“I have no job, no money, no prospects,” wrote Henry Miller in his autobiographical novel, Tropic of Cancer. “I am the happiest man in the world.”
Of course, the world was a bit different when those words were committed to paper. Henry Miller led a lusty expatriate life in Paris, in the 1920s and ‘30s. His days (and nights) were spent in colorful cafes, raucous bistros and racy brothels, not wandering the streets searching for a job or a handout. Honing his literary skills, Miller enjoyed the company of other rising stars in the arts who’d taken up residence in France.
Whether it’s making money or handling it, I qualify as a full-fledged incompetent. Unlike Mr. Miller, I can hardly call myself “happy.” But like him, I’m not terribly distressed about this particular form of incompetence, either. All told, I’m quite content with my financial life. My dissatisfactions with life rarely stem from economic woes of any sort.
On the other hand, for a person who’s never cared much about money, at least not in recent decades, I’ve sure spent a lot of time and energy worrying about it, lamenting its absence, fretting about where my next dollar was coming from. That’s an inevitable drawback to the freelance life, where a steady income is something that other people get.
Freelancers can do well one year, fall apart financially the next, and revive again in the next season. Or, those dismal years of few and unrewarding assignments can linger on and on, depending on what’s happening out in the business world. And on pure chance.
Though worrying about money puts me in league with most Americans, I differ from the majority in one crucial way: Unlike practically everyone in the universe, it seems, there’s nothing I want. Nothing that can be bought with money, at any rate. In that respect, at least, I’m vastly more content than 99 percent of Americans, who seem to be constantly searching for ways to bring in more bucks. Not to mention the wealthy 1-percent, most of whom never seem satisfied with the largesse they already possess.
Evidently, money worries have never been an uncommon phenomenon. Even the prolific ancestor of communism, Karl Marx, spent much of his lifetime fretting about money and debt.
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