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125 Life-Changing Dollars
Thank you, Katherine
About a month ago, I woke up in a little house perched on a hill flanked by the jagged amphitheater of the Colorado Rockies. I got out of bed with the intention of stepping out into the mountain air and soaking myself in its oxygen-deprived splendor. But I didn’t make it to the door. Something on my phone caught my eye, something more beautiful than the sprawl of alpine artistry outside the window.
I have received my share of heart-stopping emails. An invitation to present my research at the Dallas Federal Reserve; the news that the owners of Wallaroo had chosen to sell me their business; a multi-million dollar offer from a Nigerian prince. But the email I saw when I glanced at the little glass rectangle on that mountain morning sparked a feeling that was entirely foreign.
“New Paid Subscriber to A Questionable Life!”
At first I thought this was the same subject line I’ve been lucky enough to read a few times before (“New Free Subscriber to A Questionable Life!”). My monkey brain prefers to read as few words as possible before determining their meaning, and this time was no exception. But it struck me that something was different about this particular email.
An orb of blissful warmth formed in my heart and was pumped through my arteries to every inch of my body, passing through all my vital organs, swaddling my synapses, scaffolding my soul. I basked in this glow for a moment before my prefrontal cortex stepped in to break up the party.
It’s probably Mom. Or Dad. Or a friend. Someone who saw that you turned on paid subscriptions and wanted to show their support by paying $5 for a month.
Having sufficiently smothered my expectations, I tapped on the notification. It was still a nice gesture. I wondered who I needed to thank.
Okay, that’s not Mom. And it’s definitely not Dad, because Katherine is a woman’s name. It must be a friend; I know quite a few Katherines. Hm. I don’t recognize that last name, though. Holy shit. It’s someone I don’t know. Hold on, that’s not a monthly membership. Um. Annual, founding membership?! $125?!
The orb returned. Warmth, everywhere, from my toes to the curmudgeonly prefrontal cortex. Bliss. Blanketing my being. I think I let out a little shriek.
I’ve had a few significant financial windfalls in the past. When I worked in sales at a data analytics software company, there was a whale of a deal I worked on for over a year with a contract value north of $1 million. I closed the deal but left the company before the commission check was issued, which led to a monthslong saga of emails to former bosses and finance departments and lawyers trying to recoup the money I had earned. The mix of jubilation and self-righteousness when that $60,000 finally hit my bank account was electric.
But that was nothing compared to what this $125 did.
To have someone I’ve never met pay for these words, these ramblings, these existential explorations that I spend an inordinate amount of my waking hours crafting, refining, inhabiting, for no other reason than that I feel like I have to—to have someone lay the first brick of a house that had long lived in my imagination, provide a glimpse into a world I dreamed about but didn’t believe existed, a world in which the things I create provide some kind of tangible value—this, for a guy who graduated college and decided to go be an “investment analyst”, is quite special.
“What the hell was that noise you just made?” my girlfriend asked.
“I just got my first paid subscriber. $125. We can retire now.”
As much as I tried to downplay it, the shit-eating grin on my face as I walked through the door into that mountain air said it all.
And yes: this piece is mostly a ploy to get you to pay me to write.