Your faithful servant, Almost Man

THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2009

Left to my own devices, I am good for a few things. I can make notes until the pen dries up, or edit material as if I have nine lifetimes to spend on it. I am also good at research. I can find dozens of PDFs from the most obscure sources, and it’s not like I just leave the documents in some dark corner of my hard drive and forget about them. I can thoroughly immerse myself in sorting out information and categorising it into different topics.

And before I know what’s going on, another five weeks have gone by. Whatever.

To make money on the Internet you are taught to do specific things in specific ways, and you should do them regularly enough, and enough of them. Does this make-money-on-the-Internet business actually work, or is it just a scam? Is it all just stories so-called Internet marketers spin to rob you of your hard earned cash in broad daylight?

In my experience, the possibility is real enough. The fact that I survived almost the whole of January – the fact that I could eat breakfast and dinner, buy toothpaste and tea and go to coffee shops with Natasja and even have a snack with my coffee, and that I could afford all the other items and activities that make one’s life ordinary – was due to a few dollars that I had made because I had done a few things in a particular way, and did it often enough at some point, and did enough of it.

(To be continued)

MONDAY, 30 MARCH 2009

Six weeks and four days later. (To be continued) was supposed to end with, “I need a manager because I am like a rock band that can write good music when they are left on their own, but the rock band needs a manager to get gigs and arrange transportation, and get the band at the airport or bus station or train station so they can go to some or other town, city or country to perform and make money.

(20 minutes later)

I feel like someone who is walking around with a secret, a personal secret that I have always feared would be discovered by someone else. Only difference is, I am burning to blurt out the secret myself.

Saturday afternoon I collapsed for a moment into the cane chair in the kitchen, thinking, “I should’ve rolled in the money by now considering everything I know, and everything that I have learned to do.”

The reason, I thought, why I am not yet rolling around in cash bills of various colours and denominations is because I am not able to sell myself. I can’t do it. Or, I can, but it chafes against me to such an extent that I will probably always subconsciously undermine the process.

What do I mean by “sell myself”? I mean looking at myself, my interests, my natural abilities, my acquired skills, and then looking at the open labour market to consider where and how I can offer my services for a fee; how I can place on the table my labour and the value it may have for any prospective buyer in the hope and expectation of reasonable compensation.

Now, that is in a way exactly what I did when I came to Northeast Asia – but because language centres in countries like Korea and Taiwan are so eager to hire educated Westerners almost at first sight, to install him or her in a classroom and pay them quite handsomely for their effort, I have never had to try very hard to sell myself. I was also fortunate enough in the past to be offered enough classes to fill up my schedule. There were a few instances when I responded to advertised offers of work – Korea 1996, and a school in Kaohsiung that had advertised in the local newspaper in the summer of 2001. All the other teaching jobs that I have had over the years were offered to me personally. I would usually receive a phone call from someone who got my number from someone else, and they would explain that they urgently needed an English teacher, preferably from a foreign country. My internal response was always, “Damn it! Why now?” But, I am a reasonable person. I know I need money, so in most cases I would start with the new job within a few days. And of course, after the first few weeks I would eagerly take ownership of the cash that would come my way as a reward for my labour, and for my free time that I had given up.

Some of the work that I have done over the years, and that I am still doing, is boring. Sometimes I think it is beneath me. But I do it, because of the compensation. And if my phone would ring at this very moment, with a voice on the other side offering me a job that I would think will be boring and possibly at times beneath me, I will most likely once again accept the job. Because I need the extra money. And because I am a reasonable man. I do sometimes think I am special, but not so special that I will spurn an opportunity to sell some of my time for some much-needed hard currency.

Willingness to do certain jobs is one thing. The problem is, I cannot bring myself to advertise myself. I am skilled in a few areas. There are individuals and businesses that can make a profit out of me, or make things more convenient for themselves, or improve their own situations by making use of my knowledge or labour. And they will compensate me adequately – if they only knew that my knowledge and my labour were available.

This brings me to the secret I carry within me, the secret that is burning to be shared with all for whom it will matter. I do not think I am going to improve my financial situation in the next few weeks. I do not think my financial situation is going to look much better in two or three months’ time. Perhaps by the end of June? July? September? December? Next year? 2011? I can keep throwing out numbers and months, hopeful that I would be able to do better than I have been doing until now by that month, or by the middle of another year. But my opinion will remain the same.

If I were feeling discouraged right now, or if I were being influenced by a state of mind that I would previously have associated with a Sunday night, or a Monday, or the month of March, I could write this note off as a result of emotion, and chuck it in with old telephone bills like a poorly written poem. The fact of the matter is, I am not discouraged, and I am not suffering from a lack of faith or enthusiasm. If I did not deem it necessary to write this note to myself at this very minute, I could have been working on any of a half dozen projects.

That I do not believe that my financial situation will improve over the next two to three decades is a calculated opinion. I believe it will remain exactly as it is right now, until some or other crisis throws the story on its head. Then I’ll kick and scream and plead and cajole just to have it as good again as I have it now. Because better it is not going to get.

Must it necessarily be so?

The temptation is there to say: Yes. Brand Smit has done his best. He has reached the end of his natural talents. It is like driving on the open road and then you get to a point where the road simply ends, in the middle of nowhere. Or it is like someone asking you in Kazakh to answer a complex scientific question. All you can do is smile awkwardly, because the question is in a language you do not speak – and even if you could speak broken Kazakh, you wouldn’t know how to answer the question because you don’t know enough science. In short, checkmate.

But then, the faint, sometimes annoying voice of reason: Is it checkmate? Why is it checkmate? What can be done to avert the impending crisis? Can anything be done to avert the impending crisis?

1. The crisis would have been given a fatal shot a long time ago if I had only known myself better. (And I hear the author of “Personal Agenda” choke on his popcorn and tea.)

2. There would not be a crisis if I could work with other people – no, if I could approach other people and persuade them to work with me.

3. The crisis feeds on itself. If I did not have to change my focus every now and then to something that could make money “quicker”, I could have made more money a long time ago. Or maybe not – but it’s possible.

4. I am probably going to stay poor for the rest of my life, and forever be known to myself and others as Almost Man. Years from now I will say, “If only I …” – which will give me the alternative title of, If Only I Man, which may come in handy when Almost Man gets boring.

———–

Enough funny business. Fact is, I am going to stay poor until I can make more money than I currently do, and more often than is now the case. There are other ways I can express this, but it has always come down to the same thing.

Poor, until then
Your faithful servant
Almost Man

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