Measuring Your Value in a Capitalist Society

‚ÄčIt’s time to job hunt again.

I open a word document and start brainstorming potential jobs I’d want to do. Photography. Porn. Writing. Organizing. Attendant care. Mental health. The list goes on.

Imposter syndrome talks me out of one, exhaustion from my current and past work vetoes another. I start looking into the others and quickly find myself getting overwhelmed. I stare at ad after ad, eyes glazed over, brain stuck on a loop of reminding me that I’m worthless and even though I have talents (ie photography), I can’t do it for whatever reason (such as it being a mainstream job and my portfolio being all porn. And cats).

I consider signing up for a site like Google AdSense and getting paid ads on my blog. Ads would be a good way of making money. But I can’t bring myself to accept any ad from any company just to make money; that’s not what my brand is about.

When I express my frustrations about job hunting/the job industry, well-meaning friends frequently ask me what sorts of jobs I’m passionate about. I am passionate about a LOT of things, and a lot of those things are full-time careers.

The problem is, the areas I’m interested in working are either not areas that receive much funding (and therefore can’t pay my bills) or would be marketing toward people in similar financial positions as I’m in (and therefore wouldn’t really be paying my bills).

The problem is, I am one of those people who thinks that the financial system is baffling and goes against what feels right to me. I feel very strongly that money – the ability to make and keep it – is something that is not accessible to everyone and that our dependence upon a system of cash value for things rather than a predominantly barter-system is flawed and it creates further divide between classes/abilities/etc. I don’t think we should get rid of money altogether, just that we should depend less on it.

The problem is that I like to care for people deeply, honestly, fully. People who haven’t done anything to deserve my care for them like this except be in my life in some regard – like a client or boss. And this makes it hurt more when they do things like place their goals and dreams as being inherently more valuable than mine are. That makes me dread going into work because I internalize their value-systems and part of my brain latches onto this idea that I am not worth anything except what I can do for them or for other people.

Fuck you, Pay me (for my Passions)It seems like every time I find a good, stable fit for me, it isn’t as permanent as I expect it to be. Maybe I wear rose-coloured glasses for too long at the start of a new job or maybe it takes a while for things to settle and to learn that it’s not as good a fit as I thought but it seems like, in any sort of mainstream, stable job, a large part of who I am will slowly start to rub raw and exposed and create problems. My transness, my queerness,  my mental health problems, my polyamory, my kink, my sex worker…one or more of these things will always start to stick out as being what my “problem is”, what makes me “different”; and certainly not a good difference.

And I know that there’s nothing actually wrong with any of these parts of me. But I find myself having to choose between the discomfort of not having the people I work with/for know who I am – which feels wrong and unfair to myself, those I love, and to those I’m trying to get to know – or the discomfort of being honest and authentic and knowing that my inherent worth has suddenly gone down in their eyes. That I am now other. Lesser.

And before you start thinking I’m exaggerating – I have had bosses talk to me casually about how they would like to shoot “tr*nny f*gs”. I have had ones who tell me that they look forward to the day that I “grow up” and start wanting things that actually make a difference. Ones that have told me that therapy will “cure” my interest in kink/being nonbinary/having multiple partners. I have been told I can’t wear a collar to work because my client doesn’t “believe in that shit”. They say these things to my face casually and regularly but even when it isn’t being said out loud, their attitudes towards me are just as obvious. This builds up in a person over time. When looking for a job, I now wonder what part of my identity will be cause for them to hate me and what they will do about it.

The majority of the world places value not on labour, not on the product itself, but on the amount of money said labour/product gives you. Take porn, for instance. One of the first questions I’m asked by almost everyone who knows I produce it is about what kind of money I make. When they hear the (small) amount, they get confused and ask why I do it, if not for the money. As if there is no worth in a passion unless it is financially beneficial to you.

When you hear this again and again, it becomes harder to remind yourself what the worth actually is, what kind of difference it makes, and why you find it important.

You begin questioning if your passion for it is justified or if you’re wasting your time.

There are so few paying jobs in the fields that I want that when I come across one I’m excited about and qualified for, a handful of my closest friends are also applying. And my brain will always tell me that they are more qualified for the position than I am and that I wouldn’t want to get it if it meant that they didn’t.

I find myself pouring my time, energy, and enthusiasm into things that bring me great joy and a sense of accomplishment and give energy back to me but don’t make me any money and are inherently seen as wasting my time.

Or I’ll spend my time and energy on things that pay my bills, are viewed as “worth-while”, and I may enjoy to a lesser degree but they drain my emotional and physical energy to the point where I have nothing left for my passions and then my mental health suffers as a result.

While I talk a big game about enjoying doing a handful of different things (and I genuinely do), it’s stressful to try and juggle it all. I have been a full-time freelancer before and the lack of stability terrifies me – especially since my partner that I live with is also a freelancer (though his job is fairly stable) so my brain tells me that I need something dependable otherwise we won’t be able to survive.

But if I’m not a freelancer, what do I do?

How do I balance paying the bills, paying off my last bit of debt, not comprising my politics/ethics, having the energy to pursue what makes me happy, all while being authentic about who I am at the same time? Is this even possible? If it isn’t, how do I keep talking myself into putting up with it?