Category Archives: Career

When You Come Home from Work Shaking With Anxiety…

There are plenty of signs that my current job is on its last legs, and soon it will be time to move on. Although I can potentially obtain another role with the same or even a higher salary, at this point there is the logical side of me that says “stay just another month” as each month is coming to an end, just to save up for my future, just to get to a point in life where I won’t need to be stressed so much about finances, where I can focus on living instead of worrying every day.

My objective in life is to be in my 50s and to be able to take my children and friends out to dinner and get the check, without worrying if I can pay my rent. I imagine I need $2M by my 50s in order to afford this lifestyle. That seems rather impossible, but with my current savings if I can earn 10% YoY for the next 17 years, I’d have over $2M. The 10% annual growth is unlikely, though, so bringing it down to a much more likely 5%, that only gets me to $1M at 50. This doesn’t include any additional contributions between now and then, so it’s still possible… I need to save about $40k annually for the next 17 years in order to hit my goal.

Today, with my current lifestyle and savings, I’m able to save ~$6k a month or more. To be conservative, I would easily save $72k a year at the moment. If I can sustain that for the next 17 years, I will clearly hit my goal (unless all hell breaks loose in the economy, of course.) However, I know I cannot maintain this career for 17 more years. I also don’t want to — I don’t want to get to 50 and look back on my life and see that I didn’t create anything significant or impact the world in a positive way. Yes, I can “start” my life at 50… assuming I have kids soon, they’ll be in high school then, and I can go back to school or change careers at that point with $2M in the bank as a safety net, but that seems sad to me… I cannot imagine spending my children’s entire childhoods and adolescence working a job that requires me to rarely be home… missing out on important life events and just being there for my kids. I really don’t want that.

Of course, if I can’t have kids, this is a moot point… if I end up not able to have children, then two things happen – I can stay employed in this type of role for longer, saving more money, and I don’t have kids, so clearly I would be not spending as much either. Regardless, I still want children, and I’m still going to try to have them.

If I do get pregnant and have kids, I know my life has to change, as does my expectations for the future. I don’t think I’ll be able to continuously save $40k+ a year – some years, I’ll be lucky if I can max out my 401k. If I want to change my career, I’ll likely need to go back to school and invest in that and start at a lower wage for many years. I’m not going to do that until I know for sure what I want to be when I grow up… which may never happen. But this career isn’t right. This career is going to cause me to have a heart attack before I even make it to 50.

There is other $ variables at play, that I don’t consider when planning my future, as they’re all “extras” and “nice to haves” but cannot be counted on. My husband makes a living as well, and although his salary is much lower than mine, he still is able to save something each year, and eventually he can earn more as well. Then we have our parents who may pass down something to us one day, but planning for a life with a potential inheritance seems both futile and deeply morbid. Neither of our parents are well off, but there’s a chance we’ll get a few hundred thousand dollars or more one day down the line. That alone could pay for our retirements. So, the reality is I’m in a good place… the $500k mark in my networth will be a sigh of a relief, a moment to celebrate maybe a glimmer of financial freedom… the opportunity to take a few more risks… to start to find out what really matters to me in this very short life, versus just working for works sake.

I have a new boss. New boss is great in the sense that new boss is really good at her job. New boss is everything someone in a senior leadership role in this career should be. New boss is, in many ways, the opposite of me. New Boss (I’ll call boss “B” for the sake of simplicity) is a tiger. B doesn’t take shit from anyone and knows what she wants and she gets it done. B knows what to do and how to navigate the political waters of the workplace with ease. B is on the ball, all the time, and doesn’t let emotions get in the way of decisions.  B is not someone I can aspire to be like — my entire being cannot be that person. I can’t fake it. I can’t just wake up every morning and put my “B” cap on and suddenly be this great senior executive. B will never be me.

In the meantime, if I want to stay, I have to impress B. I am already starting from far behind as B was clearly told things about me in the interview process that were far from flattering, and B has visibility into my salary and knows that it’s high for my current role (it was high but fair for my prior role where I was running the department, not so much for my smaller and smaller role, which is shrinking by the day.) At some point the numbers just won’t work. At some point either they would give me a pay cut or let me go.

B is very strategic. B knows there is a large amount of change required and will make those changes in an organized manner, getting the most value out of me as possible before I am removed from the organization. If I continue to provide value, I don’t think I’ll be fired immediately. I could be wrong, but the organization seems to have a policy around being fair, and if I’m doing the job requested of me and fulfilling the role, I do not see being tossed out as long as the company is doing well and isn’t going through any formal layoffs. In the case of formal layoff it is clear I’d be one of the first to go. But as long as we’re doing well and I’m doing my job and getting things done on time and at a quality expected of me, I should get to stay.

Yet I’m not sure I’m capable of getting the things done that are required of me on time and at the level of quality expected. I’m determine to try – focusing on doing my very best and giving it my all for ~3 months is not a bad objective, even if my future tenure is limited. That’s 90 days, $18k+ in savings, and ideally a good reference to walk with based on the fact that I really did try my best and, as the song goes, I guess my best wasn’t good enough.

According to my latest networthIQ entry, my networth today is $468k. With that $18k additional, that gets me to about $486k, within an arm’s reach from my $500k goal.

Or, I get another job that pays less, and is more sustainable, and I get to $500k sometime later this year — which is the goal anyway and theoretically I could work through the end of May, get to $486k, take my PTO dollars and some of my savings, take 3 months off and travel the world, come back with $475k in the bank, get a job that pays less than my current one (say $7k take home per month after tax vs $10k), save $4k a month, save $16k for the rest of the year, get to around $491k by the end of the year (and that’s WITH taking 3 months off and taking a job that pays much less when I get back.) So even if I take a ~$3k paycut and take 3 months off, I should still be within striking distance of my goals.

OR, I just suck it up, work in this role through the rest of the year by giving it my all and somehow being “not firable” … save $70k more, get to around $538k, get pregnant sometime this summer, stay at work for the 9 months of my pregnancy, say 5 more months in 2018, save another $35k, get to ~$575k then freelance for a few years earning a lot less, but living off the money I was able to save fighting through this job for … 15 more months. That seems like a very long time and between now and then we could easily have a mass layoff which I’d be caught up in anyway, but logically staying 15 more months gives me +2 years in my current job (good for the resume), and the amount I’d save is almost worth it. With interest, I could have $600k saved up when I leave work for a more flexible lifestyle for a few years when my kids are young. My objective, then, would be to not tap that $600k… to make enough money to pay rent/mortgage/taxes, for food and any vacations/entertainment travel with whatever I earn (and what my husband earns.)

In that reality, with $600k untouched for 10 years growing at 5-6% YoY I get to $900k-$1M by 44. That’s not the $2M by 50, but it’s still rather exciting that this seems possible — better if I stay in my current role for 15 months (or obtain another role that pays the same or more that I can successfully stay in for 15 months!) … or I just say fuck it, stick this out for 3 more months, take a few months off, then come back and get a lower paying job that I can sustain throughout being pregnant and the early years of parenting.

At least, thanks to savings a substantial amount in my 20s, I have options.

 

 

Life in a Fragile Bubble: Trump, The American Dream and The Coastal Elite

Life doesn’t get any easier. As miserable as I was as a child, I now understand why all the adults fancied the idea of returning to those years so much. Not only did life move slower then, it also was a long, arduous climb up a mountain with the promise of fields of splendor on the other side. It seemed childhood was for fun and games but life itself truly started past the peak of that mountain—the entry into adulthood.

I could have been born in Africa or Syria, and not even had the privilege of a childhood. But my privilege is who I am, and it shaped how I feel today—this lack of ability to wake up at 6am and work out and commute an hour or more to work and sit at a desk all day completing tasks to help a company grow that may or may not work and smiling and small-talking and politicizing and head back towards home and spend an hour or more in commute and arrive home exhausted to a husband I rarely see and have no time to be a wife to and repeat this five days a week so that when Saturday arrives all I want to do is sit and stare at a television or sleep or avoid doing any of things that need to be done at home, and all this is before I have the responsibility of children in my household which would undoubtedly add a whole new layer of exhaustion and love and sense of failure and questions of purpose—another peak I’m slugging along towards now, trembling at seeing what is on the other side, and equally terrified to never see it. Continue reading

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… Continue reading

Happy New Year: Embracing Myself as Myself

 

Quite randomly I ended up taking a neuropsychological screening this week. Well, it wasn’t entirely random. I was attempting to find a therapist (psychologist, psychiatrist, MFT, social worker, what have you) that accepted my insurance plan since theoretically I am supposed to be able to have $20-per-session visits for outpatient mental healthcare. Searching my insurance provider’s website however returned the names of hundreds of doctors who are no longer practicing or specialists for something that, despite being rather special myself, I’m not special enough for (i.e. serves youth or geriatric patients only.) I admit I didn’t call the entire list, but after about 20 google searches, emails and contacts I felt like giving up. Then, I found someone who responded to my email and said he was covered by my insurance (sort of) and could help.

This doctor didn’t do talk therapy. Instead, he is a neuropsychologist who does neuropsychological screenings. What on earth is that? Yesterday I found out. The screening itself is $1700. Insurance may cover that BUT they only decide after you get evaluated. Also, I believe it goes to my deductible anyway, so I’m basically paying for it out of pocket, or at least out of FSA. So much for the $20 per session mental healthcare. Continue reading

Depression Is…

I write here, anonymously, because adolescent angst is no longer all the rage when you’re 33. For those of you who regularly read my blog, I apologize for the negative tone it has taken as of late. I just use this as a place to anonymously document my life in all its bitter glory. Life isn’t really all that bad, so I ought to just shut up entirely about these thoughts and feelings that come into my head. But without having this venue to share, I might just explode – or implode.

Thank god I’m so terrified of death because killing myself is such a remarkably attractive option right now. I know it’s a long term solution to a short-term problem and I’m not going to do it. But nothing else makes sense right now. Honestly, when I think of all the possibilities in the world there is no positive outcome in sight. I’m tired, exhausted even, of my overthinking, of my overeating, of my failure to do my jobs well which might be  due to the fact I am lacking in abilities or skill or training or maybe I’m just horrible at consistency or perhaps I’m flat out dumb, at least in terms of real-world job skills. Continue reading

Here’s To the Dreamers: A La La Land Review Among Other Things

The best movies touch every audience member in a different way, but have a clear world picture of what they want to say. La La Land is one of those movies, and I highly recommend you see it (spoilers enclosed) — the film follows the lives of two dreamers – a young actress and jazz musician in Los Angeles who are chasing their dreams. The film starts out with the actress (Emma Stone) working at a coffee shop on a film lot and the jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) getting fired for playing unconventional jazz music he wrote at a restaurant gig after being warned not to by his boss. Then it follows their lives over the next five years through a love story that’s more focused on how hard it is to chase your dreams than it is on the love story itself. In the end everyone gets what they want, well, sort of – at least in terms of their careers.

For anyone who ever chased a dream or is chasing one right now, they can relate to the film in that context – how hard it is to chase a dream, and the hope that maybe some day it will all work out (and the reality that even when it does not everything works out even a fairytale ending is met with the reality that nothing always is perfect, and you always have to sacrifice to reach your dreams.) For those of us who are too afraid to chase our dreams, it gives us hope that maybe it’s not too late – maybe it just requires someone to nudge us along the way, whether that’s a tap-dancing romeo or a voice within. Of course, for every success story of dream following there are a million that never come to fruition.  Continue reading

INFP in an ISTJ World: The Artist In Silicon Valley

I don’t fit in here. More than 10 years working in tech in Silicon Valley, and I look around at all of my peers and feel more like an alien than ever. Don’t get me wrong — I highly respect my peers — but I’m not one of them. While diversity of thought is valuable in any industry, it’s clear my thought is not welcome as is.

However much you believe in Myers Briggs as the be-all-end-all truth of personality definitions, there is a fairly common theme in technology firms of personality type: the INTJ. While my introversion is not judged as harshly in the tech industry as it would be outside of it, my complete anthesis of the typical Silicon Valley worker otherwise makes it vital for me to be an “E” — the “E” (extrovert) which is a value add since many of the folks here are introverts. Limited senior leadership roles that are open to non-engineer types often look for “E’s.” There are enough introverts to go around who are practically rocket scientists, but as an extrovert there is less competition to make it to the top – if you’re truly charismatic (which I am not. I am an awkward introvert and despite dreaming of having the presence of a Michelle Obama I realize that will never happen.) Continue reading

Attempting to Refuse to Give A Fuck Except the Only One(s) Worth Giving

“I don’t understand this depression thing. You have a job, you have a husband, why are you depressed?” my mother asked, following up five minutes later by asking me if I’m ever going to get a job she can “explain to her friends” because “that would be nice.”

Over dinner, my sister, seven years my junior, was reminded by my mother how in high school she couldn’t write long papers like I could (she had a learning disability) and, yet again, I cringed as my sister was compared to me knowing full well what that does to her own psyche. Luckily she’s a strong chica, but she went through serious depression as well and deals with a mile-high pile of her own shit on a daily basis. We both do in our own ways.

Time is flying by so quickly. I’m coming up on my six month wedding anniversary. I’m 33. 30-fucking-three. Ovulation calculators remind me that if I get pregnant this spring my child will be born when I’m 34. I’m fully an adult now but I still flinch when my mother or father criticizes the choices I make and things I do. I try hard to not be as self absorbed as they are. I think daily of the ways I will not be like them when I have children of my own. I imagine how to be a little less myself when I’m a mother, how to hide the real me.

I never thought I would change, but I think in some ways I have. I’m still the same old miserable-at-life mess that I’ve always been. I can waste time like it was trash itself. I still am passionate about what’s right and justice and empathy and honesty. But as an adult, I care less about proving myself and more about adding value to society. I still hope one day the value I add will be recognized, and while I’ve given up  long ago on being famous it was only in the last few years when I no longer coveted fame as the be-all-end-all goal in life. I began to develop a newfound appreciation of my anonymity, realizing I found happiness in the moments when I walked down the street alone in new cities where I knew no one and didn’t have to worry about running into a person who wanted to strike up a conversation.

Fiscally I no longer crave wealth in the way I once did. It’s not that I ever wanted to be extremely wealthy, I just wanted to be in the upper middle class with the ability to afford my shopping binges at discount designer outlets and Sephora.com, plus regular excursions to new cities and places around the world, and a home with a nice bathroom with a giant tub and beautiful gourmet kitchen to cook in and perhaps a backyard pool or community one where I could socialize with actual friends. But now I’m over that dream as well, to an extent. It would be nice to have a house, sure, but I don’t need one to be happy. It may even reduce my happiness because I find other than anonymity what keeps me content is freedom. I like to have the husband thing committed so I don’t feel totally lost, but I prefer freedom to being trapped in my life, especially in my area of residence. When life is a big blur the only thing separating one time period from another is when I’ve moved from one apartment to the next. This is how I tell time.

Lately, especially with what’s going on in the world of politics, I feel inspired to do more about fixing the world. I’m not sure exactly how, but I like to tell stories and I like to create and I like to help people, so there’s got to be something I can do professionally where I can pay the bills, put away a modest amount of savings AND give back to society. I’ve considered returning to journalism because I feel like I didn’t give it enough of a chance in my career — I was too young and afraid and didn’t understand the world enough to provide any useful commentary on much of anything. Unfortunately, pay in journalism is so low and to start over would be practically impossible if I could even find an opportunity. Typically that would require moving to a middle-of-nowhere market and as a married person that requires convincing my spouse to move as well… which won’t happen. But the thought is there.

When I have kids – if I can have kids – I know I need to settle down a bit and really pick a career that will consistently pay the bills. Maybe my current world is ok I just need to learn how to be more on top of things. Or I do something different. I don’t know. I will have to move if I want to try something new. Hubby is open to moving, though partial to particular regions where it always rains. I prefer the sun. I really don’t want to move anyway. But I will if I have to.

Life goes by so quickly. And when you step back and look back on all the crazy in the world your little piece of it doesn’t matter at all. Look at who we elected President. We elected a sociopath to the White House. Who knows what will happen in the next four years. Maybe my stocks will increase in value short term, maybe the entire market will crash. Who knows. I am a bit worried, but more so just tired of worrying. If I lose all my money, so what? It is scary, but it probably won’t all be gone. If it’s all gone, then there are bigger problems. I’m more concerned about civil war and nuclear holocausts and climate change and injustices and lack of access to education. I’m more concerned about other people than I am myself. I guess that’s what I mean about being a changed person. I’m tired of caring about myself. I want to care about other people… whether that be my children or the children of the world. I’m so tired and beaten down from working a job where the rewards are solely financial. I need a break and a breather to feel value on a deeper level. I’m still scared shitless but I’m also starting to break free of all my fears. Starting…  is a start. Not letting my mother’s nagging get to me is a start. Not allowing that voice in my head that tells me I suck at everything when I clearly only suck at “this one thing I’m doing that I happen to be getting paid for right now aka my job.” No accepting that I am a failure on all levels, that I must be either GREAT and AMAZING and a WINNER or a total loser.

I really don’t want the rest of my life to be this. There has to be something more.

Spiraling Out of Control: Fighting Horrible Anxiety Through Long Winter Nights

Anxiety ebbs and flows through my life, causing varying levels of disruption to my productivity and potential for success. Unlike depression, which feels somehow more real and worthy of concern because I can feel my body shifting into a state of inability to move, anxiety is different and fuels a sense of shame. It is a horrible loop of self sabotage – lack of sleep makes anxiety worse and anxiety makes the ability to get a good night’s rest impossible. My heart is breaking for the life I want that keeps inching further and further from my grasp. It feels like I’m attempting to breathe in a room where the oxygen is slowly being sucked out and I’m expected to perform just the same as I suffocate.

This anxiety makes it impossible to focus. My mind literally cannot stay focused on one task requiring intellectual processing for longer than a few seconds. Clearly that is not acceptable when my career relies on me to produce quality work leveraging my brain. I keep thinking I’ll just take a few minute’s break and then get back to work and make progress, and then I find myself staring at the same blank sheet of paper unable to do anything. I am exhausted and want to walk out of my job and never look back, except I can’t because I need my job and if not this job I need job and no role will be better.

My doctors wouldn’t give me anti anxiety medication because I may be trying to get pregnant soon, which makes sense since it would be dangerous to an unborn child. So I don’t know what to do at this point. The depression fueled by anxiety is much scarier to me than the one that stems from my actual depression. Anxiety is an alien attacking me from the inside, and I as I attempt to hide my hand’s tremors I long to to grab a knife and cut it out.

I try to breathe, do exercises which for a second may ease my mind. I listen to music in attempt to calm myself. Other than watching a television show or closing my eyes and falling asleep (if possible) I cannot stop thinking in these horrible loops over and over and over again. I feel incredibly alone and ashamed. Why can’t I just stop?

The current political system in the U.S. makes it worse, certainly. I feel helpless as I watch our country being taken over by an evil, self-serving man who may lead us into world war or who knows what. I fear for the safety of people of color and anyone who thinks differently. I wonder how I will be able to raise children in a society where a man who throws temper tantrums on Twitter is president. How the one person who is supposed to represent stability and calm in a big scary world filled with evil humans is actually the scariest of them all. And I want to do something to help, but my role in this great big world is to wake up each morning and convince companies to buy software that will make them more efficient. I’m part of the problem. Perhaps I am the problem. One of them many.

Maybe it will be better tomorrow. I hope to get home safe, I don’t feel comfortable driving right now but I must to get back to my bed, only to repeat the journey again – to feel like everyone is watching me in my small desk in our open office, or that everyone is noticing that I left to attempt to get work done at a coffee shop down the street except my head is spinning so fast the only time I can get anything done is late at night when it’s quiet and calm. But I need sleep, so staying up late to work is not the best idea either.

Trade jobs are being lost to efficiency and automation. The jobs that exist now and will continue to exist are those which create redundancy between human work and machine work, or the roles which produce more efficiency from the machines. Maybe one day we’ll be in a world where we won’t have to work so much because robots do all the things that need to get done, but that doesn’t work in a  capitalistic society. As all the science fiction shows and books try to warn us, this is not going to come to a happy end.

Perhaps I should just shut up, take a few big breaths and keep my head down, and live my life and make the world more efficient and pose it all as a positive as more and more people lose their jobs or are called out for not being efficient enough, not being 150% productive in a society where 100% is no longer good enough.

I want to feel excited again. To feel like my work is contributing to something greater that is helping the world or at least entertaining those who feel this same sinking anxiety and horror at the state of things.

Instead, again I find myself drowning yet again. I don’t even see the surface anymore. It’s just dark and cold and I’m losing the energy to kick and force myself to the surface for a quick gasp of brisk air before plunging back into the darkness.

 

 

The Second Coming of My Life

Watching my hands shake violently as I attempt to calm myself down  without anyone noticing, I realized that I really desperately need to make a massive change in my life. There is nothing in the world that will make this the right career fit for me, and I have the choice to either continue falling straight on my sword each time I fail to produce results, or doing a 180 and running in a completely new direction. I’m ready to run.

I’m 33. That’s not old but it isn’t young either. It’s old enough to know better to jump into the same old situation yet again. I’ve created a conundrum for myself, in which I’m too senior to qualify for junior roles where I can learn how to do my job better, but too inexperienced to be truly qualified for the senior roles. An old business acquaintance not too familiar with my professional contributions outside of my public resume this week asked me if I’ve be interested in a very senior level marketing role in his organization, where he is on the executive team. He assumed I had the appropriate experience to take on this role but I don’t. And I’m so tired of this whole “fake it to you make it” because I’m horrible at faking it. I can’t even get my head around how to do a good job.

Today, I’m again fantasizing about grad school. I go back and forth over whether I should pursue an MBA or a design degree. The MBA would definitely make me better suited for my current role in its more senior incarnations, but the design degree would set me up for a job that I have a chance to actually love – thus, the design degree is probably the better choice. Either way, I need to take a standardized test and apply within the next month or so, which is a lot to do for someone who hasn’t prepared at all yet other than to categorize all the elements of math that I’d need to learn in the next 30 days. I can always wait another year, but I feel like it’s now or never at this point.

The best situation would be to stay in my current role and do the best I can for the next 8-9 months and leave for grad school in the fall. I’m sure I’ll be the oldest in my class by far which will be disheartening but maybe I’m finally mature enough to get a lot out of school (which I definitely wasn’t in undergrad) and I’d learn a ton and be employable for roles that I’d actually want once I finish. I’m less concerned about finances at this point – I’m still worried about retirement and such, but being as right now I’m not unable to afford a house and miserable in my career choice, I might as well be unable to afford a house and happy. Right?

I’m keeping the grad application thing secret as I probably won’t get in anyway and I’m trying to learn how to be self motivated to study for the tests. I really would like to just focus on the standardized test at a separate goal which, if I complete that and do well enough, I can move on to the next part of the journey which is actually applying to the schools. The problem with that is all the apps are due between Jan 1 and Jan 15… it doesn’t give me nearly enough time to pull together my portfolio and such. The MBA programs are a bit more flexible as I can apply to later rounds, so I might go the MBA route anyway and find a school where I can take a few design classes. Either way, I think the educational route will help me break out of this decade-long funk. I’ve learned a lot, but I need a massive shift right now, or this will be the rest of my life, and I can’t handle not knowing what I’m doing and falling apart on a daily basis.