I hate being asked, “Where do you work?” when meeting someone. Whether I have a job, am a student, or am not working the question seems to imply that a job is the most important part of a person’s life. In some ways our jobs are central to who we are. For many people, jobs are a means to an end. We are not always passionate about our work and it does not always reflect who we are. “What do you do?” is a better question, but even that implies that it is somehow necessary for a person to “do something” which is beneficial to others. Doing important work is worthwhile and has its place; I wonder if we might be able to ask a different question instead.
When I meet someone I like to ask them something like, “How do you fill your days?” Asking in this way about what the person does takes the focus off of work and allows them to explain what their priorities are in life. I’m sure there is a better way to ask the question, but the answers I get are usually more interesting than asking where someone works. In some ways it is more important for us to be concerned with how we fill our entire day than what we do while we are “on the clock.” Do we define our lives by our family relationships, by our social groups, by our hobbies, by our passions, or by the work that we are paid to do? There is not a correct answer here; it is important to realize that each person has the right to define the meaning of their own life.
It’s important that we ask ourselves this question as well. How do we fill our days? Are we merely passive observers in our own lives, or do we take an active role from waking to going back to sleep? Are we doing the things, seeing the people, visiting the places, and experiencing what we desire each day? It is easy to get caught up in life and just try to get by one day at a time. What direction are we going in life? Are we becoming the person we want to be?
Perhaps the frustration and irritation we sometimes experience when asked, “Where do you work?” or, “What do you do?” comes from our lack of intentionality. Maybe it is long past time for us to switch jobs. Maybe we have lost the appreciation we once had for the work that we do. Maybe we value ourselves for what we can produce and have found that we never measure up to our own standard. Maybe we cannot work. What do we value in our own lives? If we can set goals and values for ourselves, we can work toward them and hold fast to them as we go through each day no matter where we do or do not work.
We need to think critically about how we value ourselves and others. Is the most important thing about ourselves what we produce, or is it something else? Maybe our relationships, our integrity, our passion, our consistency, or something else about us is more important than what we are paid to do every week. We might find that our work is the most significant thing that we do, and that is great! For those who assess their lives and find that something else is most important to them, perhaps it is worth rejoicing in that.
How do you fill your days?