“So, what do you do for a living?”
Is it human nature or habit to ask? Are we asking to be able to size up our new acquaintance or because we don’t know what else to ask?
I used to say, “I’m a Marketing Coordinator for a small company in Maryland that creates curriculum for children to learn handwriting.” I said it so many times over the course of two years it’s ingrained into my brain like a line from a movie I’ve watched 100 times.
These days I find it more difficult to respond.
What do I do for a living? Well…
I wake up when the sun peeks through the curtains and lands on my eyes. I stretch, make a funny stretching noise that sounds something similar to a dying squirrel, roll over and out of bed. I look outside and smile. I continue looking outside as I make my first of many cups of coffee or I dress to go to a nearby coffeeshop. I sit outside if the weather allows it with said cup of coffee.
I go outside every single day for as long as humanly possible. I climb mountains and jump in lakes and touch tree trunks as if I were touching a lover, memorizing every line. I turn my face to the sun and listen to the birds converse with heaven and the sky and one another.
I dance, in the car, at the dinner table, in the shower, in bars. I let happiness wriggle through me and come out my shoulders and feet and fingers.
I ache. I ache for the happiness of the ones I love the most, for every sorrow of every person on this earth. I ache for those who have lost their parents and best friends. I ache for the forests being leveled and the polar bears starving to death. I ache with the words I’ve yet to find and for the lives I’ll never get to live. I ache because of the beauty of the sky and the solace trees provide.
I grieve. I grieve every book I’ll never read and every song I’ll never hear. I grieve all the places in the world I’ll never get to see and all the people I’ll never get to love. I grieve for the pain all of our hearts have had to endure, for all the holes people we’ve lost have left, for the injustice of being expected to get over those we lose.
I find joy in every day. I sit with my sorrow. I find what makes me come alive and I do it. I read, I drown in books, I drown in words, in others’ and my own, I get lost in other worlds.
I laugh, at my own jokes and at the way life works out, at puppies tripping over their feet and at the wind blowing through the trees. I laugh loudly, deeply, unapologetically, obnoxiously. I laugh at myself and cruel words intended to hurt me. I laugh at my mom’s selfie face and at my dad’s dad-isms I now say and don’t really know what they mean. I laugh and laugh and laugh.
I love. I love everything, too much and endlessly. I love the way my dad says he misses me and the way my mom insists on saying “I love you” when either of us board a flight. I love the smile lines around eyes and really deep laughs. I love the sound of children laughing in the distance and the way my heart skips a beat when I make it to the top of a mountain. I love the way strangers can become family in a matter of minutes and the way dogs can always be counted on for unconditional love. I love out of the blue text messages and emails from my closest and most loyal friends. I love the way songs make me feel understood and how the smell of horses, pigs, and sheep transport me to my childhood. I love when people hug me, like really hug me, hard and long and honestly. I love when someone remembers a detail about me I hardly remember telling them. I love closeness, literal and from across the world. I love intimacy, holding hands and kissing foreheads and stroking hair and smiling from across the room and hands on lower backs and words that make my heart swell.
I dream. I dream of places I’ve yet to see and of people I’ve yet to meet. I dream of my past. I dream of chocolate banana shakes and the perfect cup of coffee. I dream of what it’ll feel like to fall in love again, of what it’ll feel like to be confident the person I want to spend the rest of my life with won’t leave me. I dream of seeing my grandparents again, of what it would have been like if I’d gotten to know them better, if I’d been a better granddaughter. I dream of completing the AT and the PCT and the CDT. I dream of my future, where I’ll end up and how many dogs I’ll adopt and how many acres of forest I’ll own and how many people I’ll make smile each day. I dream of my parents as grand parents, of my brother working along side me as my partner in whatever I decide to do with my life, of my best friend as a mommy and me as an auntie. I dream of a simpler life, of catching fireflies in my backyard on humid summer nights, of waking up to roosters crowing in the distance, of watching the sunrise on my front porch with my dog at my feet, of doing the crossword puzzle in pen on a table I built myself, in a house I built myself, on my own piece of land. I dream of long lives and deep happiness for everyone I love.
Yes. That’s what I do for a living. I live.
What do you do for a living?
P.S. Living isn’t a luxury reserved only for those wandering from country to country on a trip around the world. You’re living, too. Even if you go to work from 9-5 every day, even if you have kids and a mortgage and a spouse. I hope you find what makes you come alive and I hope you do it every day. I hope you make time for yourself. I hope you let others see the real you. I hope you break down your walls and let people in. I hope you smile at strangers and listen to birds sing in the morning and hug your children every day and treat yourself to cake and give yourself a break. I hope you live. And if you find that you’re not living, I hope you have the courage to change your life.