Looking back through my work history – all the way back – I really think the only place where I received fair compensation was the county library job I held my senior year of high school. Why? Because it gave me super refined research skills I would otherwise have not had before going off to college, and I’m quick to attribute my academic success to that experience… alongside relentless curiosity.
Sometimes the low pay did have benefits. Sometimes the higher paying jobs just didn’t have enough. The benefits that made the biggest difference to me? Friends. I always performed best, and made the most out of my financial situation, when I had a friend or deeply compatible coworker to partner with. Ultimately that’s what got me out of corporate – the female social violence culture underneath the daily good old boy crap was just too goddamn sticky. But in the most stressful job I ever had, I got to partner with a woman who is to this day a dear friend. Yes, we had to work around our cultural differences – I’m pretty extreme for American moral standards, and she has her values that differ quite a bit. Even with that, we truly valued and respected each other, and constantly had conversations about the best ways to play to each others’ strengths. In jobs where everyone I worked with put the goal of the job above their moods or their opinions/discomforts with others, I did well, and stuck around as long as I could. It’s when the mood swing stuff crept in, where people got caught in their daily tunnel and forgot the big picture, that’s when suddenly no amount of money was ever enough.
Today I’m self-employed. I would like to be paid more – a lot more – and be able to pay other people. I’m not there yet, and I’m not jumping on the latest marketing bandwagon because I have a Big Picture in mind. I always have the Big Picture in mind, and the details, moods, trivia… it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going for something here, and how I feel in the now matters a lot less than how I’ll feel when I Make it Happen. This is pretty much how I’ve always been. I do Make it Happen – this year I will have Made it Happen three, maybe four times. Each accomplishment is the culmination of more than five years of patient work and genuinely connecting with those who were willing to let me connect to them.
Am I treating myself fairly? All the artist’s way work has been about learning how to be gentle with myself, since I honestly had never really experienced what that’s supposed to be like. I don’t wear myself out. I set limits. I get more done than I did when I really was doing the 18-20 hour day thing.
It really does pay off, and money is only a fraction of that calculation.