Category Archives: Career Change

Too Late to Start Over?

Get me out of here. I’ll miss the microclimates, the waterfronts, the overly-gentrified streets with a variety of boba, fro-yo and ice cream shops, the security of pretending like I fit in here, that I’m one of them, that everyday I get on the train and wear my company with pride like I’m part of a cult where a job is so much more than just a job, the fantasy that somehow if I just work hard enough I can somehow afford a $1.4M starter home with a tiny backyard and raise a family here, and pay for pre-school for 1-3 kids and manage to see them enough to feel like a damn good mom.

It is so torturous to be so afraid of stepping back a thousand miles to get ahead a few feet, should you manage to make it back to where you started years later. Adulthood is not the time to romanticize potential – college was the perfect time for that and I genuinely fucked it up but not figuring out fast enough what it was I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t understand how it felt being in the same office day in and day out, or that I’d be able to do anything worthwhile in the world where someone would be willing to pay me for my contributions. I graduated, but I wasn’t ready to — I am not sure anyone is, or if that is what college is for, but 12 years ago when I received my diploma it didn’t feel like an accomplishment, only a big lie in which said I was somehow certified for life, yet I wasn’t at all ready for my future. I was suffering from a terrible depression and I was falling apart.

If I could do it all over again, I’d probably still fail to get the value out of school — there isn’t enough time, enough credits, to become a master at anything. Extracurriculars enable more time to focus on specific skill sets, as do internships, but I feel like I did a lot of those and yet still ended up with few skills and a whole lot of WTF am I doing with my life? And, it’s such a fucking privilege to even have the opportunity to make something of myself, and I blew it big time. Well, maybe I didn’t, I found a few jobs, I saved some money — but this isn’t at all sustainable.

There are so many things I hate about my current career, I want to just walk away from it entirely. I hate feeling so out of control over the success of projects. I hate having to use data to back up every single decision when I prefer to make choices largely based on intuition, because generally I understand people’s motivations and don’t mind the idea of testing things but data is a crunch in Silicon Valley when people are too scared to think for themselves since you can’t truly fail if the data told you one thing and you listened to it. I hate how everything seems so damn important and life-or-death where you’re being suffocated by stress when in the long run all the small things that felt so enormously important don’t matter – when even your “big” mistakes don’t really make a giant different in whether the company succeeds or fails because you aren’t at all involved in the product itself therefore even if you make it sound great in the long run no matter what you do, the success of the company is not at all in your hands, the product has to be great, and remain great, or at least better than other options on the market, and whether it is or isn’t your job is to make people think it is, to make sure everyone knows it’s the best. Your job is to tell the truth or to lie, it doesn’t matter, you just have to make sure that everyone wants to buy your product. You have to take data and massage it so it tells the story you want to tell, you have to constantly be manipulating everyone and everything with your fake smiles and astounding interpersonal communication skills, and pseudo-empathy and heaps of politics that get in the way of just getting your job done. And you probably don’t actually know what the hell you’re doing because no one teaches you this shit and everyone is making it up but some people naturally are good at sounding like they know what they’re doing by testing things and follow through and some results which maybe make them good at their jobs or as good as anyone can be at a job that has no actual success metric that one can achieve that is meaningful, as you aren’t building on top of work done previously most of the time but instead constantly trying to scale a mountain but starting back at the beginning every quarter and looking up at a peak that is getting increasingly taller and further away. And you have to organize your projects that you think based on data will have the appropriate impact needed and delegate this work to other people and motivate them to work their asses off to make a dent in the sea of impossible victory and you somehow have the ability to get your employees to want to work 24/7 on being part of this “team” and making an impact and doing the best work of their lives that in the end, again, is virtually meaningless, albeit potentially helpful in the short-term and that’s the best one can ask of themselves in a role where success is defined by how good of a bullshitter you are tied to some serious project management and political skills namely the ability to lie with the most brilliant poker face because that’s what great managers do best.

Can I go back to that? I know long-term success in this role is impossible, but short-term stints of holding my breath and trying to play that role are becoming easier each time – but they will never be easy. I can’t do work when I don’t care, even when they pay me a lot, and I wish I could because life would be so much easier that way — I’d be a millionaire in 5-10 years, which isn’t rich but it sure is a nice number en route to serious financial security. But. I. Just. Can’t. Do. This. Anymore. It’s not good to ask oneself if it would be better to jump in front of a train than to go to work one more day as a clear failure… if the embarrassment of failure is worse than the pain of disappearing.

Part of me wants to just say fuck it – to say fuck it because I don’t care if I spend all (some) of my money on – who knows – getting a second bachelor’s degree in something more interesting and maybe more practical… or, taking expensive classes to get certified in something or going back to grad school and getting a master’s degree in something that I can do everyday without wanting to jump off a cliff… even if it doesn’t pay that well… even if it never will pay that well.

But pay that well… I don’t know what that even means. IVF costs $50k+ and I can only “afford” that now because I have (had) a good job. If I don’t have kids by choice or by fate of my messed up hormones, then maybe it all doesn’t matter — I can live on next-to-nothing and just make art, make documentaries, tell stories, feel like my passion doesn’t have to be my professional Achilles’ heel… I just want to find a job where being passionate is not only accepted but desirable. When I get hired people think my passion is an attribute but they learn soon enough that bold and honest passion causes more harm than help in a role where sociopathy is the true required skill for success. I need a job where I can be myself… if that exists… one where my dry sense of humor and wild desire to live ethically and empathetically based on my own moral code will enable me, and ideally those around me, to thrive. I’m exhausted trying to be someone I’m not and clearly failing. I want to start over.

I’m talking to a career counselor now but not sure that will help. I went to a psychiatrist and they gave me a prescription for Zoloft which I haven’t started taking yet (and I may not because there’s a risk for minor birth defects and should I get pregnant I’d never forgive myself if I harmed my child, kind of defeating the purpose of an anti-depressant…) and I’m trying to see a psychologist but all of that is just more bullshit when I know the only thing that will help is taking some sort of action to just change everything about my life, or at least the parts which need fixing (mostly my career.) My husband is awesome and he’s my rock and I love him more than anything but having a husband certainly complicates things as these choices are not my own, they impact him as well, especially if my next steps require me to move to another part of the state or to another state. But he’s pursuing his dreams now and I think I at least deserve the opportunity to pursue mine, if only I knew what those dreams are… if only I knew what way to point my glistening arrow of optimism in an unproven satisfying future before I blindly and clumsily shoot in the wrong direction.

Day 3: Unfunemployment

Day 3. Told husband. He’s sad, but not surprised. He knows I’ve been struggling for a while (i.e. all my life.) The reality of the situation is sinking in. The “transition” period my boss mentioned is now clearly going to be two weeks at most, likely less. At least I have a few days to wrap up projects and try to leave on a positive note, vs the ‘ol being walked to my desk and out the door.

I regret how I handled being notified of my firing as I was not prepared in the moment and thus my reaction was shock more than anything. It was in some ways a release of accepting that I was in far over my head, or that my anxieties rapidly dug me into a hole too deep to every dig myself out of.

Looking back, I am trying to embrace this as a learning opportunity to determine where to go from here, and how to make sure I don’t fall flat on my face when I get there. In terms of my career, in 2010 I started doing some freelance work for a company that sold software to other businesses. Seven years later, I’ve worked for 4 businesses like this, and in each role have learned a bit more. I’ve never learned how to effectively build and lead teams, but I’ve learned a lot about my specific area of business, and what works and what doesn’t.

There’s still the very real issue of my poor interpersonal communications (and just overall people skills.) Had people in the organization liked me more personally, they might be more willing to forgive a few less-than-stellar moments. But I have no social skills and I don’t think this is going to change significantly enough to impact the outcome of my career.

As I meditated on life in a park yesterday in between doing probably too much work for the day I was told to not do any work, I thought about the people who I worked with over the last year and then immediately thought about my childhood — as a kid, I didn’t fit in with the kids who were highly political, smart, yet extremely competitive. I work with a clique which I clearly am not capable of being part of — a sorority of people who say they’re nice and accepting but really who want only other people like them on their team.

That’s not just this company – that’s most companies, especially small companies where people really do become this odd sort of family. I’m that odd duck cousin that no one really wants to invite to the holiday party but they do anyway to keep up appearances, and then everyone talks about me behind my back the second I walk out the door “isn’t she odd.”

I haven’t actually worked for a company where I felt like I fit in, with the exception of one which at times I felt connected with the team because they were a bit more quirky and open to weirdos like myself. The issues I have with interpersonal communication were still quite present, but the feel of the whole company was more open and accepting, so less of my energy was spent on failing to fit in.

I still have few ideas re: what’s next. I spoke with the head of a small agency who does some work for me and told her I’ll be leaving the company, and she offered to provide some consulting work to me if I was interested – which really meant a lot to me because I work with her often and she knows my talents and lack there of, and she didn’t have to offer. I might take her up on that and will at least explore the option of freelancing for a while.

I wanted to experience management and I have, and it’s not for everyone. Or, it may be for me at some point in the future, but in the mean time I want to really focus on being good at what I’m good at, and with that improve my communication skills versus trying to do this AND trying to figure out how to manage. It’s just too much at once. I’ve got plenty of time to be a manager in my career if I want to be, maybe in 20 years after my “kids” have grown up and moved out. So I’ll be 55 and then can be a manager. Or maybe it will happen sooner — or maybe it will never happen again. Freelancing can be quite lucrative as well… so that might be the right path.

No more shoving this square peg into perfectly round holes.

Rationalizing Depression and Hopelessness

There are plenty of days when life feels so incredibly overwhelming in its abstract and concrete abilities to suffocate the soul. Life is shit and beautiful all in the same blob of time, this conveyor belt with tall walls surrounding that we’re trapped on from birth until we part.

My life has become my job, and I’m not even any good at it. Regardless of what or what wasn’t told to my new boss during her interview process, she’s very quickly seeing that I can’t keep up – at least not at the level I’d need to be at for my title and compensation. She swooped in and minimized my role either hoping I’d quit or be productive enough to be worth keeping on, at least for now, and I’m trying but it’s all a big cluster.

Continue reading

What Does it Take To Be Successful in this Business?

Removing myself from the equation, I ponder what persona would be successful in a role like my own. I seem to care far too much personally about everything I do, which renders my work occasionally high quality but too often belated.  The quality, the “artistic merit” of the work is not valued – only its completion, it’s project management of other people playing their parts and getting their projects done faster and more effectively than anyone else, or at least making it seem that way while in reality surviving on little sleep to make sure everything gets done and no one has to ask twice regarding the whereabouts of a deliverable.

It’s the alienating daily experience of being an “NFP” in a strictly “NTJ” world… welcome to Silicon Valley, oh sensitive artistic one.

Everyone appears to be satisfied with this world, stressed, maybe, but focused, determined, and given those drawn to this industry are the types who always got A’s on their exams and submitted every last ounce of extra credit assignments possible, I feel like a complete outsider. I’ve never actually fit in anywhere, so the outsider role is at least my status quo. As I observe those in the world around me and age in the industry where I’m no longer the youngest in the room (now, far from it), I feel even further removed from the center of gravity here. I’m off kilter, wobbling about and hoping no one notices I’m slipping sideways, that is, until the inevitable face plant. Continue reading

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.

 

 

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

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: A Contract with 2017

2017 – how did you get here so quickly? Time continues to fly by, and  although my bank account is looking healthier than it did a few years ago, I am still the same old person. 2017 already looks a bit shaky given our political climate (how on earth did Trump get elected president? So #unpresidented). Anyway, 2017, here are some things I want to accomplish in you — which sounds awkward but you are a year and therefore I’m not doing anything obscene by entering your cavernous orifices via January 1. Continue reading

And So Life Begins… Thoughts on Turning 33

In five days, I will be turning 33 years old. I was just reminiscing the time of my life when I thought 33 was quite old, and I realized I still think it’s substantially ancient. Sure, I have a lot of years ahead of me, but 33 is no longer my “early 30s” which could pass off as an accidental overage of my 20s. Thirty-three is serious adult business.

I honestly never pictured myself at 33 because I couldn’t imagine it. I’m not sure how many people see themselves as working professionals or mothers or whatever else it is 33 is supposed to be when they’re younger, but I didn’t have any sort of vision of who I’d be at this age. If a six-figure salary and wedding ring on my finger = success then I guess I’ve made it. But I feel ridiculously behind and lost, which is much scarier at this age than it was my 20s. Continue reading

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The High Cost of Mental Illness

Mental Illness is a touchy subject –  unlike, say, cancer or diabetes, it isn’t something that can be diagnosed via blood tests or biopsies. And everyone suffers some amount of anxiety and depression at different times in their lives. I’ve struggled with my own mental illness for years, both being tortured by its overwhelming nature, and, often in the same day, telling myself that I’m overreacting and totally fine.

Mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays each year. When I’m lost in a web of anxiety, I know I’m not being a good employee. This reminder of my failure as an employee spins me into a deep cycle of depression and worthlessness which quickly spirals out of control. I get so mad at myself because I simultaneously feel like the greatest impostor of all time and know I can do a better job that what I do right now, but the sadness of being an obvious fraud gets in the way of productivity. Eventually, my boss catches on, and I move on. I put so much of my personal worth on my job, I really don’t have much else in my life outside of my job and my husband. My career is everything. Maybe that’s the problem. Continue reading

The Vicious Cycle of My Adult Professional Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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