Tag Archives: life

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.

The Challenge Meter

Remember when life was all about getting good grades? When, generally speaking, there were right and wrong answers, and either you solved for X or you didn’t? Ah, how I failed to appreciate those days, dreaming of the time when I’d be free of solving right-or-wrong questions, trading this in for the freedom of creating in a world of no actual correct answers. I didn’t appreciate life back then at all. It seemed like it was all this trick leading up to reality. So I held my breath and waited.

But it’s become increasingly clear to me that I’m not cut out for certain aspects of adult life. I can try. I can fake it for a while. It is a fight every single day, every second of the day, to get just to passable, if I’m lucky. More often then not I’m failing to do even the most basic things right, I’m being belittled and disrespected, perhaps for good reason, by my superiors and peers, and ever little dig eats away at me until there’s no fight in me left. I’m weak and sensitive. That’s how I roll. I fall apart too easily. I’m lucky if I get through an entire day without a top-secret breakdown.

Boo hoo. I’m so fortune. I’m so grateful. I’m so tortured by wanting to do amazing work and somehow running into walls. My 20s were all about figuring out how to get jobs with a bigger paycheck. I lost sight of what I actually enjoyed and instead just chased wherever I could finagle my way into an opportunity. I learned that once the ball is rolling, as long as you keep your head up and eyes on the prize, there is always someone who will give you chance. It’s up to you to take it and run for as long and fast as you can, unless you explode, fall to bits, and wait for someone to pick up the pieces and shove you back together for the next go.

I hate being so weak. I’m most comfortable in any situation where I’m made fun of and shot down, because that’s all I know. And I can’t stand up for myself to anyone who is certain they are always right, especially when I’m never certain in any of my own suggestions. I’m yet again tempted to disappear as I am staring at this impossible mountain to climb where there is no possible path to success, only a few ridges along the way to precariously balance on before I fall over or just keep climbing.

How long can I hold on? I don’t know. I’m really starting to stop caring about money. I like money, sure, but I’m over buying shit. I’d love to be able to get to $1M before I simplify my life and move to bumblefuck the middle of nowhere and enjoying pseudo retirement (i.e. do work that is meaningful and low paid) – but what if I don’t, does that matter? In the grande scheme of things maybe happiness is just a small house with a backyard in some town no one has heard of, spending a long, slow-moving life with my love of choice, who I happen to have, thank the dear lord.

I’m fairly certain I can’t go on like this for much longer. Suicide doesn’t seem like a sensible option. But packing up and trading in someone else’s dream for defining one of my own may be a better bet, before I’m tumbling down a jagged cliff with nothing but jagged ice to catch my free fall.

 

The Seven Type of People in the World

When we grow up, we have dreams of what we want to become. Some kids want to be firefighters. Others, doctors. Some want to be school teachers. Me, I wanted to be a performer. In my family it seemed like the only respectable job someone could have in order to get a lot of praise and attention was to be on stage. Sure, being a doctor seemed like a great job if you were smart and boring, but entertainment was the world I longed for. I wanted to be the center of attention, to make people laugh, to be incredibly talented and to make friends just because I was a star.

Of course, childhood dreams rarely come to fruition, and clearly I’m not an American Idol or Broadway star. God knows I sing slightly off key, I have two left feet and my acting ability is better suited for a walk-on role in a community theater production than a blockbuster film. As I grew up I realized that I would never actually be a performer so I tried out the next best thing in my limited worldview – being involved behind the scenes, designing the sets and costumes of shows, but of course that wasn’t good enough since ultimately I wanted to be performing, not backstage. I tried out directing for size, which I enjoyed more because I liked being in charge, but ultimately I didn’t have the conviction or drive to become a great director. I gave up quickly and without much remorse.

What I wish I knew what I was younger is that there are really five types of jobs in the world and generally speaking you naturally fit into one bucket. The good news is that even if you can’t do the most famous job for the bucket, there are other careers out there which maybe aren’t as renowned or as well paid, but at least enable you to be who you are deep down. And each bucket holds value in our society.

The Creators: The creators are entrepreneurs, innovators on R&D teams, designers, (certain) engineers, inventors and dreamers. Creators like to make something out of nothing. They work at startups inventing a new product, or big companies developing the next new formula that will sell like hot cakes. Creators love the unknown. They thrive in environments where outcomes are uncertain but there is a constant opportunity to make something new, or at least a variation on what already exists. Creators may be a little offbeat in their thought process, but this is something that should be encouraged and nurtured. Creators are those who change the world.

The Fixers/Analyzers: The fixers are the people who like to take something that already exists and see where it can be improved or packaged better. They are business consultants, marketers, electricians, and average business people who have moved up through the ranks to middle management. They like things fairly constant and routine, but are good at finding inefficiencies and other errors and improving processes. They are just as interested in facts as they are “what’s possible.”

The Healers: The healers are the people who care a lot about others and want to help “heal” the world. They are psychologists, doctors, social workers, veterinarians, religious ministers, charity workers, and people who have a strong desire to help others. The healers do not care as much about money as they do making the world a better place. They work relentlessly to improve the lives around them.

The Protectors: The protectors are people who go out of their way to make sure that others are safe. These people generally work in law enforcement, firefighting, or even the military and FBI. These people have a strong sense of what is right and have a drive to ensure public safety or to protect others.

The Educators: The educators are similar to entertainers as they like to perform, but to perform in a classroom with the goal of imparting knowledge on others. They enjoy broadening minds and sharing information. While some educators are similar to creators in that they like to discover information and use it to create something new, they are unique in that the core of what drives them is in educating others about what is already known, not in creating something from scratch.

The Politicians: The politicians are driven by convincing others that their point is correct. They are lawyers, actual politicians and senior business executives. The politicians are like entertainers in that they are comfortable in front of a crowd, but their goal is always to prove a point. They get a rush out of debating and winning a debate. They are detail oriented and have a love of facts, as well as using facts in a way that supports their point. They are confident, sometimes overly so, and often have a strong sense of what they think is right. This sometimes is challenged by performing certain jobs designed for politicians, such as the law, since often legal jobs require one to argue a case or point they may not believe in. That said, most politicians care more about winning than being right.

The Entertainers: The entertainers are the people who help distract the fixers, the creators, the protectors, the politicans, the healers and the educators from the hum drum of their everyday lives. They provide momentary escape from all of the bullshit that life brings. They are Hollywood stars and comedians, but they are also magicians and princesses that perform at children’s birthday parties, clowns who crack jokes in the circus, DJs and musicians and wedding singers. The entertainers love being the center of attention, but they also love to help others break away from reality for a moment in order to either just have fun or to really reflect back on their own lives and become all the better for it.

Which one of the seven are you? Do you think your job today aligns with who you are?