Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#5: Sweet 16???)

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

I haven't been completely and totally forthright about my experiment. I've been delaying and hedging about whether to talk about the actual dollar goal I've set for myself - that is, exactly how much money will I have to make by August 1, 2015 in order to consider The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love" Experiment a success? But, what the hell, I literally have nothing to lose here except for my dignity. And, let's face it, with the amount of times in my life I've said "That's what she said," I have scant little of dignity left to lose. (A couple years ago for my birthday, my then 14-year-old daughter was going to buy me a "That's what she said" t-shirt, but in the end she decided not to get it because, in her words, it seemed to be "an inappropriate gift for a daughter to get her mom." The fact that it's a jajillion times 
My birthday is in October.
(Just sayin'.)
more inappropriate for a daughter to even contemplate getting that gift for her mom will most likely be fully realized to her some day in the not-too-distant future by a highly paid mental healthcare professional.)

Ok, so...yeah, it's $16,000. That's the magic number I've set for myself in order to consider this experiment a success.

But it might as well be $160,000, which seems equally unattainable. As obscenely pitiful as it is, I haven't made anything even close to $16,000 in decades. I've been a homeschooling/stay-at-home mom for nearly two decades. (Talk about a crap salary! In the early, I literally got paid in poop. And spit-up. And tears, both the kids' and my own. Oh, the many, many toddler-soaked hours I spent mopping the floor while sobbing, "I went to Smith! This is my life. I went to Smith for this?!") Even before the Diaper Years, I was an elementary school teacher, and we all know that elementary school teachers are livin' uber-large in their pimped out cars and bling-bling houses. AmIright? Actually, my highest paid job ever was the first one out of college. (Did I mention I went to Smith?) I was a production secretary at CBS News for a show called "48 Hours." An entry level position. And the most I've ever been paid in my life.

I guess I've never exactly been a money magnet. I wish I was super good at math - I'd be an engineer. Or science - I'd be a doctor. Or tedium - I'd be a lawyer. I also wish that the things I'm good at - namely, teaching and the arts - garnered significant monetary rewards. But, alas. That's not my ride, I guess. 

Why $16K, you may ask? Good question. First of all, that is half of our out-of-pocket expenses for my son's college tuition this year. It also happens to be the approximate amount we will have to dig into our nest egg to make the tuition payments. Coincidentally, $16K is the exact amount we paid for our new car when the mini-van wheezed to an unexpected halt last month. It also happens to be the approximate poverty guideline for a family of two. (We are a family of four, but just throwing that in there to give you a little perspective.) 

In one way, this amount is a pittance. But in another, it's beyond what is reasonably unachievable for me. The shame I felt from both those perspectives was what made me hesitant to share my goal number.

But if I'm going to fail, I might as well fail spectacularly. It's like that story that Del Close told his students about the skydiver who discovered his parachute was defective after he jumped out of the plane. Instead of spending his final minutes in horrifying fear as he plummeted to the ground towards certain death, Del claimed the brave skydiver did somersaults and swoops and feats of glorious, gravity-free acrobatics all the way down. It was a joyous experience, I suppose...until the last few inches. 

(That's what she said.)

"Fall, then figure out what to do
on the way down."
-Del Close

* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs a "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is co-writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. If you want to stay abreast (yes, I said breast) of all her nonsense, go to

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