The Harder Road


Sitting across you at some polished desk, the pens and papers neatly ordered on the side, some employment guru examines your CV. “You’ve done a lot, or done nothing very much” he says at last. “What do you mean ?” you ask slightly put off track. “You’ve done some jobs but there’s no progression here. No development, no skill set we can sell”. He pauses for a time and finally asks “What is it that you always wanted to do”  “Fly gliders” you say, staying with the truth. “High above the trees, and almost silent: watching the wind play among the leaves: that’s certainly a life”. “Perhaps it is, but it won’t pay the bills” His hard realism sweeps away the dream and leaves you silent. You know he’s speaking sense.

The truth is you never really  knew what it was that you wanted to do. Not at the back of class or at the front, you sat with some attention to the task. Enough to avoid detection but not stand out as either good or bad. Until one day you arrived outside the fence, no more classes or being told what to do. Or so you thought, till teachers became bosses and exams became the bills.

Some are gifted with more than the normal levels of ability or determination, or gripped by a particular passion, push for some expression of their gifts. Most sit around the starting blocks of a career, peering at the map, reading guides and then drifting into an occupation which at least pays the rent and allows them  time to wash the boredom and stress out of their life.

Some of us dig in and make a go of it while others flounder around in the foothills of achievement: others hardly get started at all. Some like me have been up a number of ladders and then fallen off within sight of the summit: there are many like me. Nothing robs us of purpose like uncertainty. I have always thought that if you knew we would obtain a ton of gold by swimming half a mile through  sewage we would all become proficient swimmers in a remarkably short time. .

Some of us find some outlet for our gift and slowly ease away the chains of compromise and struggle free towards a more expressive future. Most of us , like me, end up in some curious place by accident and circumstance, making a fist of where we find ourselves and seeking compensation in our imagination.

Not long ago I was at some gathering meeting many people for the first time. “How do you do, Nice to meet you” etc and then the question kept coming up, “And what do you do”. Its one I never ask myself. The answer might be interesting, or misdirect you as to the nature of the person with whom you speak. We are, and are not, utilities, measured by what we contribute. Mainly we are people trying to understand the same problems as you. How we earn our living is often a different question.

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About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in childhood, community, creative writing, Environment, Life, life2, skils, Talent and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Harder Road

  1. backonmyown says:

    Good post, ducks. Lots of food for thought even for a retiree like me. Few people ask me nowadays what I do. When they do, my answer is, “Whatever I feel like doing.” Sometimes it’s good not to have to explain or justify.

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  2. I’ve often thought about the issues you have encapsulated so well in this post. We humans so love putting people in boxes and then neatly labelling it – hence, as you say, the inevitable question, which many people must dread for a variety of reasons: what do you do? (Meaning what paid work do you do? Also reflecting our preoccupation with financial worth/social standing.) Very often, as you suggest, what we ‘do’ bears little relation to who we actually are.

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  3. Deana says:

    I wish I could remember his name. All I remember is he’s some corporate big wig who travels and speaks at conferences. While making small talk he asked one of the planners what she did for a living and I love her answer. “wrong question. It’s what you do for a life that matters.” I think that says a lot.

    I can relate to this post especially haven taken over 10 years off to stay home with my kids. What I knew then doesn’t compare with technology today. I’m at that so what do you want to do stage myself. Feels a lot more intimidating at 46 than it did at 21.

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  4. Julie says:

    My least favorite question in the world is, “What do you DO?” It used to be, “And what does your husband do?” (before asking a single question about me and without knowing him.) It used to make me furious because I didn’t have an assertive or direct response at the time. I always felt cornered. Now I ask people, when they ask what do I do, “Do you mean to make money? Or do you mean what I’m passionate about?” Likewise, I ask people, “What do you dedicate yourself to?” It usually throws them a bit. When they ask what I mean, I ask them what’s important to them? What do they love?

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    • Barbara says:

      I totally relate to that line ‘What does your husband do?” Julie. That used to make me crazy. It depended on the person who asked it whether I would create some totally ridiculous answer like, “Whatever I tell him to do.” or behave.

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      • Julie says:

        Gawd, I wish I had you around back then, Barbara. That would have been perfect. I will definitely store this brilliant approach for future reference. Thank you.

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  5. Barbara says:

    The answer to the question ‘what do you do’ changes constantly for me. Years ago because my husband would get transferred and I would have to reinvent myself one more time, and now because I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up… maybe I never will, and that’s ok.

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  6. Caroline says:

    People never ask “Who are you” do they! I suppose because it’s too personal and it’s safer to ask “What do you do”. But actually who we are says a great deal more about us than the job we bash through each day.

    Or Perhaps we should ask “What do you like doing”

    A very thought provoking post.

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  7. ElizOF says:

    “Some like me have been up a number of ladders and then fallen off within sight of the summit: there are many like me.” Yes, Peter! I can relate to this post too..
    Perhaps age has softened my edges because I don’t respond to the “What do you do?” question in the usual manner anymore… When I meet new folk, I go with a creative response that triggers a fun conversation and then move on… I hear you and love this post. 🙂

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  8. nelle says:

    A better question would be ‘tell me something that defines who you are,’ rather than the focus upon profession. I’ve underwritten and supervised, been self-employed, most recently an adjudicator for those disconnected from work. Each has been a part of me, but none are me. Closest to giving an apt summary of me is ‘writer’, but unless I can produce a hard copy of a published work, none will take my one word description as anything but dream.

    Truth is those things have a part of me. SO too does being a parent, a transsexual lesbian, a feminist, liberal, Reiki practising, divine feminine believing (best explained by Sue Monk Kidd in Dance of the Dissident Daughter), mistake making, survivor, yearning to learn and grow and learn and grow.

    We do what we must in life, based on what we see, what we know, what we perceive, how we evaluate.

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  9. Well articulated piece! I so relate in more ways than I can express right now. Suffice it to say that I love the above question: “What do you like to do?” far better. After all, we all work or have jobs, duties, responsibilities as adults but the only thing, in my opinion, unless we LOVE what work we are doing, that defines me in those realms is my exchange of time for their money. Writing is who I am, personally. Human is what I am. Sigh… why can’t people remember that of all of us without assigning those silly “value” labels that falsely elevate or diminish others? Ahhhhh… thanks for the idea for a future article… a good and timely read you have here 🙂

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  10. Big Al says:

    What a mouthful! I suspect there isn’t a single reader that hasn’t had to come to grips with this dilemma at some point in their working lives. As one that took the road less traveled, seeking my pleasure and reward in family over occupation, I often felt the subtle digs of those who thought a man should be career-orientated above all else. The contentment I enjoy with my family in retirement now bears witness, at least to me, that maybe I was right and they were wrong.

    One of the saddest things I ever witnessed was an attorney, who had terminal cancer, trying to maintain his status at work at all costs. It was work that was his identity, not father or husband. When the ravages of his disease finally caused so much embarrassment at work, he was forced to spend his last days attending to and attended by family. How lamentable that he could have had so many more days and hours within that loving circle than he allowed himself.

    Deana’s friend had it right. What did I do? I lived.

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  11. Kirri White says:

    I love the discussion your blog initiates – can always learn so much about life here!

    Even as a kid, I thought “What do you do?” was a stupid question. I didn’t understand why but it just irked me that adults did that, because I saw how hard my parents worked but I instinctively understood that did not define who they were or what they loved…

    These days if I meet someone new, I make a point of asking what they like to do for fun. It leads to a much deeper and more interesting conversation.

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  12. Shonnie says:

    life is one challenge after another. This question is one I continually struggle with. I have a new direction at 48 that I intend to persue even though convention says I am beyond my prime–who cares about convention! Convention smention! I am alive and well … so we gonna be tryin! 😀 Thanks for a great post Ducky my man! LOVE reading your thoughs.

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  13. Ducky—I ‘ve always known my passion, but it is quite difficult getting paid for it. I do my day job to pay bills ::::SIGH::: but writing is the way I breathe.
    Great post, as usual. x

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  14. You have a kanck for ending your essay with a profound sentence that lingers in my mind and wraps your whole essay into a suscinct bundle. You, Sir, are an extaordinaray writer.

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  15. Jeanna says:

    Ahhh Ducks, always one of my favorites to read. 🙂 You also always seem to post just for me!! Ha Ha, okay maybe not just for me, but it feels like it. I love this post, specially what you said about a label of what we do, defining us… and making us misrepresented… how true a statement. Loved the post!!!

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  16. I’m always tempted to respond when someone asks me “what do you do?” I feel the sudden urge to respond well “Once upon time there were a few blokes in my life and now there is only my husband..” Great Post!

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  17. Great post! Sometimes I wish they assigned you jobs after school and there was no choice involved 🙂 I’m only now realising I want to write! I also agree about meeting people and one of the first questions is what do you do, yawn!

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  18. redheadmouth says:

    Always enjoy your blog. You put life’s questions into perspective.

    Like

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