The Best $4 I Ever Earned

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There are so many things I’m learning on my path to financial independence — one of those is that sudden recognition that I have no idea what I want to do with my time when I am no longer beholden to The Grind. I know I will always want to keep working to a limited extent, but I don’t have a “dream” job in mind. Ihave a lot of hobbies I enjoy doing, but nothing that really grabs me as something I’d want to do even close to full time or would be capable of doing as a means of income production.

In the dual interests of figuring out what I might want to do with more time on my hands and making the most of my current situation, I’ve been trying to pursue more creative endeavors this year and have generally been doing a pretty good job of that — from writing this blog, to refurbishing my basement, to making lots of art, to maybe finally, eventually, really for reals opening that Etsy shop I’ve been talking about for so long. 

I’ve also been taking improv theater classes for the last two years — a complete surprise to me and anyone who knows me. I am decidedly NOT the theater type. I do much better with words and pictures than stages and voices! But a colleague friend of mine in New York suggested improv as a great way to build my confidence and skills around public speaking and thinking on my feet — important skills for my current job, not to mention operating as a functioning adult in general.

I challenged myself to sign up for Improv 101 and promised that I only had to show up for Just The First Class. I was terrified, but I went. And I absolutely loved it. Most folks in the class were just like me — shy, nervous, and challenging themselves to be there because someone told them it was good for them. I more comfortable than I would have thought possible and had so much fun that I kept going back … for two and half years!

I’ve now taken all the classes offered and, while I don’t see myself being the next Tina Fey, I’m excited about it enough that I decided to sign up for volunteering at the theater — ushering, running concessions, cleaning up spilt popcorn. I thought this would be a great way to stay connected to the community while getting to occasionally see a show for free.

But wait! Lo and behold, I signed up and showed up and was told that volunteers don’t just get free admission to the show they were volunteering for, they get free admission to ALL shows, plus free admission for a friend to all those shows, plus discounts at concessions at every show, plus $10 off classes and workshops for every shift worked, plus a share of concession tips at the end of the shift. WHAT!

So it turned out that I spent three hours doing something I love, hanging out with cool people, watching a fun show, and at the end of the night I walked out the door with $4 in my pocket as my share of the evening’s tips. Three weeks ago I would have paid more than $20 for that experience, minus the popcorn-sweeping at the end of the night. By my very accurate math, I made $25 for approximately 10 minutes of work. That works out to $150/hour and significantly more than I make at my real job now!

Of course, I recognize I can’t live on the more accurate math of $4 for three hours’ work, but it was pretty darn awesome to recognize that I can get paid do to something I truly love. With no expectation of any money or benefits at all other than the joy of three hours spent volunteering, I left the theater feeling like I’d won the freaking lottery. Life-wise, I think I have … while improv won’t solve my what-should-I-do-with-myself-when-I’m-rich woes, it was a great wakeup call that there are in fact real, honest-to-goodness ways to get paid to do what you love. Who knew?!

 

 

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