A Latin Americanist? What is that?! – When you awkwardly try to answer the dreaded question: And… What is it that you do?! When you’d rather talk about your passions

My passion - I am Latin Americanist

My passions go from traipsing around a favela in Rio in 2004 to living on a semi-inhabited island in the Atlantic ocean in 2010, and trying to convince the Federal Police to please let me extend my stay in Brazil (which didn’t quite work out as I has hoped)  in 2013!

I love Latin America.

I’m obsessed with Brazil. Not so much the current political regime, but I love the people, the food, the smells (okay not all the time, in that heat the smell of garbage doesn’t improve). Nature. THE AMAZON (just capitalizing the word says enough, doesn’t it). I can talk for hours about how much I love it there and I do so often.

Try explaining that though, when people ask you the dreaded question: And what is it that you do? Personally, I get stuck in this word vomit of hello, see me, I’m an interesting person.

During dinner parties where people ask me what I do, I sometimes answer: I currently do this [filling in whatever day job du jour], but in my heart I’m a Latin Americanist.

Of course, this answer is mostly met with a question mark in their eyes.

A Latin Americanist? What is that?

In dictionary speak, a Latin Americanist is someone who is a specialist in Latin American civilization. Someone who studied Latin American studies, an academic field dealing with the study of Latin America and Latin Americans (if you can even use that umbrella term).

Sounds pretty dry and boring, when you say it like that.

If I want to mix up the theme, you could also call me a Brazilianist and an Amazonist (my specialization). For the purpose of writing this post I checked if that was a thing… and it is:

A Brazilianist is a non-Brazilian social scientist studying Brazil – Wikipedia

An Amazonist is defined as an anthropologist who specialises in studying the peoples of the Amazon. – Wiktionary

The question remains if using these labels is actually useful. Does this help you understand me as a person? Or what I do?

Nope. Not really.

Most of the time, it feels like a misguided attempt on my part to cover my insecurities and sound smart and successful. I don’t even really feel anything, or understand myself better, because many topics that I study and the other things I do in life, nor my personal quirks, fit within these boxes.

The dreaded question at all parties: WHAT DO YOU DO?!

So for a long time, I struggled defining myself within the limiting question – what do you do?

For me it’s a death dealer in the conversation. It almost always makes me grab for the closest bottle of WINE. It just feels so uninspired.  You say what you do – keeping it simple you state a relatable profession…, they say what they do. *cricket sounds*

And that’s it.

Silence ensues… Sometimes an “Ah. Uhm that sounds interesting?” You’ve now officially fulfilled your social obligation of appearing interested and interesting. Done.

NEXT!

Because I’m not only that. We, as profoundly beautiful and mostly complicated people *I mean I don’t get myself most of the time*, are made up of more than just our jobs.

How can someone get to know you talking only about what you do?

What are you interested in? What are you passionate about?

More useful and powerful would be to talk about what someone’s passion is or what they are interested in. Because passion is universal. Feelings are involved. Anyone is passionate about or interested in something, even though they might not actually call that their day-job. It could be cooking, travelling, calculations, gaming, reading, inspiring people, whatever.

Even though you might not understand what someone does, you can feel and see someone’s passion. It’s in the way they sparkle when they talk about it. They can go on for hours if they don’t check themselves and sometimes it can be contagious and inspiring. It will lead to a more open conversation – to an actual connection.

So, chica.
What’s your passion?

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