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Luis Jiménez y Aranda (1845-1928) - The Bibliophiles (1879)
"Maybe value's all in other peoples' heads, but not in mine."

It's tax season so I've been reassessing my SelfWorth. I'm unsure what currency to use to calculate this value, or even if I should employ currency at all, for I'm not now and never have been a money guy. I've never had a portfolio and The Muse has kept me well away from all household accounting since she watched me attempt to balance a checkbook decades ago. Two days of frantic effort left the result inconclusive, her appalled, and me exhausted. She claimed that she could have arrived at an indisputable outcome in a few minutes. I realized that I'd always reinvented my methodology every time I attempted to balance the books, imagining complicated schemas for creating whatever might constitute balance. However otherwise exemplary my university education might have once been, Accounting had been a definite low point, since none of it made any sense to me. I queried my professors, hoping that they might be able to explain the logic behind the much-revered Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and they told me something like, "Abandon all logic, ye who enter here," for the principles had been founded by general agreement, not logic. They quite literally made no sense and could only be conquered by rote memorization and practice, practice, practice. The university bookstore refused to repurchase my accounting texts at the end of the semester because their covers had accidentally come off due to my repeatedly throwing them against brick walls in lieu of pounding my head against them. Accounting remains a deep and uninteresting mystery to me.

But if I were to attempt to calculate my SelfWorth, what besides the unholy GAAP might I use?
I'm a sad excuse for a breadwinner, much more skilled at chasing off paying work than at attracting it. I'm the sort of practitioner who firmly believes that he should be giving away his best work, and this philosophy has generally held true throughout my careers. The last paying gig I had, I spent more time filling out qualifying paperwork than delivering service, and even then, I had to start the work 'on spec', as they say, before that voluminous paperwork had been properly approved, and completed my work before management deliberation agreed to accept my terms. The Accounts Payable people were apoplectic, leaving me threatening voicemails throughout my short tenure, complicating my delivery. I had to imagine that I was not actually performing that work for money in order to properly deliver it. The check came as more of a joke or an insult, several weeks after I'd completed the work to the delight of the participants.

I've found no shortage of prospective clients who would willingly accept my working for them for free, or for exposure, as they'd confide to me. Imagine how much free publicity I might gain from associating with their fine organization. I should probably be paying them for the opportunity. But I'm no longer a nineteen year old singer/songwriter desperate for exposure. My latest publicity campaign involved reducing my visibility so as to curtail the volume of emails I'd receive. My current idea of a perfect self-promotion campaign centers around the idea of absolute invisibility. I seek not notoriety. I've experienced that and found it severely wanting. Further, I have no 'skills' to speak of, no fancy degree or earth-shattering pedigree, and I'm basically satisfied to be me without aspiring to become better versions of the stock release. I seem to have a market value of something less than zero, measured at current exchange rates, so what's my SelfWorth? Priceless?

Psychologists and social workers push SelfWorth as if it were the hot new drug, a cure for danged near everything. Should one's esteem exceed some arbitrary rating, preconditions seem satisfied to take one's self for pretty much any ride one chooses. The sky's no limit! Fall beneath that threshold, though, and one might well damn them self to a life of indentured mediocrity, or so it seems. Aspiring rules as the goddess of that realm, dissatisfaction her handmaidens, worth calculated in potential realized or forsaken. Worth roughly equivalent to what you've taken. Given doesn't seem to be included in the calculus, for there's little market for it. In the free exchange of goods, given's not an option. It does nothing for the GDP or the trade deficit, for quarterly earnings or net asset values. Goods are for selling, not giving. Giving seems to produce bads, worth-wise.

I feel a pauper in practice. I feel baffled by the means by which upward mobility manifests. I once hired an investment advisor to clue me in. He proposed that I live a lifestyle I could not afford and be patient while compound interest worked for me. I immediately lost interest in his pipe-dream scheme and went on to simply try to do my best. I cannot attest that I've succeeded, for comparison hardly clarifies what constitutes best. It might have been better or considerably worse than my competitors, but since I have no competition, the resulting assessment amounts to null. And that's just where I go when I begin attempting to calculate my SelfWorth. Without a handy comparator, I cannot calculate value. I remain reasonably certain that the value lies in no known currency. It's not a money thing, but I know not what I bring instead. Maybe value's all in other peoples' heads, but not in mine, and I'm better off that way.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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