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Language Log

Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 - 11:48 p.m.

I need to get back to my jewelry work, and back to my exercising. I’ve been neglecting it these past few days in favor of the transcription stuff.

The transcription job...I don’t know if I can convey exactly what I’m feeling about it. I guess it’s brought up some stuff for me. This may be a jumble, and may repeat some of what I said the other day, but...

When I was at UF I did these sociolinguistics classes where I kept having to transcribe speech for papers. Not just sociolinguistics, but also my syntax thesis. And there were, I don’t know, things from the oral history collection that I used to listen to, I don’t remember why. But I always did like it even if they were painstaking verbatim transcriptions. I just loved listening to how people speak and hearing their stories. These transcriptions are a lot like that. Enjoyable in that same way (only I’m not counting tokens of some syntactic structure as I go). And the variety continues to be interesting. Phone calls from prison destined to be evidence; podcasts with famous people; interviews with artists.

So that makes it feel like it’s an idle pleasure that I am also lucky enough to be paid a little for. I am a lady of leisure, doing a little pleasant work in my spare time for spending money.

I kinda hate that.

Because at the same time, there’s this atavism from the years I spent flat broke, my 20s, I mean also not having an income of my own because I was a student and we were mowing lawns or picking through trash and pawning what was salvageable to get by. And often failing to get by, catastrophically. I did not control the money. And when I got my own job, finally, there were still struggles about money (being harassed mercilessly until I went to the atm to get the last $5 of gas money so someone could get a 12 pack)...but I could still pay the bills. Myself.

And these last years when I have not had an income of my own except what I can hustle up with my art...and we know I haven’t done a good job of that...that previous state wasn’t in my mind because the situation is so different. And while I have access to everything, there’s seldom any of it that is my own, and I always always feel some degree of guilt about spending anything on myself. I do it, obviously, I overcome the guilt somehow (haha) but it’s never been without the sense (entirely in my own head, I must emphasize) that it’s a gift. That it’s not _really_ mine. Not like my own paycheck is.

However, with this job, I have become aware that there’s an atavistic remnant of that time still in me. Because once again I have that same feeling of grasping control over something that had wildly slipped away. I’m that teenager with my jars again, bringing home my paycheck and saving some for this and some for that. I’m that 20-something with my checkbook, relieved to be paying my bills. And while I plan to deposit these new earnings in our bank account with everything else, part of me is...oh, now I will be buying my own tattoos. My own trip back to Wales at some point, maybe. As well as earning my keep, paying for the heat in my studio and my tea.

I feel like I’ve had this weird progression, where I left hourly work for grad school, left grad school for art entrepreneurship, and am wandering from that to what is the worst deal of all, Internet freelancer. But each has freed me from the restrictions and disadvantages inherent in the previous. I have no intention of leaving off the jewelry business, but if that fizzles or fails to grow, I can imagine this allowing me to at least make the art I want to make, this time really really without a commercial motivation. Without the sense of floundering around, being flung once again off the hamster wheel of self-promotion. I don’t know. I don’t even know what I want to make right now, so that might be overstating it.

At any rate, the sense of regained control and autonomy has hit a deep nerve in me, vastly disproportionate to the amount of income actually generated by this job. “Self-efficacy” doesn’t fully convey this history of fluctuating power over my own life.

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