I do whatever it takes for a living

“What is that you do for a living?”

It’s a question that people ask me all of the time. Really, finding out what a person does for a living is a common first question. However, while I do get that question from strangers, it was my dad who asked. My Father. The person who helped form me.

We were eating breakfast like we do every other Saturday. I was complaining about tuition at my son’s school and how it continues to increase when my dad looked at me with his brow furrowed. He seemed as though he was having difficulty tracking what I was saying. Then, the words left his mouth. What is it that you do for a living?

At first, when I heard him, I laughed a bit. I though he was joking. But, when he didn’t even crack a smile, I knew he was serious. “What do you mean? You don’t know what I do?”

What really shook me was that my son, sister, and mom all agreed with him. It seems like it was a common question: What is it that I do for a living?

“You have to admit,” my sister said. “It’s confusing; you write, you do substance abuse work, you do computer stuff. It’s hard to really know what the heck you do.”

While I agree that I have a diverse professional background, I don’t see it as all that confusing. I spend a lot of time writing about and studying ways and means of improving Substance Abuse and Addiction treatment. But, I see that work as my mission in life; something I was born to do. Yes, I’m licensed and do practice, but the reality is that it feels wrong to charge. Even when I do a workshop for continuing education, I try and find ways to keep the per person charge low. I seek sponsors but the wacky truth is that very few businesses or wealthy people want to support addiction education. So, rather than rely on others’ kindness, I subsidize myself.

I learned to program computers when I was really young because I knew that it would pay well. I had a knack for it, so I did it and kept doing it. Now, while I don’t program computers much anymore, I can still team lead teams that design and build large-scale hardware and software systems. The work pays well and I am quite good at it; therefore, I do that work in order to fund my mission.

I don’t see my background as confusing or as difficult to describe. I am blessed to have both a mission in life and the means through which I can achieve it. So, to my dad and family, in response to the question: What is that you do for a living? I say: Whatever it takes.


One comment

  1. Hi Juan,

    I guess the question “What is it that you do for a living?” is one that many parents usually ask when their children work in the software industry or in something related to the software industry. I remember I was asked the same question by my family.


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