All posts by Joy

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.

My Parents Are Actually Not That Great with Money

When I grew up I knew two things to be fact – my dad was talented at earning money and my mom was equally talented at spending it. My mother constantly complained about us not having a lot of nice things – and we indeed were upper middle class and not a millimeter over the upper class line – but we had it rather great. As my father worked a professional job requiring his math brain, the money kept rolling in. And my mom (and I) would keep spending it.

But despite the “every time we come back from the mall” fights on spending it never was  a “real” issue. We weren’t in danger of losing the house. My private college tuition was paid for outright. So was my sister’s private school for a learning disability and then college. Apparently at some point my father’s company was sold and he did fairly well for himself in his stock and income appreciation. My parents should be comfortably set for life and then some.

However my father (who was told he had two years to live about nine years ago, mind you) and my mother have spent and spent and spent post “earning” years and with the stock market underperforming all his estimates about his finances didn’t quite pan out. Shocking for a man who made a career out of calculating risk. Yet, here we are today, with my father looking at all the numbers involved in the family finances and he can’t make heads or tails of it. There’s a massive home equity loan out that has to be paid back fairly soon, and there’s little left on it to borrow at this point anyway. He wanted to spend a lot on my wedding but, now that I better understand their financial situation – I realize it was not a good idea. It’s not that they are broke – they have social security and pension money coming in… about $100k a year. But in order to afford not only my wedding but also a winter condo they bought in the southeast and renovations to that condo and fixing a bunch of things breaking around their main house there is the reality that my dad had to pull out a bunch of money from the IRA bumping him up into a higher tax bracket so most of the income they’re making goes to taxes.

So they have to in the next few years pay back about $200k in home equity. How? The idea seems to be either from a reverse mortgage (which as I learn more about I really don’t like) or taking more money out of the IRA and paying a lot of taxes on it or, well, there aren’t many other options. The money is there, but it isn’t. They’re so much more fortunate than most people their age (due to smart saving at least and the possibility of a one-working-parent household being able to afford a nice life and a decent retirement) but their spending is just out of control. It’s not just my wedding – which theoretically my father had budgeted “forever” for – it’s the lack of acceptance of 1 – what life really costs and 2 – what their life really costs.

My father keeps talking about how they’re going to have to “get frugal” and I can’t help but laugh. They aren’t exactly going on luxury vacations but my parents do spend. My mother has no concept of money and I worry she’s going to eventually spend every last cent of her retirement money leaving her with “just” the monthly income – which at some point may not be enough to pay for her care. I’ll help, of course, as much as I can – but I’m stuck in the reality of my world which = I cannot ever afford a house, I cannot figure out how to save enough for my own/my family’s retirement, even on my current substantial income (which will not last because I’m about to completely crack in my current career and my next step is something less profitable but more personally fulfilling, I hope) – in any case, I’ll need to help out of guilt knowing how much my own life has cost them, but it’s still frustrating that this didn’t have to happen… they were doing so well and then they had to put an addition on the house and had to buy too-nice further for the vacation property and had to get a new dress for every wedding-related event coming up (I’m glad I talked my mother out of purchasing a $2000 dress for my wedding when the $300 dress she got looked WAY better than the one the fancy store was trying to sell her.)

I just worry too because I know that in so many years my father’s cancer will eventually end his life (I hope this is a long time out but who knows) and my mother will – god willing – life a very long time. But as bad with money and gullible as she is she’s suceptable to all sorts of scams and con arts and just about any potential way for her money to disappear. My dad likes to talk to me (so awkwardly) about how he wants my sister and I to get an inheritance – and I can’t comment on that because on and hand I think inheritances are just plain awful and unfair and should not be allowed and on the other hand the world we live in is one where people can or can not afford to, say, buy a house or send their kids to college due to such mini dynasties. It’s not a topic I’m comfortable talking about and I certainly don’t want to be the person held responsible for convincing my mom not to, you know, spend that money that one day would possibly end up trickling down to me and my sister – even though I honestly don’t want it if she needs to spend it, I just don’t want to see her getting conned. I worry I’ll have to be the responsible one because my sister knows nothing about money and clearly I’m the best educated on the topic (I don’t know how that happened but anyway, it happened.)

My father was even asking my advice on how to repay the home equity. I have no idea. $200 is a lot of money. It took me a very long time to save $200. Now I have almost double that. But it’s all locked up in retirement funds and such. It’s about half of the cost of their actual house. I don’t understand home ownership and the whole taking loans out against your property. It seems like he has a really great rate (2 percent?) so maybe that’s a smart/good thing. But it’s only smart insofar as the needed to spend the money. It’s my wedding but it’s more than that for sure. It’s just this nature of spending and spending and spending and being delusional slash not wanting to deal with the time to come when they really do need to be “frugal” in their own middle class sort of way… not something my mother has known how to do for years. I worry they’ll lose their home – though my father said that will never happen – but I’m starting to doubt his ability to predict these things. He seems rather surprised about how much taxes he owes in general and how things add up and money keeps disappearing. He seems perplexed that the stock market didn’t perform strongly so his networth shrunk more than expected and he didn’t have a backup plan to deal with this. And this all has led me to the conclusion that my father – the math guy – the financial industry risk expert – is actually really bad with personal finances. I worry for them, and I also hope somehow I can do better with my own family and wealth. I’m beginning to think that all starts with NOT owning property – EVER. Rent is expensive but at least it’s not handcuffs.

Wedding Registries and the Pile of Boxes in My Living Room Corner

Thank you profusely to all the kind wedding guests who have sent me a gift for my bridal shower in advance of my upcoming nuptials. Thank you for going to my online registry and selecting a gift that I already picked out from a store like Macys or William and Sonoma and purchasing it and having it delivered to my apartment. Suddenly, I’ve gone from having no quality household items to a smorgasbord of things I want, need, and thought might be interesting to own that I don’t actually need that fit that golden present cost requirement of “around $30-$50” so everything on my registry wouldn’t be too expensive and offensive.

Thank you for the china that I asked for – it’s beautiful – and likely will be about half of the items I will need for a complete set due to how these things work out – so then I have the choice to either return the china to get something I actually really need and feel guilty that I’m returning your gifts (that, mind you, I asked for) or keep it and somehow find the money to buy the rest of the set after the most expensive year of my life (and, thank you for reminding me that I get a special extra 10% off discount six months after my wedding to buy anything that wasn’t purchased on my registry – that will not actually help me afford these items.) Also, thank you for suggesting I use any cash I do get for my wedding to complete the registry because all the bills for the actual wedding will be paid for with fairy dust.

Thank you for avoiding the items on my registry which I actually need but are rather bland or unladylike to purchase (buying knives for a bridal shower seems so unromantic.) Thank you for the fancy measuring cups and vegetable cutting contraptions and vases and towels and wine glasses. Thank you for taking me serious when I put items on my registry I clearly don’t need when I live in a household with two plates and a thousand steak knives and a few random pots I purchased at Target when I moved into my own apartment 10 years ago. Thank you for all these beautiful gifts I will likely exchange for things I actually need because the reality is I have no where to put all these items I don’t need at the moment. My apartments is small and I’m not sure what to do with all this amazing stuff that I asked for but didn’t realize the consequences of getting.

Thank you for the piles of boxes at my door everyday I get home which should be exciting but instead are a tall pile of doom in which I must identify another spot in my living room in which to store these items which likely will go back to the store eventually when I have time to get around to it and be turned into a nice set of pots and pans.

Thank you for registries not allowing you to ask for either a complete set of something or individual items so either you have a set that a group of guests can go in together to purchase that is quite expensive or individual items that seem too expensive on their own for a group to buy even though they’re what I actually want (hey, good knives are expensive.)

Thank you for editing registries after two shots of whiskey and the brilliant idea to put about five different knife sets and individual knives on my registry to see if any lovely friend out there will get the hint that the most appreciated gift of all would be some high-quality cooking knives that I one day will likely slice off one of my fingers with due to their high-quality sharpness. Thank you to wedding registries for being outdated yet the best option since the various “cash funds” online all take a percentage of the gift which is a waste of money – i.e. honey fund, down payment funds, etc and it’s still considered rude to ask for cash.

Thank you to all of the people I invited who sent me gifts who can’t come to any of my wedding festivities as you won’t get to partake in the celebration or enjoy the food or band and you still sent me a gift and I feel guilty about that but thank you that’s very kind of you.

And now, back to the pile boxes.

Networth Update May 2016: $365k

2016 networth goal $500k – aborted. I’ll be lucky if I break even this year. It’s my own fault. I’m making a really solid income I’m just spending way too much on my wedding. I mean – wayyyyy too much. I’m torn on how bad I feel about it. On one hand, financial blogger self feels nauseous about how much this wedding costs – and how I failed to manage to keep the budget within my very generous parent’s contribution that at first seemed impossible to exceed. Well, it seemed impossible to exceed before I fully understood the difference between $2000 and $6000 wedding dresses and how the higher petal count of garden roses makes them just so much more elegant than a standard rose and that DJs really aren’t our style and venues which rush you out because another couple is getting married an hour after your celebration ends make the whole day feel so unfortunately rushed and unromantic.

Ok. I went overboard. Way overboard. You can see how overboard in my networth chart for the year to date:

It’s going to look flat for the next few months. I’ve paid off the entirety of my dress and alterations, as well as deposits on the florist and photographer and videographer. I still don’t understand how despite how much we’re spending on this shindig it still feels I have to cut corners all over the place.

I’ve revamped my networth goal this year to $400k. It’s $100k under where I was hoping to be at this point but then again it doesn’t look like I’m having a kid anytime soon — and the real goal is $500k before my first child is born. If I add in my future husband’s savings and count it in my networth we’ll be close to $500k by that point. I’m still going to account my own networth separately going forward though – I don’t really think we should merge our bank accounts. We’re doing just fine splitting rent and food at this point. When we have kids or buy a house I guess we’ll have to figure it out.

So… I don’t think I’ll be able to save any money until after the wedding. I’m still maxing out my 401k this year… about half way there so far… but the rest of the wedding expenses will wipe out my sizable take-home income for the next few months. We haven’t even planned a honeymoon because that will be too expensive and there’s no time… though I’d like to take one. In any case, I figure July will be the first month this year I can start saving something. I have a zillion weddings to go to this year as well which are across the country, so I’ll be spending a lot even after my wedding is done. I’ll somehow make it work.

If I break even by July 1 — say, $360k — I have $40k to make up in the next six months of the year… or $6.6k per month. Fortunately with my income that’s doable but I really cannot buy anything other than gifts for my friend’s weddings and plane tickets (you know, and food and rent and such.) I just really really really need to keep my job. Odds are looking ok on that but not great. If I lose my job all bets are off. I’ve been struggling to manage wedding planning and job together so once that’s over I can get back to focusing 100% on work… hopefully I’ll last that long.

Farewell $500k goal… on my way to $400k this year. Next year I think $500k is really possible with interest and such or at least getting closer to it. 2017 will be my half million year, I hope.

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.