Tag Archives: anxiety

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The High Cost of Mental Illness

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

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

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When It All Adds Up: Am I Autistic?

In the course of my mental health history, I’ve been diagnosed with, in no particular order, major depression, bipolar II, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD and, as I aged out of hyperactivity, Adult ADD. Yet my current therapist first to allude to the suspicion that I may be “on the spectrum,” so to speak. At first, I thought she was nuts. Well, I generally think she’s nuts because unlike my other therapists who have been more traditional talk therapists who don’t give direct advice, she’s more of a crossover psychologist and coach. And, maybe she actually sees something that others have missed. Or maybe she’s just crazy. Continue reading

The Vicious Cycle of My Adult Professional Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waking Up from The American Dream

Today, we received notice for our annual lease renewal. Our rent will be increasing $170 a month to a total steal of $2465 for a one bedroom apartment, not including any utilities. If we lived in the city the same apartment would be at least $1000 more. That’s life in the most expensive area in the country — no matter how much you make, you’re still not making enough to afford the life you thought you’d have at this point. You just have to wake up from the American Dream and realize it’s just that – a dream.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be one of the few who is making a high salary — more than I could ever had imagined making and more than I believe I deserve. At the same time, I acknowledge that in order to afford a house here you pretty much need to be taking home $400k (as a couple) which isn’t in the cards for our future, despite my relatively very high income – even if I manage to find success and stability in my job. I realize that many others will never even make as much as I do, and I feel I make too much, but it’s a loop of relativity when I try to comprehend how much I’d really need to make in order to purchase a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard.

Do I need a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard? Even if I don’t, soon our rent, for a one bedroom apartment, will creep up to $3000 a month, even in the suburbs. We won’t exactly be priced out but we’ll be able to save less and less each year. At some point, I think we’ll have to accept that it’s time to leave. And with a total income of about $250k, we’re doing much better off than a lot of people who live here. It’s just not enough and it will only get worse as we attempt to start our lives together.

If kids end up not in the cards, maybe it’s doable. We can stay in a one bedroom apartment, no need to pay for extra space when it’s just us. We can live in a one bedroom for the rest of our lives. This isn’t at all the life I had imagined, but we can survive easily without that much space. If we do have children that changes the story quite a bit. I don’t see how we can have children and remain here, especially if I need to take time off for any reason. The pressure of being the breadwinner, especially suffering from severe anxiety, is too much. If I am responsible for me, myself and I — that’s no big deal, I can roll with the punches, live cheaply when needed, and just weather any storm that comes my way. With children, we need a much bigger security net. We’ll have to move. We will have no choice.

I write this at a time when many entry-level workers here are seriously struggling, unable to feed themselves or pay rent on minimum wage. I feel embarrassed to look at my quite high income and still feel so hopeless, because if I feel hopeless, how on earth is the rest of everyone supposed to feel?

I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to have children we can’t stay here. I don’t have a solution yet or an answer to “where to do we go,” but sooner than later we have to get out. I’ll very much miss the beautiful scenery and sunshine. I’ll look back on my 20s and be glad I had the opportunity to live in such a glorious part of the world. But it’s time to grow up and move out. Or, at least it will be soon.

People say to not worry about the future and to just live in the moment. I find it very hard to do that. We now face the choice of staying in our current apartment and paying an extra $2000 to do so next year (and continuing my 3 hour a day commute) or finding a place closer to work that will either be more expensive or less livable or both. We’ll probably just stay here for another year – neither of us wants to deal with moving, and $2000 doesn’t seem like that much compared with the inconvenience of finding a new apartment and lugging our stuff to it… moving isn’t free either. So we’ll probably give it on more year here and hopefully by the end of the next lease I’ll be pregnant and we can then figure out where on earth we’re going to live in the future (aka not California.)

I had hoped that I’d be at a point in my career where I’d feel so distraught over losing my job / career in order to have a family… but while I appreciate my job for what it is now, and really admire my colleagues and am so grateful for this opportunity… I have no personal investment in this career. I feel no sense of pride in my progress or role. In five years, to continue on this path, I end up in a leadership role were I will never fit. I acknowledge it’s soon time to leave. Right now, the best I can do is hold on for dear life, do the best I can, and try to save money by living relatively frugally and bringing in a good income where most of it goes straight into the stock market / my savings accounts. This may be my last significant savings opportunity in my life, given I plan to move to an area with a lower cost of living and obtain a job which pays significantly less in my next career move. My goal is still to get to $500k in savings before I make this move, and the goal is becoming much more dire given that I’m rounding the corner of my mid 30s and I know I can’t handle this life for much longer. If I can just hold out until $500k — I can completely shift my lifestyle to one of lower income and greater flexibility in another part of the country. We can live off of, say, $100k total across both of our incomes and still live a decent life. If we make more than that, great, but we don’t have to (or, in the case of staying here, I’d likely have to earn over $300k in order for us to hit the $400k mark and afford a small home.)

What was once kind of this running silent joke in my head about how one day I couldn’t afford to live here and that I’d move away is proving true. I guess what has changed is that I’m more ok with that than I was before. I used to think that I didn’t want to trade my career for a simpler life. I didn’t want to be one of those women who had kids and no longer had her own identity, especially a professional identity. But now, I don’t know, my professional identity is not who I am. Despite not making it to Hollywood or Broadway I’m an actress nonetheless, everyday portraying someone who I’ll never be. I’m over this obsession with what I thought was success. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, no game to win. I have maybe 60 good years left on this earth if I’m lucky, and many fewer with all of my loved ones in good health. I hope to make the most of them, and it doesn’t matter if that occurs within a tiny apartment or a giant house. It feels good to finally accept that… to embrace the loss of this embedded classism my parents have taught me, to stop feeling like if I can’t maintain the level of comfort and luxury from my childhood that I am a failure. The only true way to fail is to lock myself into a life where I no longer have any reasonable options for escape.

The Point When Your Dream Ends and Someone Else’s Begins

How in one breath can reality shift from a romanticized daydream of being a somebody who creates to success begin defined by job title, income, and home furnishings? Of course, this didn’t all happen in just one breath, but today I stop to pause in half-congratulations, half-jealousy of a fellow graduate who has gone on to do great things in the arts and now, 10 years post graduation, has worked hard and created and become one of those people who I thought I aspired to be and I’ll never become because – why? Because I was afraid? Because I didn’t believe in myself? Because I didn’t know what I wanted. I still don’t. Perhaps I never will.

I could easily blame money – the fear of not having money especially – but that was never really primary to the equation. I never gave myself the opportunity to not have money. When I failed in roles that mattered little to me psychologically early in my career I just moved on to the next, each role one further step removed from my deep-rooted passion to make something form nothing and so on – no comment on whether or not I had or have the talent to do so. It doesn’t matter. I’m one of the everyman. No better or worse or different than the next person who is here and gone in the blink of an eye, atoms of self splattered back out to the universe in due time.

Every single day I lose more and more of myself. I try to tell myself that’s a good thing. That’s growing up. That’s being an adult. That’s taking charge of life – grabbing it by the balls and saying fuck you world I wasn’t supposed to do this well but here I am. I’m doing well at that game I didn’t have a clue how to play and fucking A I’m faking everyone out and trying my best when I’m not having panic attacks and somehow I convinced people to pay me a lot of money and now every day I wake up knowing that I’m not a good actor after all and the opportunity is slipping from my grasp yet again… but I never clutched it tight enough to feel so distraught about losing anything anymore. I am not directing a performance where opening night will make or break its run. I’m not painting a picture which might one day hang in a gallery somewhere and be talked about in schools. No one will sip tea and muse over by blue period… of marketing. That’s life. I should be so proud. So proud that I let go of dreams because I wasn’t confident they were even my own, and just said fuck it, I’m going to just do whatever it is the world will have me do and pay me for because that’s better than sitting on my ass, wallowing in self pity and drowning in my solitude.

But I’m always one step, one moment, one millisecond away from this inevitable crash which I return to time and again. It’s as frustrating and horrifying as it is soothing. It’s my eternal womb state to return to, when I am shaking so much I cannot do much of anything except curl up in a ball and cry, deeply wailing alone because I know that there including anyone else in this pity party would only be a childish, selfish activity outside of any paid therapy sessions remaining in my FSA funds. But there I am, a grow woman, falling apart again, just like she did at 5 and 12 and 15 and 21 and always. Growing up doesn’t really go up if you’re constantly falling down. And, I admit, there are so many times when it feels so hopeless. I have these serious deliberations with myself over whether or not it makes sense to keep trying, keep faking it, when I’ll just always be a lie. I’d like to think it’s imposter syndrome – plenty of women suffer from that – but trust me, it’s not. I’m not a fit for this world, but I also wasn’t a fit for any other.

My self worth is defined by my networth. I am $320k give or take in happy with myself at the present moment. I am what I consider approximately five years away from being destitute without outside help, and five years away from having too much pride to ask for any. I could maybe last for five years on about $50k a year and spend down my savings. I’m five years or less way from total failure. I don’t think I’d ever let myself get there, though. If things got that bad  – I don’t know what I’d do. But  I can’t fail like that, I have too much pride. I’d find some freelance work. I’d do something. I’d get another job. I’d pick myself up and walk again. I’d walk as fast as I could until I fell. Over and over again. For many years. Until it’s over naturally and no one can accuse me of being suicidal or selfish for wanting to disappear or any of that nonsense. I’d just be old and gone and have made it, have survived through it all – for what, these days I’m not so sure, but I’ll keep on running until I see that finish line and when I do I’m sure I’ll regret having wasted all that time sprinting with my eyes only half open.

I guess the short of it is that I have no idea who I am anymore. As a child I defined myself as an artist, even though I knew I wasn’t good enough to really BE an artist – but I wasn’t an athlete or mathematician or scientist or academic or much of anything else — I could only see myself as an artist and the only purpose of life was to create – to output something(s) unique that no one else could share. To give some gift that comes from my hands or my voice or my mind – because I was raised to think this is all I was worth, my entertainment value. And now, I wake up, I go to work, I crack a few jokes I probably shouldn’t be cracking in order to maintain my appearance as a senior business leader (as if I actually have that appearance in the first place is a funny and inaccurate notion), and then I come home, and I go to sleep, if I go to sleep, to do it over again.

When I have children this will change. My life will be for their dreams. And maybe that’s ok. I don’t want to push them towards any dream of mine that went unfulfilled. I know that’s a recipe for disaster. But I’m at this point where I feel so empty because I don’t have anything to care about. I could do a better job caring about myself to start, for sure, but I have so much to give externally and I can’t help but think that’s motherhood calling, hello biological clock. Or maybe it’s just what is feels like to truly mourn the loss of possibility, accept and embrace the status quo as my forever now, just suck it up and live without wanting life to be anything more than a collection of mundane moments with the occasional exceptional spark which warms the heart until the next one comes along.

 

Panic is My Default Mode: Life with Anxiety

Logically, I know 99% of my anxiety is completely unnecessary. But in 32 years of walking this earth, it’s just gotten worse. This crippling sense of constant panic keeps me from finishing projects and achieving sustainable success. I’m very concerned I will again let panic get the best of me and given time I will lose my job. I know I have a lot to contribute, and my contributions are valued, but the constant panic loop in my mind plays on and on and on…

You’re not doing it right.

You’re not doing it fast enough.

This is the best you can do and that’s not good enough.

You’re a fake.

You’re not going to be found out – you’ve already been found out. It’s too late.

Why do you bother trying? You’re just stupid. Stupid and not equipped to do this job.

It’s 6pm again? How’d it get to be 6pm? Where did the day go? Why am I so tired? Why am I looking at a long list of to-dos with everything 21% completed and nothing close to being done? Why can’t I just FINISH things?

… I’m feeling rather down right now. More, beaten down and hopeless by this redundant plot line. At 32, I should be able to do this better. I should be able to get my hair nice and straight in the morning so it doesn’t look like a gnarly broom with fringes poking out in all directions. I should be able to wear clothes that make me look professional and confident, not like a hot mess. I should be able to find shoes that are comfortable that I can wear to work that aren’t embarrassingly clunky and flat. I should be able to handle all this. I’m making the big bucks now and I have to be great. I’m far from it. I feel my world falling down around me yet again.

And, I know, so many of you told me – don’t take the small company job – take the bigger company job where there will be more support. Maybe you’re right. But, honestly, that isn’t the issue. I’d have the same challenges at the bigger company – in any leadership role. In any role where I don’t have someone constantly guiding me and telling me that I’m doing an ok job. It’s my upbringing by narcissistic parents. It’s giving in so quickly to this track of self-defeat no matter how hard I try to scream quietly to her to just shut up so I can get my work done in peace.

I want this to work. I really, really do. It has to. I can’t fail. I’m not afraid of failure or ashamed of it, but this time, I have to be great. Or, at least really good. I put so much pressure on myself and I don’t come close to achieving my goals. This is a job. A tried-and-true adult job. This isn’t a passion. This is work. This is work that I have to do and do well and I want to do well and I even want to do well because I like the people I work with and I want them to do well. Still, I’m nose diving and ready to soon go splat.

And who do you talk to about this – at 32? Who do you say, help me, I’m hopeless, I’ve managed to trick the world into thinking I can do something and maybe I can do some of it but really I can’t keep up. I can hire a therapist – I spend so much money on therapy and where has it gotten me? Alive, maybe. I’d probably still be alive. I’m not actually suicidal. I’m too scared of death. But it’s gotten me – an apartment, and a fiance, and perhaps the ability to stand up again when I fall. It’s a psychological loop as well. It doesn’t get me anywhere. It feels like a waste of money. I know I need help, but having someone talk me out of my head and shock some reality into it is only helpful as far as I believe it. And I can’t pay anyone any amount of money to make me believe it.

Here I am, staring down at the next five years of my life which may include having children – children(!) – who I will be responsible for and who I want more than anything and I’m so terrified to bring anyone into the world when I can’t even handle taking care of myself. Yea, sure, I’ve managed to save $350,000 in the last 10 years. That’s my one and only life accomplishment – one that I can’t even talk about with anyone, except for on this blog, because I’m as proud as I am ashamed of having accumulated a modest amount of wealth for my age, and horrified that $350k is nothing when it comes to being able to afford the life I want without having to work in this field until I’m old and grey.

I want to work. I like working. I like making and creating and doing. I like the feeling of getting things done. I don’t want to be a lazy ass and sit around and stare at a wall all day. But this anxiety is just unstoppable. I fear that it won’t be long until it gets me into trouble at this job. My fiancé won’t let me say the “f” word (fired) and he’s right, there’s no use in talking about how I’m going to get fired when I’ve only been employed for less than two months. I just want to make this work so badly. But I don’t know how to. I feel like no matter what I do, my panic will see to it I crumble yet again.

Hello 2016! A Toast to an Amazing, Productive, Healthy, and Sane Year

I’ll admit it, 2015 was rough. With my long commute to and from work, my sanity and health sank to perhaps an all-time low. Although I achieved networth growth over the year, it wasn’t nearly as much as I had targeted. In fact, in the year when I made significantly more than I had ever made before, I ended up saving less than I had in the past (including interest.) I closed out the year with $344k in total assets with the exception of my car (I don’t count that in my networth calculations, though, I guess I suppose I should.) I wanted to be at $400k in networth, but between some bad investments, general stock market blahs, and being unemployed for a brief while, I just didn’t get anywhere near that.

What I try to remind myself is that $344k at 32 is not too shabby. If I don’t touch that, don’t add anything else, and it manages to grow at 5% YoY that’s $1.3M by the time I’m 60. Ok, so I want to get to $4M by 60 (which requires about a 10% YoY annual return with my current principal and no annual additions), but even if I get to $1.3M by 60 I think I could remain working and manage to grow that another 5  years, which gets me to $1.7M and that isn’t counting any savings from future Mr. HECC.

The plan was to hit $500k net worth, have a kid and save for a house while living in an apartment with young kid, and then over the next five years save enough for a 20% downpayment ($300k) on top of the $500k plus annual interest that I wouldn’t touch. That goal is looking rather unlikely right now, and I’m actually ok with that. I’ve gotten to this point where I’ve accepted that the life I am going to lead as an adult is going to be at a lower class level than the one I was used to as a child. While I grew up in an upper-middle class household, my family will be squarely in the middle class (for my region of the country), and we’ll be fine. We’ll still be doing much better than the majority of households in the country, even if we can’t afford a house for a long time, if ever.

Right now, my focus must be 100% on excelling in my job. With my current salary and responsibilities, I have the opportunity to set myself up for a very successful next 20 years of my career. I also am very seriously confronting the reality that if this doesn’t work out for any reason, if this is a failure, then it means a significant shift my career trajectory and networth projections. I very well might return to school – which I’ve been talking bout for a while but haven’t seriously pursued – to study to become a psychologist or design researcher with a psychological focus. But I don’t want to think about that right now, I’m heads down, fully in the game, trying to relax and thrive despite the many challenges at hand. In other words, I refuse to mess this up.

Beyond work, this year is just a huge year of major life changes. I get married in a few months (tax bill goes up next year, woohoo), and I also likely start trying to have kids, confronting the soon-to-be-proven fact that conceiving doesn’t come so naturally to me (thanks PCOS.) I’m hyper-focused on losing weight, eating healthy and exercise right now. My weight fluctuates significantly — in 2012 I was at 180lbs (my highest ever, which is very heavy for a woman who is 5’3), to 155lbs a year later, to 176lbs a year later than that, dropping and holding steady at 170 through 2014 and most of 2015, ending 2015 at 160lbs. I hired a personal trainer 3x a week ($50 a session which is a really good deal for this area) so we’re working on getting my weight down to about 130 in the next couple of months (5 pounds a month is my goal to lose, which is a good, achievable goal.) It’s mostly so I can feel happy with how I look in my wedding pictures, but it’s also just something I need to do in order to save myself from premature aging. Plus, I just feel mentally more clear and balanced when I’m eating healthy and exercising. It’s good to have such short-term goal so I am focused the entire way through, no matter how hard it gets.

This year, my goals are going to be a little less intense on the networth side. I’d like to get to $400k in networth, including $23.5k in new retirement savings (401k & IRA). That leaves $31.5k to make up for in interest and other savings, or about $2.6k per month. I’m planning to try to save an additional $2k per month on average, and hopefully the rest (~$7200) will come from interest on, say, $250k of invested, interest-earning assets, which is about a 3% gain on those investments. I’d prefer to go well over this, but trying to be realistic with the goals, especially with the wedding spending. I don’t think this is going to be a hugely profitable year but I could be wrong.

2016 Goal Summary

1) $400k networth – including $23.5k in retirement savings, $24k in taxable investments, and about $7k in interest.
2) Be 130lbs by summer
3) Thrive at my job (and be gainfully employed and loved by my colleagues when Jan 1, 2017 rolls around)
4) Get pregnant before I’m 33!?!

Well, here’s to kicking off what is sure to be a crazy year. Fingers crossed it’s a good one. I think it will be. I hope it will be. Oh god, it better be. 🙂

 

 

 

As I sat on the baggage claim floor…

Some people hit rock bottom when they’ve found their addiction to drugs or sex or alcohol has pushed them to a point where there are only two options left — just about cold turkey or their own demise.  I sat on the baggage claim floor yesterday I found it impossibly hard to move. I had just returned from a two-week conference circuit, unfortunately one which was less successful than I’d hoped and the details far too imperfect. I sat and read my work email – one thing after another of items that I failed to do correctly or questions on problems I thought I had solved. And as I felt the hard, barely-carpeted cement floor grace the soft cushion of my over-padded bottom, and as I sat there unable to move for a good three hours, I thought – gee, I’ve hit rock bottom.

I also thought that I ought to shut up – my current situation is no where near as bad as so many have it in the world. I read the Humans of NY Series discussing Syrian refugees who barely made it out of Syria alive and now have nothing and no one. I have so much. I have a savings account and an apartment and parents who want to foot a ridiculously high bill for my 2016 wedding. How is this rock bottom?

In just three weeks or less, I’ll be out of a job. I have, for all intents and purposes, caused the rapid demise of my own employment. This was an inevitable end to my current reality, but it didn’t have to happen so fast. I let my anxiety get to me, I let myself stare at a computer screen for hours on end unable to function. I let myself fail to listen to my alarm in the morning because I couldn’t bear the thought of a two-hour commute only to feel hopeless and frozen and humiliated. I couldn’t muster up the energy to fake it. And so here I am, rock bottom. I’ve been here before. It’s a familiar place. Almost comforting. It is the calm before the storm. The eerie quiet before the big bang. And thus, this is the moment when everything feels futile, yet a new life is about to begin.

The challenge now is fighting the instinct to jump into whatever it is that comes along next. In the case of now, that would be two really solid opportunities which I’m currently in the running for — both jobs in startups that are similar to the one I have now, though, of course with different people and in different markets. My job right now is to figure out what it is I want to do. I’m turning 32 in a month. My 20s were fabulous for the experience and the wealth building. I’ll likely exit this year with $350,000 to my name – short of the $400k which was my stretch goal but certainly enough where I feel the entirety of this year has not been for naught.

To shine a light on the past year, I’ve learned a ton, had the opportunity to work closely with a good friend who I respect and admire, and even can step away from this knowing I at while I fucked up over and over again, I now know how not to make so many fuck ups in my next rodeo. I jumped in and for quite some time gave it my all. I burnt out fast when I realized my all would never be enough. And then, I just fizzled. And here I am.

I’ve been reading a lot about INFPs and how we such at employment. Our idealist personality type doesn’t really like to manage others or be managed, which is generally speaking the majority of roles in the workforce. What’s more, we need a position which maps to our values — map to our values and we’ll go above and beyond. Go against our values (i.e. the cut-throat manipulative world of business) and we’ll peace out. Thus, I’m about to “peace.”

Where I started a good 11 years ago, in 2005, was a place about an hour from where I ended up here in an internship at a non-profit. I was fired from that because I was absolutely depressed at the time. I wanted to be involved in the creative side of the house but I wasn’t competitive for that, so I became a marketer. I never wanted to be a marketer, it just seemed the most natural use of my ability to write decently and a mind that was born out of learning how to convince my parents not to fight all the time (I guess I got some value out of that.) The internship, which was supposed to go for a year, lasted a whopping three months. I don’t even remember what my job tasks were beyond organizing giant file cabinets and mailing postcards. I was most upset over not knowing where I was going in life — I didn’t want to be a marketer.

I didn’t actually know what marketing was at the time, at least not the breadth which the field covers. But I didn’t jump into a marketing role immediately after that. I enjoyed journalism so I found myself an internship at a newspaper. But my anxiety got to me again. Going out into the world and interviewing strangers nearly gave me a heart attack. I lasted about two years as a journalist, moving up to entry-level roles at magazines and blogs, falling into the world of technology, and being grateful for it. At least technology was connected to the world at large. I was writing about technologies that would completely adjust the world as we know it. I liked being part of something that big. I liked knowing about these things first.

Yet journalism as a field required constant anxiety – between needing to continue to talk to strangers day in and day out, and being judged on getting the story first, which I never did. Assign me a feature article which required more research and time, and I’d fare much better than rushing to get a story to the wire, or sussing out said story in the first place. I left journalism within two years because my writing was atrocious (I can write a lot and somewhat poetically but my grammar and organization is not suited for professional publishing) and I couldn’t handle the stress. I got myself laid off at my third publication and decided that journalism was not for me. But what was?

Given I needed to find myself a job I applied for any position which required writing that wasn’t in journalism. I must have applied for nearly a thousand jobs at the time when I finally got a hit. A startup was looking for a junior-level writer for a contract role. The company had an online social site and it sounded up my alley. I went there and ended up jumping in wherever needed, responding to user issues by email, creating copy for the entire product, and they eventually made an offer for me to join full time. That was the most successful moment of my life. While they laid me off three years later when they needed to trim down their already tiny team to be acquired, I knew I had taken the most important professional step in my 20s. I went from having really no experience to having – some experience. And I still was so cheap compared to my peers, that I could maybe get a job.

At that point, I still had trouble finding employment, but I managed to obtain a contract role at a big public company doing social media through a connection at a last opportunity. That role actually, in quite an unexpected way, brought me closest to the entertainment industry – as I was able to work on a project with a Hollywood producer that involved the company’s technology. While I felt rather useless in my contributions, it was a big company that had money to spend, and I was sent to Europe for a month to help drive awareness of the project. I felt completely out of my element and yet it was one of those really cool things that I had the opportunity to do in my career, and I’m grateful for it. Nonetheless, that job ended after my six month contract was up.

At the same time, I also took on a freelance opportunity with a very small startup to do some writing work. That freelance role really took my career in an entirely new and unpredicted direction. It was my first B2B (business to business) startup, and while it had a consumer bent to it I quickly became versed in the world of companies that sell to other companies. The only reason I managed to remain intrigued by the product was that it ultimately would be used by end consumers (they call that B2B2C) and in some use cases was used to improve the world. I thought it was pretty cool technology so I managed to get hired there full time and stay for a whopping four years, which in startup years is a very long time.

While I learned a lot in that role I hardly learned enough to make myself valuable to other companies. On paper I looked great but in reality I failed to pick up many of the actual skills needed to succeed in a more senior-level position in marketing. Theoretically I could just read the internet and teach myself a lot of this crap, but I didn’t have hands-on, live experience doing much of anything that would be applicable to another business. I thought I’d just have to fake it until I made it… if anyone would hire me, I’d give it my best shot.

So that happened. Twice. I got hired for one startup and within five months they figured out I didn’t have the skills to do what they wanted. I fault them for not figuring this out in the interview process. I also fault myself for not having those skills, and not being able to fake it. My second opportunity, another where I was clearly hired in a fit of delusion by the CEO, I pushed myself so hard to make it work. I took what I learned at my last failure and tried to apply it. I hired a rockstar consultant to help me in the areas I knew I was weakest. But there were just too many weaknesses on my part. Really, though, I just was never senior enough for the role. I neither was senior enough to effectively manage teams and convince my superiors of resources needed, or senior enough to be so strong in one area that the success in that area shone above the rest (which I actually was at the startup where I stayed for four years, but I found the strategy I used there for this particular need wasn’t working in this opportunity.)

In short, I’m back where I was 11 years ago, only with a lot more experience – on paper – and the new challenge of being a senior-level employee who would probably do best in a more mid-level or even junior-level role. While I might be open to take the pay cut (and it would be a significant, life altering pay cut) for a more junior position, no one would hire me. The sad truth is that even these junior level roles –  or at least the mid-level ones – want some specialty, some area where you bring something that no one else has on the team – some area where you an execute flawlessly without needing any outside help. Well, I’m not so sure I have one of those areas.

Even beyond that, I return to my INFP impulses, my failure to succeed in environments where I feel the company/organization does not align to my value set. I’m only hirable in B2B environments right now, and only a limited set of those companies. I’m interviewing for a few opportunities and all I can think is that I’m really just continuing on the wrong path. Maybe I could do better this time around — I have some learnings from the last year that are applicable. But I’m not looking at a long-term thing. I’m looking at a few months of working my ass off followed by a return to this very same place. It’s time for a change.

I’ve considered graduate school and theoretically am taking the GREs this month… which I’ve studied for a bit but not enough to merit a score that will get me into any worthwhile program. There are other schools which don’t require the GREs so I’m looking into them. I have about one year left or less until I want to be pregnant with my first child so that throws a whopping wrench into the equation. And ultimately I’ve realized I just need a job that aligns to my moral compass, one which I feel I’m doing something for the greater good of the world. Working in a B2B startup, or worse, huge company, won’t ever give me that.

I’m about to spend the weekend sending my resumes out to non-profits and “for good for profit” companies. These roles either pay very little and/or are highly competitive, but it’s worth a shot. I also think as soon as I’m laid off (likely first week of November) I’ll focus on my graduate school applications. The most anxiety-driven part of those is asking people for recommendations – that on its own is enough to keep me from applying to grad school!

At least I have some awareness of myself and what I don’t want to do. It’s taken eleven years to get to this point in my career. What’s crazy is thinking about how in 11 more years I’ll be about to turn 43. Where will my life and career take me? Who knows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Give A Fuck / I Give All the Fucks

Time continues drifting onward so quickly I can barely catch by breath. The sea of life seems to flow constantly at different speeds so that it spins you around when you stop to try to follow it in a nausea-inducing dance. As a teenager your memories of 10 years ago were a blur, a clearly different time from the “now” then. Today, 10 years ago seems like yesterday, and also 100s of years ago, and also only a moment ago if you close your eyes you can hear the sound of the wind lashing against your window, howling in a summer’s storm. You see your house in different forms, a kitchen prior to redesign, walls wallpapered versus painted, a swing-set twice replaced and now long gone. And in this adult life, especially one in which you still have living parents, you exist in this limbo of child-adult, responsible for your own well-being yet judged like an adolescent with wrong choices sans youth’s excuse.

If my life is prosperous now it’s filled with a simple, humble, constant love, and a semi-consistent check coming in for a job that I don’t do all that well and one that I’m pretty sure isn’t going to have the longest tenure no matter how hard I try at this point. I’m caught up in all the details of life that hardly matter on your death bed and find myself constantly gasping for air, desperate for a way out, with no exit in sight, only the jabbing, embarrassing reminder that I have it so easy — easier than most in the world – most in the world of all time of all the worlds.

Maybe it’s depression or exhaustion or the hatred of myself in failing to make a living from creating or perhaps the acknowledgment that the only options for a fulfilled life is either the narcissistic one in which one has an ego fueled by those who they associate with, or one of complete giving, which is still a narcissistic one, if to be fulfilled by the gratitude of others or the chance at entry to some post-mortal promised land. Or maybe you can just sit and meditate and be a monk and stare out into the distance and find peace in being as close to a plant as one can be while still breathing and thinking and experiencing as we do as humans.

And so I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t give a fuck / I give all the fucks. I’m nearly 32 and writing bad angsty teenage-style ramblings because I still fall deep into a dark place of anxious sorrow. I weep for the passing of time, the death of the me that was yesterday, who never had a chance to be who she wanted. I weep for the me of tomorrow, who has but 24 hours to prove herself wrong, to make up for all the hours of anxiety and wasteful thoughts and wasteful moments. And I weep for the me of 70 years from now, if I’m still awake and aware of the world, knowing that any second my breath would be my last, and in that breath I’d know that all that’s left is eternity underground with my flesh decaying and being eaten by the tiny bugs which when alive I accidentally would step on and squash without second thought. And I weep for knowing that even the few things that make me happy such as being held closely by my best friend and lover and future husband is a ritual that can only be recreated a finite amount of times before one of our pairs of arms go limp and can hold each other no more.

I try so hard to just live in the moment. To focus on the now and to be happy for what is… all that there is. And there are those moments when I do find some peace. But they they’re gone. Gone with memories of my childhood tainted spectacular through rose-colored glass. Gone with the stresses of my job and guilt and fear that I’ll never be able to do much of anything to maintain a stable adult life. Gone with the acknowledgment that all is temporary, that all that grounds me is saving money and getting one step closer to some form of freedom. I can’t let go. I can’t let go. I can’t let go.

 

 

When “I Can’t” is a Fair Assessment of the Situation

They say that the most productive people in the world don’t have the word’s “I can’t” in their vocabulary. When they’re asked to jump, they don’t even ask, “how high,” they just jump as high as they can and try harder next time. Whether or not they have a sociopathic and delusional belief in their own abilities is irrelevant, confidence, even over-confidence, begets success in many cases.

I think back to myself as a little girl and I wonder if she believed in herself – that if she believed if she worked through problems instead of getting frustrated and giving up in a manner of seconds – she’d be an entirely different person today. She didn’t realize that while extreme intellect enables a certain kind of success, not everyone needs to be a genius to change the world.

Little girl me flunked out of her smart kids program in second grade because she grew too frustrated with confusing logic problems and would rather doodle and daydream. Little girl me saw math and science as that thing my dad liked and he clearly wasn’t happy or a person I’d want to be like, so why bother? Little girl me sat and watched the second hand tick by in just about every class I had, waiting for the years to pass by.

My therapist this week said something that struck me in its crystal clarity – those who dwell in the past are depressed. Those who think too much about the future are anxious. It’s best we focus on now. And that is what being mindful is all about.

Then, today, a headline in the New York Times caught my eye – “The Cost of Daydreaming.” The author is a woman in her 60s who considers how much of her life was spent wasted lost in what could be, versus accepting and enjoying what is.

“Ever since I could remember, I had feared being found wanting,” Gornick writes. “If I did the work I wanted to do, it was certain not to measure up; if I pursued the people I wanted to know, I was bound to be rejected; if I made myself as attractive as I could, I would still be ordinary looking.”

Oh, how I can relate! How much safer it is to wrap ourselves in this cloak of disappointment in the now, with all this hope wrapped up in the future. But future is the now of tomorrow. The future will be a now sometime and it will never be enough. I don’t want to get to 60 and realize I’ve wasted my life daydreaming away time.

The essay continues… “Around such damages to the ego a shrinking psyche had formed: I applied myself to my work, but only grudgingly; I’d make one move toward people I liked, but never two; I wore makeup but dressed badly. To do any or all of these things well would have been to engage heedlessly with life — love it more than I loved my fears — and this I could not do. What I could do, apparently, was daydream the years away: to go on yearning for “things” to be different so that I would be different.”

I am already exhausted by yearning. There is some god-awful romanticism to wanting versus having – an art enabled by privilege-fueled guilt cradled by insecurity. The future is this amorphous globule which is so fucking pretty from the perspective of the hear and now, or ugly but salvageable with the grace of time. Then the future zips right up to our present and are we at all the better for it?

Elon Musk, a perfectly imperfect human (and some reporter’s lunch with him.)

I daydream that I’m actually as brilliant as Elon Musk – but I didn’t have quite the right upbringing to set me up to access the brilliance. I know it isn’t true. I was creating websites with a dozen too many iFrames at 14, not building computer programs with lightening speed at 9. We both had pretty insufferable childhoods and hated the structure of school equally. But Elon spent his time voraciously devouring science fiction and fantasy. Something stopped me from reading when I was younger – this strong anti-authoritarian rebellion which made it impossible to given in to anything that I deemed too “adult” or “educational.”

Dwelling in the past leads to depression. True. There are so many problems to solve in the world. In the little time I have left on earth – with my god-given abilities, or lack there of, what can I do to fix them? Or is the best I can do hold my breath and stay out of the way? And does it really matter – my inner Nietzsche rears his ugly head – tells me I can’t do a damned thing about any of the problems and even if we make interplanetary habitation possible, we’re still destined for nothingness as soon as the chance of the universe divides by zero.

Returning to present time, not future worry (anxiety) or past reflection (depression), I ponder on now. What am I now? What drives me now? I give myself permission to care about how I feel in this moment. And I feel broken down. I feel weak in my skin, cut up by a life of scripting persuasion and failing to do the exposition justice.  And I HATE the feeling of being unable to do something, but even more so I hate the feeling of not knowing what it is I can do. It is remarkably refreshing to say “I can’t” as long as it’s true and one can accept this and move on.

Elon Musk doesn’t say I can’t. That’s why he’s Elon Musk and I’m not. And I don’t have to be Elon Musk or Tina Fey or Barak Obama to lead a meaningful life filled with the wonder of the present. And that starts with saying “I Can’t,” and it’s time to start down the path of whatever it is where I can proudly one day say “I Can.”