Tag Archives: career

A Real Career to Support My Family

The new job is great. My boss respects me. My compensation structure makes sense (lower base than last job, but substantial room for bonus and stock appreciation.) The team works together well and everyone plays their part. Why, then, am I still so concerned about the future?

It’s not this job. It’s still this career. Being in a larger company is helping… but I’m still extremely stressed everyday, feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing. I know I need to hang on for four years in this job, to build that stability profile, to capture the value of the stock, to really add value to my company’s business. My objective is to be a wonderful employee. I don’t plan to ever ask for a raise, or anything more than what I have now. I just want to survive and be known as an asset to the business.

Even if I can survive those four years, what’s next? This role is special because my boss knows me from a prior company and that’s why he values my contributions and position. My actual communications skills are not vastly improving…. I’m not learning skills that are applicable to other workplaces… which is fine for now, but I don’t see where this is heading. Do I need to? I’m now 34, in a mid-level role, and to others probably look quite successful. But this type of job is not sustainable – not for the next 30 years until I retire.

So, as I embark on this pregnancy and having-kid journey, I also am trying to figure out how to set the foundation for a longer-term career change. I’m committed to this role for the next four years, and if I play my cards right this should give me time to build out my next life. The only question is – what is it?

When to Start Planning for Baby and… How to Handle at Work?

With an embarrassing number of HPTs (home pregnancy tests) scattered about my bathroom, all with faint or not-so-faint double lines, this whole “I’m actually pregnant” thing is starting to feel more and more real. I’m still super early… which means miscarriage is quite possible, but the double lines now 16 days after my trigger shot means either I have a ridiculously slow metabolism or I’m at least somewhat pregnant.

For better or worse, my husband and I haven’t seriously considered life after having kids — because, with infertility and all the unknowns of if we could have kids, we didn’t want to get our hopes up. I mean, we discussed it a bit —

  • Can we manage to raise a child in our 1 bedroom rent controlled apartment until the kid is 2? Yes. Um. We think so. 
  • Will we raise our children with any specific religion? No. I’m Jewish and he’s Christian (both super non religious) but we love our holidays so we’ll each focus on the cultural traditions and not much else.  Father has agreed that kids will be “Jew-ish” by the nature of Jewish law (mom is Jewish, so are the kids.) But hubby isn’t giving up Christmas or Easter – I’ll just have to amp up the excitement I felt as a kid around Purim. 🙂

  • Will we send our kid to daycare? Well, we haven’t discussed this too much yet… his father lives nearby and we think he’ll be quite helpful in babysitting when asked as he’s retired and basically sits around all day (and he does like little kids, luckily.) Husband’s mother lives in a horrible mess of a house with cat droppings everywhere — while she can put together a super fun and creative holiday game for kids, we’ve agreed our future children will not be stepping foot in that house and that grandma is not allowed to watch them without us around / in the other room. My parents live far away, and my mom has made it clear that she thinks it’s so horrible how all of these parents these days are having so much help from their parents… so I’m not asking her for anything other than family pictures when we visit.

Ok, so… that leaves a zillion other things to figure out in eight months. I’m admittedly terrified. I’ll be almost 35 when I have my first kid now (assuming this bean sticks) and that’s as good of a time as any. But, really, how the fuck are we going to make this work?

Husband won’t discuss until my blood tests come back positive. I get it. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up either. But I’m freaking out here. In a good way. And also in a not so good way.

I just started my new job a month ago… which, yes, means I got pregnant (theoretically) basically the week I started working. This means I won’t be eligible for FLMA (unpaid 12 weeks off with guarantee to return to work) and who knows if my company will offer me their minimal maternity benefits given I’ll have to take leave so soon after starting. I’m mildly concerned, to say the least.

My company, from what I’ve read in the very limited literature on maternity benefits, says that they offer 4 weeks of paid time off. I’d love to save up vacation time to use but since the company offers “Unlimited Vacation Time” (my favorite bullshit new-age benefits policy that screws over employees), there is no way to save up time… other than not taking ANY vacation before I give birth (or, only a week before I am due?) and try to make the case that I am using vacation days. But how many can I take as part of this “unlimited” vacation policy? I’m planning to estimate based on the informal conversation I had with my boss before joining… ~15 days are acceptable to take off per year as part of this policy… so if I don’t take any for 9 months, that’s a little over 7 days of PTO I’m entitled to (yes, a whopping extra week of maternity leave, if they’ll agree to this.)

Now, the good thing about my job is that I could potentially do it from home at that point. There are people on my team who work remotely, and it seems to be an acceptable work setup for the company. It’s part of the reason I took the job. The actual work I’m responsible for can also mostly be done remotely (although I prefer face time with the team.) So, my current vision for how this plays out is that I have a very health to-term pregnancy, work until a few days before my due date, give birth on my due date or earlier, and then after the 4 weeks off (if my company gives that to me) I start working full time again but remotely.

That’s all nice and dandy in thought… but, is it really doable? I’m not a young mother at this point… since I’ll be nearly 35 while giving birth… and at this point with my infertility treatments I’m not ruling out a multiple birth. So many things could make this so much more complicated and what do I do?

I believe I do have disability benefits (short term) for 66% of my salary after the 4 weeks, for a few more weeks – maybe that covers some more time off. I’m not sure if I’m eligible for them after 9 months at the company… (at least I can prove I got pregnant AFTER starting and after my benefits would have kicked in.) I’d like to ask someone about this but… it’s not ideal to announce anything or ask HR anything until you’re 12 weeks along, so, perhaps I’ll wait.

I’m also concerned about first trimester “morning” sickness. I’ve already been nauseous on and off and it’s supposed to be too early to feel this way (though some boards say with multiples you can feel this earlier – uh oh.) I’m fairly sensitive to just about everything, so I’m unclear how I am going to keep this a secret even through my first trimester anyway.

The other good news, however, is that I’ve worked for my boss before, and he basically told me when I interviewed that if I want to have a family it would be good to think about joining this company (vs a smaller company like ones I typically end up in.) And he’s right — even though the benefits for maternity leave aren’t Google/Apple/Facebook/Netflix-level awesome, they’re better than the nonexistent maternity policies of most startups. They at least exist. Someone on my team is actually on maternity leave right now, so when she comes back I can ask her how she managed it.

I’m mostly worried about the first year of my kid’s life. I like working, but I’m so concerned I’ll just be too exhausted to think straight. We can’t afford to live on one income (especially not my husband’s income… his is about $65k and mine is $165k (plus potential of $50k-$100k bonus, etc. annually) so, I have to work. It’s the only way we have a shot of ever being able to afford to live in more than a 1 bedroom apartment. Assuming I can get half of my bonus each year ($215k), and he starts working as a teacher for ~$50k, then as a couple we’re making $265k and… that’s enough to live in a two bedroom condo in a reasonably nice area here, plus save for the kid’s college and such. I think I want to work, but I don’t like not having a choice… in case there are complications.

…I know plenty of women DO work shortly after having a kid… but it happens that my close friends who are married with young kids are either stay at home moms or work but work from home for themselves. I don’t want to miss my child’s first moments… I know it will all go by so fast.

Meanwhile, where on earth are we going to put a crib in this apartment? We have the space — our living room is rather large and so is our bedroom for a 1br… but, either we put a crib right next to our bed in between it and my husband’s desk / office… or, we put it in the living room. The living room doesn’t have air conditioning so that’s probably a horrible idea. Especially since the baby will be due in August.

Fortunately, I’ve hit that random goal of saving over $500k before getting pregnant – so I know there’s a cushion. But I don’t want to drain that unless I really have to. My goal is still to work full time and not take much time off to have my kid(s). But who knows what the future holds. I’d like to have a path to renting or owning a home with at least two bedrooms. I’d like to have a husband who is willing to talk about this stuff before I am officially pregnant… but as he’s going back to school this spring for teaching, and will be still taking classes and working when the baby is born… I don’t know how we’re going to do this. We’ll figure it out. But I’m really looking forward to when this blood test confirms that I’m indeed pregnant so perhaps we can start planning our future together.

Infertility and Me: Another Cycle, Another $1000 Hope

The pills may or may not be causing these headaches. Maybe it’s just the stress. The new job and will-I-or-won’t-I-be-able-to-have-kids stress. The I’m-turning-34-and-having-a-mid-life-crisis-for-the-next-20-years stress. The I thought everything would magically be in place by now in my life (well, I never actually imaged myself any older than 25 even well after I turned 25) stress. All that stress. And all this headache.

Breathe.

If I can’t have children… I haven’t gotten there yet. I haven’t let myself think that yet. I’m turning 34, but people have kids until they’re 40. Or older! Sure, it’s more unlikely, but 34 is still child-bearing age. I didn’t wait that long yet. Plenty of people who have trouble having children do. Eventually. With help. Or without. It will happen when its meant to happen.

My younger cousin gave birth to her first child today. I’m thrilled for her. Over the moon. But I can’t ignore the fact that this is a major emotional moment in my life, albeit one that really has nothing to do with me. As the oldest cousin on both sides, I always assumed I’d be first to most life steps. I’m the oldest by a few years, and no one has been rushing in my family to get married or have children. With 13 cousins, myself included, she’s the first one to have a child. I still remember her practically in diapers. Now she has her own child in diapers.

So do all my friends. Or, my friends have toddlers and some of them have pre-teens. Facebook tells the story in pictures that document just how quickly we all grow up. I want to slow time down, but I can’t. Except maybe if I get pregnant – I hear those are the longest 9 months of your life.

Looking around at this mess of an apartment – that I need to clean tonight – that I need to keep clean… this mess of a life, this… imposter of a professional who is trying one. more. time. to be put together enough to hold down a damn job (not a great start when an exec tells you this morning that you look tired. “I’m not,” I replied, realizing immediately how defensive that sounded. How awkward. An admittance of my exhaustion in my denial. I wanted to say – ‘but last night I actually slept a full 8 hours.” Put your head down, put your head down, don’t say a word.

I know if I am going to have kid(s), I need some semblance of stability in my job. Some ability to handle stress because I AM COMPLETELY AWARE that children are not walk in the park, with the exception of when you’re actually walking with them in the park (and even then.) Part of me questions if this whole desire to have children thing is so off base because of my mental illness and my natural inability to procreate without outside help.

But. Then. My biological clock pseudo kicks me inside like a massive ghost contraction coming from deep inside my uterus from a place that can only be described as a wormhole to the forth detention of motherhood. A longing. A desire. A fraudulent want to have a little being (and then a bigger being) be in need of my attention, my love, my care. A little person who I have to keep alive. Someone to raise to be confident and love her or his self. Even though, I know, there’s not much you can do when it comes to these things. But, I can offer what my parents never offered me – unconditional love.

It all seems so fanciful of an idea right now anyway. The odds are so slim that any given cycle will work. And then, there’s the high rate of miscarriage amongst women with PCOS — I just won’t let myself get my hopes up. I wonder, at what point do I throw in the cards and say enough is enough. Enough bleeding money. Enough headaches and stomach aches and two week waits and feeling like a failure yet again. If I were to get pregnant, I’d want to keep it a secret all to myself (and my doctor, of course) so that I won’t have to deal with the pressure of losing a child should that happen before its born.

Our journey now is just $1000 a month. Or so. Next year I can change insurance and it might cover a tiny little bit of the costs. It’s so hard to understand what exactly is covered. Not IVF. But then, what else counts as “infertility treatment?” Only one insurance plan offers anything. Called them and they said I should talk to member services to find out. Member services said since I’m not a member yet, so I should talk to sales. Sales said I should talk to member services because I’m not enrolling as an individual. It went on like that for about an hour on the phone until I hung up in frustration.

We haven’t don’t IUI yet… and that may be included in what’s covered at 50% by the insurance. However, if I don’t know what they charge for an IUI, 50% could be more than paying out of pocket at a clinic. Fuck healthcare’s lack of transparency in this country. Seriously.

But, I’m lucky to have the money to spend. Yes, I want to save $1M by 40 and yes, these infertility treatment costs are eating into that dream… but – as long as I can keep my job (key thing) then it’s worth it. I have the money. Unlikely so many other women who really don’t have the ability to do any of this. Or who go in debt over infertility. It is a trap and such an emotional journey even the most fiscally responsible can make devastating mistakes based on hope.

It is such a lonely journey. Yes, I am on a billion Facebook infertility groups, with woman posting pictures of their ovulation kits and pregnancy tests and cervical mucus and various forms of fluids that come out of their nethers (#Iveseenitall). I went, once, to an infertility meet up which ended up being run by a woman who has been unable to get pregnant after 3 years of infertility treatments, a religious woman who refuses to do any infertility treatments, and another woman and her husband who spent tens of thousands of dollars on infertility treatments that didn’t work. As someone just getting started on the journey, I felt completely out of place. It was very awkwardly passive aggressive. I left and did not go back.

People don’t talk about this stuff… unless you have a close friend or family member who has been through it. A family friend did have IVF in a state that paid for it, but it worked for her – twice – on the first try. And she didn’t have to pay anything other than co-pays. So, sure she can understand the emotional challenge of the treatments, but the financial challenge is just as draining.

My husband is extremely supportive and I’m so fortunate to have him. In those Facebook groups women talk about how their husbands are upset about their infertility, and all the problems they have. My husband knew about this from long before we were married, when I told him there’s a big chance I can never have kids. He chose to marry me even though he really wants kids of his own. And we’re still hoping, but I know he’ll be there by my side childless or with an accidental litter.

Still, I feel quite alone in this. The nurses are fake nice and the admin just wants you to come in and pay and keep the cash-cow clinic in business. More treatments. More failures. More money. For them.

Next year is going to be rough, for sure. I’m really giving myself until 35 to get pregnant, at which point, I’m not sure how I will react. That’s ~14 cycles… 14 tries… including this one… to get pregnant. Some of those will likely include IVF if the basic treatment plan doesn’t work. IVF and all those amazing drug cocktails that will undoubtedly make me even more crazy, albeit temporarily.

And I need to keep this job. I have no other option.

What amount of money makes you feel free?

Wealth does not = happiness, but at some point one obtains enough money that unless it’s frivolously spent, there are many doors open for the remainder of her life. Perhaps she loves her current career and decides too stay in it today and long past retirement. Or, she is set free of the confines of taking jobs that pay well and instead tries sometimes entirely new, without concern that the investment in education may not “pay off.” Or, she decides to create art or travel the world or just sit and study the sunset over the same ocean every day while doing half-assed yoga on a beach.

In reality, my goal in life is to generate enough wealth to feel this sense of freedom. Yes, that likely means I would be in the 1%, and it is not necessary to be happy at all. Most people will never achieve anywhere close to this. I don’t know what the number is, exactly, but it’s certainly more than I’ll ever be able to obtain, especially given my proclivity for purchasing too many shoes. Yet, it’s what keeps me going – that hope that one day I’ll not only be able to afford a house, but also to decorate it, and to invite friends over for reasonably-lavish dinner parties featuring fine wines and whiskies that my husband and I have prepared in our gourmet kitchen.

When I look at my net worth, now a touch over $500k, I feel both thrilled and disheartened. I realize that most people in the US retire with a networth much lower than that – that most people in the world would be ecstatic to have this amount in savings and stocks. But, then I also spend too much time exploring housing options on Zillow.com and see that 2 bedroom, 1 bath houses in the area are now selling for $1.3M or more, and my dream of purchasing a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with a private backyard goes poof in the night. I look around at my decent 1 bedroom apartment with its sterile white walls — my bicycle parked so elegantly in the living room filled with a Craiglisted, 10-year-old couch, broken IKEA coffee table, and two Target bookshelves that are about to crumble, and I know even at this stage of my mid-30s life I can do better.

I wish I was at a point where spending $100k on IVF wouldn’t put a dent in my savings, or that I felt I could have children and provide for them a life that is comparable to my own middle class upbringing in the suburbs of an east coast city, where housing is much more affordable. I keep wondering what that number is… even as I obtain jobs which provide greater potential for income growth, there is a giant gap between my life today and this concept of wealth I have in my head, that I haven’t fully quantified yet.

Wealth.

What is it?

  • $2M per adult in retirement (so, $4M for a married couple)
  • Ownership of 4br, 3ba home outright (additional $2M – or $1.5M for 3br)
  • 50 years of $50k / year for house fixing as needed, taxes, other fees ($2.5M)
  • 50 years of $100k /  year for eating/travel/shopping ($5M)
  • College tuition for 2-3 kids ($500k)

This is, of course, well exaggerating what is needed for financial freedom, but to put a number on the amount I’d want in the bank account to feel financially free (for family), that would be….

$14,000,000

Now, even if I get more realistic here and half that…

  • $1.5M per adult in retirement ($3M)
  • $1.5M house (can’t reduce this / basic house cost here)
  • 50 years of $20k / year for house fixes (~$1M)
  • $50k / year of food and fun ($2.5M)
  • College Tuition (assuming some scholarships) – $200k

$7,000,000 is the minimum amount of wealth for financial freedom if we continue to live in this area.

Is $7M obtainable?

Maybe. But only via compound interest, and with that one wouldn’t know if she met her goals until she was in her 80s… plenty time past when purchasing a home would make sense. So she must have blind faith in the stock market OR figure out a way to expedite the growth of her portfolio. In short, how fast can I get to $7M from $500k?

My goal at this point is to have $1M by the time I turn 40. That will only be obtainable if I maintain my current job for the next four years, perform extremely well (no pressure), and we keep our cost of living low for this time.

Contributing $50k per year for the next 6 years, if my portfolio grows at an average of 5% per year, I will have a net worth of $1M by 40. This requires maintaining my job and living in a 1 bedroom apartment for the next six years, living rather frugally, all during the time in my life when – if I’m going to have kids – I will be having children (hopefully, two, within the next six years.)

If I don’t end up having children, the numbers change significantly – but I definitely want kids and I definitely want to pay for infertility treatments as needed to have them. Which, ultimately means that I won’t likely get to $1M by 40. But I’ll be close, as long as I keep this job for 6 years (or keep this job for 4 and obtain a similar one with equal or greater salary for the remaining 2).

At that point, if I have $1M by 40, I will have 20-ish more years of prime earning, if I work full time for those 20 years. BUT I am convinced that I want to go back to school at 40 to change careers to a lower-paid job such as counseling, not to maintain my position in a role that I’m fighting day and night to pretend to be good at. So, the $1M mark is my first taste of freedom…

This is truly a recognizable moment of freedom because if I invest $1M for 20 years at 5% rate of return, I will have $2.6M by 60, and $3.38M by 65. My husband doesn’t need as much as I do in retirement, so The $3.38M by 65 is basically my half of the $7M goal. What I would be focused on then, at 40, after the $1M is hit, is obtaining a position that I can maintain for 25 years that I enjoy which enables paying annual costs, so we don’t touch the $1M in the bank.

I’d like to own a 3br, 2ba home by the time my first child is 4. At this point, I should know if I’m having 2 children or just one (or none at all.) So – some of my net worth will have to be put into the down payment of a house. I go back and forth on buying a house but I think at this point I’m diversified enough in stocks that I can afford to own real estate, even if its growth does not keep up with the stock market (and I have the liquidity in stocks to pay for mortgage should we have any bad years in the job market.) So, I’d need $300,000 for a downpayment on a $1.5M starter home, in ~5 years.

But – I need to invest for the next 5 years to hit the $1M goal… and then in 5 years, at age 39, I’d have to take $300M out of my stocks (well $366M with 20% tax) for the downpayment. My husband may be able to contribute to this a bit – probably $100k of it in 5 years, but for simplicity (and explaining to husband) we both need to provide $150k in 5 years for our down payment.  That’s a more reasonable $180k stock sale in 5 years, leaving $748k to grow in stocks…

Annually, for the $1.5M house, costs would be…

  • $90k mortgage (approx)
  • $20k taxes (approx)
  • $1k insurance
  • $15k maintenance
  • = $126k / year ($63k per person per year for 30 years …
    $5.25k / month or $10.5k per month for 30 years)
  • Which means, for our $1.5M house, all in 30 years later, it will cost $4.08M. (Is my math right?)

Ok, so, if the numbers above are right, we cannot afford a $1.5M house in 5 years. Which, basically means we cannot afford a house, unless we can put down a much larger down payment.

In 5 years, unless there’s a housing bubble burst, I doubt there will be any real estate around here that’s less than $1.5M. My take home income is $7,000 per month and my husband’s will be about $3,000…. so, even if I keep my job and he keeps his, we can’t pay $10.5k/month when we’re only taking home $10k per month.

Really, the only potential route to wealth for us is to rent. So, maybe I’ll never own a house. Even if that’s one of our financial goals. But, it’s just so much cheaper to rent an apartment than to own a house.

Maybe, one day when we can afford to put down a 50% down payment buying a house will be worth it. But by then, a basic home will cost $2M… so… I don’t think we’ll ever have enough money to own a home.

This is why I feel so hopeless… even if we have so much more than so many people right now… I just don’t know how to have the life I want, or anything close to it. I don’t need a home today, but I want to feel like I’m making progress towards not living in a 1 bedroom apartment (and a condo won’t help much, if we were to buy one since it’s slightly more affordable, because we’d still have shared walls and annoying neighbors… might as well just rent!)

I am hoping my math is wrong…

 

 

Quick Update: Personal Finance this Fall

Wow, it’s been too long since I’ve updated this blog. I’ve been heads down focused on finding a new job and figuring out my life, all while trying not too dip too much into my savings. Fortunately, it seems all as worked out, for now.

My net worth this month hit $509k, which feels really good given my goal for the year was $500k and I haven’t had a job since June (though that doesn’t feel good.) I’m finally getting caught up on all of my money issues (hired an accountant to do our 2016 taxes so those will be turned in on time…) and mostly have old medical bills reimbursed properly after my COBRA election turned into a bit of an administrative nightmare.

This is all really good because I’m starting a new job NEXT WEEK! That’s right, I finally have a new job. I am really trying to be optimistic about this opportunity because, while it isn’t the most exciting job I’ve had, it’s one I think I might actually be able to succeed in. Without going into too many details, it’s a role still in tech, but it’s in a larger company where I’ll get to focus on what I’m good at (writing, mostly) instead of trying to do way too much and running an entire department in a smaller company. I had a few offers for the “run it all” in a small company but I turned them down because I know that’s a recipe for disaster.

While this role was a considerable pay cut in base salary from my last few positions, it more than makes up for that in potential bonus and stock. I’m pretty stoked about the RSUs, since I’ve never had them and they actually are worth something if you stay at the company for a year – versus stock options where you have the privilege of buying them for “lower than their worth” (even though you can’t sell them and they’re really worth $0) and then paying taxes on what they’re supposedly worth based on a whole lot of lies (I’m not bitter. Am I bitter? Ok, I’m bitter.) Meanwhile, RSUs are basically a promise that you’ll be given a certain number of shares if you keep your job each year, and you can immediately sell those shares for cash. Yes, the taxes on RSUs are high, but they’re worth something – and if the company performs well they can be worth a lot. I’m very fortunate that the company I’m joining has a lot of room to grow, and seems to be in a really great spot, so all signs are pointing towards this being the right move.

As I’ve been out of work for four months, I’m REALLY ready to get back into the swing of things. The forced sabbatical has been nice, but it’s time to have a day job again. Consulting didn’t work out this time around — my one client couldn’t raise money and only gave me a small project, and I’m not great at drumming up business. Maybe one day in the future I’ll have a good enough reputation to land me projects with the full time security, but for now — my main focus is figuring out how to and if I can have kids, which means I need good health insurance, a stable income, and a role that doesn’t require me to be on a plane every week. And that’s what I’ve got. Woohoo. More on all of this later… but I wanted to check in since I haven’t written anything since August!

Why there aren’t more women in tech? Why the Google Manifesto matters.

While the day-to-day subtle and less-than-subtle sexism in the tech industry is something that usually doesn’t get national press, this month a Google employee’s manifesto — “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” —  about the supposed biological differences between men and women — had everyone talking about Silicon Valley and gender bias. Even Fox News got in on the action, will all the hubbub making manifesto author James Damore an insta-star of conservatives everywhere.

If you’ve been living under a rock, or think that companies don’t care about corporate liability after an employee writes a literal manifesto about why men are better than woman at certain things, you may not know that (or understand why) Damore was fired from Google. He was. And he isn’t going down without a fight… Continue reading

Still unemployed… Still not sure WTF to do with my life.

The further away from my last day of work I get, the easier it is to romanticize the role in it’s high-paid, occasional feeling of mass victory glory. But then I remember just how miserable the job – the career – made me, and I’m desperate not to go back to it, despite the lure of a substantial amount of recruiters knocking on my doorstep, basically asking me to let history repeat itself yet again.

As I take this pause in my career to dissect what I like and dislike about my prior roles, I know that I find it very difficult to put 100% daily into a job where the majority of my waking hours are dedicated to trying to get people to buy software for their businesses that helps those businesses run more efficiently. I enjoy this in spurts — I do believe in efficiency and find it rewarding to help people stuck in old ways break free of traditional processes and technologies and move to better ways of doing things, especially if these better ways impact lots of people. It’s just at the end of the day (or even about 2 minutes after I wake up) I feel this heaviness of dread — knowing that there is so much more to be done to make the world better than improving business processes. Continue reading

Island Hopping in the Seto Sea and Trying to Find Peace

I haven’t traveled alone a lot thus far in my life. After my trip with a friend to Thailand half-a-decade ago I stayed on for a few more days, got food poisoning in Bangkok the morning of my flight to Singapore, managed to make it to my flight and wander around Singapore solo for a few days before traveling back to the States. That was a lonely excursion and it was only a few days solo, but I did enjoy seeing Singapore and it was easy-ish since everyone spoke English.

Japan has been different because English is definitely not common here. I knew Japanese would be the primary language, obviously, but I thought there’d be more English speakers. It’s actually quite strange how the country seems to be obsessed with American / English-speaking culture, yet few can speak the language. Case in point, in most hotels and spas, there is English jazz music playing… but no one understands what the singers are saying. Even many shops have their signs written in English… one wonders if the people who work in the shop have any idea what the sign says…

The good thing about Japan is that the train system is so easy to navigate. I heard this from friends who have been in the past but I didn’t really believe them. Japan has a crazy amount of train lines and for international visitors you can get a 7, 14 or 21 day “all you can eat” pass which (in my 14 day version) I’ve certainly been putting to good use. The pass doesn’t cover all the trains, but an app makes it easy to figure out which trains can be ridden between one destination and the next. There are local trains – which are subway style – and then there are long-distance trains which range from fast to super duper fast (the super duper duper fast trains are not included in the pass.) The train I’m on right now is going 170 MPH…

Most people on their first trip to Japan do the Tokyo-Kyoto loop, some adding in Hiroshima (which is south of Kyoto). My trip has been Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka-Hiroshima-Kyoto-Naoshima-Hakone (extra fee)-???-Tokyo. I considered heading down to the south island to visit Nagasaki and get out of the normal tourist loop, but am glad I didn’t because they’re having crazy rains down there right now and bad flooding… so this worked out much better.

I’m spending too much on this trip– I don’t even want to add it up at this point — but I also acknowledge that once I have kids (and, hopefully, another full-time job) I won’t be able to travel like this. Even with PTO, I would never relax and enjoy traveling if I had a job to go back to. It’s unfortunate but true – I can’t NOT think about my job. So – traveling when I don’t have a job is something I can’t take for granted at all, even if it sucks that I have to pay for health insurance and such being gainfully unemployed.

The trip was extra expensive because I – probably in bad judgement – decided to offer my sister a free trip to Japan as a belated college graduation gift (I had promised her I’d take her to hawaii if she graduated college, which then turned into Japan somehow). The trip in total is probably about $7000-$8000 not including “free” flights w/ points (I’ll do a final tally once it’s over)… with my husband’s portion around $2000 so I’ve spend $5k-ish total on the trip. Was it worth it? (Is it?)  Yes, definitely. There are a few over-spends where I see I could have saved cash but overall, for 24-day trip it’s not so bad. Without stays at a few fancy traditional-style inns (Ryokans) and spurges on dining (A5 Wagyu was worth it) I could have cut out $2k probably, but – YOLO. Right? I said it. YOLO.

Hubby and I are still planning on going on our ACTUAL honeymoon in September… to New Zealand… and I’m itching to also explore Australia while we’re in the down under parts… but I’m not sure I want to do another 3+ week trip. Husband definitely doesn’t, he maxes out his travel acceptance at two weeks… and since it’s our honeymoon, I think it would be nice for us to fly there and come back together. Bummed we can’t stop in Fiji but Zika is still prevalent there and on the off chance that I can actually get pregnant I shouldn’t be getting myself Zika (Mosquitos love me so I doubt there would be any way to avoid them.) Supposedly there is no Zika in Japan… if there is, well, my bumpy, itchy legs are not a good sign.

I’m glad I’m getting to travel extensively now, it is helping me scratch that itch so I don’t feel like I’m locked up and away at work for the entirety of my healthy years. Even now at 33 and out of shape I’ve definitely noticed my body does not travel as well as it used to — my feet have taken a beating unfortunately. We had been walking about a half marathon a day for the first two weeks of our trip (from sitting on my ass all day) so I pretty much f’d up my feet badly. The last few days traveling solo I’ve been able to listen to my body a bit more… when I need a break, I take a break. When I need to take a bus, I take a bus. When I need to stay at my hotel for the night because I can’t move, I do it. I’m feeling much better.

Part of this trip, I hoped, was to lose some weight. I am really ashamed that I managed to gain back all the weight I lost and then some. I was at 182 at my highest and then got down to 170 fairly easily, but the 30 pounds I lost took a lot of dedication and hard work over six months… then I got depressed, started binging like crazy and was up to 184, unsure of how I went from 140 to 150 to 165 to 170 to 184… but I did, and I felt awful. With this trip only being 3 weeks, I realistically can only lose 6-9 pounds at most. I don’t think I’ve lost much, but I’ll be quite happy if I get back to the states and I’m under 170 (I was about 175 when I left on my trip.) If I can get to ~169 from Japan, I have the next month including a weightloss bootcamp I’m going to for a week, where I want to lose another 8lbs, getting me closer to 160 by mid August. I’d love to be back at 150 for my honeymoon (I was briefly at 140 but my wedding weight was 150 and I think that was a good place to be) … so I’m targeting 150-160 for mid September. Going to probably have to go Keto for Aug/Sept to make that happen… but it will be worth it. And maybe, with doing that, I can actually get pregnant… which will save a good $50,000+ in IVF fees when that probably won’t work anyway.

With so much going on, it’s good to be alone for a bit and slow down. It would probably be helpful to unplug but for better or worse this country has really good wifi and I have a rental device that has me more connected than I’d be back in the states. I’ve tried to put my phone down for a bit… and take it all in. I love seeing new landscapes and architecture, getting lost down random alleyways (as long as I feel safe, which I always do in Japan), and just embrace being a nobody in this world. Yes, I know a few random people who live in Japan but odds of running into them are quite slim. I’m anonymous here even though everyone sees me, as no one looks at me, no one notices, no one cares. And in forever terms that would be awful but for a week or two it’s kind of nice. I don’t have to worry about what I look like (as long as I’m culturally presentable) — if my hair is frizzy or my stomach is bulging out because I’m not wearing Spanx… no one cares. Despite my mother complaining that my digitally-shared photos don’t include enough Japanese people in the background for her friends to believe I’m in Japan when she reshapes the pics (face palm), I have no pressures here, no annoying parental voice that linger in my head despite my long departed youth, no worries other than getting to my hotels on time, not getting my things stolen, and not running out of cash.

I know the real world will be back soon enough… and I HAVE to figure out a model of real world that works for me in perpetuity. It’s becoming more and more apparent that a career change is a necessity. It’s still hard to make the decision to leave a career that pays $150k-$250k annually for a job that may, especially to start, pay $60k-$100k and only see $150k in many, many years, if ever. But, I really want to have a family, I want to have time with my family, I want to be able to travel but I don’t need to travel luxuriously, and I’m almost ok with not being able to afford property and just to be a renter for the rest of my life. I’m trying so hard to take it one day at a time, and failing frequently, but getting closer to finding some sort calm admits the whirling storm of my ever-anxious mind.

Hello World. Yes, I’m Alive. And I’m in Japan.

Usually when I lose my job I fester in self pity and despair. Not this time world. I’ve been traveling in Japan for the past two weeks and have another week-or-so to go.

The first bit was lovely and stressful with my husband and sister traveling with me through Tokyo and Kyoto (and I planned the whole trip, so it was like work even though also fun.) Now, I’m traveling for a while on my own — which honestly I don’t like that much but
I feel it’s good for me to get away from reality for a while and experience new cultures…

I spent way too much on the first chunk of the trip, but now am doing about $50-$70 a day, which isn’t so bad… hostels get old after a while but they do make it possible to extend travel for ultra cheap, even in high-cost-of-living areas. I really needed this time alone on my own at the moment to regroup and focus on what matters in life, versus sitting in my room all day, staring at the wall and doing nothing outside of applying to jobs and sinking further into depression.

I’ve been out of work now for less than three weeks and I already miss it. I feel like one big solution to my failure to be a good employee is how I am obsessed with working. Even now that I HAVE NO JOB and don’t have to work, I crave having work. It gives me purpose and I need purpose when life is all so chaotic and impossible to control. I like working, only because I can succeed at something, even if for a short while, and even if that victory doesn’t last.

I really want to find a job that I can maintain… I’m looking for something lower level… I think I want full-time as the idea of freelancing sounds good until it’s reality and one never gets any time off and has to constantly pitch herself to obtain gigs and beg people to pay on time which requires a whole host of organization skills I do not have and do not expect to acquire anytime soon. I’d rather find a lower-paying job where I can work for a company that I believe in (with a “for good” mission) and where I can be good at my job. I still am not sure if it makes sense to drop from $200k-ish in salary to $100k in salary but at this point I have $0k in salary so really it’s not much of a drop, now is it?

I plan to start applying for jobs slowly this summer and more aggressively in October after my very belated honeymoon trip (separate form this Japan trip) … I think by then I’ll be more than ready to get back into the swing of life-slavery and have kicked the travel bug which is that buzzing noise always saying “you make good money but don’t have time to travel before you have kids which is the only time you’ll have to travel until you’re old and retired and can’t walk.” So, I’ve checked off much of Japan and I’ll hit New Zealand and possibly Australia in early fall… I have many other places on my list but for now I’m reminded how wonderful yet how DRAINING traveling is and how two weeks of travel really is ENOUGH unless you want to push yourself beyond your comfort zone (or you just love travel in a way I love my bed at home and cuddling in my husband’s arms.)

Grass is always greener.

I’m tempted to start applying to a zillion jobs now but it doesn’t make sense… I need to figure out what I want first. And I have a few things coming up and the trip in September so – if I can play my cards right I’ll have a job offer by mid September then go on my trip and come back to employment. That would be perfect. Well, I still need to figure out the whole baby-making thing since, surprise, surprise, my first foray into infertility treatments didn’t work (and I’m $2000 in the hole so far form them, yippee.) I probably should try REALLY hard to get a job at a company that covers infertility treatments because even with a $100k job that will be worth a lot for a year or two. If only one of those fancy big companies would hire me… but they won’t… because the only companies who will hire me want someone who will do 290852093582095820958230958 jobs for the price and headcount of one, i.e. small companies who want one person to do the job that would be done by a team at a larger company. And, so, that’s probably where I’ll end up again… but I’m going to try to get out of this vicious cycle and focus on having kids, if possible.

Too Late to Start Over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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