Friday, September 15, 2006

the lure of the dark side

One of my daily routines is checking several online job-hunting sites for suitable freelance opportunities -- it's easy in Firefox, I have a "job search" folder that I open in tabs, and I scan any new jobs that have been posted since I last checked. One site I particularly like is, which has tools for slicing and dicing the search results in different ways.

Generally I search for writing jobs, or I just look in the "writing/editing" section of the site. Even though I have 15 years of experience in software applications development, I don't look at the software jobs. I have said, as recently as this week, that no one could pay me enough to get back into that world of socially dysfunctional types who still order their personal lives along the lines we all used in junior high school.

For some reason, I clicked on the "development" link in SheKnows and saw an ad for Visual Basic programmer, contract basis, paying $35-$40 per hour.

Now that is a boatload of money. Of course I haven't worked in VB for many years, but that language is a piece of cake. I'm thinking, Hmmmm, maybe I could take a refresher course in VB and then get a part-time contract, maybe that wouldn't be so bad, and I'd be making really good money..."


I love, love, love working with the kids at school. But the reality is, if I work as a substitute, I'd earn at most $100/day, clearing significantly less than that after taxes. If I got a job as a part-time teacher's aide, I'd probably make on the order of $10-12K per year. Frankly, that's pathetic. To make the jump to full-fledged teacher, I'd have to spend at least a year and significant money to get my teacher's certification and/or education degree. And being a teacher myself, I wouldn't have any flexibility at all: the school determines the work schedule, whether or not the kids get sick. I don't think that's a viable option for now. Elementary school children will reliably get stay-at-home-for-a-week sick at least a couple of times per year.

Way back when, I enjoyed writing code. But I found that writing code depleted my creative energies. When I did it full time, I had nothing left over for writing or cooking or anything else, really. Clearly I couldn't do that again. I'd only want to work at most 20 hours a week, and I want flexibility to be a regular presence in the kids' classrooms, and to go on field trips and stuff like that. The thing is, I think there may be jobs out there like this. I obviously won't take a job that doesn't work for me, no matter how good the money is.

These aren't the only two choices, obviously. I have a significant body of writing that needs organization and publication, but I'm cowed by the sheer volume of it all. I'm afraid to even start it because before I even begin, I'm already in the weeds, and having a hard time seeing my way out. I know if I made plan, it would help, but I don't even have the motivation to do that, mostly because my confidence in my work is at an ebb right now, so I'm thinking, what's the point?

Anyway, the thought of making really good money doing something it's possible to enjoy is appealing. The money would definitely help the family, it would be wonderful to pay off the mortgage a little more quickly, or put in those hardwood floors we'd like. But I know in the long run that the only contribution I'm making when I'm writing code is economic, and I've already felt how much more satisfying it is to do something that directly and positively impacts others. How do I weigh the benefits to my family against the benefits to all the children I can help at school? Yes, my family is more important to me, and there's no pressure on me to bring in any money at all... but there's a moral component to this question that I need to mull.

The Dark Side is calling... but I haven't decided whether or not I'll even pick up the phone.

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