Category Archives: Life as I Know It

If You Live Long Enough, Everything Happens for a Reason

Last night, I treated myself to a Broadway musical while in the city on business. There was one specific musical that I was hoping to see, but I didn’t get tickets in advance because I didn’t know if work commitments would come up and cause me to miss the show. My evening turned out to be open and free, so I wandered up to TKTS to see if there were discount tickets available for this production. No dice. Then decided to go to the box office to see if any full price tickets were left. They were.

Broadway tickets are expensive but, for a good show, so worth it. Most artists would never be able to to afford tickets these days, so I enjoy paying full price seeing my theatre education at least going to supporting the arts while I earn a sizable income at my standard every middle class man day job. Nonetheless, this event was especially worth the entrance price. The box office informed me, 30 minutes prior to curtain, that the only non-nosebleed seat left was front row center. I never sit front row center, but why not, I thought, as the man selling the tickets assured me the orchestra pit made those seats far enough from the stage that they wouldn’t even strain my neck. I was sold. Continue reading

6 Months Old Baby Vs 30 Year Old Woman

Babies are awesome. They poop all over the place and cry when they don’t have boobs in their mouth. But, seriously, the opportunity to watch an infant grow up is quite miraculous. What’s truly amazing is how fast newborns learn. The last time I was around a kid that young I was seven watching my sister turn into a person. I barely remember that.

This time around I have the fortune of watching a good friend’s child grow from a blob of barely conscious to a real person. What I miss in between monthly visits, I catch in short clips posted to YouTube. Yes, he has his own Facebook page. At six months old, he recognizes faces and smiles when you smile at him. He’s just beginning to crawl. Everyday he does and learns something new. Continue reading

What Are You Afraid Of?

I had the rare opportunity recently to spend a few hours one-on-one with a very senior executive at my company. With his perfectly polished demeanor, he had this way of getting information out of me by asking just the right questions. Information about what motivates me, what I want out of a career, and how I think our business is doing. I’m sure I said too much.

He asked me what scares me, and I joked, caught off guard, and said drowning. Then I postured about the business in ways I shouldn’t have, fumbling to find something intelligent to say. Something intelligent that I could say to the big boss which made me sound professional and optimistic while also practical and soundly strategic. I’m sure I accomplished none of the above. I left asking myself that question too – what is it that I’m most afraid of, outside of drowning?

I’m also at the point in my life — God, 19 days until 30 — when I’m done with pretending to be something I’m not, and less afraid of just being myself even when it bites me. So far, the whole being myself thing has worked out pretty well. Then again, am I really being myself these days? That’s the question I walked away from the conversation with, and it’s still been throbbing loudly in my head and heart. Continue reading

10 Financial/Personal Goals for My Life

It’s time to get serious about these personal financial goals, beyond “try to save $5M for retirement and fail because that’s near to impossible on $100k a year.” Below, I’ve prioritized my top 10 goals in life, tied to personal finance. It’s good to make one of these lists every five years are so to make sure you have your personal priorities in order before making any life decisions.

  1. Contribute to a series of successful startups or projects from the ground up.
  2. Found my own company/product that helps people (potentially a health or finance product) or own a brick & mortar business.
  3. Understand that business well and make a few million dollars off of that business or product.
  4. Have a large circle of friends with a small number of close ones that I see frequently and can travel with.
  5. Travel around the world – there is so much I haven’t seen yet. I want to live a long life and when I’m on my deathbed, smile at the memories of all the places I’ve been.
  6. Rent or own a property where I can feel like it is my “home” and decorate accordingly.
  7. Have enough money where I can start to give freely instead of being an inconsistent miser.
  8. Raise a family of healthy, well adjusted children who have great self confidence without being pretentious. Potentially take time off when my kids are young.
  9. Nurture a successful and happy marriage – till death do us part. Love relentlessly. Compromise. Stay young and laugh together always.
  10. Have enough money for early retirement so when I get to 50/55 if I want to I can stop working and travel the world painting *or* I can found another company without the risk of going broke.

Ok, so how do I frame my life and my investment portfolio to meet these goals?

Taking Pride in Progress and Accepting the Uncertain Road Ahead with Open Arms

Financial Samurai, one of my favorite PF wealth bloggers, asked me to write a guest post for his blog after we went back and forth in a comment thread where I vehemently disagreed with his promotion of an Ivy education as the only serious way to a $100k salary. As someone without an Ivy-certified degree who is making a six-figure salary, I had to share my story to pose food for thought. F.S. is a libertarian from what I can tell, posting frequently on how anyone can be wealthy if only they just worked hard and followed the right formula to success. I do believe that anyone can get ahead, but for some people it’s a lot harder. It wasn’t necessarily easy for me, but I had my share of privileges to get me where I am today. I often wonder, had I not had those privileges, where I’d be. Continue reading

Goals, Structure, and Lack There Of.

When I was a kid, if someone asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I’d laugh and respond “an actress,” knowing full well I’d never have the looks or talent to succeed in this field when I was, at best, cast in the one-scene comedic role in the yearly school play. Of course, even as an actress or great artist I’d manage to find tons of free time to save the world and, eventually, be president. How that’s for unrealistic goal setting?

Some kids know they want to be doctors or lawyers or firemen. Sure, their goals in life change as they mature, and many replace these goals with new ones. But how many kids dream of growing up to be a marketer? I don’t think I even understood what marketers actually do until I entered the workforce, after college. And here I am, making a living in marketing. It is my career.

Continue reading

The Cost of a DUI in California

In November, I pulled the trigger and wrote my final $800 check to cover the fine for my DUI. The last year, especially the first half of it, has been a struggle for me, going from a person who was the type to judge inebriated drivers, to someone who was handcuffed in a police car after failing to leave myself enough time after drinking at a networking event before getting behind the wheel.

If you’re the type of person who goes out and parties all the time and laughs that you’ve driven drunk more times than you can count, getting a DUI would still be frustrating, but it probably wouldn’t cause you to question your entire identity. Over the course of participating in the various programs for first-time offenses, I met a variety of people spanning the gamut from those who were partying hard and woke up in the hospital after getting behind the wheel to others who were older parents coming home from an evening out at a nice restaurant, who were arrested after their tire blew out, unrelated to their drinking. In the eyes of the law, rightly so, these people are not judged differently. (In fact, I was stunned that often the person who had a much higher BAC and flipped their car managed to get off a lot easier due to a good lawyer or luck with their prosecutor!)

For me, I was always frustrated with “how” I got caught (a citizen called 911 on me as I walked to my car) but deep down knowing that I needed the wake up call. It was a wake up call not just to this particular poor choice, but a downward spiral I had let myself get on in my life. The more stressed and depressed I got, the worse choices I made. I’m glad that I didn’t end up on a hospital bed or worse. But I did end up with one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life, going from goody two shoes to defendant.

Now that I’ve finally paid off the last bit of my DUI fine, I’ve tabulated the costs this stupid mistake have cost my networth. This isn’t over yet, however, as I still have nearly 3 more years of increased insurance, which has kept me from purchasing a newer car. In fact, I’m driving around in an embarrassing beater  to remind myself of the money I lost to this, and balance some of it out, at least the insurance fees.

Total Spent on DUI (First Offense)

$1806 DUI Fine
$3000 Lawyer
$732 First Offender Class
$25 Duplicate License
$3168 ($88 x 3 x 12) on insurance fees

There is likely other costs that I haven’t included here, so I estimate the DUI will cost $10k by the time I’m done with it. For instance, if I want to go to Canada within the next 13 years I’ll have to pay a few hundred dollar entry fee to apply since in Canada they consider a DUI a felony. So I’m probably not going to Canada for a while, but these are costs that will add to the total that I haven’t considered yet.

It really is crazy how one really stupid mistake and bad choice can cost you nearly $10,000. When they say “it’s cheaper to call a cab or EVEN A LIMO to take you home when you are drinking,” they’re right. I should have called for a limo both home and back to my car for every night I went out drinking and I’d still end up ahead. Or, more reasonably, a taxi. $10k / $100 goes a long way.

Lesson learned the hard way.

Finding my Willpower

The other day, I wrote a post discussing my thoughts on my DUI and how it has affected my life. It definitely caused me to pause and reflect on how out of control my life has become. Not as an alcoholic, but in my lack of control of myself, my emotions and my actions.

Today, for the first time in 5 months, I drove to work. I could have gotten a restricted license 4 months ago, but I was afraid of driving again and waited until I felt I was ready. It also happened that today my company sponsored a drinking event after work. While I am not an alcoholic (according to my DUI class last night), I do find it difficult to refuse a drink when I am at a bar and the rest of my team is sharing a seemingly unlimited supply of wine.

I knew I had two options — either not drink, or have a drink and find another way home. Given I have not driven in 5 months, and how much I enjoy the freedom of driving, I found willpower to not drink. Yes, it was hard for me not to have any wine, when all of my co-workers (many of whom were going to drive home) were drinking multiple glasses, but I knew I had no other choice if I was going to drive. In addition to never wanting to drink anything and drive again, I have a 3 year probation with 0 tolerance, so I can’t even have a glass of wine and get behind the wheel. That’s for the better — it helps me focus on putting myself in social situations with lots of alcohol around and not drink, in case I ever need to drive home in the future after such a social event.

It is difficult — and frustrating — to be in a culture where it’s almost considered acceptable to drink and drive. Of course, no one thinks it’s acceptable to get shit-faced drunk and get behind the wheel, but I’m confident that many people have a couple of beers and think they’re “just tipsy” and fine to drive home, and they do. It’s frustrating because most of these people never get caught, not that I’d want them to suffer, but it’s also crazy how in my DUI class there are people who had .14% – .25% BACs and they are still upset they were in trouble.

The DUI class itself is fascinating. Yesterday was the last of my 10 “education” classes, which are now followed with 5 “process” classes. I have to pay about $650 for these classes. I’ve never spent a lot of time with people who drink a lot or party, but the class makeup is extremely mixed. You do have the people who clearly like to party and went out drinking the night away and woke up a hospital bed. But you have others who had a few drinks at the bar, thought they were ok to drive (or at least more ok than their friend who they went out with) and ended up being busted just over the legal limit because their light was out or for some other reason, unrelated to their driving.

Yesterday’s education class was a good one to end on, for this section of the program. The topic of the day was “addiction.” It was extremely sad to hear the stories of my fellow classmates, many of who had alcoholics for parents. One woman had a realization in the class that her husband was an alcoholic and she was gravely concerned that he was giving booze to her teenage kids who were drinking and driving, as she had given up drinking entirely since her arrest. Others are just angry they were caught and claim they felt fine while driving, even at .16% BAC and higher. It’s funny that I get angry at them, such as a guy who had a .23% and was driving with kids in his car at the time, and I want to shout “dude, you had three kids in your car and a .23% BAC, you have no right to be angry at the police.” I think we all judge each other, but in the end our punishments are the same, no matter if we were just over the legal limit or well over it, with or without kids in the car (well this guy’s lawyer was apparently really good.)

While I didn’t relate to being addicted to alcohol, persay, the topic of addiction really hit home for me because of my food addiction. Sometimes that does seep over to alcohol but for the most part I drink when I’m with people, and don’t hide my drinking. I do often hide my binge eating. And the addiction topic made me reflect on just how important it is to have willpower. So today, when I was at the bar, I forced myself not to have a drink. I knew I wouldn’t drive home if I had even a sip, but it wasn’t worth it. Just like junk food is evil and uncessary, so is alcohol. It’s a shame it’s so accepted as part of our social culture. I’d rather avoid it entirely. They don’t preach total abstience in class, but ultimately I don’t understand the point of drinking if it’s not to escape and have a good time, which often amounts to doing something embaressing or having a lapse of judgement. It’s very hard not drinking around other people who are drinking, and I hate seeming so stiff, but ultimately I think I need to quit drinking for good — along with junk food — and any other form of binging that I seem to have such a talent for. Only when I can learn how to avoid binging on anything bad for me will I be able to be a healthy person.

Desire for Chaos, Lust for Stability

Is the meaning of life chaos or consistency? I hunger for wealth, but why? Beyond this “wealth” seeming impossible to achieve, I lust for a life of guided spontaneity, for someone, or someones, to take me out of my comfort zone, to force me to live a life of some sort of excess; perhaps one of indecency, of sin and vice, of gluttony or lust, of jumping out of metaphorical airplanes and pulling the rip cord moments before slamming into the earth, the adrenaline rush of youthful risk, with everything to lose at a moment’s notice; instead of coming home to warm, cozy, love, security, and sleep.

It’s so easy to forget how awful it is to be alone, how awful it is to be amidst the chaos, how any longing to live a life of deep emotional turmoil, passionate kisses, hellos and goodbyes, is not what one should want, or does want, when presented that fate in the moment. I spent my entire life feeling so alone, and with him I’m home. I’m not traveling the world, I’m not out at the symphony, I’m not sharing a $100 bottle of Chianti in the Italian countryside, or over a gourmet dinner, or bringing home another woman to the bedroom, or seducing someone who I’ve longed to have, or having that seduction reversed, where I’m the prize, won in a fight of an intellectual bullfight where each glance is a flick of a red cape.

Yet I’ve never felt at home amongst artists, emotional yet pretentious, nor businessmen, competitive with a constant hunger to win, nor housewives, humble caretakers who find happiness in being someone else’s home. I feel at home with him. We have stillness. Our love is the clearest night when thousands of stars twinkle across the sky. It is the calmness of a puddle that forgot the downpour from which it came. And that is what I see in the future of my life: a glorious puddle. No more want, no more desire, no more longing. It’s all here, whether I make millions of dollars or get by on a salary of less than what I make now, I don’t understand how wealth helps matters any — with it I’d have an option not to work, but I could never not work, I don’t enjoy quiet time, I’d be terribly bored, I can’t live with stillness, I can’t even allow my mind to shut off to sleep; instead I stay awake and try to understand the future that this path is leading me on, try to comprehend my choices as another year has turned its final page to the next chapter.

What do other millennials do for fun? According to my Facebook, those who are the most successful tend to go to the bar or a club the second the weekend starts on Friday, and remain blissfully intoxicated until the weekend concludes. They take vacations to beaches or ski resorts where they waste hundreds of dollars on drinking in bars where they socialize; they wear bikinis and go to Las Vegas where they play Blackjack and lose or win, it doesn’t matter, and they have their friends over and pour cocktails and sangria or pass around a joint or eat mushrooms or snort cocaine or roll on ecstasy and despite illegalities these are all elements of life I’ve see that people my age do in order to lead a normal life. They go on dates, to concerts, and above all they are living their lives in a way that aligns with what all of society tells us that 20 and 30-somethings are supposed to be doing prior to marriage and officially settling down.

Is that what I really want? I’ve spent too many days traveling for work to conferences with some of the most impressive people in the world, out at parties, at the bars, and I feel terribly awkward in this situations, I wander around, alone, look in my purse to pass the time, check my phone, and I am alone, a voyeur of normality, yet it all seems so terribly odd to me; I am a ghost of an onlooker, and even thrown into the center of what I think I want I find it isn’t at all what I want.

Still, I watch my stocks, I invest, I hope to turn my $150k networth into something much much more so I can not worry so much. Or so I can buy a life. How much money do you need to buy a life? How much money do you need to buy friends? To buy experiences? To buy laughter and to buy feeling not so alone in real life, not on some social networking account where it’s easy to collect friends and fans and followers?

I think I am a capitalist. I live to want. I hate that about myself. My boyfriend is a hippie socialist who thinks desire is the root of all evil. I agree with him. He is sweet and I love him and I love everything we have together. I couldn’t bare to be with another capitalist, I’d hate them, I need a bleeding heart liberal to remind me of my values. I dated a man once who refused to give, now I date a man who would give everything if he could.

But this isn’t about who I’m dating exactly. It’s about finding a life for myself independent of my relationship. And finding time for it. And figuring out what that life is. Social lives, however depressing, are rather easy to define a purpose for when you’re single. Your life revolves around finding a partner. And when you do — then what? What does all the money in the world provide when you have someone and have no one to share it all with in occasional gluttonous excess?

Or do I really deep down still want someone to provide the financial stability, the social stability, someone who can help define my life instead of my being thrown a lump of wet clay to mold without another strong hand to reach in, grasping over mine, to guide our creation with a purpose, to mold life together, with passionate kisses, with trips around the world, sharing a bottle of red wine, a dance, a surprise, a cruise, something messy, sticky, imperfect, uncontrolled; I long for someone to make a life of art with me; or to find my own art, and find out how to make it, and to not feel so alone on this global canvas with each solitary yet substantial brushstroke.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

This week I attended my high school’s 10 year reunion. After it being cancelled (not enough people wanted to pay $90 a pop for an open bar), a bunch of my classmates decided to meet up at a local bar on the same night. The evening was as awkward as reunions must always be  — seeing people you haven’t seen in 10 years (except on Facebook), people who hated you or ignored you in high school, now attempting to act like grown ups and be nice to each other.

It was, as reunions are, a place where plenty of people were connecting with lost connections, and old friends. What was most fascinating to me was where everyone was in their lives, 10 years in from high school graduation. Of course the people who showed up at this reunion (maybe 6% of our whole high school class) weren’t the ones who were stalled in their lives. But everyone was on a path, some more clear than others, and it was interesting to see how people’s lives were shaping out.

It also made me quite introspective about my own life and my choices. I’ve done so much, professionally, since graduating college, that I haven’t really had time to stop and think about how to make a living doing what I really love — helping people and understanding people. The INFP in me does my best work when my ethics and beliefs align squarely with that which I produce. I like harmony, not discordance. And life isn’t like school where there are right or wrong choices, you just make choices, day in and day out, with some making sense and others leading you off the deep end, where you may or may not be able to swim yourself out of it.

In any case, this has led me back to thinking I really would like to go to graduate school, and have the time to pursue something that lights up the right spots in my brain. This something will be psychology, sociology, or human computer interaction. And will be sometime in the next five years. I realize that despite an MBA being the right choice for my career, it’s not the right choice for me.