Every time I meet someone new, they inevitably toss up a question that’s the Swiss Army knife of conversation starters, “What do you do?” It’s a great question because some people have trouble finding things to talk about with strangers, but what we do is a topic that’s loaded with feeling. We either hate our job or we love our job, regardless we do indeed have something to say; unless of course you’re an introvert lucky enough to also suffer from social anxiety.
Often times I’ve been asked that question and responded with the über-awkward, “nothing, absolutely nothing.” Talk about bringing the conversation to a halt! It’s not that I’m out to make things even more weird for the poor sap that’s taken it upon themselves to try to strike up a conversation with me, it’s quite simply fear. The instant that question is asked, my brain incorrectly deduces that if I do nothing, then there’s no reason for this person to be all up in my face. The alternative, is that I let them know I’m I.T., or a Web Developer, or even that I started up a coworking space, and then I’ll have to elaborate and possibly disclose how little I really know about any of those positions, regardless of how long I’ve been at them. It’s most likely based on my subconscious mind’s affinity for the famous quote,
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain
Now the outside me, the one standing in front of a complete stranger, he knows damn well that failing to answer that question honestly affects that relationship forever and ever. Right from the start, I’ve told this person that either I can’t be trusted, or that he/she is not good enough to get to know me. I don’t want that to happen, I actually want more friends, so lately I’ve been trying to train my mind to find a better response.
In order for that to happen, every part of my mind; The Lizard, The Mammal, and Neo; have to agree on what it is exactly that I do do. This requires a few minutes of introspection and mental time-travel as I try to find a way to define myself.
Merriam-Webster defines Author as “one that originates or creates”. Looking back on my life, I can see the pattern of creation.. I remember being a kid, watching Bob Ross on PBS, and grabbing a pen and paper so I could try to mimic his art. I remember playing Capcom’s Legendary Wings on my friend Ed’s NES as a teen, then rushing to call Nintendo Customer Service to ask them how I could make video games. It wasn’t long before Ed and I were trying out every gamedev tool, drawing sprites, blobs, and blits to try and make a game on his Amiga 500. Then puberty hit and music was what I wanted to create. Ed and I pumped out tons of MIDI tracks, sure as heck that we’d one day be making lots of money cranking out tunes [he’s still making music]. My adult life started kicking in, which meant I had to pay the bills. I joined the Air Force and was yanked out of my comfort zone, tossed in a world where the rules were not familiar, and I became depressed. I started writing bad poetry, like this gem from 1995:
Darkness in the Knight
I open my eyes, still, I see no light.
I feel a cold breeze lightly blowing.
Voices are heard,whispers heard,or felt within?
The stars fade in,my eyes are closed,
the voices in my mind aren’t clear,
the stars fade out and darkness once again sets in.
If not for the breeze felt,it would be death,
but still I live…in the dark.
seem to argue, they contradict each other,
one speaks of peace,the other of war,
one of love,the other of hate.
The voices are low,they stop,
it’s still cold…and dark.
I’m tired,tired of the darkness,
the voices,the damned cold!
I move,or try to, I can’t feel myself, just the cold.
Have to do something,must fight this, must regain control.
I am not strong enough, and it’s really not that cold…just dark.
It’s a good Knight to die…
Thank goodness I met a gal and fell in love. Soon after, I realized there was a software need where I worked, so I started programming again. I created a few apps while in the Air Force to make our lives easier. Then the Internet arrived, I was up and running creating websites to showcase my other creative habit, my drawings [the site’s still up, kinda]. Now, being a Web Developer has been my livelihood for almost eight years. I have this blog which I write to pretty often, my public diary. My latest dive into creating is the desire to write a book, fiction even.
So now that I’ve thought it, written it, and read it; perhaps my brain will be polite enough to answer that very simple, friendly question, “What do you do?”
I am an author.