• Category: News
  • Date: Jun 09, 2022
By Shope Delano
  • Written from: London, UK
  • Keywords:

What do you do for work?

“What do you do for work?”
“Oh, I work in insurance" person B begins to respond, before attempting to wrangle the judgement they assume will be heading their way as soon as they stop talking "I know it's boring but the pay is pretty decent, and my boss is cool”. Crisis comms refers to this as ‘getting ahead of the story’. Jobs that aren't socially recognised as cool are treated like a scandal - something that requires explanation, justification.
My response to person B would be hasty, confused, eager to dispel what they think I might be thinking. "Yeah, ok, cool. But also, who cares. If it works for you, then it’s like, not a thing. And if it doesn’t, then you’re figuring things out. It’s fine. We all are. I literally used to cold call uber drivers and sell them cars for a living. It’s minor.”
Or in short: It doesn’t matter. 
It might feel like it matters, especially for those of us who spend too much time playing status games, or like person B, are constantly subject to judgement from those that do. Having too high a preoccupation with whether a relationship will bear the right kind of fruit, and increase your place in the pecking order is…unadvisable. Status is your ranking in the social hierarchy, and a it’s zero-sum game - to win, someone else has to lose. Your place on the inner circle is contingent on someone else being booted out.
(I have played in the past, and reluctantly still do. I feel they are inescapable at times - and exist in every industry - though that’s probably because I’m still in the process of writing/earning-the-right-to-write the rules of my own game.)
And so I maintain - it doesn't matter. There’s no matter here - nothing to hold, or look at, or imbue with meaning. Just the endless reshuffling of whose in 1st place, and who is worth paying attention to.
But socials signals are a necessary part of how large groups of people communicate and form tribes, Shope. All relationships are transactional, Shope. What do you expect? I guess I expect more of us to be more drawn to the kind of of transaction that doesn’t feel like a finite land-grab. Something that feels a bit more, generative?
Image item
Some loosely related instagram rambles - instagram gets the worst of literary abilities - I'm taking a small personal stance to not overly curate anything I put on that app anymore
I've always found the what-do-you-do-for-work // can-you-even-sit-with-us dance to be kind of grotesque. Regardless of whether it's a good tool for professional advancement, accolade-packed bio's make me itch (mine included). Up until reading Zadie Smith’s essay called Something To Do in her book Intimations, I didn't have the words to describe why. A few quotes:
“Out of an expanse of time, you carve a little area - that nobody asked you to carve - and you do ‘something'.”
“There is no great difference between [writing] novels and [baking] banana bread. They are both just something to do.”
“I can’t rid myself of the need to do “something”. To make “something”, to feel that this new expense of time hasn’t been ‘wasted.”
Work is just one of the many things we do in order to fill our lives, and it may be the thing that gives it meaning, that makes us feel like we're not ‘wasting’ it, but equally, it may not. It's as important and as interesting as all the other little things we do to fill our little lives. Unlike other things we do, it's not optional, as we exist within capitalist structures. Independently making money is kind of non-negotiable. But to use it as a means to assess someone's character is to suggest you transcend the very base, mundane challenge of human life - filling the time. 
We all face the somewhat existential challenge of trying to legitimise/feel at peace with how the hell to pass the days. So, no, I don't care about what you do for work!