Reward and Punishment

by Elana Roth Parker in ,


**Disclaimer: This post is going on my personal site for a reason. It's my personal site, so I get to say personal things. Sorry if it hits anyone the wrong way.** 

I have three jobs. I'm a literary agent, a teacher, and a web geek.

I have these three jobs for multiple reasons. The biggest right now is because of necessity. I live in New York City. Rent is horrible. And the job that I was treating as my primary job, that is literary agenting, takes many years to build up into an income you can live off of. So I need some hourly money for other tasks to make sure I can feed myself.

But I also have three jobs because I have a lot of things I'm interested in. The first is easy. I love books, and that's where my career started. Putting great books in the hands of kids is..well, pretty great. The second follows suit, because if I like creating content for kids, it's not such a stretch to think that hanging out with kids a few hours a week would be fun too. The third started as half-hobby, half-necessity. My agency needed a website, so I learned how to do them. And then I started to love that too, and now I help other people figure out how to use their websites. 

And doing lots of different things keeps me from getting bored. I can keep up my interests in design AND words AND infantile humor on a daily basis.

Yet, how these jobs all pay couldn't be more different. The first is commission, so in theory the harder I work, the more I get paid. (This turns out to be a big joke.) The other two are hourly, but the rates are so different, given the nature of the work.

More interesting though is how rewarding these jobs are couldn't be more different. Especially how my perception of that reward has changed in just the last few weeks. It's kind of easy to glorify the reward of the first two jobs. (Books! Children! Making dreams come true!) I mean, they always say that as long as what you're doing makes you happy, you're okay. You can get paid all the money in the world, but if the job sucks, it can make you miserable.

That's true. But you know what? It feels good to be paid for hours spent. I've been thinking a lot more about the agenting, and how that pays me. It turns out that the more hours I put in on the other jobs, earning actual money on an hourly basis, I realize that it's not always enough to love the books. Because it's not just books: you have to deal with people. And with people come emotions, behavior, and often quite a bit of nonsense. (This is not true of every author all the time, or even most of them most of the time. Usually it's just some of them, some of the time.) Nevertheless, the chance that I *might* make some money off that book in the long run can't always mitigate the irritation and pain people can cause you along the way. No matter how much you love their book. 

Sadly, I've started to get bitter lately at how many hours I put in for something I should love, that I've barely seen a dime on, when the people I'm doing it for can make it so difficult. I have felt more under-appreciated and exploited recently than at many other points in my life. Why am I doing this? Isn't it just better to get paid and go home? How far is that love supposed to take me?

Lord help me, I don't know. Disillusionment comes and disillusionment goes. Today my heart hurts as much as my wallet. I guess it will just have to shake out which job gives me the best of all those outcomes.

Let the best job win. And someone give me a cookie.