Everyone's very amused these days when they ask me what I do for a living and I'm reduced to sort of waving my arms around and saying, "You know... stuff!" It's a precarious living, but truthfully, I wouldn't be doing any better anywhere else. Were I to land in a place that had no market for weird freelancers (*coughArizonacough*) I would still be living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about rent, but I'd be stuck in a terrible phugoid cycle of craptastic jobs. I'd spend long periods unemployed and looking desperately for someone to hire me to work hours I could actually stay conscious for, doing something that at best I would have no particular feelings about, and I'd stay there until one of those things wasn't true anymore. Then, when I either stopped sleeping or started having catastrophic panic attacks at the thought of going into work, I'd either get myself fired or quit. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I may be chronically short on money, but what I do earn, I earn doing things I do not hate. I rather like most of them, in fact. I have come to the conclusion that Circlet Boss Lady's main goal is to subsidize genius in exchange for not having to oversee every last aspect of porn production and distribution her goddamn self, and the theater people don't care how weird I am as long as I show up and do my job. I realize that anecdote is not the singular of data, but judging from what I hear out of other people, this puts me way ahead of the curve.

I've been trying to figure out why it took me so long to break down and tell people 'sure, I'll take a crack at $random_thing for pay'. And it was a matter of breaking down -- I hung on until I was genuinely worried about starving to start that. It's complicated, and I don't know if it can be generalized, but I think it has a lot to do with effort vs expectations.

I don't know when this started, but basically, someone published a thing that said you shouldn't praise kids for innate qualities like intelligence lest they get a swelled head about it and stop putting effort into anything. Someone else floated the idea that you shouldn't praise kids for raw results lest they think your love and encouragement is contingent on being perfect and stop attempting things that might go less than splendidly the first time. The end result is that the only thing left to praise is the action of working very very hard. Or, to be more precise, the appearance of working very, very hard. Otherwise the grownups might have to take your word for it, and children are savage little liars.

Basically, I got it drilled into my head that even spectacular results didn't count unless I suffered to get them. I don't suffer doing any of the things I do, so I have a hard time convincing myself that I am actually producing a thing, rather than just fucking around with words/craft supplies/the internet.

I also learned as a kid that the more things you volunteered to do, the more often you got burbling from the grownups that boiled down to, "yes, but you're good at everything, so put your hand down and let someone else have a turn". Demonstrating competence in too many things meant I was taking up too much space, like there could only be so many underwater basketweavers in the world at a time, and hoarding one of those slots when I had so many other things I could be doing was selfish and mean. I was denying someone else a place that they deserved more than I did.

It works for the Sith, I guess? I wouldn't have expected to run into it in kindergarten, but there you go.

That cycle was particularly dangerous for me; lacking friends or any kind of normal home life, demonstrating that I'd learned stuff was pretty much the only time I got to feel appreciated and competent. If I did too much where other people could see, the grownups started trying to even the score by taking away my access to some of it, and handing it over to someone else. I learned that if I wanted to keep thinking about odd things without being harangued over it, I should shut the fuck up and keep it to myself. I was never particularly good at putting that into practice, but I did feel properly guilty about it when I failed.

Now, well, it turns out that my need for food and shelter trump other people's need to not feel like their social status is being threatened, and it's not like I can earn any less than the no money I'm already getting for much of what I do. Either school is not an accurate reflection of how the adult world works or Arizona is not an accurate reflection of how reality works; while I do get boggled at a lot, nobody seems to think that being good at X means it's unfair for me to also pick up Y. It has netted me a reputation for general problem-solving-ness, in fact. About half of what I do these days is field queries for someone who can do A, B, and C (or, more likely, the oddball combination of B, Q, 23, and "fish emoji") for some project, and if it's not me, referring them to someone I know who does fit the bill.