How Long Can I (Should I) Keep This Job If They’ll Keep Me?

Four years ago, I joined a much smaller company in a role that didn’t have a job description. The total expected compensation was more than I had ever made and I threw myself head first into the excitement of the new opportunity. The energy at the company was great then. Some people were clearly not top performers, but everyone joked a lot together and got along. It wasn’t a well-oiled machine yet in my department, but it was getting there.

A few months later a number of those fun, joking people were shown the door and others who joked in the corporate-appropriate way were let in to take their seats. I managed to come in with the new wave, despite not fitting with the rest of the group, and I flailed through the following years putting out a few good projects and being pregnant, twice (my best projects of all), enabling me to somehow still be gainfully employed to this day, despite plenty of reasons for me not to be.

Covid turned everything upside down and I also owe my current employment to the pandemic. Being able to work remote, heads down, and hide my awkwardness much more efficiently helped a lot. So here I am. Just months away from achieving my initial goal of surviving through my first vesting cycle. It’s a huge win. My net worth growth in the past 4 years has been strong due both to my existing investments and my stock in this company that has proven itself a rocketship.

So now the question is — when do I leave? If I have that choice, anyway. My ego is tore up all sides of Sunday (is that a saying? If it’s not it should be) but maybe that’s fine. I’m not getting any raises or stock refreshes or promotions — EVER — at this company — but does that matter? So what if they’re showing me the door. I can say “see the door, not going to go through it yet, you’re going to have to shove me through it.” And maybe they won’t shove me. Maybe they don’t care enough to do so, especially if I’m getting my basic work done and not causing anyone harm.

Looking ahead to next year, assuming I manage to last at least through April 1, when I plan to likely be heading out that door… I can stick around another year and it would be pretty darn lucrative and probably a decent situation for me as long as I don’t have to go back to the office. Going back to the office is likely a requirement if I want to have any sort of career growth in this company but as I’ve already covered that’s not really possible anyway so the best I can do is focus on getting my projects done, communicating effectively, and hiding as much as possible.

What I don’t want to do is get fired. And it’s hard to not get fired when I’m this bitter. When I see where I thought I’d be and where I feel I have things to contribute being handed to my peer (who happens to be a friend now but still.) A peer who was supposed to report to me when I went out on maternity leave, who was hired to fill in for me when I was having a baby, then who went on to surpass me in so many ways. These things happen but it still hurts. It hurts that he is the go-to trusted ear for my former boss, who I respect a lot, and she prefers to have nothing to do with me these days. I get it, I understand it, but it sucks nonetheless.

My new-ish boss, well things are awkward with him. I’m sure they got more awkward the second he saw how much I’m making. It was weird going from peer to report knowing he likely was making – a lot – less and then having him see how much I was taking home just – well it didn’t really set up our new relationship for success. He hasn’t been an asshole about it but I’m sure he would fire me in heartbeat if I slip up. Luckily I have a few high visibility projects no one else wants that I’ve historically managed well so I keep doing that and maybe… I’m ok? As long as I want to be.

I’m committed to. seriously applying come February. If I can get a better job that pays >$250k with base >$200 I think I need to leave. But it’s all sorts of questionable if I can do that. I’ve had 5 quick rejections from roles I applied to last month, so it’s surely going to be an uphill battle to find anything that is a fit. I might be stuck anyway. So perhaps I ought to try to focus on liking this job and doing my best and all that.

I just wish this job had any legs. Where do I really go from here? Any comparable role requires technical skills I do not have, nor can I gain these technical skills without going back to school and spending a lot of time becoming an expert to be competitive at my level. I’ve been specifically kept out of the projects that actually make sense in the broader industry and am allowed to work on projects that are pretty company specific with no results other than surviving them. So it’s a challenge in building up a story for what’s next, without an opportunity to do anything worthwhile.

Maybe for even $260k that doesn’t matter. Or does it? I have no career. I have no future. All I have is the next two years. It’s not enough to retire on. I still need to figure out what’s next… and how I get there.

Here’s The Real Problem…

As I sit here at 4pm on post-Labor Day Tuesday trying  to get any work done while sitting in the office listening to my infant screaming down the hall while my 3 year old and grandpa are in the room next door loudly sounding out letters I feel defeated and then some. The house literally shakes with my son jumping up and down so even noise-cancelling headphones don’t block his enthusiasm for the alphabet song enough.

It’s clear I’m not good at the job I have, but it’s also clear that however not good I am at this job, I’m a thousand times more not good at it because I can’t think straight here. But can I think straight anywhere?

Am I just lazy? I don’t know. Something seems off with my mind. I can’t focus or do things consistently. Is it ADHD? Is it anxiety? Is it something else? I can’t calm my mind long enough to focus unless I have some big project due “tomorrow.”

The anxiety is at an all-time high. What was I thinking buying a house with a $7k a month mortgage? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Have grandpa live with us, I thought, and pay $2k so really we’re still spending about $3k on housing if you consider that we have $2k rent coming in and half of the mortgage goes to principal. It sounded good at the time.

Well, I hate living with grandpa. It could be a lot worse, and I’m so grateful/lucky/etc that grandpa watches my 3 year old all day while we work, but I can’t handle having him in my home always. Ok, so he goes to sleep at 4:30 each day. If I actually went to an office and came home at 6 it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I didn’t expect him to be so present on the weekends but I’m working to make the case that he stays in his apartment/room on the weekends so I can have a life with my family without my father in law. I haven’t successfully achieved that yet.

Meanwhile, grandpa is too present with my son. I want him to give my son some space but he’s constantly engaging with him. Even though I’ve asked him not to feed my son plain toast and instead to put something else on it like peanut butter he still is giving my son toast. My son is hard to feed so I understand but I feel like I’m failing my kids because they don’t have a qualified care person watching for them and I’m not doing enough to ensure they are being fed well or having time to explore on their own. I’m sure it’s not totally detrimental to his development (at least I’m buying whole wheat bread) but it’s still hard because as I sit trying to get my work done I feel like not only a failure of an employee but also a failure of a mother. And because I’m working from home I’m reminded of both every single second. I don’t get to be a mother – not the mother I want to be. I’m too busy trying to ensure I make enough to pay the mortgage for the next 29 years.

I don’t think I’d be happy if I stayed at home full time either. I don’t know what I want. But this is all not working and I feel like I’m going to explode. There’s no where to go for help either so I need to just accept it, hold my breath, and hope it all passes somehow. Like, hope 29 years passes and then I can be happy? That seems like a pretty shitty way to live life.

In the diagram of what’s “good” in one’s life, that circle one where you mark how solid your life is in different areas, from work to relationships to growth, I’m a about a 0 in all areas. Financially maybe a 1 or 2 of 5. The only really good thing in my life right now is my kids, as in, I love my kids, they’re great little crazy beings and it’s pretty dang cool that I made them and I love them so much I even want one more child. Because being a mom seems still like the right fit. Of all the titles I might call myself. However badly I feel I’m doing at it. I love being a mom.

But what else do I have? A marriage where my husband doesn’t even find me attractive anymore. A house that I can only afford if I manage to maintain employment in soul-sucking jobs for the remainder of my adult life? A body that feels like it’s falling apart, that I’m not spending enough/any time on nurturing outside of my semi-decent change in diet? A mind that is in pieces, that spends the day looking forward to 10pm when it can just turn off? Few friends and the friends I do have probably don’t like me very much for a variety of reasons. A bank account with some money in it but not enough to really have any sort of a stable life because living here is absolutely impossible? I mean, no wonder I’m a bit depressed, right?

I’d like to fix any of these areas but they all feel so overwhelming I don’t know where to start. It’s like — hey — maybe if I had a really solid marriage or if I had some great friendships or work was going well or I considered myself a good mom or I had religion (not that I want religion but still) or something — anything — in my life was going well I could point to that one thing and say ok, well, at least I have that thing going great. But what do I actually have? Is this the wrong question to be asking? Is the whole point of being an adult living for your kids, and no longer for yourself? I guess so?

I feel fucking lonely. And like there isn’t much to live for outside of being a mom, which is plenty enough, so I’m not going anywhere, but I’d like more than that. I’d like to feel passion for life again. It’s my own fault I’m stuck in this mess. Maybe if I just get the house in order and shut my mouth and wait for the good stuff to happen it will come. There’s too much that I’m buried under for anything good to happen. There’s only faking my way through and trying to survive another year until there are no more years left.

Trying to Find a New Life as the Fall Air Breaks Me Down

Fall. It’s the season I struggle most with. I seem to either slip into depression or mania around this time, depending on the year and life circumstance. There’s something about the air. It’s hollow and scratchy. Each breath in on inhale feels icy and empty and yet not filling enough so I open up my lungs to take more in, only to have it attack me subtly from the inside.

But this time, which definitely feels more like the end of one year and beginning of the next (Rosh Hashanah got it right) is one that brings about reflection. And in this self reflection I feel how another year has passed and part of me feels like I haven’t taken any steps closer to whatever satisfaction is and yet the reality is I’ve produced an entirely new person AND increased my net worth substantially since last September. So time feels short but it was certainly filled with a lot of existence and growth.

I want to get to this point financially where I can stop worrying about money so I can pursue something I would love to do. The trade off is always time, because I want time with my kids, and I’m afraid even if I had all the money in the world to go back to school and try something different. I certainly don’t trust my anxious ADHD mind to get through coursework in a way that would make the investment worthwhile. And yet – doing something I love where I have purpose is the feeling burning in my lungs today. It’s no longer a nice to have. It’s a must. Money also is, but what if — what if I could live a life where my income could pay the bills but where I no longer had to aggressively save? What if instead of spending money on things to make me happy I actually found what makes me happy is the work I do. Because Amazon Prime purchases, however much dopamine they fill me with when I punch open a new box that arrives in under 48 hours, are not really making me any happier than I was prior to purchasing them. They’re just adding to my misery, also known as the pile of toys and crap on my floor.

So.

I’m still not sure what the math is. But it seems at the end of this year it’s realistic for our net worth to be about $2M if calculated without 529 and home equity which I should probably start doing since that offers a realistic picture of how much income we can one day have when we start to spend it down.

Now, I may have to dip into this savings a bit to find my way in the right direction. School is not cheap. If that’s the route I need to go. But also I know myself and I’m not going to stop working for an extended period of time. I just want to be able do work that is fulfilling. And luckily the kind of work I want to do pays reasonably well enough that after a few years I could probably get back into earning enough to pay the bills. I’m not sure how much I’d have to cut into my savings, or if I could stomach that, but let’s say somehow I manage to not cut into it too much, or at all…

$2M in 30 years at 5% average gains is $8.4M. And while $8.4M in 30 years won’t equal what it equals today, it’s still a sizable amount for a retired couple of 67. With 3% inflation rate that money will equal about $3.4M in today’s dollars, still a sizable sum to retire with at 67. The NerdWallet inflation calculator says that it’s actually worth $4M today (guessing their inflation rate is a bit lower than 3%.) So, if we never invest another dime, we will have $3.4M-$4M if we retire at 67, as well as most of our children’s educations paid for (with $300k saved this year for 2 kids)

Yes, we still need to afford $10k-$14k a month in expenses for the next 30 years, which means earning at least $200k-$250k per year  (together) total to “Coast.” And we’ll probably still save a bit because once my kids graduate high school and go to college our expenses will drop within that 30 year period. If I change careers to something I love perhaps in those 30 years I can move up again and make decent money as well.

There are so many unknowns it’s hard to plan for the future or be willing to take any sort of risk, especially with how little I trust myself to follow through on things. But I also know I’m miserable now because I don’t feel a greater sense of purpose in life.

I’m also feeling a pull to freelance work and the flexibility it provides. I have no idea how to get enough (or any) freelance work to start with, but if I could actually pick up a handful of stable clients who pay me reasonably then – heck – I could go to school and maybe not lose too much money and pivot and figure out life.

So I’m trying really fucking hard to be optimistic. I’ve got to work on a few things, the work that has purpose, building a small network of friends because let’s be real this introvert is capable of socialization like once a month (and then realizes how much she likes it and is sad when it’s over), having more time to spend with my kids and be there for them as they grow up, maybe having one more kid (yea yea I’m crazy) and… I mean, I do, deep down, think things will all work out. Having the money there really helps with that inner sense of – you know what, thinks are actually going to be ok. And as much as this job grates at my weak ego, it has given me the greatest gift in life — the freedom to know things will probably be ok. Things will probably be more than ok. Even if my kids decide to join some crazy extracurricular that costs $10,000 a year. Or god forbid someone gets sick. Or my husband, who refused to get life insurance and now probably can’t get it, ends up god forbid dying before the mortgage is paid off and our kids are out of college. We have the cushion we need where as much as I worry, I don’t have to worry. Not about running out of money, anyway. I mean, I may have to sell the house and move to a LCOL area. But we would be fine.

I have to keep reminding myself that. And while it makes sense to hold on for the next few months in this job to ride out the year, hit $2M in non home equity/529 net worth, and start planning for what’s next, it isn’t worth staying in this job — or even this field — when I know I have so much more to offer. At the end of the day I know I feel good and proud when I’m part of creating something that adds value to other people’s lives. That can be pretty much anything — I’m not so particular. It has to be something new or improved that makes lives better. I want to build things. Fix things. And so, that’s where my heart is. Yea, I’m a mom. But I want to work too. I just want to do something that isn’t so soul draining. Where we all kind of roll our eyes at our work because none of us really believe in it anymore, we just do it to make it to the next vest and the one after that. I’m tired of the golden handcuffs. And ready to call the shots in my life. I just need to find the courage. And the focus.

The Path to Not Feeling Like a Mess is Not Necessarily a Lower-Earning Job

If I could be handed a job that makes $100k less than my current role where I knew I would be mentally well in the position, I would take in a heartbeat. But the reality is that no matter the pay of the job I struggle. In fact, roles that tend to pay more where I can focus more on strategy and less on execution are ones that I tend to feel overall better in (though I still have work on interpersonal skills and comms to get to a point where I can be successful in these roles.) And the reality is I can’t just get a job that pays less — those jobs are hyper competitive as well and will likely go to someone from a top school with less experience.

Early this morning I ran the numbers again regarding my potential earnings and when I can / should leave my current job. This as the head of my department sent out a shoutout to everyone who worked on a project that I oversaw as part of the pool of work that I theoretically own and while everyone including my boss (who hasn’t touched the project) was given a shout out, guess who was left off?

I’m just tired of having a job that doesn’t make sense. I want to have real ownership over something so it’s clear what success is. The only success metrics that exist for my role right now is if everyone else likes me or not. Apparently no one else likes me. Which I’d like to fix. But I would like some other metrics to be included in whether or not I deserve a “below expectations” or “meeting expectations” on my performance review.

What I do know is that I failed to come in to the org when I had the chance to build a scalable function properly. But I also was given a role that was multiple roles with no clear job description. I can’t believe that was FOUR YEARS AGO but somehow it looks like I’m making it to my final vest date. Even getting to the end of this month is a huge win as I get the third of four ESPP periods bought and the second to last RSU vest. There was a long time when getting through this September was my victory. The next final big income moments are icing on the cake — December for RSU, Feb for bonus (if I get a bonus), and March for final big ESPP and a much smaller RSU vest. December is maybe not “icing” as it’s an extra $139k (pre tax) give or take… which is more than my husband makes in a year… but after this month is over I’m looking at ~$300k income for 12 months that drops significantly the following year, which means finding a role that pays $250k more consistently might be an ok move. Or I interview for a long time and really wait until I find the right thing, but if the right thing happens to pop up sooner than expected I can leave and feel good about it.

For me what’s important is feeling like I’m appreciated. I know if one is appreciated financially then who cares about the rest. But to me appreciation means being given opportunities that make sense on a resume with clear ROI and objectives. Being trusted with the things that matter. Of course my projects are high visibility in many cases, but they aren’t seen as core to the business success. And I’m also being pushed further and further into a project management role where my creative and strategic insights aren’t needed anymore. And trust me, I’m the last person who should be project managing anything as a full time job.

I really can’t figure out if I should leave or stay. Staying means feeling like shit all the time because there is no room to grow and I’m in a role that is ill defined. Leaving means starting over and needing the energy to show extremely well for at least 6 months while still not getting enough sleep as a relatively new mom. I also struggle with wanting a job that’s remote for the flexibility (which has been wonderful) and knowing that I really am feeling disconnected from my peers and the inspiration that helps me do my best work by never seeing them in person. Not that most jobs are back in person yet anyway but I go back and forth between looking for a job that is always going to be remote vs one that when covid ends will be back in the office a few days a week.

And I really don’t even see how I can get another job so there’s that issue too. Who really wants to hire me anyway?

Our Path to 3 Million Dollars

The lack of sleep has been getting to me and my sanity, but I need to keep my head in the game and focus on the prize. While the FIRE goal remains $5M, I have accepted that once we hit $3M I can start slowing down — a bit — as at that point we’d be basically Coast FIRE and not need to save more en route to the $5M (and we’d probably still end up saving a bit.) Since this year has been quite interesting in terms of net worth growth, I want to lay out the path to $3M and how long it will take to get there…

Current: $2.25M

Cash: $35k
Stocks: $874k
Bonds: $26k
Retirement: $763k
529: $287k
Home Equity: $264k

Goal: $3M (+$750k) 

Cash: $60k (+$25k)
Stocks: $1.3M (+$430k)
Bonds: $30k (+4k)
Retirement: $1M (+$237k)
529: $326k (+$39k)
Home Equity: $294k (+$30k)

Growth Only (2 Years)

Cash: $35k of $60k goal
Stocks: $963k of $1.3M goal
Bonds: $30k of $30k goal
Retirement: $841k of $1M goal
529: $316k of $320k goal
Home Equity: N/A (+$30k Principal Payment)

Need Additional in 2 Years (Approx)

Cash: $25k
Stocks: $337k
Bonds: $0
Retirement: $159k
529: $4k
Home Equity: $30k

TOTAL SAVINGS REQUIRED: $555k

… Path to $555k Savings…

Sept – Dec 2021 (+$125k, remaining need $430k… still a lot!!)

Cash: +$25k
Stocks: +$55k
Bonds: +$0k
Retirement: +$19.5k
529: +$20k
Home Equity: +$6k

Jan – Mar 2022 (+$100k, need $330k to goal)

Cash: +$0k
Stocks: +$16k
Bonds: +$0k
Retirement: +$78k
529: +$0k
Home Equity: +$6k

TOTAL VALUE / GOAL APRIL 1 2022

Cash: $60k of $60k goal
Stocks: $1M of $1.3M goal
Bonds: $30k of $30k goal
Retirement: $939k of $1M goal
529: $326k of $326k goal
Home Equity: $276k of $326k goal

Or something like that…

Getting us to ~$2.6M net worth by April 1, 2022.

Still a long ways a way from $3M, but progress in the right direction. And that’s only 7 months away for a net worth increase of ~$350k.

So I guess the $3M goal will have to come next. Step one is to get to $2.6M. After hitting this target then the next major goal will be $3M. I do think hitting $3M will be significant. I guess that’s because in 10 years if we don’t touch that money and don’t save a dime more it will be worth close to $5M. Now, I should probably remove the home equity from the equation entirely, but I’m keeping it for now because it’s a significant part of our net worth and I still dream of selling our home and moving somewhere affordable where we can FIRE and live a good life and have time to travel and see my kids and stuff. So it’s included for now.

Excited to see what will happen in the next 7 months. Of course, the stock market can fall fast and hard and given how heavily we are invested in the markets we can hit $1.5M or worse in 7 months.

Will keep tracking here to see how close we can get to the $3M by April 1… which, incidentally, is when I want to look for a new job!

 

Fuck this ADHD Bipolar Depressed and Anxious Insane Asylum of My Mind

4:15. What did I accomplish today? Thinking. Thoughts. Many of them. I started writing a book. Well, a paragraph of it anyway. Over lunch. I did do a lot of work tasks this morning. I feel like I didn’t get anything substantial done yet though. Trying now. Clearly being productive since I’m writing this blog post right? Uh. I talked to two coaches. I think they’re both firing me. One did. Said I need a resume writer. Resume writers say I need a coach. Oh well. Keep on keeping on. So it goes.

Our net worth is up $75k in a month. According to the crazy spreadsheet I built that has 18 tabs and counting. Closed the month out at $2.23M. Why does that not feel–anything? Just a few years ago it was $600k. Every month of growth should feel monumental. But no. I’m just more lost than ever.

Listening to a Spotify playlist I created two years ago when I was manic. Not diagnosed manic but clearly I was off. Off on some runway taking off to the land of making a thousand horrible decisions. At least I was making decisions. I think. That’s a positive, right? I felt like I could actually be successful. Desirable. Useful. A somebody. Not an anybody. The playlist reminds me how different I am now to who I was then. Thank goodness, right?

Machinehead. That’s where my head was. That, and High and Dry and all that.

I have things to do. A thousand things to do. How can I focus? How can I take a big fucking task and break it down to smaller tasks that feel achievable and make progress on those tasks? I don’t know. I don’t know if I can. I am overwhelmed. Working at home doesn’t help. I love working from home in terms of being around my family and seeing them more than a few hours a night. But it isn’t good for focus at all. My walls are too textured. Fucking drop down texture. And horrible beige pink. My kids are screaming. I. Just. Can’t. Focus.

Not that I could focus at an office either.

How do I figure out how to be a normal adult? Clearly not happening. Right. So how do I figure out how to be consistent enough to do something productive in society that also pays the bills? I’m slipping again. I got things to get done. Things to do. But each step makes me anxious. Contact other people. Follow up with people. People. People. People. I want to just do. Make. Get shit done. In a bubble. I can’t exist amongst others. I guess. Is that true? I don’t know. Sometimes I can. When I’m in the right mood. But I’m not in the mood these days. I want to dig a hole and get a lot of shit done.

It doesn’t help that every 3 hours I need to feed a baby. I’m grateful to be able to actually breastfeed through the entire first year of his life, instead of having to stop twice a day to pump. This is how it’s supposed to be. Except I should be napping and stuff, not working this year. That’s how it’s biologically supposed to be. No wonder I feel batshit.

Meanwhile, at work, I have to project manage and think big picture and be creative and care but not care and make amazing things but also deal with being told my ideas aren’t good enough and someone else’s ideas are better even though they’re really not.

Another job won’t solve this. I need to get inside my head and change its fundamental chemistry.

Meanwhile, still feeling lonely. Lonely and misunderstood. On a floating island off in the sea slipping out so far I might as well be flicked off to outer space. You know? Maybe it’s the onset of mania. Is it? I don’t think so. Could be. It’s that time a year isn’t it? Fall. But it doesn’t feel like mania. I don’t feel like I can do anything, or be anyone. I feel like I can’t do a lot and I can be pretty much no one. I’m trying. To make senes of it all. Yet again. I want to reach out for help but I don’t know who can help me. So I just get through it. I think I’m ready for the downfall of myself again. I’ll ride it out. It’s easier to get a job when employed but maybe in this case it’s best to just do as much as I can until I’m let go. It’s different this time though because my boss is kind of my friend though not really. But it would be pretty shitty to be fired by him. I’d rather walk on my own. I can’t walk on my own since I need the unemployment and health insurance continual coverage should I get fired.

My husband has some health issues. I’m worried about him. Maybe they are serious. He refused to go to the doctor until things got real bad. Typical man. I’m terrified too. Of his health. Just as mine started to recover after the vaccine fucked with my system and gave me the worst headache for weeks and other stuff. I know it sounds like I’m crazy and that wasn’t real but trust me it was, I am just sensitive I guess. I’m better now. But my husband has other stuff going on. I joke we’re getting the most out of my health insurance but really two MRIs in one year for free is a pretty good deal, right? That’s why I need to keep my job too. My mind jumps to worst case scenarios always. But with him, I don’t know, some of the findings are very concerning. What will the MRI reveal? We’re at that age where shit happens to people. I mean, shit happens to people at any age but I feel like there’s this wave of shit that happens to people in their late 30s and early 40s. I’m scared, you know? I can’t even imagine losing him. I try not to let my mind go there. I mean, it’s probably nothing serious. I just have to wait and see. My MRI came back clean. His will too, right?

I’m trying to eat healthy. I haven’t got back into exercising yet which I know is so important because it makes me somewhat sane. I should go out running or something. I need something like that. I liked when I went to hip hop classes during my manic phase and then walked home and looked pictures of leaves cutting against the sky. I liked when my limbs expanded from my flesh not necessarily my shoulder or thigh sockets but across my body out to the world, you know, clutching at a layer in the world that cuts through it all to the visceral truth that brings us back to the moment we entered the world and felt it all. Seeking the eruption  of rebirth instead of our slow slippage to scheduled obsolescence.

And yet, as a mom, I have this whole other layer of existing for the sheer purpose of raising children who exist in the world in a healthier way than I ever will. If I can help it. To teach them that it’s ok to be sad sometimes, despite my 3 year old’s stance that he is always happy when he makes the case angrily with fists bound tightly that he is “not mad” and I better believe him or else all hell breaks loose and so I’m not really doing a good job of that anyway am I.

What am I doing a good job at? I don’t know. I’m just trying to exist these days. Add some value. Determine why my son’s youngest son’s hair appears to be red. Genetically speaking (who in my family had red hair???)

I like the intro to Letting the Cabbies Sleep. It is the kind of song I’d like to experience performed live. Concerts are overrated for their cost and how short they are but maybe I haven’t attended them intoxicated enough. I need some new music. Or old. The soundtrack for now. The moment of depression, if that’s what this is. Something to get me through it. Ride the wave so it doesn’t turn into a tsunami of self destruction. I’ve done it many times. I’ll do it again. Swim horizontal to shore until the ripe tide eventually stops pulling me under. Nemo this shit. Just keep swimming.

Stay or Go or Stay Then Go? Deconstructing the last 4 years.

It’s hard to look back at the last four years and feel good about much of it, other than managing to remain employed through some serious close calls to being fired (not to mention two pregnancies.) My ego gets the best of me time and again so it’s hard to fight through these last months to get the remaining shares of my main vesting period. But outside of the good compensation, there’s a whole lot of maybe not-so-ok experiences that happened to me in the last 4 years and I just want to hash it out because I’m hurting a lot and I want to make sense of it.

2017 I join the company with an offer from a senior exec who knew me from working together years ago. The role wasn’t defined clearly but he was also very excited to have me join the team. It was a much smaller company at the time. I didn’t negotiate my compensation, but felt it was fair. I was also coming off a pretty bad situation at another startup where I was running a department and didn’t know what I was doing so I lost my job and was having trouble finding another one. I was grateful for the opportunity.

I joined the team and there wasn’t clear direction. I was given a headcount but not enough budget to hire someone with experience. I didn’t want to hire anyone so I was waiting until the right person applied and I lost the headcount because it took too long to hire. I was able to hire a freelancer to help out but still because of the comp level that person was junior. She was good for being junior but still I was figuring out the role and then trying to manage a person who was junior and that wasn’t going well. Soon after joining I was leveled and reported to a new boss. I actually got along with her at first. She didn’t want to give me any guidance on what to do, so I continued to try to figure it out on my own. But I really didn’t know what to prioritize because there were no clear goals on the team. When I asked for goals to help determine what to do I was told that I should figure out what they are with people who then would not want to collaborate with me on this, they were very territorial over setting the goals and all the things that went with achieving them. Hard to explain without revealing too much about who I am but the main point was no one was willing to be collaborative and it made me look like the bad guy who wasn’t collaborative but I couldn’t get the information needed to do the work. Maybe I wasn’t leading enough or influencing enough but because my role wasn’t clearly defined it was really fucking hard to convince anyone to work with me properly.

Meanwhile, I was pregnant with my first child all through the first year of the job. I was given a whole bunch of random projects that didn’t make sense for one role and yet I delivered on them. Then when I came back after having my first child (and my father passing away and a long bout of depression) I really struggled. What was possible to fake it through before became like walking up a hill covered in sludge. While they gave me an acceptable performance review the year I was on maternity leave, the next year I fell on my face time and again. It was a mix of not sleeping, anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome, and still not understanding my role. Meanwhile as the company grew others were hired around me and they seemed to just fit the corporate culture better. They weren’t necessarily more talented or able, but they knew how to play the game. It was that year that I was put on a performance plan. I was devastated because I felt horrible about letting my boss down. But I was given six months to shape up or get out.

In those six months I managed to pull it together. Those six months were actually the early days of covid. And when I got pregnant with my second child. I didn’t tell my boss I was pregnant for a long time. I wanted to show her I could be a good employee without her feeling like she had to judge me lightly since I was pregnant. And I actually succeeded. Despite being exhausted in my first trimester, I managed to earn recognition for my work done in those first six months. Things were starting to look up.

But then I took on a project that seemed like a good idea. I created the plan, pitched it, and everyone seemed on board. It was going to require collaboration from the larger team. Well, once we set the plan and we were moving forward an important person was put on another project and said never mind we aren’t doing the full project, just a piece of it. I felt strongly about why we had decided to do the full project to add value to the business so I pushed on and took on more than I should have on my own. I wasn’t able to do it as good as it would have been with the support of others, but I still got something similar to the original concept done. The problem was I got it done a month late. Well, it wasn’t even month late, the date that I had given to finish my part of the project was a bit arbitrary. The whole project still launched at the deadline that was committed to the leadership team. Nonetheless, I was in major trouble over missing the deadline. I was told I’m not a leader, not a team player, etc, etc. My boss was so frustrated with me and I felt horrible.

But then we launched the project and everyone saw it as a success. Even now they refer to this project as an example of something we should do more of.

That wasn’t enough, clearly. At that point my boss had already decided to demote me and move me to a role that has a smaller scope.  While that sucked, it didn’t come with a pay decrease, and I thought the scope was more clear (that I own a certain function) so I was happy about that. My new boss, despite being a white man who thinks he knows everything, at least cared a bit about the actual tasks I would be doing and wanted to be more involved than my former boss who had given up on me. This was all during the end of this pregnancy as well, which ended up being high risk. I was a mess and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it but it really sucked.

When I came back to work this year my new role was clearly not as well defined as I thought it was. Others were doing what I thought was supposed to be my job and no one cared. I wasn’t actually owning the function at all. I was just going to work on one-off projects, pretty much only the one-off projects that no one else wanted and that would make no sense on a resume in applying for future roles. The actual good projects (in the area I supposedly owned) were being managed by other people on the team. And that hurt a lot. But I didn’t say anything because it wasn’t worth complaining at that point. Clearly they wanted me to leave.

In fact, when I went on maternity leave my former boss said she would join my performance review (with my new boss) since she was my manager the year before. But then she bailed on that meeting where I was given a 2/5 and no stock refresh or raise. While I wasn’t surprised about the low score due to missing the deadline, I also was hurt that she didn’t join this meeting. I finally got up the guts to ask her to meet to discuss the review and consider changing my score to a 3. She met with me and in so many words told me that she wasn’t kicking me out immediately but to look for another job soon. So that was that.

Meanwhile, the (single male) guy who took my former role (who happens to be a friend) is doing a good job but I’m not certain he’s doing a better job than I was doing. He tells me that he misses deadlines too. He was handed a lot of better organization already so he was able to move forward and make progress in a way I never was. Not to sell his talent short, he’s really good at his job. But so much of his success is tied to how well he speaks and how he just has this confidence that I’ll never have. And really I should have managed this guy (we hired him as my fill in when I went on maternity leave the first time) but I was never allowed to manage him so instead he now has my role. And as he’s my friend I’m happy for him but really I wonder did I suck so much at the job and is he that much better?

The reality is that I know how to manage budgets (he is self-admittedly horrible at that.) I took on some of his projects before he was promoted into the role because they should have been mine to lead in the first place and he was ignoring them and I thought they were important for the business. He didn’t care so I took over and I took on too much so that’s on me. But if I was actually set up for success in my role (where I was supposed to be leading the broader function) he would have been my employee and I would have had another employee to manage this area that was important and being ignored. That was a big mistake. But I just wanted to fix the things that mattered. Do meaningful work and add value.

I also hired a bunch of freelancers towards the end that he’s using now… if he didn’t have them I don’t think he would be able to successfully find freelancers to do the work. But I managed to get everything set up well for him to take over. So nice of me. Good thing he’s my friend. I’m rooting for him. But still, man, I feel like a sucker. And that sucks. Sucks to be a sucker.

And the kicker is that even though he was given my former role, he’s actually doing work that should be part of my new role. I’ve never had a clear job or clear objectives so there’s no real way to measure my success outside of if people like me or not (spoiler alert – they don’t.) It’s all sorts of a shit situation and I want to get out. But I also want to get out to somewhere I can start over and really go in and be a new person from the start.

I’m scared I won’t be able to find another job and I’ve started applying but I’m not getting any calls. It’s going to be a long and painful climb to get to my next position. It will probably pay less and who knows if it will be any better. I’d like to believe that a job with an actual job description and clear success criteria will be a little better.

I know I should stay until April. It’s not that far off. I hate the projects I’m working on now and part of me wants to leave before I get too into them and see how the team manages these assignments that no one else wants to do because they suck. I can’t complain really because they pay me a lot so of course I’ll do them. But I’m so over being assigned the work that no one else wants. And I hate it even more when the head of the team tells me I’m doing good work when it doesn’t matter, when I know my boss wants me out. And when I get invited to other meetings that aren’t related to my main role because now it feels like she’s just trying to motivate me enough so I might stay to finish the projects that no one else wants to do.

I know why she doesn’t like me as I’ve been the worst version of myself in this company. In meeting I get frustrated and interrupt people. Because the people who get ahead in this company are the ones who can sound like they know what they’re talking about and be “leaders” but often they are just better at talking and sounding confident. They don’t look at what makes our company different and our unique problems to solve but instead rattle off what other companies do things and seem to be caught up in being just like everyone else and that makes them so smart. Well maybe sometimes it makes sense to copy others but I love to look at problems and figure out how to fix them in a way that makes sense not just how everyone else is solving them in a generic way.

Every time I feel a tinge of frustration now I apply to another company. It doesn’t actually help since no one is calling me, but it feels good to send my resume out to the world. Unfortunately the last four years have done nothing to help me build a resume or make me a desirable candidate. This is why I’m stuck. I mean, maybe someone will hire me eventually. It seems to always happen when it feels like it won’t. When I’ve sent out thousands of resumes. Someone gets confused and thinks I’m a good person to hire. I’ve never gone more than 4 months without a job in the last 15 years. So I guess tenacity gets me hired. But each job seems to be more of a mess than the last one. Yes they may pay more, but I’m more and more suffocated.

I just want to do go good work. To solve problems. To do things in a logical way. To not have to put all of my energy into trying to be anyone but myself.

And at the end of the day I don’t have anyone to talk to about this, other than anonymous people on the internet. Because… my husband doesn’t get it. He knows I’m a hot mess and so it’s clearly my fault. Well, maybe it is. But what do I do about it? It’s my fault but it’s not getting any better. And then I feel depressed, like this deep, horrible depression that’s like a wire ripping through my gut every day because I feel guilty and like a total fuck up at the same time. But what total fuck up has managed to save $1.6M in 15 years? This one. This one right here.

So I can’t breathe again. I sometimes question at what point I call it quits for good. But I have kids now so I can’t make that choice. It just sucks to feel so alone in all of this. I try to tell myself I need to suck it up and just be better. Maybe I can be better. I don’t know. I don’t think I can be. I seem to have proven the hypothesis that I always end up sucking plenty of times over.

The Depth of this Sadness.

In all of the time and places of the world to live I’m certainly fortunate. I’m not a woman living in Afghanistan where my rights are suddenly taken away. I have freedom. I am grateful and guilty and all the things that come about living life as a modern white American woman.

Yet even with all of that good fortune, I’m still struggling. Life is passing by and I can’t keep up with it. I have two beautiful children. A house with a ridiculous mortgage. A husband who is, well, a great father and on occasion he laughs at my jokes. I have a job that pays well, even when my stock finishes vesting, I’m still likely to make at least $200k (*with bonus), which is a lot of money, even in a high cost of living area, as with my husband’s salary that gets us to $300k, which is very livable. About $12.5k a month after tax. Or $5.5k after mortgage. We won’t be living a luxury lifestyle on that but we’ll live just fine. If I keep this job. If I make $200k.

I’m tired. I feel disconnected from everything. My family is gathering on the east coast this weekend for a cousin’s wedding shower. I’m missing the wedding in two months as well. In life before kids and life before covid I would have been on a plane to anywhere to get me there somehow. I would never miss a family event like that. But times have changed. And I feel trapped. Like many other people. Yes we went on a road trip a few weeks ago and it seems we managed to not get covid so that was amazing (we went to Disneyland for a day!) But, I don’t know, this life doesn’t feel like my life anymore. And that’s ok, I guess, it’s my children’s life, which is acceptable, if I could give my children the life I want to give them, and the energy I want to give them, but I have no energy, I’m falling apart.

I dream of selling this house and moving to somewhere we can buy a house for $300k. I could pick up some remote consulting work and pay for healthcare and let my savings grow in investments over the years. I don’t know if I’d really be happy in that situation either…

I want to feel like I’m contributing to the world. Building something. Being useful. But I also don’t want to be so focused on my job that I’m not there for my family. And now because I don’t particularly care for my job I am ok trying to detach from it. But what if I loved my job? What if I wanted to give it all my energy? I have a hard time turning off. Being present. Existing in the now.

I remember my father working so hard his whole life. Was he happy? I don’t know. I can’t imagine so with how fat he was. But maybe he liked work, sometimes. He would fly to other business locations and pitch plans and I didn’t see him all that often during the week. My few memories of spending time with him are:

  • the time he tried to read me the first chapter of the first book of the Hardy Boys series, which wasn’t interesting to me at all besides my ADHD brain had no ability to focus on someone else reading me a story so he gave up
  • Playing War and Rummy with him, mostly War, when we did spend time together that was something we could do, when I was young
  • Building an erector set helicopter. I remember it hurt my fingers to build. It was cool when it was all hooked up and the propeller spun around
  • Occasional family picnics and family events. He’d talk to his family. Sometimes when I was very young he would be more active.
  • Long drives to holiday dinners. His fights with my mom in the front seat. Listening to his classical or 1950s music.
  • Him getting extremely angry at me when I couldn’t focus on math homework and understand the problems or what he taught me or remember any of it.
  • Him ripping his belt off and beating me because he’d come home and my mother would complain about how I didn’t pick up my room so then he would at some point call me into his bedroom and tell me to bend over the bed and he would hit me hard and I’d cry and refuse to apologize and then I’d go to my room and cry all night telling myself how horrible I am and how I don’t deserve to live and such.
  • He liked to grill, so sometimes he would do that, if family came over.

I don’t want to be my father. I’m clearly not my father. But who am I? I don’t know. I feel very much alone. More than ever. I don’t know what to do. My house is a disaster. I need to clean it. It always feels like 2 steps forward 3 steps behind. If only, if only, if only I could clean things up and get it all to a place where I can spend the little energy I have playing with my kids. But I want a new job. I want to leave this one. To what? I don’t know. What can I do? Even when I have energy I last 3-6 months and then fall apart. Now? I don’t know.

I want another child. Ok, ok, so after all that information it sounds like a horrible idea. But I’m trying to hold it together so my husband will let us try for another kid. He knows I don’t like my job and how depressed I am and he’s depressed too. I mean, he hasn’t changed jobs in over a decade and he still makes the same income with slight raises for his one freelance gig that he works part time. I wish he would see how miserable I am and at least work towards maybe earning a little more money so I could take a step back for a bit. I understand now why some women becomes stay at home mothers. I don’t know if I’d like that either. I like earning my own money. But I also… I feel like I’m saving for a time that is now and it’s too late and I just want the time right now.

I look up classes for my kids to do with them and most of the classes available for their age are during the week in the middle of the day when I have work. I signed up for a playgroup for my youngest son at 9:30 on Monday mornings because fuck it I’m working remote and I get my shit done and I’m just going to go. I need some social interaction with people outside my family. Not that I’ll make friends or anything but who knows. And my older son starts preschool next month and my husband is supposedly going to get involved with that since it’s a parent participation program and I don’t have any time to participate. Will see how that goes.

I know women who stay home often are sad about what their husbands expect from them as they’re expected to keep the house clean and take care of the kids and make amazing dinners and still be great in the bedroom and all but you know it’s even harder to be a breadwinning woman who doesn’t have a “wife” like that… it’s hard to be all these things and none of them all at the same time.

 

I Should Update My Blog: What Day Is It Again?

August 14. Also known, in my head, as 170 days before I can leave my current job and move onto the next one without making a major financial mistake. Or 24 weeks, give or take. That’s achievable. I think. I’m doing work, albeit overwhelmed by the work I’m doing. Nothing I’m doing is revolutionary or will get me a good performance review or pay raise this year, but that doesn’t matter since I’m leaving.

But where to? I’m just tired of being in the same situation again and again. Beyond exhausted. I have no experience. Have been working for over 15 years and yet no relevant experience to apply to other roles. I feel really sick about it. I know that I can take classes and such but that’s not really going to get me prepared for an actual position that requires 5+ years of specific experience. So while it’s nice to think I’m finally getting to the time when I can leave, it’s very not so nice to think about having nowhere to go.

Net worth wise I guess things are going ok. The stock market and particular stocks I’m invested in came down, so family-wise we’re hovering around 2.1M when I was hoping to be closer to 3M this year. It’s still possible we’ll get to 2.5M, for what that’s worth. I’d like to be at 2.5M before leaving this job. If stocks rebound it’s possible. Or I can be under 2M again. Oh well.

Just went on a family trip and spent too much money on hotels that were average or less than average and eating out too much. Now I’m focusing on eating healthy food and trying not to waste anything. Basic stuff, but things I’m bad at so if I can actually use all the food I buy that will be a major win (and good for the environment too.) I’m not that hungry today though…

I’m not sure when I should start applying for the new role. I was thinking I would go all in starting December. Bonus payout and 401k match happen the end of January, and if I start applying in December that means that it’s unlikely I’ll get a job offer and start my new role before Feb 1. I’m working on a few projects through April but by Feb 1 things should be in a decent place so I can leave. It’s not the best time to leave but also they clearly don’t want me to stay so why should I care about what is best for the company right now?

I’m trying to figure out how little I can make and still be able to afford life. Since I’ve earned at least $165k since 2016, it would be hard to earn less than that now (esp since lately I’ve been earning $300k+ with bonus and stock.) But I’m looking at the next few years as a transition period. Can I find a job that pays $150k that is lower level where I can get some experience and have a boss who can help me get relevant experience in a specific field, so I can move up appropriately? If I make $150k and have good benefits then I think that would be acceptable. I just don’t want to be underpaid for my work and experience level either. I don’t know. One company may see $150k as a lot of money and another may see it as the compensation for a relatively junior position. I do think $120k is probably more standard for the roles w/ 2-3 years of experience, which maybe is what I should be aiming for… though I don’t even really have relevant experience for those roles. And most won’t even interview me because they’ll think I want more money (I do) or that I won’t stay long if I can get a position that pays more (maybe true.)

So the big question is do I focus on getting a job that pays $150k (which is already $25k lower than my current base not even including bonus and stock) OR do I use my current experience to try to get a leadership role with comp closer to $250k. Will the $150k role actually be a better fit than the $250k role? Will the company see me as a junior/mid-level employee with potential vs a senior employee who sucks at leading? Maybe one day I can work up to leading but I don’t want to go there now. I think. I can’t focus on being a good mom and household manager and a leader right now. I’m bad enough at leadership as it is. So. $150k seems to be the number. I’d love to make $150k at a large company with good benefits and some kind of stock grant to make up for the difference a little bit. I don’t know if I can go under the $150k though, which limits my options a bit. I wonder if I should just delete half of my LinkedIn so people don’t know how old I am and make it look like I’m younger. People say I look young. But then can I really remove the year I graduated on my resume?

Eh.

I’m doing what I wanted to do. Surviving. But then what?

The Ups and Downs of Life En Route to 38.

It is strange living life with so much instability mentally.  When I was young I would tell myself that as misfit as I am, at least I knew I could be true to myself. That authenticity was so core to my identity that I never questioned if I was I was feeling or thinking was “real.” Or if it was something that would change over time. The very essence of who I am and what I care about, the impulses and objectives and all that… wasn’t that… who I am? 

Instead, over the years I’ve learned I’m a bit more complicated than that. I once cherished art and aesthetics. Now I think investment into such is meaningless, though appreciate any happiness or positive feeling that comes along with it. One example. But also my undiagnosed bipolar is not fun to accept. Not to embrace. But to rein in. To close out mistakes, despite that ink blotch dried into the fabric of life and not budging with any advanced cleaning technique. So there it is. But I don’t have to look at it. Though I do. To remember not to make any more stains. It’s important. Imperative, really.

Focusing on money is also tiring, but necessary. Eventually, I’ll be past that, I guess. When I have “enough.” Five million. So it seems. Then, I can move on from it. Have it, but not obsess over it. Though then I need a new obsession. Then my kids will be grown, probably. Unless I can get there before they hit puberty. That would be ideal. Taking my teenagers on world trips without worrying about my future. Knowing I can pay for my mother’s care in old age. All the things. I flew my sister out to visit because she doesn’t have any money and I like spending time with her (even though she constantly complains about it) and she’s the only family I have. Well, that’s $400 for a flight plus food while she’s here, and activities to keep her busy and not complaining that she would have rather used the days off to do something else. But she seemed happy to see her nephews.

Ink blotches messing with me though. So many I can ignore but had to go make a stain front and center. Why. Why let mania be so self destructive? All things considered, stain isn’t that bad, I guess. Just, embarrassing. So many other stains I just push aside. Never talk to people again, you know? A few words spilled make little difference if one can move on from the situation and try to learn from it. Except. Well, fuck. I was in such a bad place. Maybe it’s ok. I’m sick to my stomach and don’t remember the things I said. Just the gist of it. All the money in the world can’t fix that. Maybe it can fix me from any more stains in the future. Any more shouldn’t have said that or thought that. I’m sorry. Can I say that? Did I say that? Does it matter? Well. I am. And appreciative. For not saying any more. For words disappearing. For being so adult about everything. Damn mature. I’m learning. I’m old now. So I guess I need to learn. But it is chemical. I think. I don’t know.  I went crazy then. I held it together, mostly. It all could have been a lot worse. But still kicking myself. Feel like I ruined one of the best things I had. Even though I didn’t. Did I. Unclear. Just because of words. Words words words. So long ago now. What happens to time. Time happens to it.

There is an emptiness, though. Unrelatedly. It’s this hole etched in me. This longing for connection. In mania, it seems possibly to fill, like this electric current running through me. In depression, it’s just there, infinitely hollow. I just want someone to see me. That can’t be bought. I made a few people laugh this week so that felt good. My typical humor. Inappropriate. Unexpected. Sarcastic. I like that. For a moment there’s a connection. With anyone who gets it. I’d pay for a companion like that. That would be safe. Just pay someone to go to dinner or drinks or whatever and we would look into each other’s eyes and talk about things and there would be serious and not-so-serious moments and we would just be there, connecting. “We” isn’t actually any one person and it’s not a romantic thing it’s like friendship but up a notch I guess if that’s a thing, I don’t think it’s allowed to be a thing, but I’m hungry for that kind of connection, whatever it is, I don’t know what to call it. I feel lonely otherwise. Though that’s my own fault.

I’m not drinking much anymore anyway. The worst of me is drunk me. So I’ve stopped that. I drink, but slowly and deliberately and with awareness. A glass of wine or two. If I am feeling off mentally for the day I just won’t drink. Not one sip. It’s not worth it. I’m holding myself accountable for myself. I’m holding myself together. Barely. But if I can convince everyone else I’ve got it all superglued tight I guess that’s the best victory I can ask for.

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