Tag Archives: happiness

Life Goes On: Thoughts on Entering My Mid 30s

On one hand, moments of my youth feel like just yesterday. On the other, I do feel a very real sense of the time that has passed over the course of my life. I don’t feel old quite yet, but I definitely don’t feel young either. My friends all are having or already have children, fashions are reverting to what was popular when I was in elementary school (the revival of the choker brings on all the feels), and I’m somehow – despite my mental illness – ready to have children. I know it’s going to be very hard, but I feel surprisingly ready. Maybe I’m not logistically ready, but I feel ready from a maturity level, which is an odd thing for me to say, but as I acknowledge that many parents are not actually that mature, I have found confidence in my own future parenting skills.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be pregnant and possibly already with child at this time next year. I have a not-so-secret hope for twins, which is probably the worst thing to wish for, but I have always wanted twins since I was a child and with infertility treatments to help induce fertility (which I need anyway) the odds of having twins are much higher. We don’t have any history of twins in our families so it would be extremely unlikely in the event of a completely unaided conception. but giving what the infertility doc said about my ovaries, natural pregnancy without the help of at least medicine is extremely unlikely. And I’m not getting any younger. Continue reading

The Secret to Happiness: Value Time Over Money

Money. We need it to pay for our basis needs and all the other things we want. But can money buy happiness? It can’t, at least according to a recent survey of 4600 participants.

New research that was collected over a year and a half and published by the Society of Personality and Social Psychology suggests valuing your time rather than pursuing money may be linked to greater happiness.

Time is highly valuable, yet hard to put a figure on. Adults who are employed full time work on average 47 hours per week, according to Gallup. That’s an hour and a half more than a decade ago. Americans also tended to take fewer vacation days than their international peers, according to a 2014 Expedia.com survey.

In fact, American’s work more hours than anyone in the industrialized world. And we take less vacation, work longer days and retire later.Like any American child who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was told that America was the best country in the world. I just accepted that. Sure, Europe had some really exciting history and culture, and other countries had some beautiful untouched landscapes, but America was far and beyond the best place to live. I won the lottery in terms of being born in the land of the free and home of the brave. I lived in the greatest place on earth, likely during the greatest time on earth. How lucky I was!

Many economics and futurists had dreamed up a world when, filled with wealth and technology, we wouldn’t have to work so much. Meanwhile, some studies claim the typical modern workday should start around 7am and end at 7pm — a 12 hour workday.

Of course, these are American companies — Sweden, on the other hand, just introduced the concept of a 6 hour workday.We’ve become such a work-focused culture that we leave little time to actually live our lives. For those earning minimum wage, this isn’t at all a choice. In many parts of the country, it’s necessary to work an 86-Hour work week to afford basic rent for a one-bedroom apartment. And for those earning higher salaries, working less hours means risking those jobs. Workers are expected to be on call at all times, many cases including weekends, holidays and evenings, and have golden handcuffs where they’re worked to poor health in order to maintain their jobs and support their families.

What if we were able to opt for time as part of pay, and this was acceptable. To ask for three months off a year as part of a compensation package, to be spread across the year, to be able to experience life — to take three-week vacations to see the world — to spend time with our families and loved ones before it’s too late. What if we were able to negotiate time just as we negotiate money, and not be seen as lazy or a poor worker. If time has a dollar value, what would that be?

what i’ve learned making a lot of money

I used to think that people, especially before their 40s, who made low-to-mid six figures were in the upper echelons of career nirvana. Yet every year throughout my career I’ve made more and more money. At first this was a little game for myself – how much more could I earn if I just asked for it and exhibited confidence. I’ve gotten fairly good at negotiating, but not so much at holding my value. Big problem.

The thing I’ve realized now that I’m, in my mind, making a lot of money (mind you, not like, wall street money, but still, a solid upper middle class income) is that, surprisingly, I’m not the type of person driven by money. With the high salary comes different kinds of expectations in terms of professional polish and management ability. To just look at myself in the mirror and say “you know what, maybe I’m not cut out for this, and that’s not a bad thing,” makes me feel a whole lot better.

No matter what field you’re in, or what you do, there are opportunities to become an expert at it and make a decent sum of money. But just letting life bounce you into a field that you aren’t naturally good at, and somehow have managed to con people into thinking you can do the job, isn’t an ideal way to live. It’s hyperventilatingly stressful, depressing, and ultimately not good for anyone involved. At some point you have to look at yourself in said mirror and say “listen, you aren’t a six-figure professional, and that’s ok.”

What’s more, I know I’d be incredibly inspired if I were to be able to actually work on the product side of the house vs the more business side. I’d still leverage all of my knowledge form the business side, but at the end of the day I want to build great products. I’ve been saying this for the past 10 years. I just keep finding myself in jobs that pay more and require more responsibilities at something that isn’t a natural fit for my abilities.

When I interview candidates who just LOVE this profession, it becomes very clear to me that I’m in the wrong role. And right now I’m open to a lower salary if it means being in a position where I’m a better fit. I just don’t know how to get there. The lower salary doesn’t bother me, especially if I move to somewhere with a lower cost of living, however to even make the transition it seems grad school is still the easiest way — and then it seems silly to pour a hundred-thousand dollars into a degree that will land me a job that pays a hundred-thousand dollars less than what I make today. But I guess if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.

If money doesn’t make me happy, and it clearly doesn’t beyond meeting basic needs, then I need to figure out what will — and chase after it as if my life depended on it. Because it does.

Life Lessons from X-Men: Days of Future Past

It’s nice when mainstream action movies attempt to present a very eloquent message about the state of our world. The X-Men series doesn’t shy away from prothletising its own ethics code. Of course all of our famous stories of good and evil do this somewhat, but X-Men Days of Future Past specifically touched on how everything we do, even in an instant, is a choice that can dramatically shift the course of the entire future.

Two days ago, sitting in my psychologist’s office, we had a very good session. She recently moved to a new location where there is a large open glass wall behind her chair overlooking somewhat wild nature. One could almost forget she was smack dab in the middle of bustling Silicon Valley, where the suburbs are about as urban as many other small cities. I’ve been seeing this therapist for over a year now — which is a first for me… I usually go to a therapist/psychologist et al when I’m going through a massive depression and have them talk me out of it for a month or so and then I’m back in my own wilderness. Not so in this case. It’s surely isn’t cheap but the routine of going to see her weekly is helpful. Continue reading

The ever unwinding journey to selflessness.

The only time I’m every happy is when I forget myself and give something to others, so why is this so hard to do? My overarching ego gets in the way of satisfaction; I’m no better or worse than everyone else, and there is no reason I have to be.

I don’t want to give out of some subconscious desire to receive in return, whether through admiration, boomerang generosity, or karma. I want to let myself be happy making other people happy. After all, no matter how much I ramble about my selfishness, my freak outs, my quest for millions of dollars, I just want to make people smile a bit and feel not so alone in this world. Then again, is wanting that selfish too?

Today, I took a minor step in the right direction. I receive a quarterly bonus based on my performance and if my team succeeds it just isn’t fair for the entire bonus to go to me. I can’t fairly accept that entire bonus (if it is offered) without splitting that with my team. I’m not doing this to buy back the respect I lost, I know that it’s fair to use this bonus as a way to reward my team, not just myself. It’s still selfish of me not to split the bonus 50/50, but I have reason to believe my team members, who are supposedly my subordinates, make a higher salary than I do, and if the entire bonus is received the amount offered is still substantial enough that it will be noticeably absent from my bank account, and hopefully and more importantly noticeably present as a bonus where it was earned. Continue reading

What Salary Buys Happiness in Your City? $75k or $160k?

Today, the Wall Street Journal attempted to figure out just how much money (yearly, salary-wise) you need to be happy in any given city in the US. The article is quite relevant to the money tiffs my boyfriend and I have been having over how much a person / family needs in the Bay Area to be happy.

The whole concept is based on a study that says once people earn $75k, any additional income does not improve their happiness. But we all know $75k goes a lot further in the middle of nowhere than in Times Square. The WSJ attempted to figure out what $75k means across the US based on the cost of living.

Of course, my city is the second most expensive in the country, requiring an income of $118.5k to be happy. Only New York, which would require an income of $163k for the same level of happiness, is more expensive (and much more expensive at that, though I feel quality of life in the Bay Area is much higher.)

The chart is an interesting comparision of just what equals a really good salary in different parts of the country. This is the first year I’m, in theory, earning $120k (though likely only earning a little more than half of that due to on-and-off contract work) and I can attest to the fact that this is the first year I feel happy with my salary and quality of life. I’m living cheaper than I have to in order to save money, but that’s more because I’m going to end up earning $80k this year and not $120k. I can see that extra $40k just pushing me up to the amount where I’d feel stable, would be able to spend a little on things like… a car that has functioning air conditioning, and still not break the bank.

Hmm, maybe I should move to Dothan, Alabama.

Then again… they need to factor in how happy people are in each city to figure out the true cost of happiness where people live. In the Bay Area, I think happiness is cheaper because there’s so much to do outside – for free – and weather is generally decent enough to spend a good chunk of the year outside. Whereas, in Chicago, you may need less money to hit this target salary of fiscal happiness, but then that happiness is much more expensive… to keep yourself entertained all year long, you have to pay a lot more.

What do you think? What salary would you need to make in your city to reach the ultimate “happiness” a salary can offer before the excess is just luxury, without affecting your emotional state?

Passion vs. Money: What I’ve Learned Since Graduating College

They say if you follow your passion the money will come. I agree with that 100%, though you can’t expect always to make a lot of money by following your passion. Also, as you mature, your passion(s) may shift, causing your once “dream job” to become — like any other job — “just a job.”

So should you follow your passion or follow the money? That’s a tough one. Here’s what I did. I was too scared to follow my true passion (performing) due to a few reasons — I fear failure, I don’t believe I have enough talent, I may actually not have enough talent, I’m afraid of rejection, I wanted to make a decent living, I don’t have the physical beauty required for Hollywood, nor the true dedication to performing the same role night after night in a professional performance career.
When it came time to choose what I would do out of college (where I had obtained a “3.0” liberal arts education and obtained an affinity for the “quotation mark”) I was in awe of all the possibilities, yet convinced none of them would open their doors to me. What I didn’t do in college was think through my career clearly. I didn’t take may practical courses. My only internship was at a program that despite being run by outside journalists was within the school and titled using the college name (ie, didn’t sound that impressive, despite that I was doing work for major TV stations and newspapers). As college came to a close I freaked and applied for internships around the country for something I thought I might be good at related to my passion… public relations and marketing. While getting the internships came easy, my passion did not. I quickly learned that veering off to the right of your passion doesn’t qualify as actually following your passion. It just kicks you in the face day after day, which for some people, like myself, leads to depression.
That year was the first year in my life when I felt like I was actually depressed. The fear of what’s next and knowing this wasn’t what I wanted to do (non-profit marketing really requires you to believe in the cause and I lost that conviction – the arts suddenly seemed just as evil as any big corporation, and the strain of constantly needing to raise money and sell tickets, and being an indentured servant (ie slave with free housing) during that situation didn’t help. I know I would have done a better job had I understood how that internship would be a building block to a career I’d love, but I didn’t see that. I left the internship a few months in. Well, I was let go, because I lost all motivation to lick envelopes, check the mail, and organize files when just in the building over live art was being created. I was jealous of the person who landed the creative internship (my first choice, which I didn’t get) and my bitterness was the end of that.
Luckily, it took me a short time to recover from the “job” loss because even in the deepest of my depression I knew I had to keep pushing forward. Mostly this was due to the fact that I had one month of housing left to get my act together, and then I’d be kicked out of the intern housing, and I knew I did not want to go home. So I frantically applied for every job I could find on Craigslist and Monster.com. I applied for more internships. I applied for everything. I must have sent out over 3000 resumes that month.
Then came a call for an internship at a newspaper. It paid diddly squat (you got a small fee when your stories got published, but that would not be enough to pay rent) and it was part time. I took a train for two hours south to interview for the position. I needed to get this internship because I felt that at least I’d have some creative autonomy as a journalist, and I could tell the lack of any creative control is what killed me at my first attempt at a full time job. I was offered the position and despite knowing my savings would take a beating those few months I at least had a direction to keep me afloat. I found a cheap place about a half hour from the internship and started looking for a car, which I’d need to get around my new home. I didn’t know anyone in an hours drive of where I was moving, and this scared me a bit, but not much. I packed up my stuff and moved it all on the train for a day, taking the train back and forth and dragging my heavy luggage (luckily I didn’t have too much with me since I had flown out to my internship in the first place).
This move, which I thought would cure my depression, definitely sent me on the right path, but I don’t think I’ve quite recovered. Since then I’ve been through a few different careers, all involving writing, which has led me closer to whatever it is I’m meant to do, but I’m still on this journey. Every day I’m faced with the question of whether to follow my passion of the moment (always changing) or the money (a constant) and if it’s possible to find something that combines both.
One thing I do know is that my passion isn’t money alone. I couldn’t spend my life as a salesperson (unless I believed in the product 100%). On my last entry, a commenter suggested that I look into a career in sociology and I think that might really be my passion. I minored in sociology in college, more because the reading materials and conversations in those classes were the highlight of my college experience. I could see myself writing books about modern culture, as while my passion for performing a subsided through the years, I’ve always loved a good conversation about what we do what we do and what makes us do it. Not really in the psychological sense, though I’m very interested in social psychology, but in the cultural sense. I’d love to study money, family, gender, technology, childhood, the economy, education and every pieces relation to happiness.
But can that actually be a career? Would I have the ability and attention span to get a PhD and find a small topic to research and become an expert in (even my above interest in happiness and culture is too vague for graduate school.) I might enjoy this more than other options I have, but one thing I learned in undergrad is that majoring in sociology (or any liberal arts field) is a no-no when it comes to obtaining a career. A PhD is another story, but I don’t see myself as a PhD. I don’t see myself a professor. On the other hand, maybe I’d love it. Maybe that’s the type of “performing” I’ve been craving all along.

Buying Happiness in a Consumption Economy

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Capitalism and its relationship to the definition of happiness in modern society. Last night I watched this video…

… which describes why our materials economy is not sustainable and how it is awful for everyone involved (except the big corporations making lots of money.) Nothing really shocking in the video if you know how the consumption economy works, but it’s just sad how capitalism is pretty much based upon making you feel like shit so you have to buy stuff you don’t need and then making the stuff you don’t need seem like shit compared to the latest cool thing so you want to buy that and so on, with all your once cool stuff becoming waste polluting the planet (not to mention the whole awful part about cheap labor and destroying third world countries.) That leads me to wonder, if stuff is ruining the planet, and likely our ability to be happy, then is it possible to be happy with money in our lives?

I jokingly asked my boyfriend today if he thinks I’d be happy if I just gave away all my money. That’s a stupid idea, as I’d eventually starve and wouldn’t have a place to live. I don’t actually give any money to charity yet and I’m not sure at what point I’ll feel comfortable doing so. If I save $20k next year, I should be able to afford to donate some funds to charity. But I just feel like all that money should be put in my grad school account, or in my making babies in vitro account, or in my house down payment fund, or car replacement fund. Having money is a necessity, unless you’re that blogger who lives in canyon and eats out of trash cans and seems to be thrilled with his life, and I’m not sure how to let go of any of it.

Still, I don’t see myself ever being happy in a stuff economy. I don’t always buy the newest and most expensive gadgets and clothes, but I tend to shop for trends when the prices come down a bit, and I’ll snap up the hottest gadget when I feel the cost is what it’s worth (ie, my recent iPhone purchase), but I just don’t know when I’ll feel like I make enough to have enough to feel “good” in this society.

When I went to undergrad, I was so idealistic. I wanted to learn everything. I wasn’t the best at learning because I couldn’t decide what to learn and could never focus on one thing. When I figured out I need to find something to do to make money I became depressed. Now that I’m looking towards grad school, I have to find something that can sustain me for the rest of my life and also take in a decent income. I constantly think about having to support a family one day, knowing I could do it on a small income, but dreaming of a “large” six-figure income to support my mildly frugal stuff-based lifestyle.

The problem is, capitalism is inherently teaching us that our happiness should come from having more than the next person. Whether that’s having a shiny new car, a cool pair of Ugg boots, or even just the ability to go out to dinner once a week when they can’t (even if we’re going into debt because of it) that is how we value ourselves in our society. Yet does it really make us happy? If there were some utopian society where everyone was equal, would we be able to obtain happiness without comparing ourselves to others from a financial standpoint? Or is that impossible… after all, we are genetically designed to compete so our offspring obtain the best life. Is that what our happiness is about?

My boyfriend is a simple guy. He’s be happy living in a small hut with some good books and nothing but forest around him, and a visitor maybe once or twice a month. Me… I’m a different animal. I almost feel like I need stuff. I need the rush of shopping, it makes me feel safe. Without god in my life there’s only shopping to fill that void. I don’t go to temple or church, I go to the mall. I say thanks by purchasing the best fitting outfits I try on. I fill my religious void with lots of stuff. And then I fill my room with it and my clutter makes me miserable. It’s a vicious cycle. And it has to end now.

Still, what replaces my stuff religion when it’s gone? The only replacement are experiences… and those can be free or expensive and worth the same. It is our experiences that we remember, not our material goods. Even then, though, experiences can be pricey (they don’t have to be) and do they even really make us happy? A blog I was reading the other day discussed how travel is a waste of money and that experiences are pretty much just as invaluable as stuff and they come and go. But if nothing has value (other than maybe our love ones, who we have no control over in terms of life or death as accidents happen) it becomes almost necessary for us to have stuff in our lives. Stuff keeps us sane. It puts meaning on something that really isn’t worth anything, even if it cost a lot. Take away stuff and what do our lives mean?

I wish I could spend my life studying how the relationship of a people with material goods and experiences effect the happiness of a society and culture. Is American culture just so awful and warped that it’s hard to see past life’s true value and how to obtain happiness, or is this a worldwide epidemic? A human epidemic?

Plenty more thoughts on this topic to come… feel free to post a comment answering some or all of my questions… I’m curious what you all think…

26 Aspirations and Goals for 2010

I like Affecting Change in Me’s idea to come up with the # of goals for the coming year based on your age. She’s turning 30 so she has 30 goals.


Here are my 26 goals for 2010…

I’ll check in each month to update how I’m doing on each goal.

1. Save 20% of my income for retirement

2. Save 10% of my income for other upcoming expenses

3. Increase my net worth to $60,000

4. Study (a lot) for graduate school tests

5. Take the GMAT (and poss retake the GRE)

6. Apply to grad school(s) in fall 2010

7. Stop drinking alcohol (except on my birthday)

8. Go to the gym 3 times a week

9. Earn $10k in freelance income ($833 / month)

10. Eat 1300 calories per day

11. Drink 8 glasses of water per day

12. Come up with sweet, non expensive things to do to make my boyfriend happy and do them

13. Go to 1 networking event per month and get up the courage to talk to people (which is going to be really hard since I’m giving up alcohol)

14. Keep my room organized (easier said than done, hello ADD)

15. Write max 20 posts per month for blogging gig ($500 / month)

16. Start a saving fund for basic expenses for the second half of next year when I’ll likely be out of a job.

17. Write hand written letters to the people in my life who I’ve lost contact with (sans Facebook status updates). I don’t really like many people, but it saddens me that I’ve lost contact with the few people in this world who I really admire and consider friends.

18. Take an antidepressant for a year and see if it actually helps my mood swings over time.

19. Go to group therapy when possible and give what it takes to get the most out of it possible.

20. Make an effort to spend one day a month with each of my few friends.

21. Invite my roommates to do something fun outside the house and try to build my relationship with them (I am really bad at socializing with my roommates, I like them but when I come home I usually just want to hide in my room. They are so close to each other it’s sometimes awkward for me to be there.)

22. Read at least 4 fiction books and 4 personal finance / economics books and 4 books on interaction design

23. Start saving for a car replacement

24. Put my all into work, even though sometimes I don’t know how to. Be positive at work and supportive of the chaotic environment that is life at a startup. Try to bring a smile to the table always.

25. Work on being a better listener and communicator. Learn from career counselor how to do that.

26. Try to take one day at a time and be happy for all I have and all the opportunities that are to come.

Should a Career Bring Life Meaning?

So many people are slaves to their jobs, indentured servants of corporate America. Their lives, while mostly spent at the office or in the field, are not defined by their work. Their work is a means to living a life of meaning. And they are thankful to have a job.

I’m spoiled, and expect more than that from my career. Just like any long-term relationship, there are bound to be ups and downs in the experience. But I have this deep-seated desire to know I’m making a… difference? It’s not that I want to save the whales, or even the children. I’ve tried non-profit and figured out that directly helping people isn’t up my alley either. What I want is to contribute to something larger. Well, I want to be Steve Jobs 2.0. But besides that, I want to feel like my everyday work has a purpose, one that I have some control over.

A study on Payscale.com notes that the ten “happiest” jobs are clergy, firefighters, travel agents, mechanics, architects, special ed teachers, actors & directors, scientific researchers, industrial engineers, and airline pilots.

Gimundo points out that of the jobs in the top 10, most are service jobs relying on specific skills, which contradicts the common notion that the more education you have, the happier and more successful you will be. He points out Matthew B. Crawford’s book Shop Class as Soulcraft, which discusses the loss of respect of trades/manual labor in America.

After a trip home to visit my judgmental father, I know he wouldn’t think as high of me had I become a firefighter or mechanic (however, he did always say I should be an architect). I just wonder how much of my… “our”… needs for happiness are based upon what we were told matters when we were kids versus what really matters in our psyche.

My family definitely wouldn’t think highly of me if I were to quit my job to become Mother Theresa. On the other hand, they would think I went nuts if I decided to start my own company. My parents are risk adverse. Heck, my dad was an actuary, which is a math job all about mitigating risk for big companies in case their employees live to a ripe old age (how morbid). And my mom? She married the first guy she met in college because she wasn’t ready to risk being alone. She’s unhappy now, in a loveless and abusive marriage, but divorce is out of the question. That would be too much risk.

It seems for me to ever get to some point of happiness in my career, I need to put all the voices in my head aside, and really risk… failure. I believe that failure, after trying really, really hard, is important in growth as an adult, yet I’ve recently realized that I’ve never fully dedicated myself to anything. Maybe it’s the ADD, maybe it’s the self doubt, maybe it’s my inability to find something worth caring about. I don’t know. I have such a driving need for narcissistic reward that it’s unclear I can ever be happy without some role of power. Yet I’m afraid of power, because with power comes an even bigger risk of failure.

When I started my current job, I was really inspired. I loved working for a web startup, being part of a team building something for lots of people to use. I thought I could help. Now, well, I’m feeling helpless. Things have changed. I also showed too much passion which scared the powers that be who need to care more about the business versus heart. Not that they don’t have heart, it’s just their job, in the power role, to think about all those stressful things. It’s my job too, though not directly, and any passion I have — beyond obtaining statistics to support my theories — is unacceptable.

I look to someone like Steve Jobs as an idol, yet he’s said to be a total totalitarian and not-so-fun to work for. But he obviously BELIEVES in himself and in his ideas. And they have led him, and his company to great success. He failed, got kicked out of Apple for a while, and then they basically begged him to come back because above all it was his mind — his understanding of innovation, design, and decision-making — that was so valuable. Not everyone can be Steve Jobs. Not everyone would want to be. But sometimes I think my ideas are pretty good, that I’ve got some talent of seeing the bigger picture, that I might be successful if someone would just give me a chance to run my own project. I don’t need to run a company, I’d be happy with the responsibility to manage a product. Or even a piece of a product.

That seems like a job that’s out there, right? But I have no idea how to get it. Or if I’d be any good at it. And… risk adverse genetics keeps me tied to stability. I mean, my current job is not bad at all. I like the people I work with. I respect them. I still like working for a startup. It’s just company morale is kind of on a downward spiral right now. The folks in charge are stressed and have no time to deal with making employees… with shrinking job descriptions… feel valued. Which is fair, but I just hate the feeling of having no voice. It’s suffocating. I just am not sure what to do about it other than hold my breath and wait.