depression in the elderly, children with challenges, or anyone needing help with life’s daily tasks. Which is exactly what Fine Art Miracles’s work is about: using innovative tools like creative expression to develop new pathways to hope, joy, confidence, self-worth, and mastery in those who need it most. 

So check out FAM’s programs if you want some help. Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Drama Therapy, Drumming & Exercise Therapy, and Art2Go packages (wait, there’s more–check out the website!)) reconnect your residents or loved ones with the dual belief that they have control of their lives, and that they MATTER.

And THAT’S work worth talking about. (But don’t.  Remember, you’re supposed to talk about those yellow shoes). Reach out anytime, FAM is happy to help!

Okay, Halloween party coming up this Saturday…what should I TELL people I do? Robber baron? Industrialist? Spy? I don’t know. But it sure is fun to shake things up, right?



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