Friday, December 3, 2010

Rat race.

I wish I'd done a lot less homework when I was a kid. I'm glad I went to school--knowledge is both practical and wonderful and I wouldn't have just learned it all on my own--and I know that some homework was necessary to drill the knowledge in. But there's also huge amounts of work that I did just to get a grade. Either I already knew the material cold, or I did the homework without genuinely learning--often not out of apathy but out of a fear that if I challenged myself I would miss a deadline or get wrong answers, so doing problems by rote or writing papers on topics I already knew was safer for my grade. I wish that I'd used school to learn things I wanted or needed to know, instead of letting it push me into an arrangement of trading gruntwork for grades.

This is my roundabout way of saying that I hate my job and want to quit. I won't, because I don't have another income source lined up right now, but I want to. Ever since I was sick myself, I can't stop seeing the fact that I'm not working for the patients--I'm working for a monstrously ugly and dim-witted system that treats patients as cogs at best and obstacles at worst. We end up more concerned with shutting people up than with comforting them, better at filling out forms than at relieving pain, more motivated to clear beds than to fix problems. It's not something I want to be a part of any more. Especially since I'm a cogstacle myself--I don't fit into the workplace culture at all and the requirement to constantly work harder not smarter showcases my worst qualities and makes me look mediocre among people who read Twilight unironically. I'm bright and responsible, dammit, I'm just not motivated to spend my downtime washing things that are already clean so the boss doesn't see me sitting down.

Saying you're so super smart doesn't mean much if you are nothing more than a mediocre night tech, though. Going on about "brain the size of a planet, and here I am emptying bedpans" is just entitlement and arrogance if I don't find my own way to stop emptying bedpans. So my next project is to find a way to make money without being a cogstacle. (This doesn't mean I wouldn't be an employee, only that I wouldn't be an employee somewhere that's only hiring me because robots are expensive.) I don't particularly care how much money as long as I can pay my basic bills; I do care that my answer isn't "be a cogstacle somewhere marginally nicer."

The problem is that I don't have a lot of prerequisites for a "brain the size of a planet" job--no advanced or specialized education, decidedly unslick people skills, no business or financial expertise, a messy and unimpressive resume, and the only thing I'm worse at than looking "sexy" is looking "professional." (I have a sneaking suspicion that if I could fit into a suit without looking like a kid in Mom's clothes and say phrases like "proactive teamwork on the development taskforce" with total sincerity, I could make $50K without trying. But alas, I am peasanty of face and sardonic of manner.)

What have I got? A bachelor's degree in film (and rhetoric! ask me about Quintillian's canons of oratory, kids!), above-average writing skills, computer competence but not expertise, specialized knowledge in the fields of human biology, filmmaking, and sexuality, a tremendous amount of creative enthusiasm, the ability to pick up new skills really fast, tons of connections in the kink and sex-positive worlds, and a not completely broken work ethic.

Wow does that all lead up to one thing when I lay it out like that.

I should get me one of them home businesses with the cosmetics and hosting the little cosmetics parties.

I know it sounds like I spelled out "porn," and maybe I kinda did, but I was actually thinking more like "sex toy business." The idea is far less than half-formed, and the competition is certainly fierce and well-established, but I feel like I could actually do something new with the "sell things for people to touch their genitals with" concept. I'm most interested in showcasing unique and unusual toys, with providing a lot of information on the products, with making things previously only available from obscure kink artisans more available, and with trying to appeal to people's sex-nerd "oh I gotta try that" enthusiasm rather than their crotches.

It's a "also I'll have a pony" dream at this point, and I've had a lot of those that didn't pan out. Also a lot that did. It's worth working on.

Welp, off to go empty bedpans.


  1. I want to say, good luck, it had not being a cogstacle is a hard but rewarding goal. Given your list of skills, I was seeing more sexuality educator, but then I have no idea if their is any support for that where you are.

  2. Actually, the cosmetics sales from home has metamorphosed and everyone I know who used to sell Avon is now throwing Passion Parties and selling kinky sex toys. I'm just sayin'.

  3. You also have the ability to start something and stick with it, as this blog shows. Plus you care about things. You can't train people in that. As an entrepreneur from a family of entrepreneurs, I think you have what it takes, at least as far as talent and spirit go. The rest is skill and resources, which you can get.

    My big tip for budding entrepreneurs and freelancers is to not quit the day job until your real thing gets so big you can't keep doing both. Getting to the "ramen profitable" level often takes longer than people expect. And like the prisoner digging a tunnel with a spoon, knowing you're preparing your escape makes the bullshit easier to bear.

    Good luck!

  4. I also think you sound very qualified to be a proofreader or editor of some sort, if you wanted to explore other avenues.

  5. ...would it make you feel bad if I said this makes me feel a lot better about my low-paid office-grunt job?

    Seriously, I'm pretty familiar with the whole idea of being a smart person with no marketable skills. I think you've got a much better chance of making a living doing something you enjoy, though, so good luck.


  6. (suddenly feels a lot worse about her plan to double-major in Sociology and Classics)

    (realizes she would probably be underqualified for the bedpan-emptying job)


  7. I thought you were going to say "graduate school!"

    It's disconcerting how close to "porn" that might be....

  8. Ozymandias, I entered college unsure whether I wanted to major in Computer Science or Fine Art. I took a look at the job opportunities available in each field and have never regretted the CS choice.

  9. Holly, good luck with finding a better way.

    Here's a thought. The market for men buying toys for women is both huge and totally saturated. The market for women buying toys for themselves is large and fairly well-served recently. The market for men buying toys for themselves is enormously smaller than you'd expect with how much we masturbate and buy toys for women. The market for women buying toys for men is almost totally potential rather than actual.

    I would certainly feel much happier about a toy if a woman bought it for me. I also think men would buy a lot more once they get the idea that women don't consider it gross and creepy.

  10. Cheshire - Is "sexuality educator" a real job? I'm not qualified to offer counseling or teach children, and it seems like that doesn't leave a lot of opportunities for paying the rent.

    Anon - I'm concerned that "Passion Parties" are, like other party-based businesses, kind of sketchy in that the wholesale prices are too high and the providing company too controlling.

    Ozymandias - You won't get a job directly from majoring in Classics, but on the other hand, if you major in Accounting, you may never get the experience of really deeply studying the classics. Financially that's frivolous, but in terms of "life is finite and this is something I want to do with it," it may be your chance.

    Mousie - To be excessively idealistic, I'd like to market my site at people buying toys for people. It ain't gonna be pink or have pornstars on it.

  11. Porn! But I hope you'll keep writing regardless.

  12. Holly, I was thinking more along the lines of a category with a site than a whole site.

    I guess my suggestion falls short of an ideal, but I'm not really sure which one or how.

    I kind of get the idea, I see where there could be a big improvement made by selling toys categorized by design for use with a penis, a vagina, an ass without a prostate, an ass with one, etc. rather than for men or women.

    Would you mind explaining it more? Does a gender-specific site like fall short, or only when items are aimed at purchase for one gender by another? That always seemed pretty inoffensive to me except when the purchaser gets it wrong.

  13. I feel for you. I'm actually in the same boat. I have a MA in English that I'm doing almost nothing with. I would drop my job in a minute if I could only somehow make writing my career. And I, too, have considered starting some type of sex toy business. It's part of why I'm working the blog right now as I figure out an angle.

    Oh, and as you well know, the job that keeps us just over broke does a fine job of stifling our ability to seek our dreams.

  14. @Ozymandias: Never feel bad about wanting to study something you love. But your plan should also include some notion about how you're going to create enough value for other people that they'll pay you enough to get by.

    A classics major as an undergrad will get you maybe 2,000 hours spent on the classics over 4 years. Graduated, that leaves you with circa another 50 years. If you also end up with the skills for a decent job, modest living and good boundary-setting means you can easily spend 10 hours a week on the classics, or anything else you love, giving you another 25,000 hours.

    E.g., one friend is an editor for money, but writes in her spare time; her second novel will be published soon. Another does ads during the day; nights and weekends she writes about comics and pop culture.

  15. Sexuality educator is a job. Organizations like Planned Parenthood will often have an educational wing that goes out and puts on events at schools to teach people about safe sex and the like. It sounds like you could be good at that.
    These organizations also have political advocacy wings. Given your awesome social life, I don't know if you're up for the long hours and frustration advocacy work entails but you could work to improve sex education or to change all of those problems you are seeing and hating at the hospital.
    On the other hand, selling sex toys would also be pretty great. After all, the best stores have product reviews and it would only be good business to try out as many products as possible.

  16. Ozymandias, I have a friend who double majored in archaeology and buisness-- she's making the first her career, but I don't think she regrets the classes she took for buisiness/backup. If you doubled one of your more abstract majors with something that's practical but that you also don't hate, it could give you more options after graduation. (I only majored in the practical, and I kind of regret not finding a better compromise).

  17. Oh man... I am so right there with you. I got my BA five years ago, and since then I've worked four or five different jobs that all have my co-workers saying, "You have a college degree? Why are you working this job?" Although I also did a stint working in a hospital, and it was a great education.

    I'm getting ready for grad school now, getting a degree in sex education. My impression is that people who go down this path kind of carve out their own career... it's not the kind of thing where you have a clear set of "jobs I can apply to with these credentials."

    I am eminently qualified to teach children, and I'll probably do something like that, but with your interest areas, I could see a really interesting intersection of a sex-toy-selling-community-education business. Like maybe a store that sells toys, but also does adult classes. I don't remember if it was you or another kinky blogger (sorry!) who wrote a while back about going to a body play workshop and thinking, "Mostly-vanilla adults could benefit from stuff like this too, increasing their range of sexual possibilities and suchlike."

    I am full of ideas here, but anyway, good luck! I love your writing, and I think there's a lot of potential things you can do, as long as you're willing to strike out on your own a little bit (and live on eggs and potatoes). If you're interested in pursuing the "sex education degree," the AASECT website has a good little overview of the options here:

  18. It's like porn lite. The clips are quick and easy to make and you get paid right away. Quit your job next week.

  19. Have you considered putting ads on your blog? Like, say, from sex toy companies, local sellers, etc? You have done product reviews...

  20. Have you ever considered library and information science? It's what I do and I love it, and I know you are not me but it's a thought. Working in a library feels pretty damn good.

  21. I went to a Passion Party once and found it *creepily* vanilla -- for instance, the only mention of anal anything was some awful numbing lube. I'd love to see a Pervocracy-style sex toy party!

    Also, events like Dark Odyssey Winter Fire have all these workshops and presentations; no idea what they pay but they are really fun to attend, and a sex toy presentation like you describe is one I'd surely sign up for.


  22. Ozymandias, in my understanding, an undergrad education isn't intended to be vocational training. It's intended to give a person a well-rounded education, make them generally informed and able to understand/generate ideas -- and, less officially, give you that ineffable "person who went to college" demeanor. People who criticize humanities majors as useless are off base. MOST majors aren't intended to prepare you for a particular job. A biology major doesn't qualify you to be a biologist -- you need a Ph.D. for that. For jobs that require a BA, an employer often won't care what you majored in, although s/he may care about your ability to maintain a reasonable GPA and finish in around 4 years. Short version, don't study something boring just because you think it equals guaranteed job.

    Holly -- if your main goal is to get away from the "work harder, not smarter" culture, you might consider looking for a job at a college or university. Of course, I have no idea what kind of job -- but in my experience, jobs on campus tend to offer better treatment for smart people who don't have degrees and fancy qualifications. The culture there values intelligence and creativity, not blind rule-following, & you'd likely end up working with interesting, open-minded people. Right now I'm working for a Women's and Gender Studies department while I finish up my degree, & the work environment there is *so* much less soul-crushing (for me, our administrative ass't., probably everybody) than the equivalent job in a corporate office would be.

    Which is not to say that you shouldn't become a sex toy guru, but it's something to consider if you want to get out of your job ASAP.

  23. Emily makes a good point. When I was working in IT at a university, it was actually a pretty fantastic experience; not only was the workplace very relaxed, but I was not only encouraged but expected to work on genuinely awesome projects on company time. :)

  24. Is this the curse of our generation? Sometimes it seems like it... You need a bachelor's degree to get even a crap job, and we don't have the freedom (in terms of time or money)to take a risk and pursue other avenues. It seems to me that my parents generation had a lot more options. I'd like to have a go at actually making money through my writing, but I can't afford that kind of a time commitment; I've gotta pay the rent, and the way to do that is to keep plugging away at my crap job, which sucks down 90% of my time and energy. Unfortunately, we can't all work for universities. Good luck with the sex toy thing... it sounds to me like something you'd be good at.

  25. As someone who has "changed horses midstream" a couple of time, as it were, your dilemma/brainstorming/pre-contemplation sounds very very familiar :) It's a necessary (and uncomfortable) step on the way to something bigger and better. Eventually all that percolation and awareness and seeking means that you'll converge on some possibilities AND some opportunities will magically appear (b/c you're actively looking for/attuned to them...kind of like when you get a new-to-you car and suddenly you realize that so many other people drive the SAME one!). It sounds like you have the smarts, self-awareness, and big ideas to move on up and I'd be willing to bet that 5 years from now, you'll be doing something awesome.

    I'll also 2nd (3rd? 4th?) the recommendation for working in a university/academic environment for the flexibility, less soul-sucked corporatism (although this also depends on the administration), and the fact that in academia it's almost expected that everyone is a little bit (to a lot) eccentric and your personal quirks/oddities/habits are just one more color in the kaleidoscope (vs. conforming to the average bland cog in the machine). If you are employed at a university/college, there is usually a tuition waiver benefit where you can take classes for free or greatly reduced rates, which lets you prepare for another direction while still working and paying the bills.

    Also, if you do decide that you need another credential to do whatever is next on the horizon, many graduate programs are looking for people with your exact self-description of your strengths. Admission to grad school is much much different than admission to undergrad, and grad admission committees have realized that those kids right out of undergrad with the perfect GPAs and GRE scores and pure performance according to learning how to work in the system instead of actually 'learning' don't do as well as expected in grad school where suddenly you are expected to be an independent learner/thinker who can envision and carry out large projects with very little guidance and not a lot of feedback/rewards/pats on the back along the way, where grades don't matter any more and being a truly creative and hard-working individual thinker beats being a 'good little student'.

    Best of's a wild ride but worth it! :)

  26. Sex toys + sexual education is totally doable! And it just so happens, here in Toronto, we have a store that's been doing just that for the past 20 years called Good For Her. As you can tell by the name it's geared toward women, and gender-ambiguous peoples. They have classes of all kinds from Kink 101 to How to have a G-spot orgasm. There's a reason it's been in business for the past twenty years and now has like 5-10 employees. There is most definitely a market for sex toy sellers that are friendly, not creepy, and not all porn stars or pink sparkles. Also, the added value of having someone selling the toys that knows about them, knows what they are good for or not good for, and can help people achieve orgasm, is really important. That would be why I've spent all of my sex toy budget there this year.

    Also, have you considered working this, or another blog and trying to make that a paying gig?

  27. Have you ever thought about going to nursing school? It might not seem all that different from what you are doing now, but there are so many options for types of nursing, and I think the pay is better than EMT. You could also get your master's and become a women's health NP or something of that nature and work in a setting that would utilize your sex knowledge and that skill set. There are second degree nursing programs for people who already have one bachelor's degree, and you can finish pretty quickly. That's what I did. My first degree was in religious studies and philosophy. I have been a nurse for 7 years, and I love it. I am a psychiatric nurse, so I don't have to deal with a lot of bedpans, etc. Just something to consider!

  28. This is a long time later, I know, but just in case: have you considered technical writing? You have all the skills, and it pays fairly well.