I have gone back and forth from working as a laborer and as a professional. Right now, I'm somewhere in the middle of the two. When I was living in the Bay Area the last few years I became thoroughly settled in professional world, and most of my clients were professionals too. In so doing, I lost touch with what it is to to be a laborer, both the really great things about it and the super shitty things. I didn't realize how hard it was to work in commercial kitchens until I did it this past year again, because before when I had done similar work I was so much younger. When I was in my early twenties my feet never hurt. In my early thirties, that is not the case.
I have also gone back and forth between overworking and underworking, based on circumstances both internal and external. And likewise, I knew but didn't really know, how hard it can be to make ends meet working as a laborer or being underemployed, or both. And if you have kids, if you have accrued some debt, or your partner is not working, or you have issues with housing, DAMN it can sure be hard to make it all work, to even meet your basic needs.
This all may be extremely obvious to most people, but because I had distanced myself from that reality, it didn't feel as real to me for a time. In the Ayurveda school I attended, and in subsequent business trainings, repeatedly I was told to charge professional rates for my services, that people respect you more for doing so, that it undervalues the work and your own time if you don't, etc. That always felt to me like a half-truth. Sure that's all true in a certain way, but it's also true that many people could never pay those rates, or could only do so occasionally. What of those people? That was a question I was never able to answer, but I was sick of being poor so I thought I would try out this professional thing and see what happened.
One thing I learned pretty quick was that many people have A LOT more money than I ever knew. I grew up with not a lot of money, and I had no idea how much money people had. No idea! And that they were not just willing, but happy, to spend it on something they valued.
What I also learned, by and by, is that in charging 'professional' level rates and living as a professional (albeit in my own rather frugal way) as nice as it was, there was something I had lost along the way: My roots.
I don't mean to imply that there is anything inherently wrong with being a professional or earning lots of money. By this point in time, I have made many deep friendships with people who are high-earning professionals, and I do not have the belief they are bad or "doing it wrong". But in my case, by serving primarily professionals I was neglecting the people and the culture that raised me, the people I come from.
This is something that came into my mind often over those years, but I would remind myself of the struggles of the people I served and how real those struggles were, and how it didn't matter who I served, just that I was of service. I had come to see that in many ways all people have similar struggles even if the specifics are different.
But it wasn't enough! Because in upward mobility, we forsake where we come from and we cut ourselves off from our own sources of nourishment.
I realize that is a big statement. Maybe it doesn't apply in every situation - I don't know or really care. You can decide for yourself. But speaking for my own experience, this is how it feels. If my own old friends and family couldn't afford my rates - especially now that I am back in Nebraska, that does not feel right or good. There is something not right about that. Me being a 'professional' was an experiment. And now I know cannot ignore, overlook, or forsake low income and working-class people ever again.
That is why I am offering by-donation herbal consultations as I ease myself back into seeing clients again after my year (mostly) absent from that work. As I began to feel ready to take new clients again, I knew it had to feel good, it had to be aligned with my values, and it had to feel really humble. I spent several months envisioning what that could look like and this is it.
I want to take it slow for lots of reasons, so that's why I am doing two days a month, but depending on how it feels and evolves and what people want, I may build out my schedule from there, keeping those two by-donation days and having other days that have more of a fixed rate, I don't know yet.
Much of my life has been about forward motion, but the past year has been anything but that. It has been a descent. I have been the hero journeying into the Underworld like Orpheus, Hercules, Izanagi, or any of the rest. I am grateful for the depth of humbleness I feel now and for these experiences I have that which have brought me to such humbleness. Thanks for being on the journey with me.