Jingle the bells, light up the tree and bring out the gifts. It truly is beginning to smell a lot like Christmas and there’s no time more exciting! But as the jingle bells rock and here comes Santa Claus, there’s yet another lyric that rings a bell (pun very much intended) — reunited and it feels so good.
There’s nothing like meeting family during the holiday season and those months of built up conversations waiting to come on out. But have you ever tried explaining what you do at work to a grandparent or newly school-going cousin? It can be a herculean task, and oftentimes a hilarious one! All families are crazily special and all members are unique characters in their own way. Many age groups, varying lifestyles, vast experiences and different levels of understanding — they see things differently, especially when it comes to understanding what we do for a living.
This holiday season, we reached out to three professionals from unique, at times, ‘new-age’ fields to hear how their families react, support or perhaps even oppose their work! Here are their stories.
Emily*, 30, Social Media Manager at a Media company
“If you work with computers you probably work to repair them”
I’ve worked in social media for more than 7 years now — my whole career basically. Till date, however, my work is a topic that’s better not to be discussed. Not because my family doesn’t approve or support it but because it just isn’t something they seem to get.
My grandpa is still convinced I repair computers for a living. So speaking about my role as Social Media Manager probably gives him a migraine. ‘Social media’ as a concept in itself isn’t something they’re quite familiar with. The idea of doing something in your head and on a computer is too difficult for them to grasp. My grandmother may know vaguely what Facebook is, (let alone the other platforms we have today) and might have used it a couple of times but the password for that has been forgotten a long, long time ago.
Another thing they can’t wrap their head around is the new way of working. For them, working is starting and ending at a specific time. They don’t understand how we bring work with us at home on weekends, holidays. They struggle with the concept. We never talk about that either.
Let’s not even begin to speak of explaining what my company does. It’s not for a lack of trying on their part, though. Every once in a while they’ll ask me to send them the name and a link to the company website but the ultimate response I get is usually, ‘I went and I had a look but honey, I’m sorry I really didn’t understand anything’.
If I really had to explain my role to them I’d probably say ‘I help my company become more well-known and help people get to know it better’ but honestly, how much more sense is that even really making? ‘Well, sure, now we get it,’ they’ll say.
They tried really hard but with time, most conversations around my job have been condensed down to one single question — ‘do you like your job’, ‘yes’, ‘well then, fine by me’. My well-being is all they want anymore and I won’t say I mind it. In any case, my brother’s a policeman so that works out much better in terms of work-talk thankfully. Work just isn’t a topic we discuss. Let’s just say that today, everytime I go to my grandparents house, any talk around what I do is usually to know if I can fix their computer!
Michael*, 28, an officer in the military
>Kids, they’re tough cookies.
My family has recently “recruited” a number of newborns. What I mean is, in the past 10 years, I’ve become an uncle to a number of little girls and boys who are now starting to grow and ask questions. Oh, so many questions. When I went home last holiday season, my 7-year-old niece decided that she wanted to play games on my phone, which I humbly obliged to. Playing games led to making random calls that led to her perusing pictures from my gallery. A gallery that included pictures of me in my uniform with the rest of the squad. “What are you wearing, rabbit?,” she asked me. ‘Rabbit’ is her nickname for me. “My uniform”, I said absent-mindedly, without realizing she had no idea what on Earth I meant and why even a grown man who clearly doesn’t attend private school would be wearing one. “It’s what I wear for work,” I told her, which was followed by her asking me point blank what it is I do for work. “Are you a teacher, like mommy?” she asked as I thought to myself how I could possibly explain to an innocent child at such a tender age what war was and why countries needed to have armies in the first place. “I work in the Army”, I told her as she looked at me completely puzzled — clearly having had no idea what that was. Not to brag, but I think the explanation that’s to follow is some of my most creative work yet. She lives in a state that receives quite a bit of rainfall and so, I went on to ask her,
“what do you do when it rains?
“I wear my raincoat and open the umbrella”
“And if you don’t do that, what happens?
“I get wet and momma scolds me because she thinks I’ll get the sniffles”, she said rubbing her cute little nose
“And that’s why you carry an umbrella at all times, right? Because what if it rains?”
“Yes, it’s always in my bag!”
“Well, that’s what the Army is for a country. We are a type of umbrella that is there to protect it and keep it safe.”
“Wow,” she said and continued to ask me, “but safe from what”
“Well, that’s a conversation for 5 years from now, kiddo,” I said as I actively distracted her with the other apps on my phone and went on to remove myself from the situation. Phew.
Joon*, 26, Data Scientist
No qualifications qualify me against grandpa’s roasting
Big Data is already a difficult thing to explain even to non-technical people; imagine explaining it to your grandfather. The man has been a civil engineer, instrumental in the construction of some of the most important projects of the state. He’s proud of his legacy and with good reason. This Thanksgiving I finally had a chance to meet him after a long year of lockdowns and the pandemic restricting travel. We made the usual smalltalk before he remembered that I’d recently started at a new job. “How’s the new role treating you?” he asked me to which my response was positive, of course. That’s when it came — like a bomb that I didn’t think I’d have to diffuse that evening — “what is your work exactly, tell me about it!” Ah, I know that’s a rather obvious question but for a guy that still smokes cigars, wakes up to his own body clock and refuses to use a phone without an actual keypad, understanding AI & Big Data would be insane, more than that would be explaining it. I mean all he knew till then was that ‘I do something on the computer’ — not laptop — ‘computer’.
“Well papi, I work as a data scientist. So you know we have machines and those machines are beginning to think for themselves,” I started out. Big mistake! He freaked out and gave me an expression of horror that I think he’d only have mirrored during the war. So I decided to rewind. “Papi, what I mean is: you know how everytime I come over, gam (my grandmother) makes meatballs.” “Yeah, they’re your favorite.” “And how does she know they’re my favorite?” “You’ve been cherishing them ever since you were 6!” “Exactly, papi! So gam noticed a pattern. A pattern that over time shows that I like meatballs. My work as a data scientist is something like this. I notice patterns using data that I get from different sources.”
“Ah, so you notice patterns, is it?” “Yes papi, I guess you could kind of say that” “So patterns just like the muddy ones you just left on our tiles while entering the house?” he smirked. Let’s just say he gave up on the conversation soon enough and of course, the rest of the evening it wasn’t the Turkey that got roasted — it was me!
The names have been changed
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