A boy I know once wrote a blog post about a particular flower shop in Provo, and how in all the years he’d lived here, he’d passed that sign that said $9.98 for a dozen roses, but he’d never had anyone to buy them for. His lonely lamentation made that price memorable in my mind, but I passed the shop the other day, and the price is now at $11.98. The price of life is just constantly on the rise. I’m so sick of hearing “well, with the economy the way it is…”
It’s rough as a full-time student and thespian to also have much time to commit to a job. What’s worse, my life has taught me that if I work as an omelet chef for four months, I can earn under $500, but if I make a film about love from conception to final product in three days, I can earn $1500. Life has taught me that the 9 to 5 at student-level pay isn’t lucrative. That or it’s just teaching me that my ideas are worth more to people than my omelet-making skills.
Despite this lesson, since I’m finishing half of my German major and a pilot for a web series about student travel this summer in Vienna and sitting close to the wire on my financing, I am inspired to pick up work wherever I can get it, because in the business of selling your big ideas, there are no guarantees. My financial finagling has transformed me from mystery shopper to full-time janitor to electronics recycling specialist, and the rush hasn’t let up yet.
I went to one of the many notorious plasma donation centers around Provo to try my luck, assuming that since I’ve donated blood upwards of twelve times, I’d be a shoo in for donating blood’s little cousin (only this time getting compensated for it). I was going through the check-up and questionnaire like a champ, been given the customary granola bar and black light mark to get going, and then they examined my arms where they would stick the needle.
A frazzled, but kind twenty-something boy, with shoulder length curly hair, tied a band around my upper arm and looked closely at I don’t know what on my elbow pit. After a moment he said, “Hmm, looks like a yellow-red.” He then informed me I’d have to have someone else look at it, and I was escorted to the back, where a girl named Lara or Lauren, I was never sure, tied another band around my arm.
She looked, as intently as the first guy at my elbow pit (by this time I’m feeling slightly self-conscious) and finally looked up and said, “Yellow-red. Where’s Rick?” By this time I’m hearing walkie-talkies in my head, “ckrh!—we got ourselves a yellow-red—10-4—ckrh!” Sirens are going off and babies are crying (all this in my head, mind you), and by the time the long-awaited Rick is examining me for a third opinion, I mouthed along with him as he pronounced me once and for all a yellow-red. Thankfully, Rick was kind enough to explain to me, a plebian, what all that plasma jargon indicated. Apparently green is a proverbial ‘go’, indicating good veins for the plasma needles; yellow has potential, and red means what it means on traffic lights outside of Utah—no go.
Of course the tendon on my left arm is hugging the vein in such a way that makes a large needle’s entrance risky. Obviously, the veins on my right arm are just too small no matter how much I squeeze the little, heart-shaped stress ball, that was also getting crushed at this failure where I expected sure success. Just my luck that Provo’s number one fast-cash solution would be barred from my use.
Money is a funny (frustrating, awful, anxiety-ridden, necessary) thing. You take it for granted until you don’t, and people are obsessed with getting more bang for their buck. When I’m cruising through the grocery store, I will actually consider buying products I never would have, if they are ‘buy one get one free’. Yes, that’s right. I want more of that thing I didn’t like to begin with because I can pay less for it. Only it isn’t less because I’m spending the money on the two of them, that I wouldn’t have had to dish out for either one.
I didn’t mean to turn this into an elegy to the woes of capitalism, but the other thing that kills me about how much it costs to just live is that if you’re saving up for a particular something (say a school term overseas), it’s an overwhelming cost, but it becomes less overwhelming with each little chunk of cash from each little odd job and suddenly it seems doable. The dream is absolutely within reach, why did you ever worry? and then SLAM! That was the sound of your car door slamming and your keys getting locked inside. That was the sound of another $80 that you’ll have to fork out to pay a locksmith to get your keys back. That was the sound of two full days of custodial work going down the drain.
No matter how hard you work, and how much money you manage to scrape together, and how much your fingers are bleeding from all that scraping, there is always a broken pipe or a parking ticket or a long-forgotten debt to rob your dream of what you thought was almost certain reality. Now this is the part where I’d usually come in with some kind of gleaming silver lining to this financial storm cloud, whose torrential rain will never be enough moisture to make money grow on trees. I don’t yet know what the silver lining is, except that I’m slowly beginning to realize the sense behind all of those people who choose financial stability over the life of free-spiritedness. I’m not one of them—at least not yet. I’m just realizing that I’m going to have to get incredible at what I love to do so that someone will pay me to do it.