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Thread: What do you say you do?

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2016

    What do you say you do?

    When meeting new people, I always fear the question of "what do you do for a living"? Since i'm not stable enough to work and don't want to get into detail about my CF, I always find it hard to answer this question. I want people to get to know me before knowing I have CF and the judgement starts. It becomes increasingly difficult when I know I will see these people more often (aka boyfriend's extended family)and will likely inquire about how work is going and what not. To those of you who aren't working, what kind of answers do you give when people ask you this question?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    It's tough to find the best way to deflect that question, "what do you do?". Our self esteem and identity are tied to that very big question. Until I hit 50, and CF's wrath stopped any hope for working again, I didn't really have this problem. If anything I felt guilty because I did what most people, myself included, dream of doing.

    I'm a genuinely happy person. I'm happy when things are good and happy when it sucks. Mostly. I've been very lucky, to the point where my riches are embarrassing. If you want a conversation stopper, tell someone that you are a Senior Scientist, or CEO of a well known company. I remember seeing a good friend at a 20th class reunion (high school) and she summed up the twenty years absence noting a marriage, kids and divorce from a man who was president of an oil company. A few years earlier I was working in the oil industry and I was married to a geophysicist. Denver had 1,100 oil companies, so I asked, "what oil company?". It was a big one like Exxon, England. I was speechless, a rare thing for me. My old dear friend had been very lucky as well. She had listed her goals when we were in highschool and achieved everything she set out to do and be.

    An old rule is you never ask a farmer or rancher how much land they have or something like that. It's taken as nosey at best and rude at worst because you're asking in essence how rich or poor a person is. Being asked what you do rarely has to do with the facts of your employment any more than a tin horn asking how many cattle a rancher is raising has to do with agriculture. It's an ice breaker.

    I was awarded a doctorate when I was 19. I'm so sensitive about the whole thing that I rarely tell anyone. Like you and many others, just explaining that you have been trying to stay alive and have something resembling a life is not what we would like to say. We don't necessarily look sick, in fact we look younger and healthier than most people. My best friend was just wondering about CF and she asked me how CF could be so painful. Of course CF doesn't hurt, it is simply thicker fluids than normal. This imbalance makes the mucus in my pancreas so thick that enzymes don't make it to the duodenum. The enzymes ultimately break through the mucus and then digest the pancreas and so on and on. Nope that's not it either.

    My pet answer, assuming a friendly atmosphere is to say "I'm a drug dealer". I figure, with all the drugs out there, somebody has to be a dealer. It's playful but not sure everyone has a great sense of humor. In any case, I suggest you lie. Pick one you can get a reaction and you can take it from there. Choose one or two things that you have had fun doing. In the last oil bust, Denver went from 1,100 oil companies to 115 or so, a good friend with a degree in nuclear engineering, using his extensive experience in math and science to work in geophysics and now among the thousands of highly qualified people, unemployed, came up with being a botique kennel, professional dog walker and a thawer. Yeah a person who will pick up your house keys and go to your house and take some food out of the freezer for dinner.

    You have touched my heart with a dilemma that probably chokes most of us. Just a matter of time. You do all that you can.

    67yr. old man, DX CF 2002 by sweat test. Heterozygous S1235R revealed by genetic testing in 2003 & 2012 accepted secondary mutation. 7T, 7T polymorphism established to be virulent. Classification review in 2017 remains CF diagnosis.

    Complete pancreatic atrophy, Bronchiectasis, MRSA, osteoporosis, small duct disease, charming personality.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    I'm not without a job yet, but I have practiced the art of deflection when I don't want to talk about things (my cough, bad guts, did we use fertility treatments to get our twins, etc). Like Littlelab said, people ask questions like this to break ice and find out more about you. So learn to tell a story that is true but not the whole truth and deflect (politicians are great at this) A few examples,

    1) "I had been working as "X" but I recently left that company because the job was interfering with my home life but now I have lots of time to write to fan fiction"
    2) "I retired early from "X" career, and now spent time chasing squirrels out of my yard"
    3) "i recently left a career doing "X" and am now focused on my cake tasting blog"
    4) "I volunteer with a non-profit making quilts for bear attack survivors".
    5) "I am a home-maker, you should see the Batman beer cozy I just knitted."

    If the abridged truth you tell is unique you will get more follow up questions than if you make it dull. If you do keep it true and consistent you'll get better at answering the obvious follow-up questions at a level that you are comfortable with "yeah I miss my old job sometimes, but my new gig has been really good for my health" or "I do miss talking about the Cubs with co-workers, did you seem them play last night?". Always then follow up with a "What do you like to do?" (a far better question than "what do you do") and the conversation can go on from there.

    Sometimes people will press on your job and then you can always talk about your past professional life or just continue to defer. "not much going on with my career, but I just saw a great documentary about horse wranglers, I wish I had that job". Most people get the hint that you don't care to talk about it, or some will offer to help you find a better job, just nod and smile to any well meaning advise or job search leads (maybe you'll get pointed to a sweet freelance gig).

    You really owe no-one your personal health story. But by giving a truncated true answer you create an allowance to fill in the details later should you decide to share more with someone you trust. All without having to back track on a lie or tell the whole truth to a casual acquantance.
    Last edited by ethan508; 06-07-2018 at 10:02 AM.
    Thirtysomething Dad of three (IVFw/ICSI), Mormon, Engineer in Utah.
    I was dx at 1 yr (failure to thrive), D▲F508, FEV1~94%, PA and MSSA, PI.
    2 brothers w/CF, 3 siblings w/out. My wife and parents are saints.

  4. #4
    ugh, I hate this question too! It always reminds me of this terrible disease that robs us of so much! Do you have any hobbies? I try to make it sound like my hobbies are my job, or at least make it sound like I do something rather than nothing at all.

    I have a blog, and I say "I'm a writer" I love making art, and I say "I'm an artist" I'm really involved with church, and I say, "I volunteer a lot at church." I am also a wife and I do the typical duties of wives, (Cook, clean, laundry, shopping) and I say, "I'm a homemaker" instead of "housewife" I have plenty of friends who have chosen to stay home and raise the kids, so I have no problem mentioning the homemaker "job" Even if you don't have kids, it's nobody's business asking why you have chosen to stay at home.

    You can say all those things without saying, "by the way, I have CF (insert life story here)"

    Love and hugs,
    AMBER 26yrs CF (Double F508DEL) Married
    CFRD, Double Lung TX 3-13-07, Kidney TX 7-2-07
    G-Tube, insulin pump, & cochlear implants

    Amber's Blog- A Creative Newmie

    God is within her, she will not fall -Psalm 46:5

  5. #5
    This question drives me crazy, I wish I had a helpful answer but I generally do my best to avoid the question.
    I work, but part time as Iíve found my health is more stable this way, and I always get co-workers or supervisors being puzzled as to why I donít want a full-time position no matter how many times I say, ďIím good where Iím at,Ē people just donít understand why I would only want a part time position(keep in mind Iím one of those CFers who can keep weight on so I look to most people as a ďhealthy 30ish year oldĒ).
    Also having to explain gaps in employment or why Iíve left jobs(often because of my health), itís tough.
    I donít have any sound advice, just wanted you to know that I get it.

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