That “Aha!” moment, but without the exclamation

If you read my previous post, you know that I’ve struggled with depression.

If you haven’t read my previous post, why are you here? Go on, go do that first. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Finished? Great.

It finally occurred to me today why I might feel this way. It’s because of money. The love of money might be the root of all evil, but the existence of money seems to be the bane of my existence altogether. As Fred Clark recently said in three different fashions,

1) Money can’t buy happiness, but it does buy protection from certain forms of unhappiness.
2) Money is not sufficient for happiness. Money is necessary to avoid certain forms of unhappiness.
3) No, money cannot buy happiness. But it is necessary for buying necessities without which happiness is nearly impossible. Having enough money is no guarantee of happiness. Not having enough money is a guarantee of unhappiness.

That’s where I am. I have no money, therefore I am guaranteed unhappiness, in broad defiance of a tarot reading once taken which predicted my future would be “poor, but happy.” The fortune teller has since recanted the certainty of this reading.

It isn’t specifically the lack of money which makes this difficult. What seems to make it such a soul-blighting state of being is the inability to obtain money. As a number of people have written a lot about how being poor is a self-sustaining cycle.

You’re poor, so you buy a cheap vehicle.
The vehicle is cheap, so it breaks down.
You’re poor, so you can’t afford to replace it or get it refurbished.
It’s fixed on a budget, so it breaks down again.
You pay so much money keeping it barely running that you remain poor.
You’re poor, so you buy a cheap vehicle to replace it.
The vehicle is cheap…

On only two occasions of my life have I ever had an income. The first was working in the marketing department of a video game company — I sought out retailers to carry our products. It was a small company, so it paid me a mere $100 a month. This position was eventually terminated without notice, and by that I mean I continued to work for two weeks before anyone informed me that I had been laid off.

On the other occasion, I worked for a transcription company, transcribing audio recordings of business meetings held for a variety of clients. This was almost interesting, since every day, I had a new client and these were often major corporations — I was a fly on the wall at meetings held by everything from real estate companies to medical schools. The only problem was that their dialogue then had to be written up verbatim, which is a lot less easy than it sounds when not everyone at these meetings would speak clearly. I have a lot of difficulty making out dialogue, so it sometimes took several tries to decipher what someone was saying if they had a heavy accent.

The hours were also intolerable. I woke up at 6:00 AM to get my file for the day. The file would then be delivered between noon and 2:00 PM. Being on dial-up, the files took awhile to download. The average file would be an hour long, which would take (depending on the speakers) several hours to transcribe. I often didn’t finish until 10:00 PM and sometimes later, and this entailed taking no breaks, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in my office, working steadily. For the best chances of getting through the file without mishap, I would spend at least a couple of hours surfing any relevant websites by the company to familiarize myself with some of their terminology. Again, many of these speakers would have heavy accents and a phrase like “NASDAQ index” doesn’t come intuitively to someone who’s never been in corporate to begin with.

On top of that, the pay was shockingly terrible. I was paid a fraction of a penny per word, so over the course of an hour’s worth of dialogue, I would accumulate around $25. This is where my “90 hours weekly for a $125 paycheck” figure comes from that some readers may have heard — I could and often did work steadily from 6 AM to midnight for $25 a day. As you can imagine, there were no benefits to this job other than having it, and I eventually no longer had it at all. In the end, the job was outsourced to the Philippines. I can only shudder to imagine how little they were getting paid, before the company was then sued for corporate espionage.

Beyond those two jobs, I’ve never had a major income, and not for lack of trying. I apply to places, but never hear anything back. If I call or visit to inquire, I get noncommittal noises. I’ve probably applied to at least a few hundred businesses of all kinds, but the most conclusive response I ever received was actually seeing someone discard my application in the garbage beneath their desk.

This sort of thing can contribute toward poor self-esteem, as can repeated implications that one’s worth is determined by their income and their ability to maintain an income. This has led me into a hellish double standard: my value is determined by my income, my ability to get an income is entirely in the hands of potential employers, and yet I’m held personally responsible for my income status.

I need an income, but I can’t get an income, but I need an income, but I can’t get an income, but I’m a terrible person if I don’t have an income, but I can’t get an income because I’m a terrible person…

And so it goes in a downward spiral which threatens to leave me not only emotionally wrecked, but indebted for thousands of dollars for the student loans that have yet to make a positive impact on my employment status.

I need to get this bloody book written.

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