My memories about being a teenager are colored in gold. Not that everything was bright and easy back then; I bet, for many people, adolescence is harsh. But I still tend to think about this period of my life with warmth and sympathy. First love, rejection and recognition, peer pressure, high school problems, juvenile ambition and idealism: those were valuable experiences which made me the person I am today. I was preoccupied and worried about a thousand things: global conspiracies, capitalistic wrongs, animal rights, whether there is God or not, why are my parents so lame, am I a good son, and whether Judy likes me as much as I like her. And one of the most overwhelming problems I remember having back then was the constant lack of money.

Not that I was materialistic: money was a symbol of freedom. Be it a date with a girlfriend, a new video game I wanted to buy, a pair of sneakers, or anything else, I needed money desperately. And, as any teenager, I could not ask my parents for it that easily: first of all, I did not want to be a freeloader (although I was–all kids are, until a certain age), and secondly, I did not want to involve my parents in things I was into. So, at some point, I realized I needed to start making my own money. Even today, I think this was one of the best decisions I ever made.

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Why? Mostly because I learned there is no such thing as easy money. When you are given some, you take it easy. When you earn some, you start valuing every dollar. So, I tried a number of legal ways to earn money, and here is what I did.

I always liked to draw. I never attended any art school, and no one taught it to me, but I remember myself with a pencil in my hands since the age of four. Starting from doodles and ugly stuff, I gradually learned the basics of composition, sketching, and shading. I bought a book on anatomy for painters, and tried copying muscles, bones, and tissues from there. I learned to draw human bodies–although facial features are something I cannot draw well enough, even today. Anyways, I figured out I could earn money by drawing. Given that my surrounding consisted mostly of guys, the top things for me to draw was concept art with half-naked women or fully-armored fantasy/science-fiction warriors. Depending on the complexity of work done, I charged people up to five dollars per poster. I even participated in several contests, but I never won anything.

Another way I tried to make money was working as a courier. You have probably seen guys like me in movies: a teenager boy on an old bike throwing newspapers anywhere but where he is supposed to. Well, that was me. I did my best for several months, but I still gave up in the end. I hated it. Waking up early in the morning, getting out regardless of the weather outside, riding back and forth past barking dogs–I think I experienced all the stereotypes about delivery boys. And it did not pay well either. After this job, I tried a plethora of other ones: washing cars, working at my local grocery store, helping people clean their garages or walk their dogs, and so on. It was more fun than throwing newspapers around because I could meet new people, many of which were nice.

Another thing I did was tutoring. I was pretty good at math, so I helped younger children in the neighborhood to get on track–and their grateful parents were kind to pay me for this. And although I am sure I had little talent in teaching, I like to think I helped someone.

Anyways, there are many ways for a teenager to earn extra cash. My firm belief is that the earlier one starts doing it, the better. Working in teenage years is like a demo-version of what awaits for you in the future, and it is in your best interest to adapt to it–and obviously, such labor should be voluntary.

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