So, What Do You Do?

Living with the Tensions of Unemployment

As my wedding day approaches, and looming responsibilities begin to appear on the horizon, I have become more aware of the fact that I need a real job.

Identity crisis
The idea of equating work with identity is so entrenched in the male psyche I find it hard to be content until I can answer the question, ‘So, what do you do?’ at parties without feeling the need to hang my head out of embarrassment.

I say I need a real job because I actually do have a job, working for a temp agency as a part time banquet server. I call Monday morning to get assignments for the week and get just enough hours to cover my rent and bills.

The dirt on me
A few people have asked me recently what I ‘do’, and I tell them the truth: I clear dirty dishes from tables and bring out food to people at weddings and corporate functions. It sucks and I hate it.

But when I think about how many people work these types of jobs on a daily basis, glad for the work, I get embarrassed for complaining.

I’d like to think of my situation as temporary, but what if a few months turns into a few years, and I’m still doing the same thing?

After all, for a lot of people, jobs washing dishes and cleaning floors aren’t temporary—it’s something they go into day after day, week after week. And most do not have the advantages and mobility I have as a well-educated white middle class male to move on to something easier on the back.

Getting down to business
A few months ago the panic button went off, and since then I’ve been scrambling fervently to secure my identity in a job. I’ve thrown around ideas to friends and family. “I like helping people—I think I’d make a good social worker.” Or, “Maybe I could be a teacher—that’s a pretty respectable profession.”

I feel guilty making such a big deal of it, since many people in the world don’t have the luxury of choosing what they want to be. I also don’t want to sell out my dreams and ideals just for a paycheck or continue serving food any longer than I have to.

The weather inside
I’ll be honest—being unemployed, coupled with my engagement, has now made for a pretty scary situation. Everything’s dark, shadowy, insecure.

What it will be like to be married, to have children? I’m nervous about securing a ‘real job’ and the responsibility of supporting my family. Will I end up being one of those people who hate what they do but continue doing it because it’s safe and secure? Even if I find my life’s passion, would someone hire me for it?

Will what I do become who I am?

Beyond Human Resources
Every day I offer these worries up to God. In return, He gives me my daily manna and tells me not to worry. “I will not forget you. Look! I have carved your name into the palm of My hand.” I try to trust Him and live with the tension that comes with uncertainty, thinking that, in the long run, I will be better off for it.