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Impending burn-out, aka “Please look around you for the nearest exit”

All the options are seriously neck-to-neck right now, with uncomfortable seats.

All the options are seriously neck-to-neck right now, with uncomfortable seats.

A friend of mine made the diagnosis today, as I was describing a recent phone session in which I ended up lecturing one of my regulars about his trans-fetishizing bullshit. He got off on the abuse, I hastened to reassure my friend as she stifled a laugh. “Go, Social Justice Warrior!” she said, but then looked at me with some sympathy and added, “I think you might be burning out.”

My friend is a former sex worker; in general, I feel like I can more easily trust current and former sex workers to see what's going on underneath, the stuff that I hesitate to say out loud. I think she's right. Nothing urgent, nothing imminent, but it's there.

I've had these thoughts before. They ebb and flow like the tide, weak and far away and then, before I notice, the waves are crashing around my chin and I suddenly feel like I'm drowning in it and I need to save myself, I can't keep just subsisting, I need to GET OUT. So yeah, maybe it's that high-tide part of the cycle, but I think the frequency of the cycle is getting shorter.

I'm noticing new things, too. For starters, I find myself signing off the lines earlier and earlier, as early as I can get away with, as soon as I reach a certain level of dollars in a day. That amount is not set, it shifts from day to day, but on any day, it is less than the potential money I could get if I stayed signed on just an hour or two longer. I used to be a lot more optimistic about that late-night potential. Now I couldn’t give a shit. Now I just want to get out, work on my script, faff about on Facebook, perform in a show, meet a friend for coffee, anything, ANYTHING but be on call.

I’m still good, hell, I’m great with my favorites, my regulars, the easy ones, but I have less patience than I once had for all the others, the motherfuckers and the boundary-pushers and the silent types. I have less patience, generally, with any caller who doesn’t step up to it, meet me halfway, and play nice. Frankly, these are not criteria I can afford to have while working for a company. I don’t get to specify that they have good conversational skills. They’re not being screened for anything but a valid credit card number.

I have started to snap at the guys who pretend they don’t care, and I say what I really think to the would-be extreme submissives. They don’t hear my actual words, of course—I could say anything in that mocking tone of voice and they would integrate it into their turn-on—but the fact that I’m not even pretending to load those diatribes with sexual content suggests that I might be heading up the final hill in this particular ride. I either need to suck it up, go independent, or get off the train.

Here’s the thing, though: I still haven’t figured out where I make the transfer. Yeah, let’s stick with the train metaphor. I don’t know where I get off this route and move into some other money-making endeavor. I don’t have the time or the cash cushion to just get off the train and wait for the exact other train that I want to pull into the station. I don’t have that luxury. Whatever jump I need to make, that has to happen while both trains are in motion. In a dimly lit tunnel.

I can't see what that other train is, you dig? That question is always there: “what else can I do to make money?” It doesn't always bother me so much. When I’m feeling fine and my life-work balance feels right, I’m not so… specific in my inquiries. It is a definite sign of impending burn-out that I’m eyeballing other income streams so very hard right now. …

BOOK. What kind of book, what are those publishers? FREELANCING, maybe I should be doing more of that? PATREON… hmmm, how do I find more patrons there, is that even a goal that can be targeted? How about ONLINE COURSES, dirty talk and relationship advice and what-not? Which of my existing writings can be readily converted to that? How about getting those SMUT SLAMS locked in tight, in lots of different places? What about super-niche EROTICA? How can I finally break into VOICE-OVER WORK? How will this all work with TOURING?

My mind has been running overtime lately—SOMETIMES IN ALL CAPS—and it’s hella uncomfortable. My brain overheats; every single option that I look at is self-employed and start-up as fuck. SOMETIMES I GET TIRED OF BEING A ONE-WOMAN ART-PROJECT INCUBATOR. But it feels like the only way out.

In some respects, I have phone sex to thank for this whole stressful, too-many-choices situation. Yes, it started out the only way I could put food in my belly, but it eventually led me to things I feel strongly about, which turned out to be things that some other people feel strongly about, too. But now? I’ve got all these ideas and no patience whatsoever for bosses or fuckwits.

I don’t think I can trust phone sex to get me out of this, though. It gave me momentum. I'm gonna have to make that jump on my own.

*****

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