Tag Archives: life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Life is Short and other things you already know…

When you get to your 30s, you realize that 10 years isn’t really that much time from start to finish. Somehow childhood seems so painfully long at times. The stretch between one birthday and the next can feel like a decade. Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like centuries. I remember very clearly sitting in class staring at the second hand slowly clicking its way around the clock. I wasn’t the best student in school, but I certainly was an excellent study of the glacial movements of a clock’s minute hand.

The last 10 years have been filled with plenty of ups and downs. My 20s had their fair share of crazy and now that I’m well into my 30s, I do feel that time of my life is over. And despite that probably being a good thing for my health and sanity, I still feel the need to mourn the departure of my extended youth. I don’t know how it happened so quickly, but it did. And just as the last ten years have passed by so quickly, so shall the next ten and the ten after that. It seems as if there is this cruel joke played on us by time, where all of childhood is leading up to this miraculous part of life where we are just-turned adults and free to be both adolescent and in charge of ever instant of our destiny all at the same time. Then, you’re 21, and, then, you’re 30 – a true adult with wrinkles suddenly etched into her skin, tired eyes and dull hair requiring specialized shine treatments to look half as youthful as you did just years earlier.

I’m less afraid of aging than I used to be. I’m still terrified of death, although in theory if my belief that one loses consciousness entirely and is just nothing for the rest of eternity, it should not be scary anymore than sad, and should not be sad any more than egotistical, as any sorrow for such departure is the same sorrow that should be poured onto thoughts of the world before one was ever conceived – but somehow that doesn’t seem sad at all, the infinity pre-dating our own birth.

Regardless of one’s sentiment towards our  inevitable mortality, we can likely agree that our time on earth is finite, and the years which we have in good health are even more greatly limited. We watch our parents age and part ways with the earth, which is horrible but at this age becomes part of the routine. Then there are the unexpected early departures — relatives who grow sick or lose their life in accidents that have no mental preparation. I’m fortunate to date not to have lost any loved ones, not even my father who was told seven years ago that he had no more than two years to live. But none of this luck can last forever. Life is this transient light which shines for only but an instant, and we must shine despite the lights of others dimming and, others, growing in luminosity all around us.

Nine years ago, I almost died. I don’t like to talk about the car accident I was in because every time I think of it I feel sick to my stomach, probably from minor PTSD. I was driving on a two-way highway when I was exhausted early one morning — I was returning from a work conference and hadn’t slept well the night before, and thought I was ok to drive home. I had just started driving only six or so months before, so I wasn’t the best driver yet either. My tire blew out, I had shifted to far into the curb in the center of the highway and my car skidded across the road and ended up spinning around and around in a ditch. I remember very clearly the dirt coming up so violently to the window as I spun to a stop, completely stunned. About a minute later, two cops came and knocked on my window. I was just sitting there – I was fine, somehow. I could have easily hit a car or truck in the lane next to me, or could have gone off a cliff if I had been on the other side of the highway, but somehow I didn’t hit anything as I skid down the road and into the dirt, completely unable to take control of my car.

I walked away from that accident with no damages to myself and barely any to my car. I was very, very lucky. I never told my parents or many people about it. I didn’t want to worry anyone. I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, or any close friends nearby. I told myself to forget about it, and I did, expect when I think about that day, and remember so clearly the moment when I spun around in the dirt until I finally came to a stop.

And that was nine years ago, but still it haunts me. But then, as I faced death head on, I don’t recall being very upset about the prospect of dying. I was scared, for sure, but I was extremely depressed at the time and thought to myself, in that moment when I was given a second chance, who would care if I was gone? I had never felt more alone.

The beautiful thing about being in a relationship en route to marriage is that you have this one person who cares not only whether you live or die, but who would notice should you be hurt or in need of help. And, in turn, you share that responsibility and that love. You have long left the family unit of your parents and siblings, and now you’re on your own, – and being on your own sounded great until you realize that means no one is looking out for you. When you have no family nearby, when your family barely thinks to call to ask you how your doing, and when you realize they never actually cared how you’re doing because they only value you for their narcissistic supply, you value relationships more than ever.

See, I was the girl who always thought she’d never get married. After watching my parents have violent fights since as early as I can remember, I thought marriage was a bit of a joke for most types of people, especially any with my DNA. I was hopelessly broken, unable to commit or to be worthy of being committed to. The best I could hope for was a series of heated relationships which would be entertaining, to soothe over the long periods of solitude.

But then, when I met my boyfriend, I realized that I could indeed love and be loved. We had a rocky relationship for a while – as we were both immature and scared to grow up, both coming from broken homes and lacking a solid foundation of familial stability, despite deeply longing for that sense of comfort and calm.

Now, deeply in love and on the dawn of my wedding year, I see this overpriced event as the entrance to this new phase of my life. It isn’t that much of a difference from today, but it is a commitment to a commitment. It is knowing that no matter how hard life gets, at least in our health, we have each other. And, just as one never mourns the time before she was born as she would thoughts of her future passing, it’s the worst feeling in the pit of one’s stomach to imagine one day losing your love; yet the thought of life before them is nearly impossible to recall.

When I stood beside my grandmother last year as they slowly lowered my grandfather’s casket into the ground, she shouted “wait for me, I’ll be there soon,” with tears pouring down her face. I had never witnessed such visceral grief. It was real, raw, and I understood, and I closed my eyes and could see years from now myself with the same deep sadness. I wanted to comfort her but I did not know how – how do you comfort a woman who will never again see the man she loved and battled with through that love for so many years?

And in the end, life is only worth what we’ve created and who we’ve loved. In the arms of my sweet future husband I finally know what love is. I can see living with him just about anywhere and together we’d be fine. That part of my life is great now, but I haven’t gotten to the other part – the part longing to create – to maybe make a mark on this world before I leave it. I often tell myself it’s silly to want this so badly, as in the meaninglessness of life, so too is creation pointless in our blip of existence on the infinitum of time. Is someone who is an artist, writer, musician, actor or designer any more of a successful, complete person than a person working to promote software? Anything s possible at any age, yet it gets harder as you grow older and get set in your ways. As I wait for a moment of inspiration, I know I wait for a moment that will never come.

But love did come, and with love comes the sadness of knowing one day the man I love, and I too will disappear from this earth, at least the parts of us which make us human. I try, now, to value each second together, as the clock no longer ticks on as slowly as a slug making its way across a sidewalk, lacking any noticiable forward momentum from the human eye. I watch my iPhone clock go from 6am to 6pm in what seems like an instant, and holiday seasons return in what feels like shorter than a month’s timespan (didn’t the Christmas lights just come down?)

Since there seems to be no way to slow life down, I only hope I can manage to make the most of it, to fight off this curse of depression, and to embrace my consciousness’s brief stay on this unlikely little home we call earth.

 

Has it really gotten any better…

At this time, 10 years ago, I had moved to a new part of the country, obtained an unpaid internship, and was living in a four-bedroom apartment with three other girls and their many friends who always seemed to be around. My tiny room, furnished with a crooked used futon and not much else, let in just a hint of light from it’s windows at the top of the back wall. The closet door, made of old wooden panels, did nothing to make the room appear any more spacious then it actually was.

I don’t have full recollection of the timeline of events that occurred that first year after I graduated college, but I’m pretty sure I had yet to meet my future husband, and I was at the lowest point in my life, just starting to pull myself out of a deep depression. My only victory was survival on my own, but the future was ominous and bleak. I was more alone than ever holed up in my tiny apartment, looking for a part-time job to supplement my income of $50 an article published for my internship, which would not cover my $450-a-month rent for the tiny room on a nice block in a nice neighborhood of a nice place I had never heard of in my life.

As my depression ebbs and flows, I try to remember the darkest times in my life, when I felt truly hopeless, and remind myself it’s no where near that bad. Today, I have an apartment, a fiancé who is my true rock, a car (didn’t have one of those 10 years ago either), I know my way around the majority of the Bay Area, I have a job that while very challenging is a testament to never giving up if only as a confounding reflex to uncertainty and failure. I have a few friends. I have a savings, which, 10 years ago, was about $5k, now it’s closer to $350k. I have so many things that should make me fulfilled yet at times I still fall back into sadness where it’s hard to catch my breath.

Ten years later, am I any better suited to withstand the basic trials and tribulations of life? I am facing such a great opportunity now and all I can think is – don’t fuck this up. Just do something. Just do anything. I end up frozen time and again, pulse racing, looking up at the ceiling or the wall, thinking about a thousand things I have to do and unable to make progress with any given one. I can’t fuck up this time. I know I said that last time. But this is it. Really. Sure, I can maybe find another job, but this is my chance to really show what I can do — pull out all the stops — make a dent — be a very clear part of the success of something vs just a little part of maintaining the status quo.

The only thing I can think of to resolve the scenario is to try to pretend to be someone else – anyone else. As myself, I can’t think, I can’t do, I just get caught up in the details without making progress. And that is a one-way ticket to nothing good. I have to move fast and show what I can do. I’m not sure what that is. I need a superhero identity, someone who is me but isn’t. Someone who can move mountains and save the world, albeit in a smaller, less philanthropic sense of, well, just acquiring new customers.

Ten years ago I had no idea I’d be where I am today. I didn’t even know about this career or that I’d be any good at it. When I went to school I didn’t understand why anyone would major in business. I had no concept of the professional world outside of it being this amorphous place where my father worked because he was a math guy and therefore he did math-like things which never really seemed like business to begin with. I understood the arts, though not how to make money in them, but at least art made sense to me. I just had absolutely no idea what life would hold in the next 10 years.

Now, as I look on to 10 more years of my life… from 32 to 42… I know they will be equally as surprising in hindsight. If I have children, there’s no way to predict how they will change who I am as a person, or my world view, or my ongoing inner monologue of non life-threatening suicidal thoughts. When I have children, I imagine, their world will become my world, and I’ll focus on providing for them, nurturing them, and trying to ensure their mental health is somewhat more sane than mine by offering them a loving, caring, and forgiving household that they won’t appreciate until they’re my age.

The future with kids is such a different story than one without. With children, I want to make good money and provide for them. The fact that I was able to secure my current salary gives me hope that I can offer a good life for my family, even if my future husband will earn significantly less. I can make the life I want for myself and my family on my own, if I have to. In five years, if I can do a good job, I should be able to take home $250,000 a year – which in this area is not a lot as a solo income supporting a family, but if we together can earn $350k a year, that should be plenty to have a stable middle class life, even in such an expensive part of the world. We can even maybe one day afford a small house, which I think would be the biggest of all life accomplishments, though terrifying in that I’d know I’d be handcuffed to working similar jobs full-time for the remainder of my life’s best years.

If children were not in the picture at all, I’m not sure what I’d do. I still feel like $500k in savings/stocks is a good goal to have for some sense of stability in life. At $500k, without kids, I’d be more likely to save a little more then return to school for something I’m passionate about — perhaps photography, art, or even film. I would care less about earning a lot of income, and more about breaking even while allowing my savings to compound for many years to come.

But then, I wonder if being a slave to the career I’ve managed to paint for myself is less about income and more about this massive fear to not be a “something.” The center of my ego is a woman who has managed to, on paper, look impressive. The cherry on top of that ego is, today, to have clear, quantifiable success metrics and a number of colleagues who can genuinely say I helped a business succeed. I don’t think that would make me “happy,” but it would make me proud. I would feel accomplished. I don’t think I’ve done anything I’m substantially proud of in the last 10 years since I graduated college, other than maybe a few shows I directed that managed to go on and be seen by actual audiences. I don’t feel anything over obtaining better job titles or increases in salary, thought that’s helpful for many other reasons. I haven’t felt proud in a long time. Maybe that’s ok and just part of being an adult – there’s no use in pride for ones own victories when you have children to feed and clothe. It’s being an adult without children when meaning somehow ceases to exist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Time When You Realize You’re Almost 32…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Absolutely Terrified of Making the Wrong Decision

All my life, I’ve been a jill of all trades, master of none. I’m at the point in my career where I want to invest significantly in becoming an expert in one area – but I’m still perplexed as to what that one area is. I always come back to the fact that my current savings of $325k, growing at 5% annually for the next 30 years, gets me to a $1.4M nestegg in retirement. That assumes, of course, that I’m not touching any of that money until retirement – but that’s quite a reasonable expectation if I can manage to make enough yearly to at least cover my expenses.

So – I could move to somewhere super cheap, take on a few side jobs to cover housing, health insurance, et al – and whatever I have left over use for travel or taking art classes. Kids will be expensive, that’s for sure, but my boyfriend would also be working – we would never be rich, but we should have enough to have a decent retirement. Heck, if it 325k compounds at 10% year over year then in 30 years when I’m 62 that would be worth over $5M.

Why bother spending $100k now on myself when I don’t trust the investment will pay off. I just don’t have much faith in myself and for good reason. Even now as I browse the help wanted ads for a variety of different positions I return to how today I’m qualified only for roles people are desperate to fill, if that. I started to put together my resume and I couldn’t think of one valid accomplishment in my current role to put on there. Not one. Clearly I deserve to be laid off. In the meantime, I’d like to actually add value that I can talk about later. As a trusted mentor once told me – no job is forever, focus on doing the things that will help the company but that will also be the achievements you’ll put on your resume. I ought to get to that asap, if there is still time left.

There are so many different things one can do in the world – but it’s hard to imagine what would actually make me happy over the long term. If I was already a millionaire and money wasn’t an issue, what would I do? I’m not the type who actually wants to sit around all day, or who wants to spend years traveling the world. The funny thing is – I like to work. I like to work a lot. I like to feel like I’m actually contributing to something greater than myself. So I don’t want to just sit on my ass and waste my life away. But then, money aside, what is it that I would actually be able to do? I’m really awful at so many things. I’m pretty bad at responsibility overall – which is pathetic, but true. I’m forgetful, unorganized, and while I tend to do a lot of things at once I’m a terrible multi-tasked. I’m pretty much the antithesis of who anyone would want to hire today. I should be doing whatever it takes to keep my job because god knows it is going to be awful hard to get another one.

But then I come back to my frustration with myself, and acknowledging that maybe I’m not ready for this position. Every role I’ve taken on in my career I’ve started from scratch, pretty much. New field, new industry, everything new. I liked that – it was exciting and kept me on my toes. But it’s also been really hard. And I’m just not good at certain parts of my job that I don’t think are trainable, it’s just either you are good at it or you’re not. Needless to say this is not a long-term career. I give myself 60 to 180 days at this point. Maybe less. Not by choice. And given my performance, I wouldn’t blame them.

It’s just I don’t see myself ever succeeding at anything. I’d be wise to quit while I’m ahead, hibernate my life away, invest my cash and wait until it compounds enough to actually see the light of day again. That’s a bit dramatic, but it is actually an option. There are things one can do for little money to entertain themselves. One laptop or pen and paper if you really want to rough it and you have all you need to write the next great american novel. A few colored pencils and a sketchbook and you can draw your days away. Reading is pretty cheap, so is going to the occasional movie or watching television. Exercise is free. Food can be affordable if you cook yourself. Really, work doesn’t have to be the central part of one’s life once you have a decent savings. I’d never want to quit work entirely – but I don’t want to have to rely on it. I want time to live.

On the other hand, I am completely the type who lives to work. I can’t not think about my job – ever. I’m always thinking about what needs to get done, the overall industry, and creative ways to tackle problems. I don’t actually go on to execute these well, but I know I am happier when I have a job I can throw myself into 110%. So if money wasn’t an object I’d probably still work. I’d still want to get really good at something so I can finally feel successful and productive. But what is that one thing? I’ve always been interested in too many things. Too many interests left me with no direction. I don’t know how I got where I am but it all feels like a giant sham. And it is. I’m tired of the charade. I just can’t fake it, and everyone sees it. When you’re in a field where results are easy to quantify, there’s no place to hide, for better or worse.

When I invest in the stock market I always invest in what I think is stable or is solving a key market problem that will only get worse over the coming years. In other words, I’m smart about my investment choices. If I were a business and I knew everything I know about myself, I wouldn’t make the investment. That’s why I’m so scared. I don’t think it’s worth it. I don’t actually believe in myself one bit – not to do anything I actually want to do. Be an accessories designer. A photographer. A film editor. An interior designer. I don’t know. Be something that has nothing at all to do with enterprise software. To create something tangible. To spend my life on projects that have a clear beginning, middle and end to them. And to reach some level of creating something that is well received by others. That others want to see or buy. To actually create that said thing. If money were no object, I’d be a maker, not a marketer. But the grass is greener and I had my time in life when I was studying the “making” side of things. That didn’t go over so well either.

In any case, I do need to figure something out. It won’t be the end of the world to go on unemployment and have six months to get my head on straight, but that isn’t forever. I just hate feeling like I’m back at square one, yet again.

More Thoughts on Ambition, Depression, and An Otherwise Ambivalent Life

When I was a child, I was remarkably judgmental. My parents raised me as such. For them, having grown up in households with parents who were not college educated, who were bluecollar workers or clergy, who lived only slightly above the lifestyle afforded by poverty, I understood their hatred of all things they worked so hard to escape. Although my town was quite diverse, as a child I always felt better than many of my peers. My parents created and reinforced this notion. I never felt better in the sense of actually liking myself or better in that I was able to make and maintain friendships, but I was told time and again that there is a large faction of others in the town, and while I was allowed to be friends with those people they were not like us.

To be clear, this was not a racial issue, as my parents looked down upon people of all ethnicities – though, of course others “like us” – Jewish families, typically got a pass. It was horrible, and yet at the time it made sense –  was our shared values of education and working hard to achieve goals, with a general disrespect for cultures that, by stereotype and outcome, didn’t have the same type of lifestyle. It wasn’t their fault, or at least it certainly wasn’t the fault of the children, and yet there was still this sense of sameness and otherness that pervaded our view of our town. It is how I, despite being miserably depressed and empty as a child, was able to find some solace in going shopping with my mother and purchasing hundreds of dollars in Nordstrom Brass Plum shirts and pants and skirts and dresses. It is how I managed to push myself harder to get where I am today, because deep down I was terrified of becoming one of “them.” I could never truly envision myself a starving artist or struggling parent. It wasn’t in the vernacular of my limited foresight. It was the only truth I knew, which now I know to be no more truth than any other dream or goal.

We were never rich, but my mother dreamed of great wealth and my father wasted away his life eating himself fat and working long hours to provide for our family so we could maintain our illusion of happiness in the shape of comparative success. My mother would frequently go on and on about how she wished she had married someone richer, not once considering returning to work herself. That was somewhat normal of a train of thought at the time. My father, meanwhile, earned a rather high salary for his middle management consulting role, and we lived a very comfortable life. My father liked to purchase “nice” things, although I didn’t always agree with his taste. My mother, for the most part, liked to purchase whatever QVC or the Clinique woman happened to be selling her. And I grew up with this painful sense of privilege compiled by the guilt of knowing none of it was deserved. Through each year, that guilt grew stronger. When my mother made an off-putting comment about a friend at school whose parents rented instead of owned, I cringed inside, knowing that criticism was completely unjust, especially against a child who had no choice to whom she was brought into this world.

I do believe that so much of your ambition is tied to how your parents wired you for reward. My reward came from meeting and surpassing expectations of this illusion of our stability and relative superiority. If I wasn’t to be a math genius, I was to be a great painter. I had to be something better than the others. I had to be special to matter to my parents at all. They certainly didn’t appreciate when that special came with a fragmented mind and a hyperactive, mess-creating child who longed so desperately for the attention and approval of others, unless, of course, this need for approval resulted in something they could brag about.

As an adult now, having been through enough sociology classes and life to know that everything that I thought was real as a child is a complete clusterfuck of a post-war generation and immigrant family mentality tossed down through the ages, I want out of this. Out of trying so hard to prove something to someone when no one is even listening anymore. Sure, my mother still shares every thing I post on Facebook as if I had won the freaking Olympics, with pride acceptable for a 12 year old daughter, perhaps, but not a 31 year old. And in my little puddle of psyche so empty and ambivalent I kick myself together trying to find the shape of a person who has some motivation, some drive, some reason to exist beyond merely existing or earning a paycheck. And I can’t find it. I can’t find anything that tastes real anymore, except the incredible and overwhelming love which my alter-ego of a boyfriend – warm, quiet, sensitive, needing no attention or approval – bequeaths to me in ample supply.

But one cannot live on love alone. And I often think if I didn’t have this love right now, I would be so fragile, I’d have nothing to keep me going. Thank god for his kind heart, his deep compassion for all the people of the world and all that is unjust and cruel. I am happy to have a safe place to go, wrapped in his arms, far from the judgmental warfare of my suburban family home.

I don’t want to just set out to help others when I’m not ready for it yet. One can easily do more harm than good. If I fuck up in business it’s terrible for sure but, at least in the communications side of things, a fuck up here or there never killed anyone. But to dedicate my life to helping others, I don’t want to do it for selfish reasons, because that won’t go over well. I need to find something deep within me, something so true, which I can become passionately obsessed with, something which can become my intention for life. It could be motherhood. It could be psychology. It could be design. It could be writing should I ever muster up a plot, realistic dialogue and the tenacity to draft more than eight pages. For someone who writes so much as I do it should be easy, but my stunted empathy has made it quite impossible to dream up others. I’m still trapped deep within myself, this little, weak, shell of a human being who attempts to claw out of her flesh to find her guiding light.

Ambition, Or Lack There Of, Or Partial

In business, there are the hunters, and then there is everyone else. The ambitious play life as a game, moving one piece at a time and never fully being satisfied. The rare few have a greater mission, some intention for greater good or art, but most just enjoy the game itself, and, of course, winning.

My current mass media obsession is Mad Men, the television show, which I’m woefully behind on – all the way back on season three. The lag is due to the fact that I only watch television these days with my boyfriend, outside of the occasional reality trash, and he can’t stand the show. At first, I didn’t understand why he didn’t like Mad Men – it’s well acted, it has a long, drawn out storyline, and plenty of television connoisseurs adore it. But then, as I let myself drift through the slow-moving episodes, it hit me why he can’t stand the show, and why my own engagement has lagged: the show is entirely about ambition, cut-throat, self-absorbed, occasionally sociopathic American ambition. The 1960s were much like present day, although a New York’s advertising agency could be easily replaced by a technology startup. Or maybe any business which blends creatives and sales. It is, at least up until season three, a story of ambition and the American Dream.

I’ve forgotten what my American Dream is – or, quite frankly, I can’t make out if I ever had one. In Mad Men one thing surely that led to its success is that most everyone can relate to someone in the series – perhaps even more than one person. Peggy, the character who worked her way up from secretary to first female copywriter in the agency, who is awkward and an outsider, despite being successful for her gender and age at the time, is the one I can most relate to, in some ways. But her drive far surpasses my own. Maybe if I were a full-time creative I’d be equally ambitious. Maybe if I were born at another time, when writing copy for an ad meant coming up with the best content to fit in a 11×14 print, I could have found some other American Dream to pursue. Today, all I know is I feel entirely lost and ambition-less. I hate myself for it, for lacking that fighting instinct, for wanting to feel something, I don’t know, magical – that poof, here I am, I’ve made it, I’ve found where I’m meant to be. And the jarring, jagged edge of the reality that I’m no where near it, if it actually exists.

Maybe it’s just my millennial tendencies, my Achilles heal, the need to be credited for my work while ensuring that work is uniquely my own. I grew up at a time, in a community, where life was comfortable. Unlike my parents who grew up just on the cusp of poverty, I had everything, and thus sought to be different, to be – not a doctor or lawyer – but something – someone – outstanding and different. But ambition itself never painted itself clearly enough. I spent my life running blind towards a target I could not see or imagine.

I can’t say I’ve wasted my life because my bank account would disagree – but is this it? I should be grateful and thrilled to have the opportunity to thrive, I should shut up and keep my head down and fight to move up the corporate ladder because – that is what I should do. That is what young women in 2015 who were born without a trust fund do. We work and often our careers far outshine those of our significant others. Somehow we procreate and manage to keep a job that pays the bills of increasingly expensive households. We trap ourselves to never be free again, to be tied to the responsibilities of an overpriced life, or we settle for a life that is less comfortable than the one which we grew up in. Or we find a rich husband, perhaps, and likely watch our own Mad Men scenario play out and our marriages fall apart.

Perhaps this is all impossibly dramatic, but I can’t help but constantly returning to this fact that I feel so empty and lost. I have this great job, I am making more than I could have dreamed of 10 years ago, and I continue to save towards my lofty annual networth goals. Yet the only happiness I find in life is waking up cuddled up in my boyfriend’s arms. I imagine us together in some small town, far away from this expensive region, far away from our few friends, and even far away from family, and still there I’d have him, and our walks together and our crazy jokes and my horrible and likely offensive accents and his which are spot on, especially his british, scottish and slightly gay german.

But we do still need money. Of course we do. Life isn’t cheap, even if it can be cheaper. We’ve locked ourselves into another year of our rent, now $2400 a month for our 850 square foot one bedroom, cementing another year of who knows what life will bring, but at least I know where it will bring it. I foresee a summer floating in the pool, unemployed, not by choice, attempting yet again to figure out what it is in this entire world that might fulfill me, or how to shut my needy, whiny, self-absorbed self up long enough to grow up.

While my boyfriend was never ambitious, and doesn’t have an inkling of ambition in his blood, I believe I once was ambitious. I can still relate to the characters on Mad Men, I can taste the excitement of the opportunities ambition paired with a little bit of luck and the right timing can bring. I wonder how different I am from my peers – are they truly happy or they just doing what they fell into, just getting by. I struggle to find motivation purely for pay, which is ridiculous, but I know for me I’d be happier if I had a job which somehow intrinsically motivated me – and perhaps I ought to cool off the aggressive savings for a while. Ambition is useless if it doesn’t fulfill any of one’s needs beyond the basics of survival.

Earlier today I read an essay from the creator of Mad Men who didn’t manage to get his first job in television until he was 30. He received his masters in film from the prestigious USC, but couldn’t get his foot in the door. He eventually obtained a gig for $600 to help make a television pilot funnier, which he did well enough to get offered another job. Even then his script idea for Mad Men was turned down by virtually every television studio. But a few people believed in him enough to give him more work, and eventually AMC took a risk on the project. The point of the essay, which is a collection of stories from “mentors” that I must read, is that few who are successful are willing to share how hard it is to get where they are. Artists are especially ashamed of the “brushstrokes,” so to speak. But it takes time and a heck of a lot of grit to make it.

It’s not the fear of failure that is holding me back. It’s the fear of not living up to my own expectations of myself – as a creator. When you’re not the best shaped cog for a machine it doesn’t hurt quite as much in comparison to building a machine that is missing half of the parts.

Surrounded by a Smoke Cloud of Mainstream Bliss

What happens when I miss the 7:30 train by a second is I get stuck in the city until the next train at 8:40, at which time I begin an hour-and-fifteen or so minute ride to my stop and another 20 minute walk home. I usually miss the train by ten or more minutes, but arriving when the door is closing just plain sucks. In fact, if I didn’t have to tag my pass on to the train, I may have made it – the man at the door was going to let me through, but then I had to run back to tag my pass.

The good news is it’s quite beautiful outside. I’m sitting outside by AT&T park, waiting for the next train home. Apparently it’s a pre-game for the Giants against the Oakland A’s, so the atmosphere around here is quite festive. I Feel rather out of place in my work close all pissy about missing my train when there are hoards of happy folks headed to the game. When I see people who are that happy, I question when the last time I’ve actually been happy – in that sort of useful, blissful way. Sure, I’m happy with my boyfriend – happy in a safe and calm sort of way. But I haven’t really had fun in a while. I don’t remember the last time was when I had fun. Maybe my birthday last year but even then there was drama which kind of put a damper on the mood. You know, I just miss having fun.

My typical weekday amounts to crawling out of bed at 6am, reading through emails until I finally get up the motivation to hop in the shower, run out the door to catch the train – and somehow it’s already after eight at this point, sometimes nine – I’ve forgotten to eat breakfast but I manage to get a train for an hour or so to the city and I do more work as the scenery from the last 10 years of my life passes before my eyes out the window. I get into the city, walk the 30 minutes or so to the office, or if I’m lazy I take a bus which takes pretty much just as long. Then I get to the office, rather late, and try to focus on getting all the millions of things done that I have to get done and feel completely incapable of handling. When I can’t handle the stress anymore I find some food to stuff my face with in the kitchen. I figure it can’t be that bad since I haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch.

Sometimes… I take a walk outside in the afternoon with a colleague, which is a nice break. Then the time flies by, I stuff my face with more random food, and all the sudden the day is over before it feels like it even began. I head back to the train… 30 minutes walking or by car or bus, and hope to make the one I want to take, but rarely do. I sit around and wait for the next train. Eventually it comes – it takes a good hour-and-a-half to get home. I’m home, usually, by 10. I jump in bed ready to pass out and force my boyfriend to watch one episode of some television show with me on the computer which I normally fall asleep during. I wake up the next day to do it all over again.

Oh woe is me, right? I mean – I’m getting paid well for this life, this is the life I chose. It’s not slave labor. But I’m tired. I’m getting older and six months of this has taken a toll on me. I could move closer to work, but I’m not sure how much that would help. It’s not just the commute. It’s the career. It’s the chemistry of chemicals firing off in my brain. It’s the loss of whatever existed of a carefree childhood. When I see people so happy heading to a baseball came I wish I could be that happy about anything. I wish I remembered what pure happiness felt like. I wonder if I’ll ever feel it again.

Time After Time After Time

Our childhood is like the first lift of a roller coaster, the very first time you experience a thrill ride of this scale. It takes what seems like forever to get to the top. While it’s scary, you’re headed up the entire time, and while you can’t see much past the peak, the drop is inevitable and even desired, in a twisted sort of way. Adolescence is that brief moment in time when you’re at the top of the first peak, manically exhilarated by being at the top of this massive hill you’ve slowly trounched up — having absolutely nothing to do with your own momentum and everything to do with a lift in place before you even got there — and ready to the point of obsession to free fall into adulthood. And then, well, then you’re on the ride.

Up, down, down, up, upside down, and around, and around, life flies by and your stomach drops with every unexpected jolt. And then, the ride comes to a halt, slowing down briefly before pulling into the station, and you’re done.

It would be a lie for me to say I miss my childhood immensely, because I was miserable during my childhood and wanted more than anything to escape that first long lift hill and experience some kind of freedom. I was always intimately aware of the coming fall, so I didn’t have much patience for the tender slowness of youth. Let’s get on with it, I thought, let’s just jump to the spirited part of the ride instead of trudging along on this godforsaken lift.

And here I am – miss early 30s – miss life is melting away as I fling from side to side; trying to keep up with the pace of this coaster without being flung off, I do my darnedest to be good enough to maintain the pace. Today, my life is all about work. “Tomorrow,” maybe it will be all about my own “children.” Yet not until that brief pause before the end of the ride, if I’m lucky enough to have one, will it be about that slow, vaguely tormented experience of gluttonous time. The all-you-can-eat buffet of seconds ticking ever-so slowly around the clock. That’s over with. You’re an adult and you’re in free fall until the very end.

There is the good of it all as well – there is no limits beyond gravity, origin and capital to sourcing opportunity – there’s an infinite number of paths one can take at any given moment, none really right or wrong. There is the moments on the ride when, despite it’s chaotic forces shoving you around, you feel like you’re flying, and finally free. Those are the moments life is worth living for, it seems, yet they are fewer and farther in between. Who has time for moments when life keeps you busy with the details?

So, the depression of mine lingers on, this year taking the shape in the form of overwhelm – of acknowledgement that I am not suited for what it is that I do, yet also trying so desperately to succeed as in the pit of my stomach I know yet another failure would be futile. I make mistakes constantly, yet occasionally there is a sliver of success which buys me another day to sort out the variety of misgivings I may have in my career and daily production. But this polish does not buy much time at all. It is a never-ending race for quantifiable results, these small wins, to plug the holes in the eternally seeping bucket of success.

The true question here is – how long can I actually last before the next drop on this ride? Some of this is in my control, but not much of it, as I’m limited by IQ, focus, and resources, though mostly IQ. I can’t solve for my own incoherance or inability to communicate concepts. I can only work hard, get to work early and stay late, try to solve for that which I can effectively improve, and hire the best talent to understand all the many things I do not.

What I wonder, though, is if any speed of life would soothe me – if living in a sleepy rural town would bore me to tears yet being caught up in the urban vines of a metropolis brings me close to spontaneous self combustion, maybe there is no source of satisfaction beyond awareness and pushing forth down the path I’ve already forged, to see how long I can hang on to this crazy, uncomfortable, yet thrilling life.

 

Combating Perfectionism to Survive

My childhood was spent painting. I learned early on that mussing around too much with color on top of color eventually turned a beautiful painting brown, and the only way to fix this horror was to let it dry and paint over it again. If only I just stopped while I was a head – when it was “good enough” – and moved on. But I couldn’t, because stopping before it’s perfect in my mind was a relative impossibility.

Perfectionism is ironically the worst enemy of success. I oft forget how much of a perfectionist I am until someone else points it out. For example, the other day, a family member saw me working on details of a poster with a designer and said she would never spend that much time on such an item. The most successful people, I’ve learned, are not necessarily the ones who dot their i’s and cross their t’s, but the ones who quickly move from one thing to the next, covering the most ground.

Of course, that’s not the case for some fields – like medicine or physics – where anything less than perfection can result in failure. But in most aspects of life, perfection doesn’t actually matter. Let’s just ignore the fact that in most aspects of life it doesn’t even actually exist, for a moment. As a whole, most people aren’t going to notice if your colors or spacing is slightly off. Most people don’t notice quite as many details as I do on a daily basis to begin with.

Yet with my distracted, ADHD mind, I’ve yet to find a way to ensure that the important details do not slip without obsessing over the many that no one should care about. Even then, I find I somehow miss the big things that others will notice, while all the details that probably won’t get any mindshare in a person’s busy day are flawless. Clearly, I’m doing this all wrong. You know, existing.

The thing about perfectionism is that over the long term to accomplish anything near perfect you need repeatable processes to maintain such perfection, and then you need to, as in the words of the immortal Disney song, Let it the fuck Go. (Ok, I added two non-Disney words in there.)

But the reality is, I’m not saving lives with my job, I’m not saving the world. In the grande scheme of things what I’m doing doesn’t matter. As an INFP, I’m an idealist, and I pour 100% of myself into everything I do. It’s just my nature. And I have a lot of trouble detaching work from the rest of my life. The truth is, I’m as passionate about my work as I am any other aspect of my life, if not more so. Which is probably the problem to begin with.

That said, I’m the type of person who fades if the passion isn’t there, so I’d much rather be wholly passionate in each project, at least at the broader scale picture, than just getting through the day. How do I trick my mind into not caring so I can just get shit done? How do I make myself acknowledge that it doesn’t matter if the poster’s alignment is slightly off, but still catch that the word in the bottom left is misspelled?

This is my little dilemma. It sounds silly, but it’s the reason why I’m yet again struggling with my job. Deep down, I realize that my calling may have been a more creative field — cinematography, for instance — where such perfectionism, at least in terms of visuals and story flow, is actually a benefit to your success, vs business, where you’re expected to churn out results at an impossible speed, where “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) is what you always want to be aiming for. You’re never creating something you’re proud of then, you’re just constantly rushing to create whatever works to achieve your goal with the very least amount of effort. That, on it’s own, over time, is soul crushing.

But it’s just work, right? And it’s the big wins that should fuel you. At least in business, al the little things are done to accomplish a very measurable, tangible goal. What is your annual revenue? That is the result of a lot of people’s hard work and little, non-perfectionistic successes.

I haven’t had a good New Years resolution yet, but I think this year mine will be to Let it (the fuck) Go. Because, let’s face it, if I don’t I will be unemployed again soon, and more deeper in the rut of unemployment than I was before. On the other hand, I have a very real opportunity to do extremely well in my current role. I have maybe three months or less to make it or break it, which may feel like a marathon, but in the grande scheme of things is actually a sprint.