Can We Change The Subject?

Recently, I went over to my boyfriend’s parent’s house for dinner. I don’t normally spend time with them, but every now and again I’m subject to a visit and an awkward conversation. During the dinner, they asked me a simple question, “how’s work?” My heart froze. I didn’t want to answer. I would’ve given almost anything to talk about something else. Wouldn’t you rather ask me about my trip to the gynecologist? Can we talk about the last time your son and I engaged in sexual intercourse? Anything was better than talking about my job.

And, that’s when it hit me. Even though I’ve known it all along, when you’re an adult and enter the workforce, you’re immediately defined by your job. What do you do? That’s the first question we ask a stranger when we’re at a social gathering, right? If you’re a doctor, you must love helping people and have a high level of intelligence. If you’re a bartender, you must be an alcoholic or have breast implants.

For my job, I’m a board operator for a radio station. I barely work 15 hours a week, and I do the same thing just about every day. Nine times out of ten, I get paid to read a book and make sure nothing goes wrong. This position is really destined for someone in high school or college. Someone who wants to learn the ropes, get their experience, and get out. I lost my job almost a full year ago, and this plus an internship and a few volunteer opportunities has been all I can find. And, I know what you’re thinking. Why has it taken her a whole year? Why doesn’t she take the first thing she can find? Oh, so she’s living at home. Why is she mooching off her parents? Doesn’t she feel terrible? What could she possibly be doing all day? Why doesn’t she try harder?

I know some of you are asking these questions because these are the questions my own friends and family members have asked. Every time I see them, they ask me how the job hunt is going. And every time, I try to give them short, yet informed, answers. I don’t want them to keep asking me questions. Because, no matter how sympathetic their tone of voice is, their eyes tell me a different story. And please, it’s embarrassing enough that I was making $48,000 a year, full-time, full benefits, right out of school, and now I’m barely part-time, making $8 an hour, no benefits, nothing.

I know that this is not an uncommon situation. With the crazy economy the last couple of years, many people lost their jobs, took a job they didn’t like just to pay rent, got a pay cut, etc. But, the last thing we all want is to have the people that we love most in our life think of us unfavorably. There have been times when I’ve asked myself, do my boyfriend’s parents think little of me? Do they think I’m using their son? Do they think I’m good enough for their son? Do my aunts and uncles think I’m a spoiled brat? Are they embarrassed for me?

So, this holiday season, let’s cut everyone some slack. At the gatherings you have with your family and friends, how about we ask the question, “what’s new in your life” or “how are you?” instead of, “how’s the job/job search/the unemployed life?”

Granny Smith – over and out

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