Yesterday we had a family party at our house, and one of the guests began to pepper me with questions: what are you working on, what is your favorite project, what publication do you like writing for best?
I gave her vague answers, in part because of the family dynamics of other people who began to lean in and listen to the conversation, but mostly because this was a party, I was relaxing, and the last thing I wanted to do was think about work.
Back in the day when I worked in an office with other people, I rarely talked about my job to anyone but coworkers, except to grumble to the husband or friends about it. I like to separate my work self from my real life. And I almost never ask anyone about their job, either, unless it is someone I used to work with and I want to get caught up on people I used to know.
And back in the day, people rarely asked me about work except in a small talk kind of way -- how's work going? Fine. And that was that.
Now . . . I find people want to talk about my work all the time. It isn't small talk conversation. They want to know the nitty gritty details. They want to know who I'm writing for, what my current projects are, how much I make. They ask if I'm busy or if I'm able to make any money doing this.
It drives me nuts. It's hard enough when your work is in your house, and it's always looming. If I was a person who enjoyed talking about my job, that would be one thing. But I'm not, never was, and so to avoid questions about my daily work is not out of character for me. Except now people are bent out of shape if I don't answer.
I've been told -- repeatedly -- that people are interested because this is such an unusual job (it is?) and most folks don't understand it. They want to know more. (I interview. I write. What's so hard about that?) But the odd balance to me is that, even though what I do for a living is explain other peoples' lives and careers, I can't stand explaining my own outside of a work context.
One family member once said the reason everyone asks is not that they are truly interested in what I do, they just want to make sure I'm actually working and not sitting at home doing nothing all day (not that that's their business, either).
The bottom line is: on Monday-Friday and sometimes on weekends, I work hard. I haven't had a real, out-of-town vacation in 18 months, in part because my calendar is so full, and on the days I do take time off, I still end up working a bit. So when I'm sitting on my back porch sipping a cold Blue Moon, the last thing I want to think about is looming deadlines and juggling projects.