Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm better at spending my money than spending my time

Which is why I sell all I can. I only bring it up because today I sold my weekends. Actually, I sold the heart out of my Saturdays and Sundays. I'll be doing two hours in a row on those days, and there's a 2-hour round trip commute involved, so a good fat 4 hour-plus gash down the middle of each day. It wasn't an easy decision, but unfortunately, I am not in a position to refuse any offers for private English lessons. To my chagrin, my time is worth less to me than it is to quite a few Korean students of English. I am hard pressed to think of a period of time that I would not sell. I have left family gatherings to teach private lessons. I endure a lot of commuting and chronic pharyngitis due to my never-ending talking. I'm not complaining, I'm genuinely dazzled by the economics of it all. I can't afford my own time.
But it's not exactly that I can't afford it. I can't get as much value out of it by myself as I can by trading it for money. Like an American soy bean farmer at harvest time, I look at my schedule book and think "What am I gonna do with all of this?" The farmer says to himself "Let's see, my old buddy Chang usually takes about 15 kilos off of me, and my wife usually sticks a few cups of soybeans in her Far East of the Border Chinese Chili that always comes in dead last at the chili cook-off. The rest I can sell." What would an American farmer do with soy beans? Make baked beans with them? Make tofu? Well, what would I do with my time? Write a song that I can't even sing with my constantly swollen throat? Catch up on The Wire. Well, I'm all caught up.
Actually, part of the attraction of the private lesson is that the per hour rate seems so high when you don't factor in travel time. It's like renting a room in your apartment. It's just one room that you rent out, but the rest of the house becomes a public space. So reading in the living room is okay, but no more reading Herb Cohen in your underwear in the living room. Same thing for me. I can do anything I want during my commute, as long as it fits on my lap and tolerates a bumpy bus ride or lurchy subway ride (i.e. reading and writing and listening to mp3s. So it's still my time, but not really.
I hope some day to be able to afford to buy back some of my time. In fact it's been my goal for a while. I can imagine what it's like being a prostitute. The lure of easy money makes it seem almost impossible to turn down any offer. It's quite disturbing, in fact, to know your value. I assume a day will come when my time will become more valuable to me than its cash equivalent. I only hope that it realizes its value as time for doing something fulfilling. It would be a shame if the only thing that stopped me from selling away my time was the value that it held as time for sleep.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Same thing for me. I can do anything I want during my commute, as long as it fits on my lap and tolerates a bumpy bus ride or lurchy subway ride

As you know, I busted my iPod. Do you know what this has done to my commute? For the most part I read (on the T, on the commuter rail, on the bus). But there are also times when I need to walk or choose to take a mile walk to relax. I don't have anything to listen to anymore. When I'm walking I feel like I'm wasting my time. Before, I was getting something done on every leg of my commute. I was reading or writing or napping or listening to music. Now I'm just wasting precious minutes walking. It's ruined my commute I tell you.