What I Do for Money

For the past three weeks, I’ve been devoting almost all my writing time to paying work. Today I’m in between assignments – and considering a morality trap I’ve fallen into, with regard to pay.

A year ago I took a gig with a local business that makes heroic efforts to slim the waste stream. I admire this business and its owner: I’m all for collecting food waste by trike; at the time, I still believed in recycling. And so, as I saw it, I was getting paid to Do a Good Thing. For a short time, this story reconciled me to low hourly pay and powered me past my disgust at having to handle countless dog poops in small translucent bags.

Then, two events – one physical, one mental – intervened: I hurt my arm by lifting a staggeringly heavy bag of wet dough higher than I should have. And I realized that when I collected and re-sorted waste at the local park, I was not compensating for the errors of my fellowbeings, but cleaning up after corporations.

My current gig (which pays far more per hour than my swim in the waste stream) is in no way a Good Thing. It is not always true, but it is often true, that high hourly pay corresponds with serving the overprivileged. Also, this high hourly pay allows me to confine my work for money to a few hours per day, a few months per year – which in turn allows me to devote much of the rest of my time to tending our precious living web.

For now, I choose to separate work for money from work for love. Giving and receiving from taking and being taken from.

The morality trap says, you should find a way to make money by Doing Good Things.

The trouble is, money is not set up to follow Good Things. Debt-based currency (the kind we use) wants the rich to get richer and the poor to disappear. So, trying to make money by Doing Good Things means fighting the nature of money. This can breed exhaustion, depletion, loss of heart.

Of course, it may not be possible to sequester Give from Take. Maybe I taint my gifts with what I do for money. Maybe, in plainly stating whom I serve through my paid work, I defend against that taint.

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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