Why Do I / Do I / Even Want / This

A wise friend of mine the other day raised a very interesting point – why do I want to be in a senior leadership role? It first struck me as a strange questions – who wouldn’t want to be in a senior leadership role? Isn’t that the point of working – to be able to strategize and lead a team to achieve substantial goals? It doesn’t have to happen now but it is the eventual goal if you want to move up in your career.

He shocked some sense into me by noting that he doesn’t know many people – if any – that really WANT to be in such a senior role. No one wants this role because quite frankly it’s impossible to succeed in it… and I do feel it’s even harder as a woman (especially a socially awkward one) than it would be for a man.

The best senior leaders don’t actually do any work. They successfully hire / fire right and motivate their team to be their best aligned to the company’s common goals and they promote the shit out of themselves and their teams without sounding like their boasting. That’s it. That’s why successful executives tend to be the people who have a BA in BS – it’s a very valuable skill/trait to have, and it’s something so alien to my being that I am now convinced I ought to give up.

It is very clear that my current company is seeking to replace me as soon thats feasibly possible. I found out, through various means, that they’re interviewing for someone more polished and been-there, done-that to take over without actually telling me as much. It appears one candidate was far along in the process and took another offer, so perhaps this buys me some time. But I don’t want to buy time. I want to be good at my job. And this is the type of job I’ll never be good at. Why? Because I do too much.

I hate playing the gender card but I do think it’s a lot harder for women to get away with just being leaders. In a small company no one can really just manage – yet the true leaders are the ones that bring value to the table in their public speaking abilities and relationships, and everyone else does the work, work. Except – when you’re a female executive, especially a young, unproven one, you have to be both a leader and individual contributor. What I’m learning is most men wouldn’t even take a job that requires them to do that. I just seem to be a professional masochist.

That said, I’ve been going back to why I wanted this or any job like this in the first place… and the moments when I truly love what I do. I don’t really care about being the head of anything… but I do like to be in charge of strategy and lesser so execution. I’ve never done well working for someone who tells me exactly what to do. I have ideas and quite frankly I believe many of my ideas are good ideas… though my execution is admittedly lacking which gets me back to, well, this damned place where I know I’m on my way out, whether I like it or not.

My very german therapist tells me I need to stop chasing money. So do my blog readers. But it isn’t the money that makes this a job I like. I enjoy the wins. I am fueled by the victories where I can clearly show my contributions helped the bottom line. Perhaps I’m delusional in how much influence I can actually have given my anxiety drives my mind in unproductive circles time and again around the moments when I actually get shit done and put a dent in the everlasting pile of work that isn’t clearly defined yet is sitting so glob-like on my already-cracked and seemingly soon-to-be shattered plate.

But… I guess it’s true… not many people want to be in charge of departments. Especially not many people in their early 30s. That’s something you do when you’re 50+ and have many years of experience under your belt and the lines in your face which organically garners respect. The only reason someone like me gets hired in a position like this is 1) at the time I’m hired, better people for the position aren’t interested yet in joining and 2) better people for the position would refuse to join unless they were set up for success which = larger team so they don’t end up having to do all/most of the work in order to claim success.

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I’m not complaining about having to do work. I’m just struggling with being a senior executive and junior-level individual contributor and mid-level manager and creative expert all at the same time. This is a requirement of this role not in my company specifically but any small company hiring for the position, with slight variations. You are tasked with being everything and yet when you fail to do that you’ve let the world down and clearly you were a bad hire. Then the company goes back to the drawing board to learn from it’s “mistakes” and perhaps hires someone more traditional who can go through the motions at the least in a way that’s much more convincing than I ever could. In the end, though, few succeed. The best execs I know have all left startups. They’ve figured out that their best chance of success is to use their charisma to manage large teams and be that rock which inspires the masses to get shit done and not let said shit hit the fan.

I’m not that person. I’ll never have consistent, readily available charisma.

I can’t fake it. I drain too easily. I need to hide in a corner for a day and recharge.

My friend noted that if you want to become a senior exec you don’t try to become one, it just happens when you’re good at something. He’s right. I never was able to get good enough at any one thing so this whole career progression has been forced and riddled with improbable success paths and far more roads to failure. That’s just where I’m at now. It’s a lot to think about… but at least I feel myself pulling closer to accepting that I’m not a senior exec, I shouldn’t be one and I shouldn’t want to be one. So what should I want to be?

The Vicious Cycle of My Adult Professional Life

One of my longtime readers Taylor Lee left a comment that said what most people in my life tell me over and over again —

Not to be harsh, but I feel like you cycle through the same issues over and over again regarding work, depression, family anxiety, etc.

My advice is to break the cycle by choosing the path you haven’t taken before:
(1) Get a job at a bigger company. I think this will help solve a LOT of the problems you’ve been having with start-up life. Preferably some place near to where you live so your awful commute gets shortened.
(2) Figure out what triggers your anxiety/depression and what you can do to mitigate it. Whether it’s diet, exercise, more sleep, medication, therapy (I think you might benefit from CBT), your #1 goal should be getting your mental health on track.

I want to address both of these suggestions as they are good ones, but also aren’t necessarily solutions to the problem.

  1. Get a job at a bigger company. Is startup life the problem? Maybe. In my 10 or so years in the workforce, only six months were spent in a company larger than 100 employees. In the six months I spent in that larger company I witnessed so much inefficiency and bad middle management getting away with practically murder, I promised myself I would never go back to a large company. In between then and now I have applied for roles at larger companies – knowing that one poorly run large company does not make them all bad – but my experience in startups means my job prospects in larger companies are moot. Larger companies tend to look for someone with very specific experience in one area, whereas startups value that I’m a bit of a jill of all trades.
    I just honestly haven’t had any luck with even getting interviews at larger companies – whereas startups see me as the perfect fit (at least on paper.) I did get one job offer from a 300 person startup – which maybe would have been better – but in this case I did not feel I had the experience needed to lead the team I was going to be given and the stress would have been even worse. I also received a job offer for a poor-performing smaller public company that made business software which reminded me why I disliked larger companies in the first place – people pretended to be passionate about their products but you could tell they were just completely burnt out because they didn’t care. I checked a few months later and most of the people I interviewed had left the company (given its poor performing stock it may not have been by choice.)

    This would likely be different at a consumer-focused public company, but I’m far too unqualified for these roles to land so much as an interview. Believe me, I’ve tried. I can keep trying and maybe eventually something will stick. It isn’t even the money anymore (big companies would pay significantly less since I’d be in lower level roles with less responsibility) – it’s just the reality that no one will hire me at a larger company – at least one I’d actually want to work at.

  2. Figure out what triggers my anxiety/depression. Well, I’ve figured this out, and there’s a lot of things…
    1. Doing a job where I’m supposed to know what I’m doing on day one and there is no room to be developed or to get better at what I’m doing before I’m judged and thrown to the curb (ok, this is a startup thing.)
    2. Being responsible for too many things at once without clear definitions of what those things are (i.e. unlimited number of things I can do, and not knowing whether to focus on the few things I know how to do well, or spend time on the things that I know will add a lot of value that I don’t know how to  do well, so I spend too much time on them and get extremely anxious over them versus being product)
    3. Having to be social on a daily basis with the same people. This pretty much will be an issue in any office environment. As I’ve noted before I’m an ENFP with massive social anxiety, so over time a “work from home” job would also be draining… I need human contact. But having to be the person who makes that contact on a regular is anxiety causing. I often think it would be much better to be an engineer because it’s a given that you’ll be socially awkward and that makes it easier.
    4. Work hours. I am not a morning person. My ideal situation would be working 11am to 7pm. Well, now I work about 8am to 7pm. If I work for a bigger company it’s unlikely my hours would get any better – right now I theoretically take an 8:30 train and get in at 10. If I worked at a big company job closer to home I likely would have to be in at 9, so the commute would be shorter but the time to wake up would be the same. I might get home earlier, which would be nice, but doesn’t help matters as I want to be able to sleep in and work later if possible. I guess if I get to leave at 5 everyday, if that exists in big companies, then maybe getting to work at 9 would be fine. But even bigger companies require long hours.
    5. Work location. If I could work two days from home that would be hugely helpful. That way I could get a few days of social interaction but also have time to just focus on getting my work done. I think this would be the ideal situation.
    6. Money. Whether I’m paid too much or too little when working for a business I’m always anxious about money. I’m anxious about it for many reasons. One, it’s ridiculously expensive to live where I live and my soon-to-be husband does not make enough to cover what we need to live a comfortable life here. I estimate that to afford a comfortable family life in the Bay Area you need to make at least $300k as a couple and even that is tight. So if I make $200k and he makes somewhere close to $100k, we might be ok. He’s at more like $60k right now and I’m a bit under $200, but we’re getting closer. I’ve saved a lot right now which is great but I’m now at the age where I’m about to have kids (if my body allows me to) and the numbers don’t add up if I take a lower paying job. Can we live on less money? Of course we can. A two bedroom apartment here will set us back $36k a year. Beyond that we can cut costs on food and clothes and entertainment. Lots of people survive on less. But I don’t want to. I want to have a comfortable middle class life. I want to buy a house or at least have an apartment in a safe area that feels like a home and not a temporary residence. I could go and make $140k and that’s still a great salary — and maybe that’s fine. Together we’d make $200k and we should be able to live on that. But will a $140k job really be that much less stressful than a $200k job? It might be. But then if I want to actually get back to $200k+ salary I’ll just have to move into more stressful positions and I’ll end up back where I started, only at that point I’ll be so deeply handcuffed to the lifestyle and supporting a family that I won’t be able to just pick up and leave or check myself into a mental institution.
    7. Lack of completion. I really like jobs which are projects that have a beginning, middle and end to them. Without a sense of completion, I am extremely stressed out. And those projects must be substantial enough that my boss and peers see that there was significant effort put forth to do this thing and it was done and we all agree it was done well. I need that in my life to feel ok.
    8. Not being trusted/respected to do what I was hired to do. I guess this is a double-edged sword… either the person who hires me doesn’t trust me and then I am constantly feeling judged or the person trusts me a lot and then I eventually cannot do the things they trust me to do and then they get very upset at me… but they were delusional in the first place to think I’d be able to solve all of these problems. But not being trusted is worse. But then I don’t exactly earn trust given that I tend to over commit to things and deserve that lack of trust. It’s just when I start out not being trusted, it’s a deep hole to dig out of… and so much of the trust stems from the ability to pretend like you have your shit together and everything is fine. And I’m the exact opposite of that where I am just too honest and will tell you when something is an issue and explain why. And this is going to be a problem in bigger companies even more than it is in smaller ones. In bigger companies it’s less about 1:1 relationships and more about politics, which is a game I can’t and don’t play.

What can I do to improve my mental health? Sleep? Diet? Exercise? Therapy?

All of the above.

I know when I sleep I feel better and less depressed/anxious. But I don’t sleep enough. I go to sleep at 1am and wake up at 6am and still end up late for work because I’m too anxious to move despite doing work in bed.

Eating healthy helps a lot. As does exercise. But when I exercise at 6am I lose out on sleep so I think it kind of offsets its productivity.

Therapy… I have a love-hate relationship with therapy. I’ve been to so many therapists I know that it’s a huge time and money suck with no successful outcome. It’s sanity maintenance which has value in and of itself, but not for how much it costs. Yes, I make a lot of money and yes, I can afford to spend it on therapy ($700-$1000 a month for 4 sessions) but then I end up anxious over the value of those sessions. It’s so expensive and this year I decided to put my money into personal training ($600/month) – my physical vs my mental health – because I’ve spent so much on therapy to date and where has it gotten me?

I’m not on any antidepressants and maybe I should be, but I know that sleep and diet and exercise all can help me be a lot less stressed and sad all the time. Drugs don’t change my work situation.

So… do I need to address these issues and make a significant change to my life soon? Yes. How? I don’t know. I’m spending all my money on my wedding right now – which is stupid but it is what it is – and then I’ll have time to figure out what to do with my life.

An old boss of mine from my journalism days offered to review a freelance pitch from me if I had any ideas – so I just sent one off and I haven’t felt this engaged and motivated about a potential paid project in a long time. I have no idea if they’ll accept my pitch but I’d love to get back into non-business journalism where I’m writing about issues that actually help people and represent those who do not have a loud enough voice to be heard. But I can’t make a living doing that, so it’s only a fun side project for now – but pitching the story this morning was rewarding in and of itself.

It’s a Man’s World

Isn’t it ironic that as I sit here at a city Starbucks pondering my gender than  the context of my recurring professional setbacks I noticed that “It’s a Man’s World” was playing on the speaker system? Well, it is. Here I am, for the thousand billionth time, at a point of failure. I’ve done a lot of good work, but it’s never enough. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes. But it still feels like there is something more than just making mistakes that gets me where I seem to always end up.

My office has public calendars and I wasn’t calendar stalking but happened upon an interview occurring with someone who clearly is in the running for either my new boss or my replacement (I can’t figure out which.) That someone is an old dude. Maybe he’s great. His resume certainly is impressive. Maybe he is what the company needs. But I also see an unfortunate trend in my life – I accept roles where no one can succeed and then when it finally is possible for someone to come and be successful (and the role is more desirable) I get replaced with someone who is a lot more charismatic and better at faking being good at things or maybe is actually good at things – I am not sure if it matters. What matters is I can’t fake it. I’m honest to a fault and then some. It doesn’t fly in business. Well, it flies me out of every single job I have.

I’m learning a lot. I’m the kind of person who likes to really understand what I’m doing before I do it. I enjoy systems thinking and understanding the architecture of a broader infrastructure and envisioning ways to fix what isn’t working. I’m not so good at actually getting things done – which is enough of a reason for a company to kick me out – though when I am being productive I’m probably much more productive than most other people might be. I’m a poster child for ADHD though now a woman and no one in real life has the patience to put up with my occasional bouts of extreme productivity paired with stilted outputs due to anxiety, depression and distractedness, in no particular order.

I’ve been writing a lot about gender biases and I do wonder if bits and pieces of my situation happen to be caused by my being female versus male. It’s a catch 22 and all – am I doing bad work because I’m anxious caused by the way I’m treated due to my gender or am I treated the way I am because I’m anxious and doing bad work in a way that’s embarrassingly and stereotypically “female,” whatever that means. The ADHD is real and it doesn’t help. At best I’m seen as a creative savant who is hopeless when it comes to maintaining usefulness in business. At worst I’m characterized as a hot mess that can’t even motivate herself to be lukewarm.

What’s even harder is being in management. I really do enjoy managing employees from the sense of coaching them and helping them grow however I can. It’s just the day-to-day smalltalk that is so draining. I think back to bosses who would always put on a smile and ask how things are going even if they didn’t really care because that’s just how they knew how to be great managers – and although some of them faked it better than others, it worked. I find myself struggling to so much as say hi and bye to my team each day. I know it’s so dumb – as I can envision myself with a big smile asking them about their weekend plans, but then whenever I try I end up feeling so drained just by the effort to come across personal without being too personal. Friendly, but not a friend. Boss-like, but also cool boss, but also someone who has her shit together, despite clearly not having her shit together.

The long and short of it is that I can keep doing this to myself over and over again… for, oh, I don’t know how long… or I need to find a completely different path. I know I’ve said this before a zillion times but now I actually believe it. I mean, I went from making $90k six years ago to nearly $200k today and that’s helpful in terms of my bank account but only feels like an accomplishment in deceit. A good friend of mine – now long-time colleague – has suggested that I take a job that doesn’t pay quite so much in order to provide a little less stress – and less having my bosses constantly calculating if my ROI is worth my cost and then being so passive aggressive about earlier negotiations.

I’ve been rather aggressive when it comes to negotiating because as a woman all we’re told is that we get paid less and we should ask for more. Ok, I did it… and I still have no idea if a man of my “level” would have asked for even more or less, but I felt good about pushing and I had two offers at this rate (actually the other one was for even more) which made me feel justified in accepting one of them. However, getting a salary offer and having that salary not haunt you for the entirety of your tenure with a company – especially if that company is a small business and your boss knows that every dollar spent limits his changes of success and wealth – is probably worth more than $10k or even $20k more a year after tax.

There are two paths here that are the easiest, and then many others which will be much harder and more scary. I stay on the path I’m on, and with my newly-gained experience try my best to stay in this role as long as possible and then when I need to (which may unfortunately be sooner than later) I interview like crazy and try to convince someone that I’m great and negotiate strongly again and walk away with a similar salary and another six months of attempting to do my best without that actually being anywhere near good enough. OR – I find a job that’s maybe lower level by a bit – maybe at a bigger company (though it’s really hard to get hired at a bigger company when you mostly have smaller company experience) and take a salary of anywhere from $120k-$140k (which isn’t bad by any means but it’s a massive pay cut) and then just see if I can maintain that job.

Or I just take another path entirely. Open my own small business. Go back to school for design. Return to my earlier profession as a journalist. Write a novel. Or a yawn-inducing memoir. Learn about shooting film. Move to the middle of nowhere and take college art classes until I’m credentialed to teach. Make a living selling crafts on Etsy. “Come out” as the author of this blog and make a name for myself as this depressed, anxious 30-something who is so remarkably spoiled that despite her disability the only response she gets from the universe is a series of eye rolls and “woe is you’s.”

It’s just at this point where I am at my wit’s end. I can’t even talk to my fiancé about this anymore because he doesn’t like hearing about how I’m failing over and over again. I don’t blame him. He also doesn’t work in business, so he can’t really relate. And he knows a lot of it is my depression and a lot of it is me being lazy but I swear that due to this constant ridiculous anxiety that just builds and builds and builds.

And it’s all fine and well to fall over on my face as many times as necessary to get through life / build a nest egg … but not if I have kids (which I want to do and have to do soon if I want my own.) And so I feel like I’m running straight for a brick wall that someone told me is made of styrofoam but we all know damn well it’s just made out of actual very fucking hard brick. I know I can’t keep running straight ahead, but the older I get, the faster my momentum, and the harder to slow down, the more impossible to stop and turn away from the inevitable outcome of shattering into a million pieces.

Death from Afar

My grandmother is a classic narcissist. My first memory of her was when I was probably five or six years old and she was so mad at me that I wouldn’t clear my plate of blueberry blintzes despite that the plate was large and I wasn’t hungry enough to eat them all being a five year old girl. That isn’t the best example of her narcissism, but it’s my first memory of her. An old video shows her extremely annoyed by my childish antics and saying she doesn’t want to visit anymore, only half joking. My reaction at maybe all by four years old is “that’s mean.” She also thought the Obama family personally sent her a handwritten note because she’s so well respected in the world, and made me invite Bob Dole to my Bat Mitzvah since she was somehow involved in his campaign (shockingly, he declined.)

She has three children – three daughters (my mother being the oldest) who all have pieces of the same narcissism embedded in their own personalities to varying degrees. And, now that their mother is dying, no one really wants to deal with it. It’s a difficult situation because she had gambled away her life savings ($300k+) and never once thanks her daughters for anything they do to help her out – her natural state is complaining about whatever situation she is in, even if it’s her own fault she got there.

I do understand that being old sucks. Her husband died many years ago and she spent all the time after that being a gambling addict. What else was she going to do? No one wanted to be around her. At the casino the workers would listen to her stories and pretend to care. She had an audience. And she paid dearly for it. But what else was she going to do when her own daughters didn’t want to visit her?

But then a few years ago she fell and had to move into a home on the outskirts of Las Vegas. For what it is, it’s nice. But it’s also a small house in suburbia with no way out but “up.” She has her own room which was a requirement for her (and luckily something that my mother figured out she could afford barely) but she has no one to come visit to take her out to even get some fresh air. The other seniors who live in the house certainly can’t stand her (though at the same time she doesn’t get bored of talking and telling her delusional stories so she might be somewhat entertaining to them) so she’s just alone. Old and alone and her own daughters bicker about whether they should go out to see her as her condition declines. The middle sister this morning asked if she would have to go out to the funeral (the older sister doesn’t actually work or have any major commitments that would keep her from traveling.) Meanwhile the younger sister would go because she lives with the most guilt and my mother, the oldest sister, would go even though she wouldn’t want to and she wouldn’t have any emotions around the situation because she has no emotions.

My grandmother is losing her mind, as an old person does, but it’s always hard to know how much so since her mind was always lost. She fell a few months ago and they had to take her to the hospital but she refused to be treated for any of her issues so they sent her home to be on hospice care and basically to die. However, one doesn’t die overnight. Dying can be a long process in which you’re left alone to suffer through all the pains that come along with the body shutting down.

Yesterday, the manager of the home called my mother to tell her that grandma hasn’t eaten in four days. We all were a bit stunned that they decided to wait that long to call. No one at the home seemed to know exactly her state and she was asleep. Hospice care apparently only means checking in three times a week and giving her a weekly bath. I had to get on the phone with the home to ask these questions because not one of her daughters could think of how to help in the situation.

Since she hasn’t eaten for four days, my first question was – why? Is she in such a bad state that she can’t eat anymore and is very close to death – or is there another reason? The closet I came to experiencing death was watching my grandfather in his last weeks. He was at the hospital and being fed through a feeding tube and hooked up to lots of machines and you could hear the rattling in his chest. He eventually was sent to a hospice house where he died fairly quickly. I didn’t see the very end, but I did see him at the hospital, and I’m glad I did. It does provide some closure to be able to say goodbyes  – and also just to understand that it’s the body’s time to pass.

But I’m not clear my grandmother is in that state yet. When we finally got her on the phone today she couldn’t hear a thing but the woman caretaker was able to communicate with her. We found out she ate a half slice of toast today but she doesn’t want to eat because her body burns (she always has had bad acid reflux but refuses to take medicine for it.) She also has other various ailments that could be cured or helped significantly by taking some basic meds but no one can convince her of that. She’s pretty much determined to die at this point – and that’s her right. And she is dying. But I can’t help thinking of how horrible it is to be alone – no matter how awful a person’s spirit is – that doesn’t chance that they deserve to have as good as possible of an end of life experience.

At the moment her mind flutters between reality and memories and delusions – but she very clearly remembers that I’m marrying someone who isn’t Jewish and brings that up all the time. Apparently last week she had convinced herself that her youngest daughter (while on the phone with her) was the one marrying someone who isn’t Jewish and she went on and on about how the children aren’t going to be Jewish and all the problems they will have… she’s definitely in and out of reality, but that she won’t forget.

My mother was trying to figure out whether she should go out there. Actually, all the sisters are trying to figure out when they should visit. My mother has a wedding to go to this weekend (and then my wedding coming up in a few weeks but this is actually a good time for her to go otherwise.) Her middle sister doesn’t care to see her mother at all before or after she dies. Her youngest sister wants to go but she is still working and has a lot going on in her life, but she’d make the time for it. The younger two are more bitter at their mother for how she has treated them through the years and my mother has not an angry of bitter bone in her body to use. She also has no caring bone. She just manages logistics. She has no heart.

When I heard my grandma wasn’t eating, I immediately thought we should try to get her the one meal that she loves — lamp chops with mint jelly — from the casino she would gamble all her money away at in her early senior years. I understand she wouldn’t want to eat any of the crappy food at the home that they serve but if she could get lamp chops, maybe she’d want to eat that. Maybe she wouldn’t, but at least then we’d see if she was capable of eating. I called the restaurant and tried to coordinate a delivery of the lamp chops but it turns out they’re no longer on the menu and the manager promised to call me back after he spoke with the chef today to see if they could make them still. If I could get them made I would be able to get an Uber driver to deliver them. She’d never appreciate someone doing that for her – surely she’d find something to complain about. Our family doesn’t know how to say thanks or to appreciate when other people do things for them. I’m guilty of this too, for sure, but at least I’m aware of it.

What I’ve realized this week too is how much I care… care about other people’s happiness… and how much I enjoy caring. Well, I knew this already, but I’ve come back to it. As I falter again and again in business where I’m not allowed to have a heart, I find myself still most comfortable caring about other people. And I do care – I care about my grandma being left alone in a room to die in a pile of her own shit. I know her daughter’s either hate her or don’t want to intervene with her wishes to just die in peace. So maybe doing nothing is the right thing to do. We asked her on the phone today if she wants my mother to visit and her answer was no – she’s too sick and not in a state to see people. She always wants to put on her makeup and look “perfect” for any guests. But how do you explain to an old crazy narcissistic lady that she won’t ever see her daughters again if she waits until she’s ready to wear makeup and pull herself together? And would she even care?

Wedding Ridiculousness

Don’t ask me how much this wedding is costing. I don’t want to know. Unfortunately I do. I am going overboard (and that’s an understatement) and yet I don’t FEEL like I’m having an extravagant wedding by any means. It’s just the little… and the BIG things… add up. The whole situation makes me sick to my stomach – yet I’m so far in I can’t dig myself out.

Case in point – hair and makeup trials. Who the hell cares what I look like on my wedding day? Me. I do. I’m vain. I’m vain but that’s kind of built into the whole wedding situation which requests of you to wear a big white dress and have the more photographs of yourself ever taken in one day. No pressure. I mean, the photos will likely be the only remainder of you long after you die and your children’s children’s children are looking back at that one picture that remains of their great great grandmother and there you are with the world’s worst hair and eyeliner that has run down your cheek. No fucking pressure.

Each hair trial is about $100 or so. Makeup trials run the same. I’ve done two makeup trials (which I think given the situation is reasonable) and have settled on the second artist. At some point I just have to accept my face is my face. It’s not horrible. I have a wonky left eye and eyelid and my profile is unfortunate due to the lack of a substantial chin and unsightly nose. But who cares, right? I mean – a wedding is about love and marriage and not all this fucking vanity that is costing me a fortune because I want so desperately for one day of my life to look beautiful before I turn into a shriveled up old women with no sex appeal whatsoever. Despite being 32, this wedding feels like the end of my extended delusioned youth. Hair, however, is proving to be a major issue. My hair is just… blah… and after three hair trials I’ve yet to really find a stylist I like. But I don’t think it’s their fault, it’s my hair, plus maybe unreasonable expectations for what it can do. We can add extensions (another $100+ investment) and I can go get it dyed (which I probably will do for $200+) and maybe after that one of these styles will look decent but you know what it’s really just my manly Hungarian cheekboned round face and fat arms that make the hair just not work. So. I’ve spent, oh, over $500 on hair/makeup trials (I KNOW I KNOW THIS IS INSANE) and I still don’t like my hair options. Since I’ve spent $7500 on a photographer and $7000 on my dress (including alterations) it just seems at this point rather ridiculous to have horrible hair – though, I’m unsure if it is more or less ridiculous to spend another $500 on finding the right hair stylist.

Then there’s the ACTUAL costs of the hair and makeup styling day of… my hair/makeup will be about $300, then I am paying for 8 bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup done (about $160 each) which I don’t have to do – but I want everyone to look good for the pictures and my girls aren’t vain like me so they wouldn’t spend that much if I asked them to chip in on their own. I’m trying to make this wedding as reasonable cost wise for them so they don’t hate me afterwards… their bridesmaid dresses, the ONE frugal thing in this whole freaking disaster of a financial experiment – were on sale from $290 to $109. Phew. One smart financial choice. Too bad that doesn’t actually help my or my family’s bottom line.

I want to look forward to this wedding. I really do. I know when I’m at the venue – even if it’s pouring rain and flooded and lightning and hailing and five traffic accidents have caused every last guest to miss the ceremony – I’ll still be able to look at my life partner and enjoy the whole “hey, we’re getting married” thing. I’m sure whether my hair is a complete disaster or perfectly coiffed he will still love me and still marry me and at the end of the very fast expensive day we will be married and we can move on with our lives and be adults and never again think to splurge so embarrassingly on a very brief experience that will be over and done before we can say hello to every single guest.

Weddings. Bah humbug. I make them a whole lot more psychotic than they need to be. For sure. But I’m not alone. I don’t think a lot of brides talk about it. Well, there are bridezillas who just have a lot of money to spend (or don’t but act like they do) and don’t worry about the costs. Then there’s me – a perfectionist who recognizes how stupid this whole thing is and how $70k+ that is now being spent on the wedding  would be much, much, MUCH better off going to a down payment on a house or grad school or a trip around the world or even 100 virgins (to do my laundry – what are you thinking?) and I’m so in over my head right now and although I joke here and there about how overwhelmed I am… I am really, seriously, completely, morbidly, enthusiastically, and maniacally overwhelmed at the moment. I feel a major depression coming on and trying to grasp onto mild mania if only to power through this and be able to actually enjoy this nut job of an event that will be occurring next month as long as my fiancé and I still have a pulse.

On top of all this stupid wedding crap, I’m trying to keep my job and do a good job and I’m so far off the mark on that as well. It doesn’t help that I can’t focus 100% of all my time on it, and it’s pretty damn clear I’m distracted which is likely going to cost me yet another job which I can’t afford to lose right now. I know I need to just let go of the wedding at some point (well I will once it’s OVER) but some details I can’t ignore. I have to figure out transportation for guests and make food choices and somehow coordinate the day’s schedule so my mother’s photography requirements do not force me to go future Dateline NBC-guest ape-shit and slash her with a cake knife half way through the evening.

When I think about everything that has to get done my thoughts drift to those common suicidal ideations which aren’t exactly real but nonetheless are so appealing as everything seems so impossible right now. I’m running faster than I’ve never run before but unfortunately it’s straight into a brick wall. I want out. I don’t want to feel like this right now. I should be excited. I should be so thrilled that my big wedding day is coming up and my friends and family are flying in from all over the country to see me and my man tie the knot and celebrate with us. I am excited about THAT but everything else is killing me. I mean. I think it might be literally killing me. I can’t handle it all. I should probably call my therapist but then what crazy OCD bride can actually afford therapy? Not this one, that’s for sure.

For the first time in my LIFE I’m at risk for not being able to pay my monthly credit card bills. That is terrifying. I certainly make a lot right now and luckily my fiancé has liquid savings we can spend (I’d pay him back of course) but – it’s scary when you look at your monthly credit card bill and it’s like $10,000 and you don’t have $10,000 sitting around to pay it. That’s when you know you are making DUMB AS FUCK (TM) financial decisions. At 32 I’ve saved $350,000 in networth so I keep telling myself it’s OK To splurge a little bit (or a lot bit) once in my life and then I’ll go back to frugal living and get myself to $500k in the next 2-3 years which is still a major accomplishment ($500k before 35 isn’t so bad) so … it’s fine. I just want to be able to stop worrying about how much it costs and focus on how much fun it will be. Or, you know, how much fun it will be when it’s over.