When I was sixteen years old, there was a convenience store around the corner from my house that I went to almost every day for treats and snacks to share with my baby sister. The manager of the store liked us and offered the opportunity for me to work there for a couple of hours a day after school if I wanted to.
Of course, I did! It was an adorable store, I knew the neighbors well enough to know I wouldn’t have any problems, and it meant having my own money. Bonus! I didn’t much like having to ask my mother for money. She preferred to get things for me and she loved shopping for just the right items. But, I wanted to show initiative. I wanted to carve out a taste of independence.
But, alas, it was not to be. As soon as my mother was informed of the offer she immediately vetoed it for no other reason other than the infamous, “Because I said no.” I didn’t understand it. I would have thought she’d welcome the opportunity to not only allow me to grow as a young lady, but also to free up her purse strings. I can’t say that her denial stopped very much, though. True, I wasn’t able to work at the store, but the fire had already been lit in me to have something of my own and I was determined to find a way to do just that. I wanted to be my own person. I wanted some control.
I will likely never tell my sainted mother this, but an entrepreneurial spirit took hold and I figured out an ideal way to make a little side cash without even leaving the house and in a way that would make me look very busy to my mother and not arouse any suspicions. Things were a lot different when I was a teenager compared to how things are now. Teens didn’t have ready access to sordid things…so Entrepreneurial Me was able to capitalize by writing custom-made erotic short stories for classmates, at a range of $0.75-3.00. For a mere $0.75 all I needed to know were the names of the couple involved (usually a classmate and the classmate’s crush), the buyer’s favorite color, and three of the buyer’s favorite songs.
See? Even then it was all about music.
The price went up according to any other details, design, and activities. If I have to explain to you what I mean by details and activities, you may need to get out more. Design consisted of the hand-drawn calligraphic font on the title page (I took calligraphy classes so I was pretty good at it), and colorful designs within the margins. Lacking a word processor (which is what they were called at the time), all of the stories were written in longhand.
They were a hit. My Junior and Senior years of high school were partly funded by my classmates, who loved what I wrote and were often repeat customers. It was a common thing for teenagers to change partners so the combinations were endless. During the school year, one person might end up requesting 3-4 different stories.
Now, it might not seem like I made much money from this, but you’re wrong. I was friends with quite a few students in my class, and word of mouth spread to other classes. It’s a wonder I had time to get actual homework done while I was earning $30 or so a week with my torrid tales – a good sum for that time. It was the pricing model, you see. Sure, I offered a basic love story for $0.75, but who really wanted that when they could get to the good stuff for $3.00?
I would sometimes pick my sister up from the babysitter and whisk her away to Pizza Hut for lunch, or to Wendy’s for the buffet (back when they had one) with my ill-gotten gains. Our favorite treat, though, came from the very convenience store in which I wasn’t allowed to work. They had amazing burgers, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to order a regular cheeseburger for her, a double
I loved having my own money. The thrill of not having to ask has never left me, and that creative “hustle” is something that drives me to this day. It’s what helped me to write and publish Duality while working full-time hours in addition to part of the busiest season of the year. It still drives me now.
Do I get tired? Absolutely. It would be nearly impossible to do everything that I do and not experience bouts of fatigue. I’d love to just write all day and make a good living doing so, and that is within reach with continued hard work and dedication. My desire for independence, seasoned with the hustler inside me, is steering me toward that end.
I actually still have one of the short stories I wrote from back then. It was one that was ordered by a classmate, but I ended up liking it so much that I kept it and gave him another. I consider it a souvenir; a memento of the time I realized I didn’t have to wait for someone else to give me what I could easily get for myself. I can’t help but smile.