Only about two weeks left in this semester, thank God. That’s five more meetings of each class, and two weeks of interaction with the apparently comatose magazine-writing students. I’m going to be so, so glad to be free of ever having to teach freshman comp again (…i hope). You ain’t seen short-timer’s syndrome until you’ve come to the end of a semester of wrangling freshmen. But as you can imagine, I’ve had predictable second thoughts about walking away from my only steady source of earned income. Well…sporadically steady.
Oddly, though, I haven’t felt as jittery about it as I’d expected. The truth is, over the past few months, I’ve pretty much stopped obsessing about money. Once or twice a month, I go into Quickbooks to log my credit-card charges and the very few checks I write, and that’s about the last of think of it. I expect it’s because living on $26,820 a year, net Social Security and teaching pay, has demonstrated that I really can live on very little money. And my gross annual teaching pay is only about 3 percent of retirement savings. So the truth is, even in the unlikely event that The Copyeditor’s Desk never makes another dime, there’s plenty for me to live on. Modestly, but adequately.
Too, the little revelation that came to me earlier this year, when ex-DH underwent quadruple bypass surgery at about the same time a Mayo doctor was speculating that I had a gastric cancer, has made me care a great deal more about enjoying life and a great deal less about pinching pennies.
In the Insight! department, another little revelation occurred to me this morning. A lovely person purchased the latest of those pretty necklaces I cooked up, and so I set to constructing a third one. It takes about three hours to arrange and string those tiny little beads into a 40-inch “lariat.” That’s exclusive of running around the city in search of the beads, of course.
So let’s say I manage to net $90 on a sale (that would be extremely good, but it could be done if one were making enough of them to buy the parts wholesale). You realize, that’s $30 an hour: exactly what I earned at the Great Desert University when I worked there full-time in a managerial position. Exclusive of the two hours a day, ten hours a week, of commute time.
Yes. I can earn as much as a Ph.D. in an administrative job informed by 15 years of academic experience, 10 years of journalistic experience, and 25 concurrent years of editorial experience…by stringing beads.
Several small changes will help as things get tighter, if in fact they do get tighter.
Not buying gas to drive from pillar to post four days a week. This month I spent two hundred forty-eight dollars and seventy-eight cents on gasoline!!! That’s $90 more than in August, when I wasn’t driving to campus.
Not paying the Underlings to provide teaching assistance.
Not passing by an upscale Costco outlet on the way home from campus.
Then there’s the turkey roasting on the grill for Cassie the Corgi, as we scribble. Safeway was peddling the things for 79 cents a pound. It certainly isn’t premium meat — it’s pumped full of saline solution and chemicals — but last year when I got one for her, the meat wasn’t inedible. She can’t tell the difference, anyway, and the meat from one of the things will keep her in food for a good month.
To make things better, one of my friends on the choir qualified for Safeway’s turkey giveaway. They foisted it on her even as she protested that she had no use for yet another turkey. She was trying to find a home for it, and I talked her into giving it to me. That will provide at least two, maybe three months of meat for Cassie.
Meat has become so expensive I no longer can buy hamburger for Cassie, and the Safeway has stopped putting cheap cuts of beef on sale at affordable prices. Since about half of her diet consists of animal protein (and it probably should be more than that), the cost of feeding her has gone way up. For the short-term future, then, the meat from two fourteen-pound turkeys represents a significant savings.
So, I don’t seriously think things are going to get any worse, financially, than they are. Barring a miracle, they won’t get any better. But with the money situation already about as bad as it’s ever likely to get, I don’t believe I have much to fear.