It starts with an email. Then there is a phone call. You might get some training on their system. There are some guidelines. You print out a contract and some tax forms, sign them, and email them back to sender. You write your first post. Maybe there is some feedback. Maybe you just keep logging on, doing what you were told, and you never hear from anyone. Your inbox may be full of jokes and community. Your comments may be full of hate and ignorance. You hope there is a check, and you hope they keep coming.
Other sites like what you do. They want your name, your talent, and your Klout score. They offer you various levels of pay and flexibility. The money is never good, but sometimes it is just enough. At some point you are able to cut the strings to a day job you have always hated and you spend the next five years working from home, writing for a living, and loving your children for stretches of time that you never knew existed. This is your benefits package, and it is everything you need but medical.
It could be you are in a new town and your wife has a new job. This is the fresh start you always read about. You might be staying with friends while you are trying to find the perfect home. There are big plans and family dreams and finally, it is the time to seize them. Everything could be coming up roses. Everything could smell just as sweet. But everything is full of thorns, and pretty flowers tend to mask the dangers lurking underneath.
Perhaps you are standing barefoot in the cool grass of your friend’s yard, holding a phone to your ear and straining to hear the words that are changing your life forever. Perhaps it is the third straw in as many months, and it breaks your camel’s back accordingly.
It ends with an email. There might be a phone call: It’s not you, it’s me. We’re letting go of everyone. We’re revamping the system. We’re going in a new direction. We need someone that will do twice your work for half your price. We love your writing.
And then the checks stop coming.
It could be that things will be okay, except that your well has run dry and you are so frozen with fear that you cannot coax your drive out of park. In a moment your big plans and family dreams are reduced to the facts: you are as good as unemployed and you do not have a home.
Your options are few, but options are all you have. Options are the rope that life likes to dangle like so many participles: a noose, a lifeline, a tug of war, and things you are at the end of. Life has a twisted sense of humor.
Maybe you look in the mirror and you see your children laughing through your reflection, and all you know is that they do not deserve this. Your hair is thin and it is growing grayer.