I do not have the slightest idea what I do for a living.
Nor do I wish to know.
The not-knowing has worked out quite well for nearly six years of running a business, and I expect it to only get better.
The grown-ups in my company (attorney, accountant, financial planner) don’t seem to be worried either.
They trust the duck. As they should.
A little confusion never hurts.
One of my neighbors thinks I’m a business consultant. Or a life coach?
Another thinks I’m a yoga teacher. Her husband thinks I’m an unlikely internet celebrity.
Another knows that I run a sort of zany pre-school for adults and that I always get the best toys at the neighborhood yard sales.
They’re all correct. I try not to talk about it. It just adds to the mystery.
The dreaded question.
The only thing I really dislike is that awful, awful moment when you meet someone new and they ask what it is you do.
I try to avoid this. I have tried being five years old. Thanks, Maria!
Or saying that I’m a pirate queen, which is true.
But then they still want you to talk about it, and I NEVER want to talk about it.
I have tried being evasive and changing the subject. I have tried being a secret agent and a ninja and a mob boss and saying that I can’t talk about it.
With an Italian accent! Idawanna talk about it! But it still stresses me out.
Oh ho! A sneak-around!
You see, it has been decided that I am an International Woman of Mystery.
I am part of the underground IWOM Brigade.
And no matter how many questions well-meaning strangers ask about what I do as an international woman of mystery, I am marvelously unfazed.
Person: So. What do you do?
Me: Oh! I’m an International Woman of Mystery! And this is my duck, Selma.
Person: An international woman of mystery? Really? What does that entail?
Me: I wish I could tell you but then it would be considerably less mysterious. What about you?
That is the power of the International Woman of Mystery.
It’s also fun to say, in a reverberating sort of way. IWOM IWOM IWOM!
What does it mean to be an International Woman of Mystery?
I’m not sure.
Remember when I tried to figure out what a CEO would do without having to wear shoulder pads?
That’s when I was looking for the signifiers of sovereignty.
And now I’m looking for the signifiers of being an International Woman of Mystery.
Sovereignty boots? Check.
Glitter eyeliner? IWOM drag outfits! Costumes!
I might need a parasol. Or a secret ring. It could be anything!
Joining the IWOM Brigade!
Would you like to? Obviously there aren’t any criteria.
It’s not important that you be and/or identify as any part of this: woman, mysterious or international.
It’s more about attitude.
I don’t have to know, explain or justify what I do. Unless I happen to feel like it.
Or possibly: Why yes, I AM wearing glitter.
Or possibly: I am changing the subject!
It’s a personal investigation into your secret identity and your superpowers, without owing explanations to anyone else. It’s about freedom.
Play with me!
There are many ways to play.
We can up with fun possible associations (and accessories) for the IWOM Brigade. Calling cards? Badges!
Or determine the qualities of being an International Whatever of Mystery:
Radiance, of course. Freedom. Play. What else?
Or we can find other ways to Intentionally Not Agree to being put in a box.
The Comment Zen part:
We remember that talking about business, biggification and identity can bring up a lot of hard and painful stuff. We all have our stuff.
We make room for people to have their own experience, and we don’t give unsolicited advice.
Love all around. And really great sunglasses, because that part seems important.
I KNEW I forgot to give the glitter nail polish to my niece for a reason! 🙂
ah hah! My colleagues materialize out of thin air. They are both glamorous and hard to see, except from the corner of one’s eye. When you look directly they are almost not there. But then they are. You know they’re watching. And they have sleek accessories and some of them carry pocket watches. They blend in everywhere but are utterly unique. They are divas who sit in mudpuddles to talk with small children. They cannot be understood, only admired. They are the very definition of je ne sais quoi.
Each of them has an identifier that no one else has but is part of a unifying whole. Mine is a long red wool coat, light enough for three seasons and most evenings, and with twice as many buttons as necessary.
I think tall black boots are also in order.
i am doing my evil cackling laugh of join
i would love to be a card carrying member of IWOM
we could get a secret door knock or handshake since we have a playground and and evil cackle.
so much love, so so much love!
This post really resonated with me. For a long time, I’ve worked in the gray area (I actually think of it as yellow and bright and rife with energy and possibility) between schools and nonprofits, and it’s hard to articulate what it is, exactly, that I “do” or what I “am”, professionally speaking. It’s almost easier to explain what I’m not: I’m not a teacher, a social worker, a counselor, a community organizer, a relationship-manager, or a program director — except that I am ALL of those things at once, in different ways than most people traditionally conceive of them. I feel apologetic when I try to explain my work to folks, and this post reminded me that I don’t have to feel that way. On the flip side, I really, really love what I do, and I want to be able to share the essence of it with folks in a succinct way. I’m thinking something like, “I help youth develop as leaders and create positive change in their communities” could be a good start. Thanks for helping me think through some of this, Havi!