Thinking Towards the Future

Time is flying by and soon I’ll have tied the knot and be smack dab in the (hopefully) center years of my life. While my father drives me nuts every time he brings it up – it’s time to make some serious life decisions. I’m not getting any younger. I’ll be 33 next year which is absolutely insane but at least I’ll be married so that seems like a bit of an accomplishment. I really can’t delay much in having children if I’m going to have them – and I’ve definitely gotten to the point in life where I want to have a family. I’m trying to take it one day at a time but I can’t help but think about the future as a collective whole of holy shit.

Things are going fairly well at work – not perfectly, mind you, but at least I think I’ve found a job where I add a large amount of value via my natural abilities vs trying to be something I’m not. At this point I plan to stay in this opportunity at least until I have a kid and then I’ll figure out what’s next. That’s at least a year from now if not more. It’s a great place to be as I’m learning a lot and gaining the skills I need to move into more senior roles going forward. I’ve learned over my career that you can’t get caught up in the small things but instead must focus on the bigger picture of helping your company and specific contributions which you can talk about in your next job interview. I know there are gaps in my experience so while I focus on adding value in the areas where I am strongest I also try to improve in the areas where I know I’m weak. It’s a challenging process but in the long run it will only help as I eventually look towards what’s next in my career.

I still don’t know how it’s all going to work when I have children. Plenty of mothers work because they have to or because they want to – or both – and they do just fine. I think of my schedule right now and how absolutely exhausted I am from the standard office job and question how I’d ever be able to do this and be a mother. I come home after work and basically go to sleep immediately, or lounge in bed braindead until I pass out a few hours later. I certainly don’t have the energy to come home and take care of children.

That means if I want kids I can’t just pretend like this whole working mother thing is going to work out, at least in an office job scenario with a long commute. Even without a commute being in an office 8 hours a day drains me. If I had a job where I could be in different locations and work remotely I’d feel much better. Long term, I think that’s what I need to find. So I’m trying to build up the skill set and personal brand to be able to have that freedom later on. I have no idea if it will work out, but I’m going to try and hopefully somehow things will just happen and be ok.

I know the next 10 years ago going to go by in the blink of an eye. I’ll be writing very soon “holy crap I’m about to turn 43.” Where does the time go? I don’t know what I’m going to be like 10 years from now… you know, either a married women with no children and a hot, high-stress career — or married with three kids in tow, all under the age of 10, all who I love dearly yet who drive me batty at the same time. Who knows. It just has to happen. Life, that is. We can change a lot of things and we can control so much of our destiny but we can’t stop time. Every blog post I write I notice my hands are aging just a little bit more – the wrinkles in my knuckles more pronounced, the skin thinner and colder, showing through to blue veins which are getting ready to make an even grander appearance in the coming years.

For now – I’m trying to just feel – happy. It’s hard for me. It’s a foreign feeling. It’s as if I’ve been trained to not allow myself to feel joy because it’s a naive emotion. It is better to be sad or anxious or appreciative but never joyful. Never happy. I want so badly to allow myself at least a few moments of happiness amidst my upcoming wedding celebrations. I want to pause and reflect on the last 10 years of my life which led me to my husband-to-be, and how despite the ups and downs we made it work, and I love him more today than I ever have before. I want to be happy because for so long I was alone and thought I’d forever be alone and I have this one person who will no matter what be by my side to give me a hug and tell me everything is going to be ok. Now I know what people mean when they say they’re marrying their best friend. I need to allow myself to have joy, despite all the stress, all the frustration over the high cost of weddings, the failure to have perfect etiquette, the complaining relatives, the misspelling on invites, the transportation logistics and music playlist and food selections and dress that may or may not fit and inability to find comfortable attractive shoes. I hope more than anything on my wedding day I can allow myself to feel truly happy. Maybe just for a moment. But I need that. And, after all 32 years of my life, I think I deserve it.

The Big Bet: Weight Loss and $1000 On the Line

Last summer, following my engagement, I decided to put a significant amount of money on the line to commit to losing weight. At the time I was about 170lbs, and I refused to walk down the aisle that overweight. My healthy BMI, according to the charts, is – at its highest – 140lbs. My goal, then, became to walk down the aisle at a healthy BMI.

I found a site called HealthyWage which allowed you to pick your weight loss objectives, timeline to hit those goals, and how much you want to put on the line. I bet $1000 because I figured that was a very substantial amount of money – substantial enough that I wouldn’t fuck up. I gave myself 10 months for the weight loss… I had to lose about 30lbs in 10 months, which was less than 3lbs a month – totally doable.

Then, I went through a period of depression and gained back some of the weight I was losing. I still stayed under my max weight, but suddenly the easy weight loss goal became much more difficult. I hired a personal trainer. I found that even with eating healthy and working out 3x a week I was only losing four pounds a month on average. I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, and my final weigh-in was getting closer and closer.

Today, I have a little over 5 weeks to lose 10-11lbs. While that’s theoretically do-able, it’s extremely hard (it’s basically 2lbs per week consistently.) There is plenty of literature that says you can lose this much, but it gets harder the closer you get to your goal. It’s one thing to completely botch this exercise but to end up just 2lbs away from my goal will be emotionally devastating. It’s quite possible it will come to that. Or, I can figure out how to kick the final 11 pounds to the curb once and for all. It will take more focus and determination than I’ve ever exhibited in my entire life. But, as I’ve always said, if you aren’t going to be willing to kick your ass into shape for your wedding, when in life will you be willing?

I’m focused on increasing my cardio and a very low carb diet, taking one day at a time. I’m at the point where every calorie counts and no matter how badly I want to sleep in or go home at a reasonable time, I need to work out to force my body to lose those two pounds a week. I believe on a strict ketosis diet with substantial exercise (still eating a healthy calorie count) I can get to my goal, but it’s going to be very, very hard. With my average of 4-5 lbs of weight loss each month on a healthier-than-usual diet, my body may not be willing to part with the pounds. But I’m putting my best effort forward here and will not be eating sweets on Easter or giving in to drinking anything other than tea and water.

April, you are my clean eating month, my super healthy, shrink my fat arms and stomach down marathon. You are my opportunity to win $900 or lose $1000. To be a winner or to fail despite losing over 15 pounds.

By April 14, I need to be down to 145lbs. That is my current focus. Six pounds in a little under 3 weeks. There’s my two pound a week goal, and a good half way point to check in on. I don’t know why but I’m feeling optimistic here that I can do this. I really hope I’m right. I’ll do whatever it takes.

The Wisdom That Comes With Age, Or the Lack Thereof

Every day, it hits me that I’m knee deep in adulthood. There is no more “what I am going to be when I grow up” – I’m grown. Creases have etched lines into my once porcelain-smooth forehead. I peer closely into mirrors and study the corners of my eyes, cringing at the forging estuary of crow’s feet. The thin skin on my hands is translucent wrapped around my bones. I’m not old, and yet I am.

Every day, I think, I’m so far from where I thought I’d be at 32, but, then again, I never imagined myself at 32. 21 or 25, sure. Maybe even 28, but not a day over. Thirty, it seemed, was a lifetime away, until it wasn’t. Here I am, 32 approaching 33, just 8 months away until you can say I’m in my “mid 30s,” what a gas. It’s a surreal transition to always being the youngest in your class – the “baby” – to being one of the oldest in the room. It happens so fast. I didn’t have time to adjust to the transition.

Every day, I wonder, what’s to come of this world? I think ahead to my desire to have children, and I wonder if I ought to go out of my way to have a family in a world where ISIS blows up innocent men, women and children in the name of their so-called religion, and where Donald Trump wins the Republican seat on the road to the White House with equally malicious hatred and the sparks of similar evil. I worry for the future – as we approach the age of robotic warfare and super drones and new chemical weapons which cannot be stopped. I fear the future even without evil, with its android fast food workers and self-driving cars and little boxes that answer your questions and can tell you everything you want to know without ever having to think for yourself. I know I’m getting old, because I miss how things were when life was simpler. I miss mail order CDs and having only a limited number of shows to watch at any given time and being forced to sit through the commercials and I miss the time when we weren’t so glued to technology so when we left the office we had a life outside of work.

What an old crumugin I’ve become. Me, the futurist who loves innovation and works and lives in the place where Apple was invented and new technologies continue to evolve to change the very nature of how we understand and interact with the world around us. Life feels so much faster now because there’s no time or reason to pause. I miss long hot New Jersey nights with crickets chirping and fireflies dancing in the distance occasionally lighting up just before your nose. I miss snow days and summer camp even though the bullying was torturous and elementary school even though I was a loner and couldn’t stand one minute of it at the time. I don’t even wish I could go back and do it all over again – I would just like the opportunity to pause and reflect without missing out on so much that’s moving forward faster and faster. There’s no stopping now. There’s just Monday and Sunday and what happens in between is a blur. There’s Monday and Sunday and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I spend a lot of time browsing home listings on Zillow around the area I live. I found a $1.4M house that seemed decent enough, a small starter home with a teeny tiny backyard patio area and a community pool requiring an extra $500 a month HOA fee. I look at my near-$200k salary and my $350k in savings and think this isn’t enough- this will never be enough – to afford the life I want slash the life I thought I’d have should I ever achieve such success on paper. I try to feel proud of this achievement. I’m sure when I actually make $200k I’ll smile a little, just because, that’s something. That’s a big something to say I add enough value that someone is willing to pay me that much, or I’m at least a great con and awfully convincing. Maybe $500k in networth, this random goal of mine I’ve had since 21, will make me pause and give myself a little silent high five as I grow my second grey in two or three years, well later than I had hoped to hit that number. But by then I’ll either have kids or I won’t, I’ll be a different person. I’ll be married and a mother or a never-mother and a serial careerist or a runner-away-from-career to something else where that $200k salary will again seem as out of reach as it once was.

I’m tired. I feel healthier than I have in a while with my exercise routine and slightly healthier diet plan which has netted me a 30-pound weight loss from my heaviest. I wake up at 5:45 and work out from 6 to 7 some days and get to work at 9:30 and work until 7 and rarely take a lunch break and get home if I’m lucky by 9. I can’t sleep at night because my mind is racing a million miles an hour with all the things I have to do and haven’t done and I can’t shut it off until nights like tonight when I’m so exhausted I have no energy to eat I’ll just lie down and close my eyes and likely fall right sleep, but there will never be enough hours until the weekend to catch up. I’m feeling really inspired by my job, though it’s hard, and it’s worth the commute, but nonetheless, I’m tired. It’s dark out. It’s only 8. I wish to be curled up in my bed. I wish to be curled up in my bed with a good book despite the fact that I rarely read and if I do it’s non-fiction and even then I’m skimming through for the juicy bits and asleep before I find any.

There is this great lack of meaning in my life which keeps me stuck in a chronic state of depression. My therapist says I need activities outside of work – in the evenings – after work – at least once a week. I did go out with a friend last week for dinner. That was nice. It takes a lot of energy. It was spontaneous so that worked well. If I planned it I might have wasted up my energy on worrying how tired I’d be. I can’t imagine how I’ll manage to have time for kids given that I can’t find time for taking any sort of class right now for self-enrichment. My current life and having kids do not compute. I’ve got a year or two left in me and then I have to move on. I’ll do my best. I’m not going to self sabotage this time. I’ll stand up for myself. I’ll do the best I can. I will be motivated no longer by my idealist nature but instead by the reality of the world and a desperate grasp at any semblance of security I can have for myself and my family.

I’m fortune. I love my husband-to-be as he is silly and strange and not mature at all and despite his face aging equally fast as mine I look into his eyes and see us at 22 and when he holds me I’m not a day older. It will be strange getting older then and still feeling this way and being 35 and 40 and 50 and 60 and onward if we’re so lucky to hold each other at 99 and still feel 22.

Life is depressing. I think our problem is that we consider depression a mental disorder. It isn’t. Chronic happiness is a mental disorder. Life is shit. Look at it. From the ISIS and Trump’s of the world down to our bodies decomposing as a natural state of order as soon as we pop out of the womb to our children at every moment potentially dying before we do whether by terrorist attack or car accident or their own body deciding it does not compute with its own cells, life is shit. Sure, there are happy, beautiful moments, and we should pause and appreciate those. But anyone who is chronically happy is delusional. I’m too much of a realist to approach my philosophy of life any other way. If you decide to focus on some set of goals and work your ass off to achieve them and feel some semblance of success and happiness in the progress, then good for you. But that won’t keep you from a painful death or maybe a surprise one. That won’t help you avoid the even worse by inevitable fate of all man to watch their loved ones leave this earth or hear of their passing from afar. That won’t change the shittiest shit nature of existence that most animals are fortune enough to not fully know in the same way we as humans do. Our awareness is the most beautiful and shittiest part of all, because we know exactly what is happening at every stage – we watch our own bodies fall apart and we try to ignore this by focusing on redecorating our kitchen or taking on new projects at work or going on a vacation for seven out of 365 days where we maybe experience something new and feel alive again before returning to whatever routine we’ve found to be desirable or at least quicksand-like in its grasp of our once more risk-attuned ways.

So, forgive me for my depression. I think it’s quite practical in terms of how to feel about the state of things, given the absolute bleakness of our situation as a species and individuals. This isn’t to say I crave death or romanticize it in the least. I fear it and wish it to stay far from anyone I know for as long as possible – but no matter what we do, we’re all inching towards that fate. I guess those with religion can look forward to an afterlife, which wouldn’t be quite so bleak. The rest of us – how can we put on a smile that’s sincere and believe that we ought to be spending our limited days in an office making something that 100 years from now no one will remember or care ever happened. That isn’t the point, however, as everyone is the cog in a machine – even Hollywood actresses who I used to envy so – they’re just people whose talent and luck has thrown them into the spotlight – one in a hundred million—yet they’re just mere mortals like you and me.

I’m tired. Tired of trying to figure out the right way to do things or being scared of being embarrassed about not being able to afford a house or not knowing how to raise a family and be a good mother and maintain a career that I have no feelings for beyond being grateful that I can do it without completely sucking and I seem to be rather good at parts of it if I push my anxiety to the side and just get shit done. I like learning and trying new things and figuring stuff out, though I give up too easily. I’ve completely accepted that I can’t maintain this career for the long term. I count my pennies and wonder how much I’d need to retire on should I move somewhere extremely affordable and become a part-time copywriter or assistant something or other. The number ends up too high to be realistic so I go back to my initial plan to stay put and just hope I can keep doing what I’m doing until I have a few frugal years and save up some cash and have more options.

I miss a life that I never really had. I think that’s the definition of nostalgia. I’m feeling it hard lately, from the moment I wake up to the instant my eyes shut and I drift off to sleep at night. I miss what could have been. I’m grateful for what has become. I’m unprepared for the future, but it’s here and it’s here and it’s always here regardless of my inability to prepare. Here it is, as I turn another page, close my eyes for another night, and get through another 24 hours in one breath in the race ahead towards no particular outcome other than the inevitable.

When You Made It and You Haven’t Gotten Anywhere

This week, I’ve been reading a slew of posts about how women make less money than men, and why.  Mostly, the argument against this being an issue goes, that women tend to work less than men one they have kids, and they also and generally less competitive so of course they don’t make as much money. In every single job negotiation I feel the weight of this on my shoulder, and try my best to negotiate. I have no idea what a man would do in the same situation with my experience, but since my first couple of jobs when I took the starting salary with no negotiation at all, I’ve tried to ask for a little more, and I’ve gotten more ballsy over time. It helps now that I now have competition offers, and I seem to be fairly good at interviewing these days.

On paper, I sound qualified for a very particular type of role and particular type of company. I’m not sure at all how life has sculpted itself to this specific career path, but it has, and I’m locked and loaded into it, full speed ahead until retirement to gain more responsibility, earn more wages, and look back on a very successful professional career. It hit me this week that I’m nearly making $200k (which, even for one of the highest cost of living areas, is one of those numbers that I thought would never be possible — ten years ago I was making $20k.)

Yet as I look ahead to potentially having children / starting a family, I realize that if I have an opportunity to leave this profession and move into something that is more flexible and personally fulfilling, I would. As much as I like money, and as much as I’ve been driven by this random “$500k in networth before I have kids” goal for the entirety of my 20s and early 30s, I just can’t see myself, 10 years from now, in this same type of role. I don’t want to be a vice president or C-level executive. Even though the pay would be great, I have no desire to be that person. I could potentially figure out how to fake who I am enough to get there… given my success getting this far, I have to believe that someone out there would want to offer me such an opportunity one day.  And I feel very guilty, that as a woman — as a woman who has an actual chance of getting to the top – I don’t want it.

As I sprint full speed ahead towards my mid 30s and the next phase of my life, I wonder what to do about it. I’m so busy these days with just trying to do my job and do it well and planning my wedding that I don’t have a ton of time to ponder what’s next (which is probably a good thing.) But, as my rent has increased this year by $2040 for the year, and the cost of living in this area shows no signs of refraining its hockey-stick growth, I know that at some point soon, I either need to commit to this career or come up with an exit strategy. I’m leaning towards the exit.

I don’t want to “not work.” I LOVE working. I love collaborating with a team to create new products. I wish I could be a ux designer or product lead. I’ve said that now for 12 years. I’ve failed to make any progress in that direction. I tried to study for the GRE and even booked a test slot and then didn’t go because I hadn’t studied enough. I couldn’t focus. I gave up. I got a better job. I made more money. It became less fiscally responsible to go back to school anyway. I got older. I passed that age when people go to grad school into the age when some people do but they’re much older their classmates. I entered the age where you take online classes or executive programs but only in rare cases do you go back to school for an entirely new career. Sure, people do it, and I may eventually as well, but I’m really getting older now — not old, per se, but old in the sense of I have a career. I have a good career. I manage a department, small as it is, I’m still in a high-level role, and there is so much good in my life that I kick myself every time I want to start over.

At this point, I’m committed to another year or two in my current job. If I do get pregnant then that will certainly be an opportunity to think through what’s next. Of course, if I get pregnant, it will be even harder to change careers. If I opt to apply to grad school for 2017 I’ll be 33 when I start, and I may want to put having kids on hold, which means I likely won’t have kids, which is, at this point, out of the question unless nature says I can’t (also a possibility.) In any case, there has to be some major changes in the next 2-3 years of my life, which will likely include moving to another state, or at the least, finding another career path and opting for lower pay and a lower quality of life here. I know this isn’t something I can maintain. It will be hard to say goodbye to the near-$200k salary, but I know if I figure out how to do something I’m really passionate about, maybe I can get back there over time. Or maybe I can just make less money and live somewhere more affordable. Either way, there are options, and I’ll always feel guilty as a woman for throwing away a successful career, but I have to. I have to rethink my entire life, my goals, and the directed outcomes. I do finally feel ready for a change.

Waking Up from The American Dream

Today, we received notice for our annual lease renewal. Our rent will be increasing $170 a month to a total steal of $2465 for a one bedroom apartment, not including any utilities. If we lived in the city the same apartment would be at least $1000 more. That’s life in the most expensive area in the country — no matter how much you make, you’re still not making enough to afford the life you thought you’d have at this point. You just have to wake up from the American Dream and realize it’s just that – a dream.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be one of the few who is making a high salary — more than I could ever had imagined making and more than I believe I deserve. At the same time, I acknowledge that in order to afford a house here you pretty much need to be taking home $400k (as a couple) which isn’t in the cards for our future, despite my relatively very high income – even if I manage to find success and stability in my job. I realize that many others will never even make as much as I do, and I feel I make too much, but it’s a loop of relativity when I try to comprehend how much I’d really need to make in order to purchase a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard.

Do I need a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard? Even if I don’t, soon our rent, for a one bedroom apartment, will creep up to $3000 a month, even in the suburbs. We won’t exactly be priced out but we’ll be able to save less and less each year. At some point, I think we’ll have to accept that it’s time to leave. And with a total income of about $250k, we’re doing much better off than a lot of people who live here. It’s just not enough and it will only get worse as we attempt to start our lives together.

If kids end up not in the cards, maybe it’s doable. We can stay in a one bedroom apartment, no need to pay for extra space when it’s just us. We can live in a one bedroom for the rest of our lives. This isn’t at all the life I had imagined, but we can survive easily without that much space. If we do have children that changes the story quite a bit. I don’t see how we can have children and remain here, especially if I need to take time off for any reason. The pressure of being the breadwinner, especially suffering from severe anxiety, is too much. If I am responsible for me, myself and I — that’s no big deal, I can roll with the punches, live cheaply when needed, and just weather any storm that comes my way. With children, we need a much bigger security net. We’ll have to move. We will have no choice.

I write this at a time when many entry-level workers here are seriously struggling, unable to feed themselves or pay rent on minimum wage. I feel embarrassed to look at my quite high income and still feel so hopeless, because if I feel hopeless, how on earth is the rest of everyone supposed to feel?

I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to have children we can’t stay here. I don’t have a solution yet or an answer to “where to do we go,” but sooner than later we have to get out. I’ll very much miss the beautiful scenery and sunshine. I’ll look back on my 20s and be glad I had the opportunity to live in such a glorious part of the world. But it’s time to grow up and move out. Or, at least it will be soon.

People say to not worry about the future and to just live in the moment. I find it very hard to do that. We now face the choice of staying in our current apartment and paying an extra $2000 to do so next year (and continuing my 3 hour a day commute) or finding a place closer to work that will either be more expensive or less livable or both. We’ll probably just stay here for another year – neither of us wants to deal with moving, and $2000 doesn’t seem like that much compared with the inconvenience of finding a new apartment and lugging our stuff to it… moving isn’t free either. So we’ll probably give it on more year here and hopefully by the end of the next lease I’ll be pregnant and we can then figure out where on earth we’re going to live in the future (aka not California.)

I had hoped that I’d be at a point in my career where I’d feel so distraught over losing my job / career in order to have a family… but while I appreciate my job for what it is now, and really admire my colleagues and am so grateful for this opportunity… I have no personal investment in this career. I feel no sense of pride in my progress or role. In five years, to continue on this path, I end up in a leadership role were I will never fit. I acknowledge it’s soon time to leave. Right now, the best I can do is hold on for dear life, do the best I can, and try to save money by living relatively frugally and bringing in a good income where most of it goes straight into the stock market / my savings accounts. This may be my last significant savings opportunity in my life, given I plan to move to an area with a lower cost of living and obtain a job which pays significantly less in my next career move. My goal is still to get to $500k in savings before I make this move, and the goal is becoming much more dire given that I’m rounding the corner of my mid 30s and I know I can’t handle this life for much longer. If I can just hold out until $500k — I can completely shift my lifestyle to one of lower income and greater flexibility in another part of the country. We can live off of, say, $100k total across both of our incomes and still live a decent life. If we make more than that, great, but we don’t have to (or, in the case of staying here, I’d likely have to earn over $300k in order for us to hit the $400k mark and afford a small home.)

What was once kind of this running silent joke in my head about how one day I couldn’t afford to live here and that I’d move away is proving true. I guess what has changed is that I’m more ok with that than I was before. I used to think that I didn’t want to trade my career for a simpler life. I didn’t want to be one of those women who had kids and no longer had her own identity, especially a professional identity. But now, I don’t know, my professional identity is not who I am. Despite not making it to Hollywood or Broadway I’m an actress nonetheless, everyday portraying someone who I’ll never be. I’m over this obsession with what I thought was success. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, no game to win. I have maybe 60 good years left on this earth if I’m lucky, and many fewer with all of my loved ones in good health. I hope to make the most of them, and it doesn’t matter if that occurs within a tiny apartment or a giant house. It feels good to finally accept that… to embrace the loss of this embedded classism my parents have taught me, to stop feeling like if I can’t maintain the level of comfort and luxury from my childhood that I am a failure. The only true way to fail is to lock myself into a life where I no longer have any reasonable options for escape.