I just spent $40 to replace a broken leather watchband that took 10 minutes to put on. $27 for a thin piece of plastic to cover my phone— 5 minutes labor. $300 for 25 minutes of labor to unclog the toilet.
Yet when I subbed at school recently, working with 24 Middle School kids and hoping to lead them to a more musical, fun and cooperative version of themselves, I was paid $25 an hour. An hour’s labor and not even enough for that thin piece of plastic.
In Spain, I worked three hours to unclog the stuck plumbing of people’s adult selves, get their energy flowing and their playful child smiling again. And got paid around the same as the plumber who worked for 25 minutes.
“Well,” you might say, “you always crowing about how much you love your work and how much fun it is while most of us are ground down by jobs that we’d rather not have. Stop complaining!” You have a point. But not much of one. The training I’ve undergone to be able to do what I do, the astronomic number of classes with kids (some 40,000?), the incalculable hours spent reading, writing, learning instruments, practicing instruments, going to workshops and Conferences, investigating dozens of musical styles and dances and myths and folk tales, at the top of my game in terms of mastery in my field— and still getting paid $25 an hour to sub like some kid out of college? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
And yes, some of it is my fault because it is fun and I’ve made enough money to afford to be generous with my time and I’m still somewhat averse to heavy capitalist monetizing. I know my worth and my work's worth is not reducible to numbers. But when I get my phone screen changed and watch band replaced, I just have to wonder.
So there. I have. Now off to a Conference where I’m paying for the flight and hotel and food and as a Distinguished Service Award Recipient, I don’t have to pay registration. But still those others add up considering I’m not looking for new material for Monday’s classes or hoping someone sees my work (I’m not teaching at this Conference) and invites me to give a workshop later on.
And yet. It will be fun. I’m happier to do this work I love and get paid a pittance than get paid a lot for something I dislike that does nothing to raise the bar of joy. But why not both together?