Tag Archives: growing up

The Wisdom That Comes With Age, Or the Lack Thereof

Every day, it hits me that I’m knee deep in adulthood. There is no more “what I am going to be when I grow up” – I’m grown. Creases have etched lines into my once porcelain-smooth forehead. I peer closely into mirrors and study the corners of my eyes, cringing at the forging estuary of crow’s feet. The thin skin on my hands is translucent wrapped around my bones. I’m not old, and yet I am.

Every day, I think, I’m so far from where I thought I’d be at 32, but, then again, I never imagined myself at 32. 21 or 25, sure. Maybe even 28, but not a day over. Thirty, it seemed, was a lifetime away, until it wasn’t. Here I am, 32 approaching 33, just 8 months away until you can say I’m in my “mid 30s,” what a gas. It’s a surreal transition to always being the youngest in your class – the “baby” – to being one of the oldest in the room. It happens so fast. I didn’t have time to adjust to the transition.

Every day, I wonder, what’s to come of this world? I think ahead to my desire to have children, and I wonder if I ought to go out of my way to have a family in a world where ISIS blows up innocent men, women and children in the name of their so-called religion, and where Donald Trump wins the Republican seat on the road to the White House with equally malicious hatred and the sparks of similar evil. I worry for the future – as we approach the age of robotic warfare and super drones and new chemical weapons which cannot be stopped. I fear the future even without evil, with its android fast food workers and self-driving cars and little boxes that answer your questions and can tell you everything you want to know without ever having to think for yourself. I know I’m getting old, because I miss how things were when life was simpler. I miss mail order CDs and having only a limited number of shows to watch at any given time and being forced to sit through the commercials and I miss the time when we weren’t so glued to technology so when we left the office we had a life outside of work.

What an old crumugin I’ve become. Me, the futurist who loves innovation and works and lives in the place where Apple was invented and new technologies continue to evolve to change the very nature of how we understand and interact with the world around us. Life feels so much faster now because there’s no time or reason to pause. I miss long hot New Jersey nights with crickets chirping and fireflies dancing in the distance occasionally lighting up just before your nose. I miss snow days and summer camp even though the bullying was torturous and elementary school even though I was a loner and couldn’t stand one minute of it at the time. I don’t even wish I could go back and do it all over again – I would just like the opportunity to pause and reflect without missing out on so much that’s moving forward faster and faster. There’s no stopping now. There’s just Monday and Sunday and what happens in between is a blur. There’s Monday and Sunday and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I spend a lot of time browsing home listings on Zillow around the area I live. I found a $1.4M house that seemed decent enough, a small starter home with a teeny tiny backyard patio area and a community pool requiring an extra $500 a month HOA fee. I look at my near-$200k salary and my $350k in savings and think this isn’t enough- this will never be enough – to afford the life I want slash the life I thought I’d have should I ever achieve such success on paper. I try to feel proud of this achievement. I’m sure when I actually make $200k I’ll smile a little, just because, that’s something. That’s a big something to say I add enough value that someone is willing to pay me that much, or I’m at least a great con and awfully convincing. Maybe $500k in networth, this random goal of mine I’ve had since 21, will make me pause and give myself a little silent high five as I grow my second grey in two or three years, well later than I had hoped to hit that number. But by then I’ll either have kids or I won’t, I’ll be a different person. I’ll be married and a mother or a never-mother and a serial careerist or a runner-away-from-career to something else where that $200k salary will again seem as out of reach as it once was.

I’m tired. I feel healthier than I have in a while with my exercise routine and slightly healthier diet plan which has netted me a 30-pound weight loss from my heaviest. I wake up at 5:45 and work out from 6 to 7 some days and get to work at 9:30 and work until 7 and rarely take a lunch break and get home if I’m lucky by 9. I can’t sleep at night because my mind is racing a million miles an hour with all the things I have to do and haven’t done and I can’t shut it off until nights like tonight when I’m so exhausted I have no energy to eat I’ll just lie down and close my eyes and likely fall right sleep, but there will never be enough hours until the weekend to catch up. I’m feeling really inspired by my job, though it’s hard, and it’s worth the commute, but nonetheless, I’m tired. It’s dark out. It’s only 8. I wish to be curled up in my bed. I wish to be curled up in my bed with a good book despite the fact that I rarely read and if I do it’s non-fiction and even then I’m skimming through for the juicy bits and asleep before I find any.

There is this great lack of meaning in my life which keeps me stuck in a chronic state of depression. My therapist says I need activities outside of work – in the evenings – after work – at least once a week. I did go out with a friend last week for dinner. That was nice. It takes a lot of energy. It was spontaneous so that worked well. If I planned it I might have wasted up my energy on worrying how tired I’d be. I can’t imagine how I’ll manage to have time for kids given that I can’t find time for taking any sort of class right now for self-enrichment. My current life and having kids do not compute. I’ve got a year or two left in me and then I have to move on. I’ll do my best. I’m not going to self sabotage this time. I’ll stand up for myself. I’ll do the best I can. I will be motivated no longer by my idealist nature but instead by the reality of the world and a desperate grasp at any semblance of security I can have for myself and my family.

I’m fortune. I love my husband-to-be as he is silly and strange and not mature at all and despite his face aging equally fast as mine I look into his eyes and see us at 22 and when he holds me I’m not a day older. It will be strange getting older then and still feeling this way and being 35 and 40 and 50 and 60 and onward if we’re so lucky to hold each other at 99 and still feel 22.

Life is depressing. I think our problem is that we consider depression a mental disorder. It isn’t. Chronic happiness is a mental disorder. Life is shit. Look at it. From the ISIS and Trump’s of the world down to our bodies decomposing as a natural state of order as soon as we pop out of the womb to our children at every moment potentially dying before we do whether by terrorist attack or car accident or their own body deciding it does not compute with its own cells, life is shit. Sure, there are happy, beautiful moments, and we should pause and appreciate those. But anyone who is chronically happy is delusional. I’m too much of a realist to approach my philosophy of life any other way. If you decide to focus on some set of goals and work your ass off to achieve them and feel some semblance of success and happiness in the progress, then good for you. But that won’t keep you from a painful death or maybe a surprise one. That won’t help you avoid the even worse by inevitable fate of all man to watch their loved ones leave this earth or hear of their passing from afar. That won’t change the shittiest shit nature of existence that most animals are fortune enough to not fully know in the same way we as humans do. Our awareness is the most beautiful and shittiest part of all, because we know exactly what is happening at every stage – we watch our own bodies fall apart and we try to ignore this by focusing on redecorating our kitchen or taking on new projects at work or going on a vacation for seven out of 365 days where we maybe experience something new and feel alive again before returning to whatever routine we’ve found to be desirable or at least quicksand-like in its grasp of our once more risk-attuned ways.

So, forgive me for my depression. I think it’s quite practical in terms of how to feel about the state of things, given the absolute bleakness of our situation as a species and individuals. This isn’t to say I crave death or romanticize it in the least. I fear it and wish it to stay far from anyone I know for as long as possible – but no matter what we do, we’re all inching towards that fate. I guess those with religion can look forward to an afterlife, which wouldn’t be quite so bleak. The rest of us – how can we put on a smile that’s sincere and believe that we ought to be spending our limited days in an office making something that 100 years from now no one will remember or care ever happened. That isn’t the point, however, as everyone is the cog in a machine – even Hollywood actresses who I used to envy so – they’re just people whose talent and luck has thrown them into the spotlight – one in a hundred million—yet they’re just mere mortals like you and me.

I’m tired. Tired of trying to figure out the right way to do things or being scared of being embarrassed about not being able to afford a house or not knowing how to raise a family and be a good mother and maintain a career that I have no feelings for beyond being grateful that I can do it without completely sucking and I seem to be rather good at parts of it if I push my anxiety to the side and just get shit done. I like learning and trying new things and figuring stuff out, though I give up too easily. I’ve completely accepted that I can’t maintain this career for the long term. I count my pennies and wonder how much I’d need to retire on should I move somewhere extremely affordable and become a part-time copywriter or assistant something or other. The number ends up too high to be realistic so I go back to my initial plan to stay put and just hope I can keep doing what I’m doing until I have a few frugal years and save up some cash and have more options.

I miss a life that I never really had. I think that’s the definition of nostalgia. I’m feeling it hard lately, from the moment I wake up to the instant my eyes shut and I drift off to sleep at night. I miss what could have been. I’m grateful for what has become. I’m unprepared for the future, but it’s here and it’s here and it’s always here regardless of my inability to prepare. Here it is, as I turn another page, close my eyes for another night, and get through another 24 hours in one breath in the race ahead towards no particular outcome other than the inevitable.

New Unemployment/Unemployed Budget

Well. Here I am. Unemployed. Since I received no severance and was not eligible for payout of any PTO (side effect of the supposed unlimited vacation perk), I’m left with my final paycheck and waiting for unemployment to (hopefully) kick in.

When you apply for unemployment they ask you a whole host of questions and I’m concerned I won’t qualify, though I should. Even if I do qualify, it’s a whopping $1800 a month (before taxes) and they make you wait a week to start claiming, so the first month is actually more like $1350 for the month. And $1350 is about how much I pay in rent. Thank goodness I’ve been somewhat smart about saving this year (I knew the job was not going to last long given how I performed with the heaping of anxiety and lack of sleep brought on by a very non-supportive work environment and a long commute I should have never signed on for in the first place.)

I thought it would be a good time to check in regarding my networth and budget. My networth goal for this year was $400k but that was a stretch to begin with (a $100k increase from 2014 including savings and interest.) Right now, counting all my assets I’m at about $350k – which isn’t bad considering the way the markets have performed this year to date. I’m sure with some better investments and less stress spending I’d be a little closer to my initial goal, but not by enough that it would really be meaningful. I have to take a moment and applaud myself for reaching $350k networth. Even though it’s not the big $500k, $350k feels sizable enough to merit a moment of self congratulations. For some reason, this amount makes me feel better about my lack of job stability due to my mental illness. While I can’t touch all that money immediately, and after taxes it would be less, if I was desperate there’s enough there to get through my own personal instances of deep depression (yeay bipolar life.) I don’t feel secure enough yet to have kids, or quite frankly, to get married (which is happening this spring anyway), but I feel like this is an accomplishment of some sort I can be secretly proud of… especially given that just 10 years ago I had about $5k to my name and was basically living paycheck to paycheck.

Here’s how the $350k breaks down:

  • $27.5k – cash
  • -$46 – credit debts
  • $153.5k – stocks (taxable)
  • $178.3k – retirement funds
  • $6.5k – 529 / grad school fund
  • $8k – approx car value

Now, my goal for the rest of the year, revised, is to end the year above $350k. This just brings me back to my older goals of saving $50k a year – which I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I though this year given my income increase I could save a whole lot more, but you know, markets fluctuate so much, and maybe I actually bought enough stock “on sale” this year that I’ll have a really good 2016. Who knows.

The trick at this point is not significantly dipping into my cash to live between my current job and my next job… especially since I don’t know when said next job will start (or what it will be.) The $1350/$1800 a mo in unemployment is barely enough to cover standard recurring expenses, so I’ll have to dip into my savings a bit. I’m hoping that by Dec 1 I have a job so this leaves me with just 1.5 months of unemployment, which shouldn’t hurt too much. With the wedding coming up, and all the expenses for that, I really, really, really need a job – even though I admit it’s nice to have a few weeks to just stop and focus on planning this crazy event since the lack of time to do that was also stressing me out.

But I want to plan for “worst case scenerio” 3 months without a job. I’ll give myself 3 months to find something I really think I can be good at – because the last thing I want to do right now is to jump into a position where my anxiety will get to me again. I’m hoping to find something with a bit more flexible work environment – the amount of work I can get done at home in a quiet space far surpasses what I can do in some horrible open office environment filled with stress-inducing distractions. I’ve made a pact with myself that I’m not going to apply for things I know I’ll ultimately fail at given the work environment. I also am probably going to apply to grad school because I know the field I’m in now rarely meets my minimum requirements for sanity, so despite the great pay, I think I need to take a break from chasing income and now start to actually plan for sustainability. In short, I can’t be crazy mommy who gets fired from her job every year – my future kids don’t need to see that. I want them to see me in my best state – one where I actually like my job more or less. Not the me who I am now. I would never want them to see that person.

So I’m assuming I will need to spend about $2000 a month additional from my savings in order to cover everything from gas to get to job interviews to food to grad school applications to a potential trip home to the east coast to spend some quality time with family when I have the time (dad’s cancer isn’t getting better and despite that he drives me nutso whenever I see him I always think – will this be the last time?) So… say I have $5k of my savings to spend over the next 3 months… give or take. That puts me at roughly $350k at the end of the year – but I’d then be worried I couldn’t find another job. I know that I have some talent and abilities… but I just need to figure out where and how to apply them in a way where someone will pay me money to do so, and I won’t flip out after 3 months or so feeling like I’m so overwhelmed but the piles of things to do and not be able to prioritize those things or even know where to start. Yes, this is the life of a woman who has super anxiety, bipolar II and ADHD. I’m not saying those are excuses for anything – I take full responsibility for losing this job, for falling into the same pattern. But there’s a part of it that is just inherently who I am. I’m different than most people, that’s for sure. I just need to figure out where I fit.

And I’m going to be 32 in a month, which is – such an adult. My body definitely feels like I’m in my 30s — I pinched a nerve a week ago and my back and arm are still in pain. If I don’t sleep a full 8 hours a night I feel it for many days later. And don’t get me started on drinking / hangovers, oy. That’s just to say that I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a full grown adult. Looking around at my apartment I have to stop and wonder if this is what I pictured adulthood to be like. Well, I never actually envisioned myself as an adult. Maybe that’s part of the problem. But when I envisioned adulthood as a general concept, it certainly didn’t look like this — unfinished apartment, used couch that’s falling apart, bike in the corner of the living room because there’s no where else to keep it, a career that doesn’t feel right at all, getting married (ok that’s a start) to a man who also doesn’t have much of anything figured out yet either, to a long life ahead of me that I imagine will poof suddenly transform into one filled with maturity once I have my own kids (I know it doesn’t happen that way, I just like to think there’s some kind of inciting incident to finally growing up.)

Oh well. Today, I just need to focus on not dipping in too deep to my savings this year, and ultimately continuing on to my “round 1” $500k goal. That was supposed to happen next year. It won’t. But maybe I’ll get there before I’m 40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking about motherhood a lot lately…

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Live Long Enough, Everything Happens for a Reason

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

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

Pretzels and Aging, and Money and Roller Coasters

If it seems like I’m posting an awfully lot lately about my fears of my adulthood simultaneously while being an adult, you’re quite astute. I am, it feels, either at a crossroads or the end of a formerly cyclical journey where I’ve gone through first-world chaos and landed back where I began.

At 17, I left home for college, not because I wanted to go to college, or knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew what I didn’t want to be. I knew I didn’t want to live in a house with parents screaming at each other night and day. But I also was well educated in the suffocation of stagnant suburban life. The long nights with crickets chirping. The circumference connecting one mall to another mall to another mall which stood for the area in which my life took place, sans occasional outings to the big city. Even New York felt small in comparison to the whole world, its looming skyscrapers twinkling into the night sky, and thousands of people dispersing from subway stations and walking every which direction, was just a speck of a world that was far from reach. Continue reading

Today’s Therapy Session: Try, it Might Be Fun

So in today’s talk-about-myself session, we discussed a variety of topics, namely my issue with stress-related binge eating and my fear of doing things that might make me happy. The takeaway and assignment was to pause every hour to a notification that would remind myself to “try, it might be fun.”

I have so much damn anxiety about everything that the simplest activities become overly challenging and complicated. It’s frustrating because it really hinders my relationships, professional opportunities, and damages my health. Most of it, clearly, is all in my head, but that doesn’t make “it” any less real. It is real, because it effects what I do every second of the day.

She asked me to think of my life if I just did what I wanted to do, versus caring what other people think. Problem is, I have no idea what I want to do. My entire life has been based on what other people want. It would have been nice to grow up in a household where my parents supported one being average as opposed to being special, just like everyone else versus an asset to brag about. But that wasn’t the case. Yes, I’m 30 now and I should get over it, but therapists are in business for a reason.

But what would my life be like if I could do anything and not care what anyone else thought? Geez, I really don’t know. Maybe at this point I would take some of my life savings and move somewhere more affordable, get a job with a flexible schedule and take art classes. I’m not sure I’d really do that or want to do that. I wouldn’t be happy dipping into my savings when I could be earning six figures a year. I’d always be berating myself for giving up the income and security later in life. I don’t know if my fantasy of living in Santa Fe and becoming a waitress actually makes any sense. I love living in the Bay Area because of the climate and the energy. Could I find a place I loved differently but equally anywhere else?

I feel like if I did that one day I wouldn’t be able to tell my parents. I’d just make up some story about how I’m still working for my startup years later… or I’ve started working for some big corporation where every single asset I write is published under other people’s names. I’m just an anonymous well-paid stable sufficient healthy regular worker who everyone loves and who will never ever be fired. But in reality I’m working for $3 an hour plus tips in Santa Fe, dipping deep into my savings to afford healthcare, and taking figuring drawing classes on the side. They’d never have to know.

That said, I would. I’d have to know what I left behind. The opportunity to save $50k per year… and instead trying to make enough to break even. Being some sort of half starving artist with a savings to prolong pre-starvation purgatory. What kind of life would that be? I never felt like a true artist, the one who gives up everything to create. I’m not really talented, or that talented. I could learn, but even then — I don’t think I’d ever want to paint to sell my work. Artists who paint for a living have to create what other people want. That would be much, much worse than a career in marketing. I don’t think I’d be any good at it.

Try, it might be fun. Well, if I say that about every whim I have I’ll try a whole bunch of things and end up… I’m not supposed to be thinking negatively about everything but I do. Because I’m a practical person. So maybe I shouldn’t try everything. But I could try something. I just want a hobby that I can commit to which inspires me and makes me feel like my life is about more than work and sleep. Because really right now that is all it is. Which is pretty pathetic for a childless 30 year old.

Seeking Happiness and/or Success

One thing I love dearly about my boyfriend is how his values are the antithesis  of everything I thought were my own values. Given that happiness was somehow absent from my youth in exchange for too many shopping trips to the mall and my father shoving my mother across the room declaring her worthless, I grew up not knowing what to want out of life. The only experience that I could identify with that came close to happiness was something between accumulating money and chaos. Love, outside of anxiety-ridden over-worrying and over-parenting, also didn’t exist.

So I went away to college with no concept of what I want. Now, many 17 year olds have no idea what they want, but they seem to have some sort of greater purpose. They want to be a doctor. Or they want to be an engineer. Or they want to just make a lot of money. They want to get married. They want a life like the one they grew up in…

What did want? I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to live a life void of love. But I didn’t know what love was. I wanted to escape worry and anxiety but growing up in an environment like that makes it very challenging to avoid that without many costly years of therapy (…and even then.) I often wondered what it would be like to have a clear vision of some sort of grand goal for life. I just knew I had to figure out how to pay the rent so I wouldn’t have to move back to my home state. I just knew I had to keep running.

My instincts, growing up in a chaotic environment, were to chase after fame. I had, and still do, some vague fantasy about being loved by everyone simply for being me. Not just the me that sits at home and stares at the wall, but somehow adding value as an entertainer. A comedian. An actress. Something big, bright lights worthy.

Maybe that’s what I was “meant” to be, but a mix of a lack of talent, reality, and being too afraid to fail kept me from chasing after that deluded dream. Still, I went to school for theater, not acting, and sat silently jealous of the actors who didn’t know I existed, who exhibited talent of varying degrees, who were so free in their bodies and not afraid to do crazy and sometimes potentially harmful things like sleeping around or snorting coke. Yes, I was jealous of that lifestyle. My excitement was limited to a few drunken nights where I end up crying in a bathtub alone – the most exciting being the night my then-boyfriend walked out on me crying in said tub with my glasses in his pocket, and I spent an hour the next morning crawling around my room blind as a bat wondering where they went.

This isn’t a sob story, it’s just the story of my life. I knew I needed to make money. But I had no ambition. Or, more so, I had no direction. I just couldn’t look back. I was a decent writer, not by academic means, but somehow prose came naturally do me after spending my adolescence blogging away my angst. And that got me a job as an editorial assistant, which turned into a reporting position, which turned into various marketing roles and so on. Somehow, that turned into 30. Unmarried. Living with roommates. Making over $100k. But feeling like I don’t deserve it. And knowing it isn’t enough to afford the life I think I want. 30.

So the dream of fame has virtually dissipated. I still fantasize, now, about one day writing a novel or memoir that makes my name known for something before I die. That said, I’m mostly over fame. I’m trying to find my motivation. Is it money? Is it love? Is it silence?

My boyfriend grew up in a vary different environment than mine. While my parents were married and probably never should be, his parents never tied the knot. There was still some chaos in his life, in different ways, but he was never held down on a bed and beaten with a belt by a man who seemed more outrageously angry than would be justified for refusal to clean up a room.

Meanwhile, my bf’s chaos fell more to the side of neglect. Where I had nearly everything I wanted from a material point of view, he had nothing. He had clothes from thrift shops and the living room couch as his bedroom. It’s not that his parents couldn’t afford to give him a better life. They just didn’t think it mattered. My parents, on the other hand, thought that buying a nice house in the suburbs and paying for summer camp was the definition of good parenting. Neither of us experiencing a caring, loving childhood. That’s probably why we get along so well.

Ultimately, what we both want is pretty simple. We just want love. We want to escape the chaos that has defined our lives and experience a life of stability and kindness. I’m terribly messed up from my childhood and occasionally dive off the deep end, starting a fight because the calm is unsettling, craving the madness where I’m most at home. But I know that isn’t what I want. And I’m so grateful that he understands that isn’t who I am, it’s just who I sometimes become, when I’m afraid, when I can’t handle the silence.

If I can have the calm at home, and nurture that, then that leaves room to nurture some sort of productive chaos in my professional life. It’s why I’m drawn to startups. I’m motivated by having to fight amidst the impossible. I spent my childhood feeling never good enough as my father, intelligent as he was, would tell me I wasn’t trying hard enough when I struggled with math or failed to focus and do well on my tests. I like not feeling good enough because it gives me motivation to prove everyone wrong. That’s when I do my best work. That’s when I make my magic.

But that isn’t healthy either. And as I look into the future of my 30s, the 3650 minus some-odd days until my 40th birthday, I am terrified by the hypothetical timeline that lies before me. Marriage? Kid? House? Kid..s? Is that all what I want? There are days I fantasize about running away somewhere… getting in my car, driving to New Mexico… Santa Fe… becoming a waitress with another name, never heard from again, staring at rich sunsets quickly changing from purples to pinks, leaving town once people start to know my name. Being an anonymous nomad. Living off little. Not having to worry about falling into a depression and not having enough money to pay the bills for my kids, or the mortgage on a house, or a roof over my head (worst case, I’ll sleep in my car, on my own, if I’m on my own…)

But that’s a silly fantasy of disappearing. That isn’t reality and it’s not what I want either. Maybe what I want is a somewhat nice house. A somewhat nice — will cost me $1.4 million in Silicon Valley — house with a little backyard and change to travel the world at my leisure in two or three star hotels. Kids? Maybe. A husband who doesn’t care if I’m CEO making $500k per year or assistant making $30. Love. That’s what love is. It is about helping each other, others, get through life. Get through it and stop to smell the roses. It’s cuddling when the weather is cold and making dinner for each other and surprises which deliver unexpected smiles. That’s all priceless. That is, it seems, what I want. Not fame, no, that’s what society made me think I want, that’s what 18 years of only being appreciated for doing something “special” made me want. I don’t want to be special anymore. I just want to be me. And more than anything else, I want to love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Are You Afraid Of?

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

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

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

A Brief Call with my Dad

Five years ago, my father, now 61, was told he had less than two years to live. Diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer, the doctor’s said that the rapid growth of his type of cancer would wreck havoc on his body and treatments could only help postpone the inevitable. Five years later, and dad is – not exactly healthy – but still alive and looking forward to the future.

I’m not very close with my father. He’s extremely narcissistic and judgmental  Every conversation I have with him tends to be the same. Today, I called home expecting my mother to pick up, but instead my dad did.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

He recognized my voice and said my name in a sort of overly-dramatic surprised tone.

“How are things with Derek,” he asks, pausing – “I don’t know how to say this but, the biological clock is ticking, and I’d like to be a grandparent…”

He continues later in the conversation “My PSA is at 0 – but I won’t live forever, and your sister isn’t getting married anytime soon. What is Derek doing?”

“He’s looking for a job,” I mumble, because telling the truth about my boyfriend of seven years being extremely depressed and not having sent out one resume yet just would lead to more judgement. Continue reading

What If I Don’t Want to be a Leader?

It seems almost everyday there is an article written about there not being enough women, especially female leaders, in technology. While I’m not an engineer, I have managed to make a career for myself in tech. Not counting my first year out of school when I was working a variety of non-profit jobs, I now have 5.5 full years of experience working in some area of the technology industry.

There are days when I dream of one day being CEO or VP of a company, but in reality I don’t have what it takes to be a leader. I’ve written about my poor lack of management skills previously, and while some of them can be learned and approved on, I just don’t have what it takes to lead. I’m quite socially awkward to begin with, and I am a bit of a perfectionist. I have trouble managing myself let alone other people. I’m decent with managing an agency where the relationships are not so connected, but I can’t see myself becoming a true in-office team building type of leader, ever. I’m not a follower, either, though. I’m a do-er. I like to come up with ideas and make them happen, and then move on to the next project. (Maybe I should work for an agency… hmm…)

Leaders must be extremely confident in their own abilities, confident enough to make someone look up to them and at the same time not to worry that the person who gain enough power to replace them at any given time. They must know when to prod someone to improvement versus when to let things just get done. When they prod, they must be gentle but firm, and ideally closer to right than wrong. They must be able to follow up on priorities, ensure process is followed, and deliverables are of high quality.

Since I’ve decided I will never be a leader, at least not in the technology space, I’ve been wondering what my goal in life should be. It’s a bit frustrating because where I am now professionally, in a senior manager level role, puts me in a prime position to move on to better paying roles with leadership written all over them. When I get to that point, will I really want them? I wonder if there will come a time in my life when everything will click and I will suddenly be ready to lead. But I’m more absent-minded professor than slick and savvy CEO. But instead of dedicating my life to study and research, I yearn to create.

In 20 months I will be 30 years old. The biological clock is also ticking and this only makes me more confused over what my career path should be. I just cannot see myself as VP or CEO of a company — in fact, the only thing I can really clearly see myself being is a mother. That can happen with also being VP or CEO, but not in the way I envision it. Even if I was a natural born leader, would I ever be able to achieve the same career success as a man with the same talent and proclivities?

All the while, I don’t like the bitter taste business leaves in my mouth. I’m the type of person that wants everyone to win, and while it’s fun to feel part of a team competing against another group (in fact, the professional world is the first time I’ve ever felt like I sort of fit in), it’s still something that grates away at my values. It’s not my business in particular, it’s any business. It’s the nature of the game. Some people (I’m guessing mostly men) thrive on competition, which works well in business — especially cut-throat, rapidly changing industries like technology — but those people are definitely not me. I hate competition and I hate feeling like I’m attacking someone else(‘s product) or that they are attacking me back. Are there a lot of women that really enjoy this sort of this? Is it possible that men just thrive on this constant war and women biologically are inclined to protect and nurture?

This must be why the technology industry is such a boys club. I can’t talk the same talk. I can’t shoot jabs at the competition, or get into the game fully heart and soul. Watching newer members of my company, all male, jump on board and get into these conversations, makes me realize how much of an outsider I still am. It might be because I’m a woman, or it might be just because I’m not someone who excels in business. I’m reasonably talented at marketing strategy and overall enjoy anything involving strategic thinking and defining process. I’ll put down the rules to the battle, but will step out and take a long walk far away before the first shot rings out into the night.

The trouble is that success, at least financial success, relies on one’s ability to stand up and fight battle after battle with a chance they’ll win the war. Is it so wrong that deep down I want my knight in shining armor to come and rescue me from the war and tell me he’ll fight the battles while I stay home with the kids? Not that I really want to “stay home,” but I want that option, and more freedom. Many people don’t even have that option ever, and I don’t think I “deserve” it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want it. Or, that suddenly a life of doing a more mundane yet important job like cutting hair or designing living rooms seems much more attractive, versus everyday waking up to battle.