Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

These words came to me out of the ethers one summer day as I pondered how to create some income to have the lifestyle I want. I’ve proven I can live frugally, but I’d like more freedom, that is, extra cash, to spend on both my needs and my wants. Nothing extravagant, just more joie de vivre, you know?

I’m a writer, but so far no one is clamoring to give me money to write and revise my personal essays and stories. And, ironically, now that I have a finished manuscript, the hard facts of a writing life are staring me coldly in the face.

Fact #1: I have no idea when my memoir will be published.

Fact #1: I don’t know if I will make any money when it does.

Publishing is a very inexact process with absolutely no guarantees.

So, now that I’ve indulged my creative side for a number of years, it’s time to be practical and figure out how to create some income.

Fortunately I have a lot of good skills after years in office work and management. So temp admin work seemed an obvious solution. Or a part-time job. But inside I cringed. The office politics, the loss of control over my time and schedule, commuting, choosing a salary over my self-respect, horrible and manipulative bosses–all these memories assaulted me.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

These words remind me that I have choice. Fortunately, I’m not desperate or destitute. I’d just like to work at something that I enjoy, that makes me happy.

This past June, I actually worked a part-time job that was supposed to be fun. I lasted all of five weeks. I was a check-in agent on my feet for five to six hours, smiling and talking to passengers. The company really did not want us to take breaks. Most employees didn’t even though labor laws require employers to ensure that employees get breaks. After working the first day with no break, I knew I had to take a break on my shift. I had to sit down for a few minutes and eat something so I could continue to function. It’s amazing how the brain can turn to sludge in a few hours without food and water.

That’s right, no water bottles at our stations because of all the computer equipment and cables. Equipment for which we had no training. The first day was sink or swim.

Even though most of us were mature adults, we obviously could not be trusted to keep our bottle tops secured to prevent spilling.

It was very stressful and all for minimum wage. My co-workers were lovely, the company policies were not. There’s more I could tell you, but you get the picture. I was not happy. This was not fun.

I generally hate to quit. I’ve never worked in a factory or sweatshop, but this employer’s willingness to work us until we dropped and their lack of respect for their employees made me think: Sweatshop. Dehumanizing.

And so, I quit.

Working for other people can be a crapshoot. Yes, yes, I know life in general is a crapshoot. Still, in some things I still have choice. Yes, indeed, I HAVE CHOICE!

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I’ve found my new mantra. Or maybe it’s found me.

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