"What do you DO?"


"So..what do you DO?" Whether it be mere small talk or laying the groundwork to dive into what another human being subsists of, the question invariably comes. So we pony up. We've been trained to answer this incomplete question. And when someone lays down the emphasis on that last little two letter word, we have our answer locked and loaded. We're supposed to tell them how we make money. Justify how we spend our time. Defend our right to the space we take up as we move about the world. For some, they've found the magical crossroads of passion and practicality and they can answer this question with pleasure. Some answer quickly and with pride because they know their answer is bound to impress. But I know there are folks out there after my own heart. A tribe of people who have a hard time answering that question, because they know that they're so much more than they can convey in this exchange of pleasantries. My go-to for years was a tongue in cheek cocktail of snark and cynicism so I could beat the other person to the punchline I had turned myself into. If I could, I would bitch slap every time I've sarcastically answered with, "oh you know, living the dream." Because you know what people? I am living the dream. And I always have been. I was just blind to how connected every chapter in the story really was. And I didn't know that there is magic in both the mundane and the extraordinary. For so long, I felt that my answer needed a rushed follow up explanation of why I wasn't doing what the (most likely indifferent) listener thought I should be doing.

These days I'm working towards loving all of my light and all of my shadows. And "the dream" that I am living is that in moments of doubt, panic, exhilaration, joy, loneliness, I get to feel it. Get down and dirty with the ordinary and the awesome of it all. Regardless of how I pay my bills. That's just one small line item in a list of much more interesting things about me.

When you ask me what I do, I could tell you so many things. Like, I run marathons on a hamster wheel in my brain. Sometimes I cry for reasons I don't understand. I'm tempted to exclusively buy one way tickets now because I think it makes a better story. I love some people far beyond their capacity to receive, and others not as well as they deserve. Those are just some of the things that I DO.

So if you ask me the question, you might have opened a wriggling can of worms. Or I might just smile and say, "I'm a Swiss Army knife." Because I do a lot of things. Some better than others. But none significant of my worth. The most important thing that I can tell you, is that I exist. And that is my new opening statement and closing argument for my right to be here. Nothing more is required of me. I am of infinite value with or without the stories. And so are you my friend. So tell me, what do you DO?

Amber Gruber