Suffocated by Adulthood: Failure to Thrive

I’m in trouble, yet again, for failing to plan appropriately for my projects and getting them done on time. I deserve to be let go, and I probably will be, and if I’m not I’m wondering if I have the capability to be organized and plan more effectively, gain consensus and get shit done so at least I can keep my job. Odds are not looking good.

I found out today, in a senior team meeting, that my new boss was hired this week. I wasn’t surprised, through some rudimentary sleuthing and typical paranoia I knew the hire was imminent. I’m not upset by the hire itself, nor being removed from the entire process of interviewing the candidate. What makes me saddest of all is what that means in terms of my own success in my role, or, let’s be real here, lack there of. I’m lucky to still have a job, and know I won’t be around for long–in a brief meeting with my boss today I was told my role would be shrinking further…

A more focused role is perhaps not the worst thing for me–if I can take on less work and do a really good job, then that would be rewarding in and of itself. The big problem there is that I’m paid way too much for the role that I have now. The second big problem is that even if I do an amazing job in this more limited role for the next year or two–even if I knocked it out of the park and slayed the specific areas for which I’m responsible — I’ll still be in this spot where my skills are not valued at the level I need to be paid in order to afford to live and have a family.

Do I need to make $200k? Maybe not – but the reality is that in my experience applying for roles that are responsible for a much wider umbrella, salaries are more like $150k-$175k. I’d be OK with that salary, but the reality is that THOSE roles are ones where I have to have broader experience in the very areas which are being systematically removed from my management – maybe because I am very bad at them – or maybe because I always end up focusing on the low-value roles which I’m somewhat decent at and I don’t have time to get good at the things which would make me more employable.

Ironically, I was up for one role in the past few weeks–which I thought I might be able to do a good job at–and I was told that they decided to go with another person who was more of a specialist… in the areas that I happen to be a specialist in, go figure. That said, we didn’t talk salary and I’m certain whoever they hired is taking much lower pay than what I am currently making –because specialists don’t make good money. To make good money, at least in my field, you need to be in upper management. — I enjoy the more empathetic elements of management and helping people grow, but I’m just a disorganized mess. I’m not cut out for management. In other words, I’m running up against a brick wall that will never budge.

I’ve been having a lot of suicidal ideation lately because I feel so stuck and afraid. The other day I had a bit of epiphany — I don’t want to kill myself… I want to kill my life. If money wasn’t an issue, I’d want to start over and do something totally different. I want to not feel so shackled to my salary and this idea that if I don’t keep moving up that I’m a failure. It was fun to go from $30k to $55k to $80k to $120k to $160k to $190k in 10 years. My last negotiation I had one job offer at $210k so I pushed a little too hard in my current role’s negotiation, but it doesn’t really matter because once you’re making over $120k or so you’re going to be on the chopping block if you’re not clearly contributing a lot of value (though my new boss will likely think I’m overpaid and I’ll be on the chopping block much faster.)

Where do I go from here? Salary-wise, either I find a role that is broader like what this position was when I started out and negotiate for a similar salary (not higher), or I leave the company and go into a more specialist role and make less (and likely never make what I’m making now unless I one day again move up into management), or I change roles completely and take classes/ go back to school and start out back at $60k or $80k or $100k and work my way up again in a field that possibly will never pay $200k.

Money doesn’t make me happy, but I’m awfully good at spending it. Life is expensive and I’m so fortunate to have what I have. I’m just tired of thinking every night when I leave work that at least I have survived another day. I start to play out the weeks ahead in my mind and think well, I can try to survive until X date. I don’t think being in a constant state of fight-or-flight enables me to do good work.

My neuropsychological testing found that I don’t have ADHD, but my memory is severely impacted by my persistent depression. Maybe SSRIs would help, but I can’t take those because I’m trying to get pregnant (sort of.) The older I get, as every month goes by, the more hopeless I feel. I guess you can say I’m not cut out for work – but of course I have to work. It doesn’t matter if I’m making $5k a year or $250k a year, I suck at responsibility and I furthermore suck at being able to think straight and be creative and productive and have high output when I am in this constant state of depression.

I don’t know if I should try to leave my company now or if I should just stay as long as possible until I get laid off… and, you know, do my best, even if that’s not good enough (because it won’t be.) With my new boss starting at the end of February I feel fairly safe until the end of March or April, when the quarterly firings would occur. It’s possible I’d be able to stick it out until June, since it might be difficult for my new boss to get to the point where she starts shifting people around in her team until then. And, as noted earlier, if I do manage to do a really good job in my tiny little role, I might get to stay, but she may try to reduce my salary, or I may still be let go if she’d prefer to take my headcount and replace me with someone(s) more valuable.

The best course of action here, of course, is to just stop worrying and get my shit done. If I can stop constantly playing through all the various outcomes of the future, and how stuck I am, maybe I could just do a good enough job that would open unexpected doors… or maybe I’ll just stay long enough that I’ll save enough where I can consult for a living and make less money and move somewhere cheaper and just have an average, normal life. I mean, if I just don’t overspend for a year, I could possibly save $70k or more in one year, not including any interest. I won’t get wealthy off the role, but what if I could just kick ass in my role for the long term and stay for, say, four years– through the birth of my first and second child.

Even if I never got a raise (because I probably won’t and I doubt I’ll ask for one ever given I know I’m overpaid) I could save $250k-$300k… in four years, at age 37-ish and with two children all under the age of three, I could have $700k in the bank. It’s not enough for financial freedom, and it means working through my children’s first few years of life (which will be hard), but having $700k in four years if I can just be a good employee, well, that buys me a lot of freedom for the rest of my life.

Chances of lasting four years in this job are slim to nil, but if I can focus on THAT being my goal versus freaking out about what’s next, maybe I could do a good enough job that I’d get to stay, and no one would bother to reduce my salary if I’m contributing a lot and have a great attitude and work my ass off and show up early and leave late and all those things a good employee does. Maybe then the next job doesn’t matter because there will be no next full time job. Maybe I should suck it up and become a new person here… just somehow make my new boss love me. Talk when I should and shut up when I shouldn’t. Do whatever it takes to make her like me, starting with being the opposite of most of the things that come natural to me.

Or, I GTFO before I have a chance to fall to pieces. I don’t have the emotional energy to go through more interviews right now. The roles I really want are out of reach, and the ones I can get put me back to square one with no reason to believe that the experience will be any different.

I think I need to just focus on impressing my new boss, and maybe I will surprise her and surprise myself. Who knows. I need to get on top of things and I need to try to do a great job and not spend a lot and get pregnant and set up the rest of my life. I won’t be happy but maybe I’ll be laying the foundation for whatever happiness it is that the future may hold.

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