By: Krista Osborne
| Posted: Monday, Aug 12, 2013 11:15 am
I am useless at dinner parties. Partially because I am a bit of a closeted introvert, I prefer the comfort of my own home to most things. Being social requires a lot of energy especially with people I don’t know. At dinner parties or other social gatherings the dreaded question inevitably gets asked.
“What do you do?”
This question, while fairly common among introductions, is one of the more difficult for people to answer. If you are a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t feel that society values your role, or a person who doesn’t like their job, or a person who loves what they do but feels judged by others because of their choice of profession, this question can minimize how you define yourself. What about someone who recently lost their job?
In my case when I am asked the question I am never entirely sure how to answer. I am a mother, a wife, a volunteer, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and most recently, a dog trainer. I do all these things but this is not what the asker actually wants to know. They want to know what I do for a living. I understand that the asker is only making conversation. They are just trying to get to know me. In fact, I often ask the question myself.
So when asked “What do you do?” I am always honest but then I brace myself for the response. My answer usually has one of two impacts on a conversation. It stops it dead in its track or I end up making someone cry. I am a social worker. Not the kind that takes away children, not the kind that has boat loads of money that I can give to the poor. Neither of these kinds of social workers actually exists.
I work in mental health. Even worse: I am a therapist! Nothing gets people all clammed up and sweaty more than talking to a therapist. It turns into a love me or hate me scenario. People often worry that I am analysing them and can see into all their personal shame and misery just by looking at them. I can assure you, I cannot see your inner demons. I am a good therapist but not that good. Other people at parties see me as a source of free advice. A crowded room that usually involves alcohol isn’t what I call a safe therapeutic environment. Either situation ends up being awkward for all involved.
One occupational hazard I suffer from is that I am not good at small talk. I usually ask the questions that socially we are taught not to ask. Mostly because I am more interested in how someone is coping with their life than how the Oilers’ prospects are doing. This is why I am useless at dinner parties.
The gifts of my chosen profession far outweigh the few awkward social encounters that I experience. The gift of my profession is that as a therapist I see people deal with the worst life has to offer but that is also when I see human nature at its best. I am honoured that my clients share their most intimate secrets with me and while I am not able to share these amazing stories with you directly I can share how these stories have impacted my life and how I live it. That is what I hope to accomplish in this blog. Hopefully you will be inspired the way that I am.
I have learned that the joy of life is in the little things, the moments that you miss if you aren’t paying attention. Joy is how my son’s giggle sounds like a series of hiccups if he really finds something funny or how my daughter describes how her first pair of dangly earrings feel against her cheek. Life has a way of providing us with answers if we just listen. So I am listening.