I’m not sure where I heard about Everything That Remains: A memoir by the minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I don’t even recall requesting it at the library, but one day they told me my request had come in so I picked it up.
It’s well written and insightful. From page 63,
But let’s think about the question for a moment: What do you do? In reality, it’s such a broad inquiry that any answer would suffice. What do I do? I do a lot of things: I drink water. I eat food. I write words sloppily onto little yellow legal pads. Once you scrap away its cheap gold-plating, however, we find a series of noxious inquisitions lurking beneath the surface. Sadly, what we’re actually asking when we posit this question, albeit unknowingly, is: How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you even worth my time?
I was just thinking about this. A few weeks ago we were camping and met another family who had a boy our son’s age. The boys hit it off immediately and played together from dusk to dawn. At one one point I asked the parents in some round about way what they did when they weren’t camping. Something about the way I asked the question garnered a non-response and the conversation moved on.
I realized as I spent more time talking to them and even after we parted ways that I had no idea what they “did to earn money.” I had learned a lot about how they loved the outdoors and the amazing trips they’d been on, but I didn’t really know how they earned money.
As I kept thinking about how strange this was, not to have ever found out what they “did to earn a living” it dawned on me how little it really mattered. In some ways not knowing made it easier to accept and know them as simply who they were. Interesting now to read this quote which perhaps illuminated why.
I also had a crazy thought of wondering, if our paths were to cross again, how long we could go without discovering what any of us did to earn money.
As Millburn points out, just because someone earns money in a certain way does not mean everything about them, nor does that job that pays money act as a full representation of them.