Category Archives: Married Life

How to Not Get Divorced and Have a Happy Marriage

Sorry, folks. I don’t know the silver bullet to a long, happy marriage. I do know that while 50% of Americans end up in a divorce, a large chunk of those who remain married do so unhappily. While marriage isn’t a requirement of a fulfilled, happy life – for many of us, having a lifelong partner is a key factor in our emotional and even financial stability. I used to be opposed to marriage as an old-fashioned idea steeped in religion and generally designed to make women a property of a man. Today, engaged to be married, I’m looking forward to that next stage of commitment. After nearly 10 years of dating, it’s time to lock this in forever.

Unfortunately, for MANY people, marriage isn’t forever. I spent last week “hanging out” with my 50-years young aunt and her either unhappily married or divorced besties. These women, all in their late 40s/early 50s, were all uniquely depressed, and the conversation reminded me why, if I have anything to do about it, I won’t be alone at that age (knock on wood.) It intrigues me how everyone is selfish by nature, and that happy marriages are largely the result of two people willing to be aware of their selfish tendencies and to compromise around many things that, in single life, would not be acceptable. Furthermore, the stress on a marriage that having kids brings is immense, and if the parents do not see eye-to-eye about this, they may be doomed to crumble – as no one wants to think about an intimate evening post fighting about their child’s behavior and what to do about it.

I grew up in a very unhappy, abusive household. My parents, now in their 60s, are still married – but rarely go a day without my father telling my mother, in a not-so-nice tone, that she’s a, and I quote, “fucking idiot.” They are not the spitting image of a good marriage or even a decent one. And both of my mother’s sisters are divorced and not remarried. This tells me a lot about the mentality in that side of the family – one which lacks empathy for others. It makes sense since the three sisters grew up with a very narcissistic mother and each of them have pretty much ended up with narcissists because it’s the only relationship dynamic which feels comfortable to them – the youngest, dating a man who is infinity self-absorbed and incapable of commitment; the middle sister, committed, not married to a man who is not exactly the warm and fuzzy type in terms of being open to people who do not fit his limited view on an acceptable human being (but maybe that’s just because he’s French); and my mother, of course, with my “can do no wrong” father who blames the world for all the problems but never can blame himself for anything.

Without self awareness, I don’t know if it’s possible for people like this to have a sustainable happy marriage. What we’re attracted to is not always best for such arduous happiness. Marriage is work, they say, and it’s true. I see some young couples I worry are headed in the wrong direction. I look at friends who do not seem to be able to talk about serious matters to each other. Friends who are married to men who are mama’s boys and who are worried that when their child is born they will be left alone to do all the housework along with childcare and returning to work. I worry about my friends who don’t talk about their finances, where one partner is stressed about work and the other is firmly committed to not worry about money or how it is spent. I worry about a couple who fight all the time with two young children present, who no longer find time to love each other, who maybe will never be fully happy, at least due to the presence of each other.

And then I look at my own relationship — nine-and-a-half  years is almost like marriage in its own right. We live together and split some of our bills, so it definitely feels like more than just dating despite nothing legally tying us together just yet. And I love him more than anything and we get into little tiffs every now and again but generally we can have open conversations about important things and we get along pretty well as long as I don’t focus too much on the serious all the time and we can enjoy musing on absurdities of the world together. I know that for my own marriage to work, it will be a lot of work. I have to change my ways – the many things I don’t like about myself to begin with, so I’m ok with that. First, I need to keep my household clean, and uncluttered. Second, I need to find a job where I can not constantly worry about getting fired and be super depressed all the time (he isn’t so much worried about the loss of the income as he is my constant bad mood about 5-6 months into any new job.) And I need to focus on trying to feel like a woman who can be desirable instead of sabotaging myself with my very low self esteem and body image. If I could do all three of these things and not chew so loudly (he is very sensitive to food noises) and be ready on time when we’re going out instead of always 10-15 minutes late, I think he’ll be very happy with me in our marriage. That’s really ALL I have to focus on doing. The rest comes naturally. Being aware of these things doesn’t mean they  are easy to do, but I know they are flaws in my character and things I need to work on anyway.

But marriages can fall apart when one person is aware of the things that upset the other person and feels they are putting an effort in to resolving these things, when the other person doesn’t make an effort or a strong enough effort to show the other person they are doing the same. This pain point in marriages can be exacerbated by the fact that so married couples just don’t talk about things. Sure, it’s easy to ask someone to clean the house, but it’s less easy for a working parent to share with a stay-at-home parent that they are too stressed out in their job and want to move into a position with less pay and less expectations. Or – things as silly as I miss when we used to get dressed up and go on dates, and now I only see you in your crappy clothes that don’t fit well at home because you’re tired all the time and quite frankly so am I. This is why marriages fall apart. People stop putting in the effort. They start becoming passive aggressive to each other on purpose or accident. That once-novel romance story has turned into a nightmare. And so many men and women get past the point of no return. They can no longer look at each other and understand how they were attracted to the other person in the first place. They long to move on to something new, something where the weight of all the years of passive aggression, poof, disappears, and they can start fresh. They can look at another person and see them not as the man who forgot to take the garbage out or the woman who was too tired from her job to be the exciting, passionate woman she once was. Starting fresh is easier than mending a wounded relationship, in theory, at least.

Divorcees are usually not happy either. Few people can manage being happy and being alone, especially after being in a committed relationship for many years. In spending time with these 40-year-old and 50-year-old divorced or unhappily married women, I wonder if there is any piece of the failings of their marriage that they see as their own faults, or if all the blame is on their former partners, or both. The common thread of conversation is that “he’s awful,” “he’s lazy,” “he’s unhelpful around the house,” et al. Or maybe there were just huge fights about how to raise the children that were unexpected which led to two people who couldn’t manage to love each other let alone spend time together. There’s a musical with a song that asks “When was Dividing Day” that is about divorce. No one goes into marriage wanting to or expecting to get a divorce, or to fall out of love. I wonder if it’s possible for two people to be so aware of their own flaws and especially the ones that rub the other person the wrong way, and to just hyperfocus on changing these behaviors as to always show the other person that you care to be the best person you can be for them. And, the second part of that is for the other person to do the same, all while being verbally appreciative of those changes in behavior, not just accepting them as part of the status quo, when the other person is still working very hard to be a better man/woman for the other person. If two people can do that, I think that a happy marriage is possible. But it requires us to go from our selfish, childish ways to becoming real adults — giving up our wants for the better of someone else, as long as that someone else is doing the very same for us. It won’t always be perfect, but as long as expectations are reasonable and two people really love each other, I want to believe it’s possible, and I want to try. I want to be the old couple that celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary with the same sparkle in our eyes that we have now when we look at each other, and see the man who I fell in love with, and who I’ll always love.

Eloping Sounds Really Good Right About Now

I seriously underestimated the amount of stress a wedding would churn up. It’s an excuse to throw an awesome party for my friends and family, I thought, unaware of the guilt and guilt trips I’d experience from those friends and family alike, as well as myself. At this point, eloping is looking like a pretty darned good option.

The challenge with a Jewish east coast wedding is that you pretty much go big or go home (well, go home meaning you have your wedding at home, like in your backyard, and unless you’re going to decorate the entire property in gold and diamonds, people will think you’re cheap and your family will never live that down.)

…For example, I’ve been seriously pondering a Sunday night wedding which would be by no means cheap, but which would bring down the minimums of the guest counts and the price per person a bit. I’ve estimated with 150 people it would save about $10k on the food/venue (at some venues a bit more at others less, but averages out to that at most of the nicer venues where on a Sat night you’re spending $35k+ on this basic cost alone before getting to everything else.) But an aunt of mine made a comment about how she doesn’t like Sunday night weddings because then people can’t drink and have fun – they have to go to work the next morning. While I’d like to just say/think – so what? It’s my wedding and I don’t care if people leave early or don’t have that much fun… but, I mean, if we’re throwing a party that costs more than $5,000 I’d like people to have some fun — more than $30k and I hope I can create an entertaining occasion.

That gets me back to wondering when weddings became about entertaining guests with the fancy venues and amazing food. I’m admittedly caught up in the nice venues (not ballrooms but really elegant, modern or rustic, historic places) and wanting to have amazing food that everyone is taking about and an incredible DJ with the perfect color scheme and yadayada. It’s fucking ridiculous. I’m not 12. I’m not working with a party planner to create my lavish Bat Mitzvah centerpieces and custom t-shirts. Why do I feel like my wedding has to be some big, impressive affair? Well, I’ll tell you why.

My parents care more about what other people think (about them) than what I want. And who the fork knows what I want right now anyway. Ms. Devil says “just throw an amazing, relatively expensive ($45,000) wedding and if you need to chip in more of your own money to make it even better. Yes, it’s one night but it’s THE night. YOUR night. If you don’t have some big wedding now you’ll regret it later. I’m not taking 200 people but even 100 people can seem big and be pricey.

But I think I’ve also gotten too carried away, looking at venues designed for people with parents who are multi-millionaires, not just $1.something millionaires. For people who have parents that don’t need to worry about their money one day running out due to a father’s illness or a mother’s penchant for television shopping networks and clothing salespeople’s oh-so-sage advice. The reality is most people, especially people who grew up near me, didn’t have super lavish saturday night weddings. They maybe had saturday or sunday afternoon weddings – which, even at nicer venues, can significantly reduce the cost.

My mother, of course, says no afternoon weddings – she doesn’t wake up before 10am and she needs a lot of time to get ready. She pretty much will boycott my wedding if it’s in the afternoon. I also don’t love afternoon weddings because people really don’t celebrate in the same way they do in the evening. I’ve been to a wedding that had a lovely ceremony at a historic mission followed by a brunch – no music or anything, and then there was an after party at the beach at night. It was nice and good thing it wasn’t that expensive because two years later and the couple is divorced – but, still, given the expectations of my family, doing something like that would actually embarrass my father. He might be ok with the earlier wedding time but he still wants a band and a party. AND GOD FORBID I HAVE A WEDDING IN THE WINTER “OFF PEAK.”

Meanwhile I’m having fantasies about getting married at our favorite spot in Yosemite. They apparently do ceremonies for up to 50 people and you can have a picnic lunch afterwards. At this point my dream wedding would be all my good friends and family flying to Yosemite, being there for the ceremony, and then staying with us to camp for a few days and bond. It’s a fantasy because it could never happen. I just think we’d feel more comfortable with a small ceremony that is meaningful versus something big that is more of a theatrical production than exchanging of a lifelong commitment. I used to be a complete attention whore but now I don’t really want all eyes on me anyway. My s/o and my relationship is quite, ahem, special — and by that I mean odd — and by that I mean I don’t really know how to share that relationship publicly with people who aren’t close friends and family… and even that, well, it’s kind of terrifying, when I think about it.

And… I can’t help but feel like the entire wedding experience is completely lopsided. Not that I really care how much my engagement ring was worth — but it is one of those wedding costs that comes out of the groom’s budget. When my family is facing a $45k bill for the wedding itself, having an engagement ring worth <$500, even though I don’t care how much the ring cost and I like my ring, seems off kilter. I mean, the average cost of an engagement ring in the US is $4000 and some people spend $10k or more. So then you can say ok, the groom’s side is paying for the $10k engagement ring + rehearsal dinner ($2k) + honeymoon ($3k) and so the groom is paying for $15k and then the bride’s side is paying $25k+ for the wedding itself, but at least the costs come out a little more evenly. Not that anyone splits things this way anymore, but with a $500 ring I feel like having a wedding over $10k makes absolutely no sense. At least you wear the ring for the rest of your life and can pass it down to your children! (*note, I tend to misplace jewelry and other items so my fiancé didn’t want to get me anything too expensive that I might lose, which is understandable.)

Lately I’ve been browsing local hotels and their wedding package prices… they seem to be on the lower cost side. It’s so frustrating trying to talk wedding budget with my parents because my mother is always clueless when it comes to money (I can’t help but tell her that it’s a bad idea for her to spend $45,000 of the money she will likely need as she gets older) and my father, well, he starts to throw a temper tantrum whenever I mention hat I’d like to find some place that is more “cost effective.” He certainly doesn’t know the difference between a wedding venue that I’d like ($30k-$40k price range for venue/food) and a $20k-$30k venue at a hotel or country club, and he’d consider both nice (as long as the food was good enough and there was nothing super tacky about the place.) But, really, $20k is STILL too much to spend on a venue/food for a one-night event. And this would be the somewhat lower cost venues that I’ve looked at so far. I can find cheaper ones still — even airport hotels host weddings(!) — but then I start thinking if the wedding is going to be at a crappy hotel in some god-awful conference-style ballroom then why bother doing that at all?

I do feel rather alone in all this, which is silly but still sucks. I can’t have a rational conversation with mom and dad about the wedding and my fiancé is in the mindset that our wedding should cost no more than $10k, but he’s fine if my parents want to throw a bigger affair than that – he just won’t chip in more than $5k of the whole thing. And the frugal, personal finance blogger side of me can’t even make the argument that he should be putting more of his savings into this wedding, because really he shouldn’t. No one family or person or two families should be spending this much for 5.5 hours. But still in me is that little girl who loved disney fairytales and dreamed of her wedding day… the same girl who is pinning a bunch of wedding stuff on pinterest (and has been long before she was engaged) and who now knows enough about wedding venues and dresses to start her own wedding planning business.

Anyway, this is all just super stressful.

When a Woman Requests a Prenup…

So I’ve spent my 20s acquiring a decent sum of savings. I’m not a millionaire (yet) but I have managed to save $350,000 – not immense wealth, but not pocket change either. I have no idea where my career will take me over the course of my life, but I admit as a person who thinks a lot about finances the idea of merging my financial future with another person – irregardless of how much I love him – terrifies me more than, say, jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Or my dress ripping apart in the middle of my wedding leaving me in my birthday suit.

When doing some preliminary prenup research on Google the links are all the same — dudes who are trying to figure out how to convince their fiancees to sign a prenup without completely destroying their relationship. I haven’t found one link (at least in the top few pages) where a woman is the one who wants the prenup. And do I really want a prenup? I don’t know. It just seems wise, especially with the 50% divorce rate, even though I don’t have any remote intention of ever getting divorced.

The reality is that my hubs-to-be is unlikely to save or earn as much as I do. He also is very adamant about us keeping separate accounts as we do today, though maybe splitting a bit more of our costs beyond just our rent (which I already pay more for) and our food (which we split 50/50.) I don’t know — I always come back to the fact that marriage is a business contract. It’s MORE a business contract than some lovey-dovey festival of forever commitment. You can commit without a marriage license. But if you plan to have kids in the near-term future then marriage does make sense. It at least provides some stability – theoretically.

I admit I’m worried about financial issues going into marriage. Luckily we both have no debt and if anyone’s got a spending habit it’s me. If anything I’m probably better off without a prenup as over time I may end up in a looney bin and should he decide not to be wed to a loon at the time, I’ll need the alimony to survive. Worst case scenario, of course, but it could happen.

Why does it feel so cringe-inducing to even bring up a prenuptial agreement? When I did, he quickly changed the subject, and I could tell he was very hurt at the suggestion. He wasn’t surprised that I asked, but he certainly wouldn’t give the request any serious consideration. And that leaves me with basically two choices — get married without a prenup, or don’t get married.

They say prenups are much more important in second marriages where kids are involved, et al, but if you have a sizable sum of money going into a marriage or expect an inheritance then they may be useful in the first. It just seems like this whole marriage thing is VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS and I’m not equipped with the necessary advice to enter into such a legal agreement. I wish the government made premarital and financial counseling a requirement before getting a marriage license, because at least then it would force us to address these issues like mature adults. But I guess that’s too much to ask in my relationship. And if I were in his shoes, I’m sure I’d feel a tinge of betrayal as well if I were asked to sign a prenup, so I can’t blame him for being so upset at my initial ask. I just wish we could have an adult conversation about it and make a rational decision — but how rational can a decision be if it’s based around the “what if we get divorced” question before we’re even married?

Introducing: Bridezilla

Reading articles about batshit brides who enamored over every detail of a wedding led me to pronouncing I would never, EVER earn the title “bridezilla.” And, yet, shortly thereafter my official engagement I’ve been called this at least two times – not yet once from my finance who surely has thought the term silently while watching me create a google spreadsheet of 20+ local venues to visit in order to find – THE ONE.

As a personal finance blogger, and someone who tends to toy around with compound interest calculators as a means to destress after a challenging day, weddings – as in, the modern American wedding with an average cost of $25k ($31k-$51k in my region) – are absolutely ridiculous.

$50,000 — over a 30 year period growing at 5% — amounts to $216k. Sure, that’s not enough to get one through retirement, but it’s an awful lot to spend on one 6-hour party. When down-payments for a starter home are $200k or more, spending any money on a wedding, no matter how high your income is (unless you already are financially independent) seems incredibly frivolous.

So far, we’ve done well to combat the frivolity of this phenomenon known as nuptials. I was verklempt when my man got down on one knee and, after going through a series of romantic gestures, asked me to marry him. When I noticed he had picked the $300 ring off my Pinterest, I took pride in being the type of future bride who didn’t buy into the “Three Months Salary” bullshit propagated by jewelry marketers – likely ones related to the same person who came up with “A Diamond is Forever.” The average cost of an engagement ring these days is $4000 — which is a lot considering most of America is in debt.

There was this little voice in the back of my mind, the little girl who dreamed of a fancier ring (not necessarily a diamond, but still, something above and beyond what I might purchase for myself) — and then I stopped that voice, told it to shut the fuck up, because the ring — beautiful, simple and unique — was perfect. And I wouldn’t want to be walking around with a $4000 sentimental target on my back for anyone who wanted to rob me. Ultimately, I’d rather have a house than a ring, so this was the right choice.

That doesn’t change the fact that the minute you tell people you are engaged the reflex of most Americans – male or female – is something along the lines of “let me see the rock.” Well, it’s a rock alright — a low-cost gemstone that may or may not be the one that we think it is. It was supposed to be peach but it’s actually clear which only bothers Bridezilla me because I feel like everyone “just knows” that it’s a fake diamond (which it wasn’t meant to be) and then I get nervous that others will look at it and think, oh god, does she not know it’s a fake? I was perfectly fine with a sapphire or alexandrite or something that didn’t look like a diamond, but when it almost looks like a diamond showing off your ring gets uncomfortable, so says Ms. Bridezilla.

The ring, however, is the least of the costs that go into having a wedding. Every ounce of my rational self is screaming ELOPE YOU DUMB IDIOT YOU! I’m definitely the type of girl that dreamed of having a large, fairytale wedding – but now that i’m nearly 32, I’m largely over that dream and much more practical. If I was paying for the entire thing myself, I’d be a whole lot of more practical – but with my parents wanting to foot the bill, I’m torn.

My dad – who worked his entire life in a job that he didn’t exactly love – was told eight years ago that he had two years to live from a very respectable doctor at Sloan Kettering in NYC. His late-stage prostate cancer had metastasized and while there were a number of treatments and trials to prolong his life, there was no cure. And, already dealing with numerous health issues, such as diabetes and morbid obesity, his prognosis wasn’t so optimistic.

Dad – as stubborn as he is – has lived much longer and is still kicking, knock on wood. Him and my mother purchased a condo in Boca which he’s now spending his days determining how to decorate – despite years of nagging me about getting married, he doesn’t seem to care too much about the wedding now. His response when I called to tell them I was engaged was “about time.”

My father has clearly stated, many times, that he has money put away for this shindig and that he’d cover the event. The budget, which was $30k, grew into $50k once I made a list of how much everything would cost (and this is with cutting out all of the items that would go into a dream wedding with a pricetag of about $100k.) He said $50k is fine.

I know he’s looking forward to his dream wedding. My mom’s mother made their wedding horrible, because she’s crazy. She wouldn’t let him invite most of his friends to the event because they needed to invite all of the Israeli relatives, and then not surprisingly those Israeli relatives didn’t show up leaving a lot of empty seats. If my finance had a large extended network of family and friends I’d almost  be ok with a large wedding, but it just doesn’t feel right to have a wedding with 30 people from his side and 150 from mine. That isn’t a wedding.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure someone like me where I am today in understanding finances can spend $50,000 on 5 hours – even if it’s not my money. To put perspective on that figure, for the last 5 years of my life I’ve been aiming to save $50,000 A YEAR after taxes, including interest from investments. It’s a lot of money, no matter how you slice it, and whose money it is.

Some of my friends say if your parents want to pay for the wedding, let them. But I’m almost ashamed of it. When I was 12 years old I had a lavish Bat Mitzvah which included custom-made t-shirts which I designed, musicians which included a band AND a dj, and a number of other items which led for one expensive coming of age ceremony. Back then I didn’t understand money at all. The party was fun and all, but it was ridiculous at the same time. How can a grown-ass woman rationally spend anywhere near $30k-$50k on one day? Well, this grown-ass woman might — but she’s still not sure.

I’m absolutely torn. The options seem to be accepting my parent’s gift and a world of compromise for throwing a party for 200 guests including many family friends/relatives who I don’t know that well, OR, paying for an event on our own which would be a lot smaller and cheaper. If we do an event on our own, most of the people I want to attend wouldn’t come, because it would be a smaller, less lavish affair. Maybe that’s not a terrible thing – but I feel like if you’re going to have a wedding to begin with, the point is introducing both families to each other – and with that, I would like to encourage a decent turnout from both of our sides. We have families across the country so a wine country venue with the promise of incredible dining and entertainment would do more to encourage an annual vacation vs a picnic in a park.

Yes, they say that whatever you do for a wedding, the people who want to be there will be. Those people don’t have tri-state area expectations. I definitely grew up in a culture where these fancy weddings are the norm. And, as privileged as I am to even be able to ponder what to do with a $30k+ budget, I should also just embrace the fact that my parents want to pay for this event – which will likely be a night that my finance and I will remember for the rest of our lives. So let’s just do this.

Even with a $50k budget (which is, again, ridiculous) there are still lots of cuts to be made. So a dream dress might be $10k. I looked on pre-owned wedding dress sites, where they sell one-night-worn dresses for 30% to 50% off. Well, buying a dress site-unseen for $5000 – even if it was a $10k dress – seems like a bad idea. Buying a used dress does intrigue me, however, since spending even $3000 on a dress to be worn one night is nuts, but spending $1500 on that same dress that was worn once makes a lot more sense (especially if you can resell it again, say, for $1000.)

At the moment, our decision du jour is the venue itself. Picking a venue and a date will make this a whole lot more real. My finance and I have similar ideas about what makes the perfect venue, but they aren’t always 100% aligned. We visited one venue yesterday that he adored – but it’s too expensive and honestly it was just not quite what I had in mind (paying $50k for a wedding which features fancy port-o-potties is not going to fly with my parents, and is also not on my preferred logistics list.) While we both love the idea of getting married outside in nature, I prefer a venue at the top of a hill with a view, he prefers one nestled in a valley. We both are hoping for some sort of water features — a lake, a stream, or ocean with dramatic cliffs. I prefer a venue where we are able to come set up in the morning, early, and he prefers one which enables late-night after partying well into the next day. We’re coming up empty handed.

All of this added stress should be fun, but planning a wedding is a lot of work. Yes, you can hire a planner (and I probably will) but that doesn’t solve everything – it doesn’t solve the issue of managing my parent’s expectations. If they are footing the bill, that will be another giant job on top of the FT job I already have, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan this shindig to begin with.

And I come back to thinking – isn’t this supposed to be a day about the joining of two people who are going to spend the rest of their lives together? Why should that cost $50,000?

 

 

That Time When You Realize You’re Almost 32…

Shit. I’m less than 6 months to 32. That’s not quite old but it certainly not young. And while I’ve saved up a decently sizable portfolio of investments over the course of my 31 and a half years, every day I freak out more regarding how I’m quickly watching the opportunity to have children disappear before my eyes. Yes, women can have kids later and later these days, but with my PCOS-crapified ovaries I know getting and staying pregnant is going to be a total bitch and damn expensive if not impossible.

There is no way in hell that I could work in a job like the one I have now and deal with getting pregnant. At least when you have kids they’re these physical creatures you can talk about with others and offer as a reason to work from home on occasion in order to deal with the whole biological needs of being a mother with infants. When you’re trying to get pregnant and not having any organic luck, then you have to deal with tons of doctors appointments and the crazy of hormone injections and such that mess with your mind. Yes, people do this all the time but I’m sure working for a startup makes it a heck of a lot harder. And I don’t think I’d ever see an occasion where I’d feel comfortable explaining to my current boss that I need to take some time during the day to go to a series of doctors appointments in order to get knocked up. That’s personal, and I would want it to stay personal.

While I’m not looking to get pregnant today, the reality is that I DO want to be married by next June (12 months) and very shortly thereafter want to begin the process of trying to have kids. I’ll be 32-and-a-half (holy shit) and in order to have my first kid by 34, well, that doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of time. Mr. HECC needs to hurry up and propose to me (hoping that’s happening in next 30 days because now we’re at the 9 year mark and we’ve generally both agreed on the get-married-and-have-kids timeline) and we just need to move on with our lives. I’m perplexed at how I can be 31 with a job making over $150k a year and a networth approaching $350k and I still feel so terribly lost and behind. I have a job, not a career, no matter what it looks like from the outside – and a boyfriend who might as well be my husband but who isn’t – because I’ve been so preoccupied with not being like those girls who just get married in their 20s because that’s what they think they ought to do.

And on top of all this, I am seriously considering grad school now more than ever – because this whole situation of just taking jobs that I can get versus jobs that I’m actually capable of being good at is absolutely draining every ounce of my being. I’m learning a shit ton and there are many aspects of my role that I like too, but it’s just not for me over the long term. I’m so grateful that the few people I have on my team are rockstars and helping me stay somewhat sane, but nonetheless that isn’t a career I can maintain even for a few more years. I need to make changes and I need to make changes fast in order to at least make a significant attempt at having a family, which at the end of the day is way more important to me than becoming a millionaire in my 40s.

So now that I have that straight, it definitely changes my priorities and plans. What kind of career can I have where I can – instead of being at the office 10 hours a day not including commute – spend time at home and be able to be a part of my potential future children’s lives? What job can I do where I can live a somewhat standard middle class life and be able to afford a house with a porch and a backyard… one that I can watch my children run around in? If my 20s were the years where I just wandered blindly and tried my best to save and save some more, my 30s are a time to open my eyes and just accept that being in the upper middle class, like I was as a child, isn’t necessarily the only option or a real route to happiness. So what if I’m squarely in the middle class? Did endless trips to the suburban shopping malls actually make me a happier person? Did my parents putting me through a private college for four years set me up for more success then I would have had if I went to a state school on scholarship and loans? Yes, it made it possible for me to take more risks then I might have if I didn’t have the cushion, but maybe those risks were bad ones to begin with. Maybe those risks are the ones that got me to almost 32, unwed and looking at a likely barren future.

Of all the things I freak out about, having kids and being able to have kids is something that I think I have a right to worry about. There is a such thing as a biological clock and time is FLYING by. I’m grateful to at least have the man who I see being the father to my children in my life, and for that to be an extremely stable relationship – but who cares if I’m going to be a 33-year-old newly wed and facing years of expensive, painful, and otherwise inconvenient infertility treatments? Being a woman IS different than being a guy – especially one in their late 20s / early 30s. Guys don’t have to rush into having kids – and guys don’t have to stab themselves with hormones in order to attempt to get pregnant, going to the doctor for many appointments in order to conceive and then engage in an entirely new series of doctors visits for ensuring the baby is born healthy and all… not to mention all that stuff that comes with being a mother once you give birth. And if you want more than one kid — well, so long to career progression in your 30s.

But do I really care? I don’t exactly have my heart set on becoming CMO – and what that entails. Is the American Dream working so hard until the day you retire that you don’t see your kids grow up, or have time to enjoy any hobbies or other moments in life that don’t involve soothing client worries or generating more business? I hate admitting that part of me wishes I were born at a time when these choices were made for me. What a terrible feminist. But it’s hard to be everything. Well, it’s not possible to be everything. And I am really, honestly, over dramatically and extremely terrified of believing time wouldn’t progress quite so rapidly if I chose to ignore it – and that my own ability to be a functioning woman wouldn’t be sidetracked by attempting to get ahead in a career where I’m yet another broken cog in an otherwise malfunctioning machine that will spin on and on and on whether or not I happen to be there to fill my little place in it.

 

 

The Emotional Reprecussions of Narcissistic Parents

No one has perfect parents, and by 30-something you’re supposed to be well adjusted enough to forgive and forget any of their misgivings. I don’t know why I’m still holding out for the day my parents learn how to care about anyone other than themselves, yet that faith consistently proves futile.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and told he had one to two years to live, I spent an evening collapsed on the floor with my friend holding my hand and praying to Jesus for me – which despite my being an atheist Jew was somewhat comforting. Despite growing up as the child of narcissists, and despite being quite self absorbed myself, somehow I’ve managed to learn how to care about others. I’m not very good at expressing this, and I certainly don’t know how to manage these feelings within the context of my family, but I’m learning.

Dad is still alive and kicking. While I had hoped that somehow the stars would align for him to both kick the terminal disease and for having a terminal illness to turn him into a man far less self-centered, I’ve realized this will never happen. The more amount of time I spend away from my parents, the more I can observe their great narcissism. To be fair, they financially took care of me throughout my childhood and then some, and I had a very comfortable childhood, at least on paper.

But that comfortable childhood was spent listening to hours upon hours of my father telling my mother she’s an idiot, throwing curse words at her, screaming and berating her, while my mother nagged about one thing or another, setting him off over and over again. My parents, in many ways, are perfect for each other. There is no satisfying their narcissistic supply, and it would surely drain anyone who actually cared to please the other when such pleasing was impossible.

I may be the type to over dramatize a lot of things in my life, but my parent’s crazy is not one of them. The definition of narcissistic personality disorder defines my father perfectly. My friend from childhood came to visit today and said she was not looking forward to coming over to the house because of my father, as he was never kind to her. She was a bit of a troublemaker as a child, but that was due to her parents both working and leaving her home alone from a young age, alongside her father’s alcoholism and abuse (which I did not know about at the time.) We both had crazy situations at home which is why we bonded, but my father always made it very clear that he looked down on her and her family. Today when she came over, he didn’t greet her in anyway. Yet, when my boyfriend comes over and doesn’t say hi to him, it’s the absolute worst possible disrespect. In short, my father is a great hypocrite, proven time and again, as he constantly cuts others down for faults that if he’d only look in a mirror for once he’d see so clearly in himself.

My father is the more violent type of crazy. He’s what I’d call a bad person. He has no care about how his actions make others feel. It is true that my mother has no care about how her actions make others feel, but typically his actions make others feel unsafe while hers are just annoying or embarrassing at worst. Wouldn’t it be nice for my father to, at least for the short time I’m home to visit, make an effort to make the household hospitable? No, in just 24 hours I’ve listened to him spurt more variations of “Fuck you” and “You’re an Idiot” at my mother than I’d care to count.

Thank goodness my mother has no heart inside of her to care. It’s just same old, same old with her. He seems to no longer physically shove her or grab her anymore, largely due to her calling the cops on him finally years back. Of course, after the police came to pick him up and take him to the station she had to go down and pick him up once he was released. That was the day I was terrified my father might actually kill my mother. She’s always been petite and weak, he’s always been obese and strong – which is a bad combination with a man who has no ability to control his temper and a woman who has no ability to realize she ought to not nag – or suggest any of her own ideas – in order to keep peace in the household.

My mother is no angel. She doesn’t have an ounce of mothering spirit in her body. A friend of hers came over tonight, a woman who was my Hebrew School teacher long ago, and as she asked how I’m doing I explained to her my concerns about having a child and maintaining a high-powered executive job, she briefly stroked my hair in a very motherly sort of way — this was completely off-putting to me, but the motherly-ness of it was kind of nice. She does call my mother out at her self-centeredness from time to time, not that my mother actually internalizes any of this feedback, but sometimes it’s nice to have a third party’s opinion organically in the mix. Makes me feel a bit less crazy.

Then there’s my sister, who, just graduated from college, is thank goodness a good person, yet broken as much as I am from growing up in an abusive household. While my seventeen jarring years at home pushed me towards my bipolar medley, she has also sought help for her depression. She has also been, just recently, leading quite the promiscuous life, because she has no sense of what a healthy relationship is, or how to respect herself or her body. And I feel horrible as her bigger sister not being able to provide any guidance to teach her that she deserves to be loved, and what that means. The fact is both of us have been formally diagnosed with depression, and I’m confident that the root cause of this was more nurture than nature. Who can come out of a household filled with so much selfishness and hatred and lead a healthy, normal, successful life – at least without being heavily medicated?

The Beatles said it best – all you need is love – and for the first 20 years of my life I had no such thing. During my 20s I struggled to learn how to love with a very patient, mild mannered, soothing boyfriend who came from his own broken background. His neglect and my physical and emotional abuse seemed to create two fractured creatures made somewhat whole together. There are days when I look around at other people in society who are perhaps more “normal” or socially able and I wonder what it would be like to be a person who can go out to events and socialize, but then I have to remind myself how completely awkward and abnormal I am, and why we’re the perfect fit for each other, till death do us part. And I remind myself that the only thing I really need to be happy is the love I never had as a child, the forgiving, relentless, eternal love that manages to find equal parts beauty and annoyance in even my many faults.

When I began my career, I had no one. I had never experienced love, I never valued myself enough to be in a healthy relationship with another person I fully respected or who respected me. Sure, I had a few relationships, but these were short lived – a girlfriend who, despite being kind and giving, was far too simpleminded to be a long-term match; a boyfriend who, a risk-loving midwestern guy with a horde of giant dogs and bad jokes and no emotional depth, was no fit for my sensitive side; and another boyfriend, a professional who, despite at the time earning a hundred thousand dollars more than my intern salary, and having been dating for nearly two years, made it clear that I would be paying for everything on every date, down to a $7 movie ticket, and then I’d be sleeping on the living room two-person couch for the night. I was so hungry for love and looking for it in all the wrong places because I had absolutely no respect for myself. I didn’t know how to be loved, or how to be worth being loved.

This is why I threw myself into my career. I wasn’t great at everything I did at work, but I had nothing else to focus on, even when my relationship with my current boyfriend begun, as I was unable to let him in. I found myself, typical as a child of abuse, trying to start fights at every turn, not feeling comfortable just existing in love. I needed the chaos, the ups and downs, the rush of the pain I was so used to. I pushed him away harder than one should be able to push a man and yet he stayed. He stuck he out. He knew I was hurting and lost and we both knew we were perfect for each other even though I tried so hard to break us apart.

Now I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve grown up a bit. I still have a lot of aging to do with wisdom to gain. But now all I need to find happiness is to be hugged tightly in his arms. I don’t need money or a fancy house or nice clothes or a new car or even to travel the world (though I enjoy traveling) because I could spend the rest of my life in a room with him and it would be ok. Suddenly, all of my motivation to focus on my career at the cost of avoiding my broken self shifted to my desire to be able to create a healthy, positive family with him. The years began to fly by and suddenly I was in my late 20s and then 30s. We didn’t get married or have kids, we just kept on watching the years go by, having fun together, but making little progress in terms of starting that family I began to see clearer and clearer.

I know having children is going to be a massive challenge due to my PCOS, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage to maintain my job and go through infertility treatments when the time comes. I’m going to have to make a lot of sacrifices and I will have to be strong enough to do this, not on my own, but as a team of two, us against the world. I’m quite frankly terrified because I don’t want to have kids and be a bad mother – I know I can be a horrible boss sometimes and while that’s not good either, at least with work you don’t always have the same employees throughout your career. One wrong move as a parent and it haunts you and your child for the rest of your life.

My teen self never dreamt of becoming a mother. Now, there’s nothing else in my life that seems more desirable or real. I’m afraid of what happens when I have children and introduce them to my parents, especially to my father’s rage, and how to explain to them that he thinks he’s right all the time even though he isn’t. Then I remember that chances are he won’t even be around when they’re born, or old enough to understand anything. Then I get sad over that, because I do want them to meet their grandfather, even with all of his volcanic anger constantly erupting. And I want them to meet my mother, as she far better plays the role of crazy grandmother than mother, taking pictures of her grandchildren and buying them presents to later be photographed with as well.

I can’t believe how fast time is flying — I’m nearly 32 and I’m not even married yet. I don’t feel behind mentally yet I know biologically the door to have a family is rapidly closing. Between that and the challenge and cost of going through the procedures needed to even children while also maintaining my high-pressure job is frightening. I’ll need to make some big choices about giving up massive savings potential in order to have a family. But at the end of the day, what is the point of saving if you never have a family to share that with (if that’s what you want to do, that is.)

 

Money is an Easier Goal than Happiness

Since 2007, I’ve been writing, on an off, for HerEveryCentCounts. I was reading another 20-something-year-old’s blog and was massively jealous of her networth that was around $250k. I thought about my massive savings account totaling $7k and how my part-time job and internship were not even making it possible to break even every month. I learned a lot about personal finance and got myself a Roth IRA account. I started investing. I pushed myself to increase my income year-over-year. I got to the point, a few years ago, where I made a goal for myself to hit $50k in networth growth, year over year.

What’s crazy is that, after a lifetime of never focusing on one thing long enough to achieve my goals, and even with my life consistently crumbling around me due to my bipolar depression, I managed to hit my fiscal goals time and again. Nothing else made me quite as happy as seeing my networth increase every month in my OCD spreadsheets. I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to investing, but I kept on putting money into the stock market, especially when it went down, and I saw my networth grow.

At the end of last year when, on paper, I reached $300k in networth, it felt like the biggest accomplishment in my life. I’ve never run a marathon or won a competition. I’ve never really done anything impressive. Hitting $300k at age 30, which was the goal I had set out for myself when I was 22 – at the time when it seemed completely impossible – was achieved. All of the ups and downs over the years seemed to be, at that moment, worth it. $300k wasn’t enough to retire on, but it wasn’t chump change. Suddenly my also unreasonable goal of $500k in networth before having children seemed possible, if I could just hang in there for a bit longer.

My boyfriend does not share in my money-obsessed ways. He saves a bit here and there, but he hasn’t invested any of his money outside of a Roth I convinced him to open when he turned 31. Meanwhile I’m throwing most of my earnings into the stock market, which is maybe dumb, but so far it’s worked out. As of Feb 15, my networth is ahead of monthly target towards my annual goal of $400k (this is the first year I’m trying to achieve $100k networth growth vs $50k.) As of Feb 15, I have $319k in networth. The stock market has performed quite well for the past few weeks, so this upward trend probably won’t last, and there will be pullbacks, but I’m excited to see that 1.5 months into the year I’m already trending towards my goal.

All I know is that I have to work hard for the next two to three years until I have my first child. There is no way in hell I can do the job I have now with children. I may have to change careers at that point, or at the least, accept a lower-paying job in order to be the mother I want to be. I’m strongly considering leaving my state and moving somewhere where I can purchase a nice house with a backyard for $500k, not $1.5M. My boyfriend is open to moving as well. It would be tough because it takes me a while to meet people, and at the least we have a few friends in the area, but I know if we stay in our region I will have to maintain my level of work and simultaneously raise a family. It’s just not going to happen. I see my friends who are parents who are either not working or working from home part time, and I can’t imagine how I would be able to keep my current job, or something like it, and also take care of a young kid.

While saving money, investing, and seeing my networth grow is exhilarating, at the end of the day, it’s my own little semi-secret. My parents still see me as this ongoing series of failures, jumping from job to job every few years. My boyfriend doesn’t care about my savings, which is good, but I don’t get any sort of extrinsic reward from his acknowledgement of my success. I guess that’s why I keep this blog to begin with, because it feels good to impress someone somewhere with my little fiscal victories, month over month, year over year. When you’re an adult no one really gives a shit about the amount of money you saved every month. I guess that’s why people buy fancy cars and big houses – because then it’s easy to show off your success. I don’t need to show it off, I want to be renowned for being the millionaire next door – one day – for being a woman who, despite suffering from crippling mental illness, has saved enough to be able to take breaks from work when depression hits, or when she wants to spend time with her future children instead of spending 10 hours per day working.

Then, I also realize it’s really dumb to want any sort of recognition for saving. Everyone does it. And my own saving has been made possible due to my parents paying for my college diploma, and my graduating without any loans. I’m too scared to dip into my networth to go to grad school, even if it means finding a career that I would be more naturally suited for, so I just hold my breath and hope I can last long enough to see another paycheck come through. I am well aware that my income, strong as it is right now, is likely short-lived. All I can do is push hard and save as much as possible each month — climbing as quickly as possible to my $500k goal.

I know $500k is an arbitrary number. It’s a lot of money but it really isn’t a heck of a lot of money. What $500k means to me is the ability to take a $60k a year job that is meaningful in a state where costs of living are lower, let the $500k grow and use the $60k to cover basic day-to-day costs, along with the income my boyfriend makes. $500k growing at 5% rate over 30 years is $2.1M. So if I can not touch my principal or the interest income until I’m 65, I’d have $2.5M in retirement. That’s how much I think I need for a comfortable retirement. And if it happens to grow at 8% YoY by 65 I’d have $6.3M in retirement.

So that’s why $500k is the magical number to hit before I can start doing things I actually want to do in my life… like being a mother, working part time building my own business, or writing for a local newspaper, or attempting to write my first science fiction novel. I still need to earn an income that covers my annual expenses, but I believe $500k is my version of financial freedom. I would still have to work, because I couldn’t tap into that money until retirement, but I’d be pretty much set as long as my average rate of annual return was at least 5%.

The exciting part of this picture is that the $500k by 32 IS possible, if I can succeed at my job and maintain my current salary for at least two years. I may come out of that with a head of grey hair and a heart attack or two, but I’ll be able to be the mother I want to be.

Feb 1 Networth Progress:

Screenshot 2015-02-14 19.54.19

Hello 2015! Goodbye 2014. And so on…

It has been one hell of a year. Accounting for all that has happened, no wonder I feel mildly overwhelmed. As life speeds ahead, I’m grateful for this one day a year to stop and reflect on how much changes in the course of 365 days. A lot, to say the least.

I’m trying to become a more mellow person, but that’s a struggle. Whatever seems massively important today, unless it has to do with your loved ones or close friends, isn’t really that important at all in the grand scheme of things. When I care too much about everything, that’s when shit starts to hit the fan. Work is work, love is love, and the two should never be accidentally interchanged. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t work hard and get shit done, but the amount of stress I create for myself on this impossible quest to perfection, and the ultimate downfall of such anxiety, is not worth it and it doesn’t help anyone.

In 2015, I’d like, more than anything, to manage a solid and productive year at my current job. This will not only enable me to reach or at least get near my 2015 financial goal of $400k networth (up from $300k today), but it will also provide me with the confidence I need to be highly employable going forward, with a playbook to use which can be followed in any role I take, at least within my specific type of position and industry. It’s creating the playbook that’s hard, especially when you have to learn from trial and error.

In my last opportunity, I realize now that a lot of the challenges there were not my fault. I didn’t make the right plays, for sure, but sometimes young companies have issues beyond what a marketing or sales person can help. Lesson learned there is to never take a job unless I believe 100% in the product and also know there’s a large pain point it is solving.

That’s not to say anything is going to come easy in 2015. I am in a much better situation, but some of the realities are the same as the last and I want to make sure not to make the same mistakes. While I don’t want every year of my life to be dedicated to my career and working long hours, I think 2015 is the year to do it. I don’t have kids yet (but hopefully will soon) and outside of a stable relationship with my boyfriend of nearly nine years, I don’t have much of a social life to speak of, so I might as well invest my 2015 into, as calmly as possible, kicking ass at my job. (And accepting help from the right people who can actually GSD. I.e. hiring smart and making decisions not based solely on resume but on my gut.)

I’m also accepting that there are some things I’m good at and some things I’m not so good at — and I want to forget about that and try my very best to see what I’m truly capable of — if that isn’t good enough for this role or this type of role then, well, I need to figure something else out. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but we’ll see. The difference this time around is that I want to push myself to do whatever it takes to succeed. It is going to be a struggle every step of the way, but what good taste of victory isn’t?

As a working professional, I’m not allowed to be scared, but I am, but I’m also reminding myself that it isn’t worth being scared over succeeding or failing in a job as long as you believe you’ve actually done your best (and you have enough of an emergency fund in the bank to help you through whatever transition needed should you falter.) I have to wake up every morning and ask myself — what needs to get done today? And I need to get that done. Period. No getting distracting on projects that may help the bigger picture but aren’t contributing to your core objective. To succeed at work, you have to be selfish. You have to learn to say “no” a lot. And you have to get results so people trust that when you say no, it’s for good reason.

Outside of work, I hope 2015 will be an exciting year on the personal front. It should be the year my boyfriend proposes to me, which I’m actually excited about given we’re pretty much married at the moment and there is no other person I’d rather spend the rest of m life with. What I have learned about myself is that – while I thought I’d want to marry someone who is career-minded and well-traveled, for many adventures throughout the next however many years of my life, I’m actually much more of a homebody who prefers stability in my relationship. That’s not to say we don’t take trips on occasion, but we’ve yet to travel abroad with each other (my Southeast Asia trip was with a high school friend, not with him) and that’s ok. I’ve discovered that the value of a relationship is having someone to come home to at night, to share a meal with, to watch a movie or tv series with, to cuddle with and wake up next to in the morning. And, of course, to raise a family with when the time is right. All of the other excitement can be obtained outside of a relationship in the form of individual adventures and sharing time with good friends.

2014 has also been a year of seeing my parents go through their own transitions. My mother turned 60, my father, in his 60s, still has terminal cancer, yet is doing miraculously well, #knockonwood, and they’ve been remodeling all of the bathrooms in their home, considering purchasing a condo in Florida to spend the long winters, and surprisingly enough have not killed each other on a series of road trips across their part of the country. I have to remind myself often that I’m now old, and so are they. I mean, 60 isn’t that old necessarily, but 60 year olds are grandparent age, and neither I or my sister have had a child yet, so they’re occupying themselves with a variety of other engagements. But it is strange, how fast life goes, and remembering your parents when you were young, and knowing your time with them, even without accident, is limited. Living far away, if you see them twice a year, for 30 more years, that’s even just 60 more times to say hello and goodbye to the people who made you, and that’s a terrifying thought, no matter how many times they drive you to want to jump off a bridge on each visit.

I hope that 2015 is filled with success, love, and friendships. My resolutions are to go to the gym every weekday (or walk at least one hour with commute), to NOT pig out, binging on crap food just because it is the only thing that helps combat my terrible anxiety, to focus on the primary success metric on my job and relentlessly show results to my boss and team so they can trust me and I can expand to do the things I enjoy most while still delivering unprecedented results, and to spend reasonable amounts of quality time with my family who are across the country, not just my parents, but my cousins, grandparent, and sister. I also want to get rid of tons of shit and live a simpler life.

Finally, my New Years resolution, which is crazy, is that I don’t want to buy anything (other than perhaps a new suit and coat) between now and June 2015, as my focus is on losing weight and saving money. I want to have my 401k and HSA maxed out by March ($20k), following by investing in a post-tax IRA ($5.5k) and manage to save another ~40k-75k through some serious frugality over the year. I can’t focus on that though, as it distracts me from what gets me there, being successful at my job, and growing into an actual executive who looks nothing like the me prior to 2014. Bring it on 2015, I might not be ready for you, but let’s make it happen.

 

Thinking about motherhood a lot lately…

It’s not just that most of my friends have children that is on my mind lately – it’s that their children are very quickly growing up. I didn’t feel so behind with my friends having tiny babies that could only communicate in screams and silence, but now my friend’s kids are bouncing around all over the place, building up their personalities, laughing and making out a few words. A few of my friends are even on their second child. I’m 31, childless, by choice, but it won’t be by choice for long.

I didn’t grow up knowing I wanted to be a mother. But now that I’m in a long-term relationship of nearly 9 years, I’m ready. I mean, I’m really ready – as ready as I’ll ever be. But the reality is that I’m not even engaged yet. If I get engaged in early 2015, which I think I will, I won’t be married until late 2016, after I turn 33. As I’ve written about before, having children is going to be challenging and require some form of medical intervention due to having severe PCOS. Who knows if I even can have kids? It may be impossible. What will hurt most is finding out that it might have not been impossible if only I didn’t wait so long…

There’s a growing part of me that wants to skip this marriage thing altogether and jump to having children, or at least trying to. Marriage seems unnecessary these days – and, as I’ve written about before, actually costs more in the long run from a tax perspective and makes life even less affordable. Perhaps marriage itself is not a necessity anymore. I’d like to be married, but I don’t need to be. I feel, at this point, I do need to have children. That’s more important. I want to build my family before it’s too late.

My boyfriend is aware of this, and he wants kids as well. We’ve both discussed 1-2 years as the timeframe for having children. The marriage stuff is where it gets tricky. It requires 1-1.5 years of planning. Not that I really am ready, ready to have a baby today – as in, I couldn’t imagine keeping my current job after giving birth, and I’d like to remain in my job for at least two years if possible. But… I go back and forth… because I’d like children, and by children I mean 2-3 kids, and if I wait any longer it’s just going to be harder to have one, let alone a pair or trio.

I feel like I also have no one to talk to about this. I bring it up with my boyfriend and he says we’ve already discussed it and there’s no use rehashing, in so many words. A peep of this to my parents and I get an earful that I’m waiting too long to begin with. My friends who already have kids and who are sleep deprived aren’t interested in hearing my minor jealousy. So I blog about this topic a lot because I just have no one to share these feelings with. And I’m really starting to get scared — life is buzzing by so quickly and I just don’t want to let it blur before my eyes without having the opportunity to build my family. Yes, adoption and such is always an option, but like so many other women out there I would much prefer to give birth to my own children. I’m not sure if I’d ever adopt. But I’ll cross that bridge when the time comes.

It’s just crazy to me how when you turn 30 you’re suddenly, well, old, in terms of your biological clock. Nowadays our 20s are more or less thought of as time to find ourselves, to explore, to grow up – and then boom, you’re 30, or you’re 31, and then… you have 10 years to get your shit together before you’re freaking forty and you’re a full-on grown-up entering middle age. So, I have ten years, or less, to have all my children, if I’m going to have any, and figure out how to balance some form of work life and personal life. I’m terrified of moving too fast and even more so moving too slow. I put all of my energy into work because I have to right now, that’s my focus, but I can see focusing on that for so long that I just run out of time to have a family. I feel like I might have my priorities mixed up.

Feeling Lucky in Love

When you grow up with “everything” in terms of material possessions and funded hobbies up to the wazzoo, your mental health issues such as depression are thought to be pure youth melodramatics. But in my ripe old-ish age of 31, I’ve found what I was missing and didn’t know I wanted. I found this thing they call love. And like the many songs that have been written about how people search for love in all the wrong places and shapes and sizes only to find it isn’t what they expected at all, here I am, a girl who thought she could never find true love, knee deep in the definition of it.

Oh, he isn’t perfect, and I never expected perfection out of another human being. But both of us lacking parents with the ability to love in our childhood have found that we can pour out all this love we have to give, our sensitive souls smiling with each instant cuddling on the couch or waking up in each other’s arms. He’s turned me into a total softie. He’s taught me that the hollow space inside my heart doesn’t need to be filled temporarily with material possessions – that I could easily be happy living the rest of my life in a relatively small space with few items, if only I would be guaranteed the opportunity to spend that time with him, being terribly silly, immaturely mischievous, and at the same time spiritually whole in the glow of his calming, zen-like attitude towards the world which combats my east coast leather-like psyche turning it into mushy clay.

But having him in my life also makes me unclear of what I want, because just 10 years ago I could only be striving for some sort of “success,” which merely meant a story my parents could brag about to their friends and our family. I didn’t have anything I really wanted. Fame, sure, but even my lust for fame was fleeting when I realized I didn’t actually like being the center of attention, I just liked not being alone. So as this love of mine developed over the past decade I started to find myself and she wasn’t who I thought she was at all, for good and bad. She was a lot less ambitious. She cared less about being smart or rich or even beautiful. She suddenly wanted a life of stability over a life of restless leaping from story to story until her final breath. After running for so long all she wanted to do was stop and fall into loving arms. And that she did.

I like to work and to be creative and help create projects as part of a team, so I’m not aspiring to leave the workforce anytime soon. I just don’t care as much about wealth as I used to. I’d like financial security, to know I can stop work when I have kids and spend time with them if I want to; to be able to have choices. But I don’t need a giant house (thank goodness because unless I’m ultra rich there is no way to afford one here) and I certainly don’t need new cars or fancy clothes. Even my vacations tend to be more on the budget side, within reason, because I feel uncomfortable in any environment that is slightly luxurious.

All I want right now, and the me of 10 years ago couldn’t believe I’m saying this, but all I want right now is a family of my own. I want to have kids, I’m sure of it, and I want to be a mother who tries her best to be a good mother and friend to her children. I want a house big enough where I can go into another room to have alone time but not so big that it has extra space to fill with crap collected throughout the years. I appreciate interior design and aesthetics but I lean much more to simplicity than I did in the past. I may be splurging on face creams to deal with my starting-to-age skin, but beyond that, I don’t really have anything I spend on. I’m so busy working there isn’t time to shop or take fancy trips anyway, which is fine by me.

So love really changes a person… I know first hand. I see how my parents, never able to love, instead continue to try to find completeness in buying lots of stuff. My father — his collections of often not-so-great art, baseball figurines, books, DVDs, et al, filling up the house; and my mother, clothes and more clothes and then random contraptions QVC convinced her to buy. Stuff. So much stuff.

Relatedly, my dad called me the other day while I was at work – I picked up as my dad NEVER calls me so when he does I figure something bad happened so I should pick up. No, I forgot, the other reason he calls (it has happened once before that I can remember) is when my general region is on the news and he worries about me. Last time, years ago, it was because there was a very low tsunami risk on the California coast. This time it was the rain storm that was causing a little bit of flooding. I told him I was fine and I had to go, but he kept talking, because he doesn’t really care that I was at work or had to go, and he started telling me that he’s going to go ahead with the purchase of a winter home in Florida… which is fine by me, they can do what they want, but again, they just keep buying stuff, I don’t think any of it makes them happy, and it’s sad but they’ll never be happy because they’ll never know love. They can’t. They’re two narcissists who only can love themselves in a twisted sort of way.

But here I am, 31 years old, and I have this guy in my life who loves me for who I am. He’s been there through thick and thin. Literally picking me up from jail (after my first-ever and last-ever DUI.) Holding me through losing my jobs and being there as I moped through periods of unemployment until the next opportunity came around. He’s just this rock, this smiling, beautiful, charming, unlike anyone else in the world rock. It’s not that I can picture spending the rest of my life with him – it’s that I cannot picture “not” spending the rest of my life with him. We’re together now, the way couples are together, but I didn’t think that was something that I could ever be a part of. I thought that was reserved for people who were more mentally balanced, people who deserved such love. Yet I found it. And it’s worth more than anything money could buy. And for that, I’m forever grateful.