I had a strange interaction in the grocery store yesterday, but that’s not what I’m going to write about today. It was just…extraordinarily awkward, and I’ve been pondering it all morning.
But the early stage of our conversation, before things got confessional and weird, was about my choice of profession. For those of my readers who don’t know what I do, I’m a freelance writer. An intellectual whore, as it were, shopping my brain out to the highest bidder. This profession really works for me. I love writing, I love being my own boss, and I love being able to assemble my own schedule. I work four days a week right now and I make way more than I ever did slaving at 40 hour jobs. It’s awesome.
Especially since I’m completely socially dysfunctional, and I am basically doomed to fail in every workplace because I hate people and I can’t hide it. You know Dr. Brennan from Bones? Yeah, I’m Dr. Brennan. Only less hot.
A lot of people seem to have trouble comprehending what I do, though. My responses seem to fall into a number of basic categories, and some responses really amaze me, because I am constantly surprised by how offensive people can be. And coming from someone with a formidable reputation for being incredibly thoughtless and rude, that’s saying something. But the things that come out of some people’s mouths…it’s really just mind boggling.
The first is the category of people who go on about how they could never do what I do because they aren’t self motivated and driven enough. Which is usually ok, except when they express surprise because they think I’m not self motivated. I’m not sure why people are under this impression; perhaps because I’m lazy about things I don’t care about, and I don’t care about things which society thinks I should care about. I also don’t understand what brings people to people comment about this; maybe they’re looking for some sort of affirmation from me, like “sure, you can do it.”
Instead, I usually say “yeah, well, paying rent is a pretty powerful motivator.”
Other people just don’t understand what I do. They can’t wrap their heads around the idea of writing and being paid for it. Or they think I’m somehow magically making money from this site, which always amuses me. And then they want me to do something for them for free, like editing a paper or something.
And then I have to explain that this is my job, and that while I do some pro bono work because I think it’s important to contribute to society, I can’t just endlessly do things for free. I have two longstanding relationships with people whom I do free work for; one of them trades other services, like helping me not look like a complete slob, and the other one is a very old friend. In both senses, I don’t really consider my work “free,” although they may not pay me in cash. The other free work I do is work which helps people improve themselves, like looking over resumes or college applications, or writing a text article to accompany a photograph series to submit for publication (which I suppose promotes me too, in a way).
Other people just want to know how much money I make, and while I know that’s out of curiosity to see if they can make it as freelancers, it makes me uncomfortable. Honestly, I am ashamed of how much money I make, and I am really struggling with class issues right now, and it’s not something that I really want to discuss with people, especially strangers I’m introduced to at parties I don’t want to attend. And also because everyone is different; not everyone can make it, and that’s kind of something you need to figure out on your own. And if I tell someone how much money I make, that might lead them to believe that they can make it when they can’t, or it might tell them to give up their dream of writing because it’s not enough, and I don’t really like playing such a major role in people’s life decisions.
And, my personal all time favorite:
“Gosh, I couldn’t work at home like that! I’d just eat all the time. Hee hee.”
This coming from a rail thin, obviously food obsessed woman who was eying my curves so hungrily that I was afraid she was going to start turning me into charcuterie if I turned my back on her for a second. Because, yes, folks, secretly my biggest concern about working from home is that I just eat all the time. It’s true. Right now I’m surrounded by platters of food. I had to install a vomitorium to cope with it all.
Because it’s not like I actually, you know, work when I say I’m working from home. Nope. Secretly I just cook all the time and money just falls out of the sky, which is really inconvenient when it ruins my roux.