Silver Linings

As the academic year ends I am faced with a hiatus of some six weeks before the students I tutor return to school and nearly eleven weeks before I can expect any income from the next round of tutoring. My community college courses won’t start until early February and it will be one to two months before they bear any fruit, depending which courses run. Providing people sign up for them and they actually eventuate. Book sales are a bit of a mixed metaphor. Any Amazon Kindle income takes 40 days to clear the cheque and costs $15 for the service. I expect 30%US taxes will be withheld from the totals soon, too, making it even less lucrative. My other distributors haven’t gotten around to paying anything on sales to date and my Escape Artist pals in Panama are very hard to pin down for payments. They pay but it takes dozens of emails to make it happen. My WriteRighteam earnings come in sporadically and I am owed several hundred dollars from them and of course Adsense is a ‘who knows how much this month’ affair.

These are the very real issues a freelance writer/publisher/lecturer/tutor puts up with for the love of his craft and the ability to write for a living. Christmas is upon us and for many it is a time of not so good cheer as so much pressure seems to be brought to bear to have a good time, to eat and drink to excess and to buy presents galore. On top of that the unneeded extras such as Christmas crackers that are a waste of time and space on the table; I mean, who wears the silly paper hats anyway? Or keeps the rubbish plastic thing inside with the lame joke and what have you. I am so over that as my 13 year old daughter would colloquialise.

Six weeks of five kids at home means they will need airing from time to time and that costs money. You can only walk to the local park so often before even the dog says ’nuff! Going anywhere costs money, either for fuel and parking or train fares and often it is cheaper to drive and pay for parking than pay for seven train tickets. You have to be switched on and only travel on the Sunday Funday discount fare, pick free but fun destinations and take your own food and drink. It requires more thought, more planning and more preparation, in all, more effort and that is something we have been weaned off of in this day and age. Which is all thanks to those who make their money flogging all the effort saving stuff that costs so much. Sadly, too many have bought into the belief you need to spend ‘that much’, it is what things cost today and so on. You need to spend money otherwise you are depriving your kids.

Rubbish! Your kids want your time and your attention far more than a ride on a $2 roundabout or a new plastic made in China toy to add to the hundreds they already have littering their bedroom floor. Not so long ago people knew they were not rich and even not really middle class and they had values and standards and did the best they could with what they had and they had a fun time doing it. It wasn’t always easy but they survived and times got better but then we all fell for the advertising con, that we deserved to live the middle class lifestyle even if we had to go into debt to do it. In fact, we were failures if we didn’t have tons of credit.

We live credit card free and our only debt is out mortgage, the rest are expenses we can cut out as and when we need to. We are working class and proud of that, even though I have a Masters degree, we have a mortgage, private health insurance, own two old cars and a block of land in the country. We just don’t see the need to pretend we are what we aren’t, nor do we feel any shame in not being huge ‘successes’ with the big house, new cars and all the stress and worry of losing one or both incomes. My wife gets to stay home with the kids while they are young and once they are in school, she will work and her income will be a bonus we never had before, so we don’t plan to spend more like most but rather save it and make better use of the windfall.

Orwell wrote of the biggest fear of the middle class being that they would fall into the working class below them, but the reality was that they had nothing to lose ‘but their aitches’. In other words, the stress of trying to maintain a lifestyle because of peer pressure when the income didn’t allow it was phenomenal. The working class, on the other hand, were already down there and had nothing to lose, nowhere to go but up and thus none of the stress. Of course they had their own worries but in modern, 21st century Australia, we will neither starve nor want for medical care and we are very grateful for this. The worst that could happen is having to go to the Church Free Dinner Night on Wednesdays. That is a very well patronised charity project in my neighbourhood and lots of poor in our community avail of this generous and very Christian act. I know because when I drive past, the car park is always packed! How poor are we really if we can drive to the soup kitchens?



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