My passions go from traipsing around a favela in Rio in 2004 to living on a semi-inhabited island in the Atlantic ocean in 2010, and trying to convince the Federal Police to let me extend my stay in Brazil (which didn’t quite work out as I had hoped) in 2013! Talking about jobs and titles has always seemed dreadful in comparison to what I’d really love to talk about, namely what gives me my energy and helps me get out of bed each morning.
I’m obsessed with Brazil.
Not so much the current political regime, but I love the people, the food, the smells (okay not all the time, in that heat the smell of garbage doesn’t improve). Nature. THE AMAZON (just capitalising the word says enough, doesn’t it). I can talk for hours about how much I love it there, and I do so often.
Try explaining that though, when people ask you the dreaded question: And what is it that you do? Personally, I get stuck in this word vomit of hello, see me, I’m an interesting person.
During dinner parties where people ask me what I do, I sometimes answer: I currently do this [filling in whatever day job du jour], but in my heart, I’m a Latin Americanist.
Of course, this answer is mostly met with a question mark in their eyes.
A Latin Americanist? What is that?
In dictionary-speak, a Latin Americanist is someone who is a specialist in Latin American civilisation. Someone who studied Latin American studies, an academic field dealing with the study of Latin America and Latin Americans (if you can even use that umbrella term). Sounds pretty dry and boring, when you say it like that.
If I want to mix up the theme, you could also call me a Brazilianist and an Amazonist (my specialisation). To write this post I checked if that was a thing… and it is:
A Brazilianist is a non-Brazilian social scientist studying Brazil – Wikipedia
An Amazonist is defined as an anthropologist who specialises in studying the peoples of the Amazon. – Wiktionary
The question remains if using these labels is actually useful. Does this help you understand me as a person? Or what I do? Nope. Not really.
Most of the time, it feels like a misguided attempt on my part to cover up my insecurities and sound smart and successful. I don’t even really feel anything, or understand myself better, because many topics that I study and the other things I do in life, nor my personal quirks, fit within these boxes.
The dreaded question at all parties: WHAT DO YOU DO?!
So for a long time, I struggled defining myself within the limiting question – what do you do?
For me, talking about jobs and titles has mostly been a death dealer in the conversation. It almost always makes me grab the closest bottle of WINE. It just feels so uninspired. You say what you do – keeping it simple you state a relatable profession…, they talk about their job. *cricket sounds*
And that’s it.
Silence ensues… Sometimes an “Ah. Uhm that sounds interesting?”
You’ve now officially fulfilled your social obligation of appearing interested and interesting by talking about jobs and titles.
Because I’m not only my job. We, as profoundly beautiful, but complicated, people *I mean I don’t get myself most of the time*, can talk about so much more than just or jobs.
How can someone get to know you, when only talking about what you do?
Stop talking about jobs, and titles, and status.
All that blah, blah, blah.
More useful and powerful would be to talk about what helps someone get out of bed each morning (energy), their passion projects, or other things they are interested in. Because energy is universal. Feelings are involved. Anyone is passionate about or interested in something, even though they might not actually call that their day job. It could be cooking, travelling, calculations, gaming, reading, inspiring people, whatever.
What are you interested in? What energizes you?
Even though you might not understand what someone does, you can feel and see someone’s life energy. It’s in the way they sparkle when they talk about it. They can go on for hours if they don’t check themselves and sometimes it can be contagious and inspiring. It will lead to a more open conversation – to an actual connection.
What’s gets you out of bed each morning? What energizes you?
Lemme know in the comments.