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I like to think of the Ninths of my life as the time of spores for a couple of reasons. The first reason is in regards to how ideas and thoughts sprang up unexpectedly and delightfully as soon as my mind was unleashed to roam free of the numbing details of the daily grind. The second reason is in regard to the state of physical distress in which I woke on the the first day of self-employment. I had expected to experience some mild angst, but nothing so severe.

This phase of life began the morning after resigning from my job working for the government agency. I woke up at dawn fully rested but completely unable to open my mouth. My jaw was totally locked. I frantically thought backwards for what I might have done to allow clostridium tetani spores to enter my body where they could incubate in anaerobic paradise but recalled no recent cut or scrape or even getting extremely dirty doing something around the property. And I clearly recalled being inoculated the previous year for tetanus. Regardless, it was a disturbing way to start the first day of my self-employed career and it set me to wondering if it would all end prematurely.

I leapt out of bed and moved around vigorously, feeling otherwise totally fine and invigorated. No headache. No other bodily malfunctions detectable. So I dressed and went downstairs to distract myself by making coffee and fixing some toatsted homemade bread slathered with chokecherry jelly, thinking hunger might trigger my jaw muscles to relax for incoming deliciousness. As I brewed the first pot of coffee of my entire professional career (I had purposely abstained from drinking coffee until that day) and the aroma of buttered sourdough toast wafted into my breathing apparatus, my jaw finally started to relax a bit and I began working it back and forth, up and down and all around like some cartoon character checking for damage after being socked in the kisser by a fully animated opponent.

Relief settled in as I sipped my first cup of coffee and managed to bite off a piece of toast. Within minutes the coffee and toast were inside my body and I was convinced clostridium tetani most likely was not. And so began day one of what I like to think of as the sporing years when business ideas sprang up from who knows where in my mind to whirl about on currents of wild thought streams until a few good ones settled and grew into well-developed plans of action.

The first project out of the gate was a long-planned documentary. I had always wanted to make one and finally had met a couple whose story of self-employment struggle and triumph would be its focus. Two years later the documentary had been published and was selling, not like hotcakes, but pretty much as I expected it would. I hadn't made the documentary with hopes of gaining much income from it. I had just wanted to learn as much about video production as I could for possible future projects, and that worked out well for my meager business purposes. Some interest was drummed up in local news outlets and even though only one person I have ever known in my entire life personally purchased a copy of it (thanks Carl!), plenty of strangers did.

Even though sales proceeds were too meager to ever exceed cost of making the documentary, I had a lot of fun doing it and learned more than I expected to in the process. It was definitely a story worth telling and can be viewed now for free online thanks to the good folks at Culture Unplugged.

Projects undertaken following that first one included repackaging a musical offering for an early rock and roll guitarist whose works were popular in the 1960s, installing security surveillance systems, shooting some retail merchandise and artworks photography, and such stuff as that until I landed a long-term contract with a local outfit providing uniquely inclusive and respectful residential services for adults having autism spectrum characteristics. That contract would propel me through self employment to retirement three years later. While it lasted I learned so much more than I ever expected and had opportunity to work with some highly dedicated people.

When the executive director and I talked about compensation for the work I would be doing there I did not go predator on the outfit as previously contracted companies had which in turn had provided what I considered to be downright crappy services and products. I had discovered the prospect by chance and had taken time to visit their website to find out more about them before being interviewed by the executive director, finding their website had been thoroughly hacked and in dire need of repair. So I contracted for the bare minimum hourly rate I would require to survive and also offered to secure and repair their website free of charge so they could assess my skills and expertise before paying me one red cent.

One month later they were depositing payment into my account and a few months after that they doubled the rate they were paying by their own choice. We enjoyed working together to improve their information tech and related processes in the office, and to wrap up the relationship before I retired I designed and developed a modern rendition of their website using custom-made audio-visual content created from raw recordings gathered while working there to improve their IT position and processes.

I had given notice of my retirement far in advance for a couple of reasons. The main reason was that my eyesight was failing rapidly during the third year doing work for them and it was becoming increasingly difficult to see well enough to do the detailed work they wanted me to do. The other reason was family related, specifically a desire to help my parents glide smoothly into their 90s, but that day was a few years away and I settled into retirement–the Tenths of my life–spending most of my time roaming the forested foothills and apline meadows in high mountains doing exactly what I wanted to do precisely when I wanted to do it. I was finally becoming a creature of the wilderness I lived in rather than a mere resident.

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