Rethinking What I Want Out of Life

I always thought there were two choices in life — work your ass off and live a comfortable life (not luxurious by any means, but have enough to afford a house and a basic middle class lifestyle without a totally crazy commute), or opt to work less and/or do something meaningful (i.e. create art or help others.) Accepting my new truth—that you can work your ass off and not be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle–has led to a major reality wakeup call and revisiting the age-old question: what dafuck do I want out of life?

Now that I have a child, I definitely see things differently. For starters, I’m sitting at a cafe this Sunday morning writing a blog post on my own. Pre kid, I could take all Sunday enjoying solo time. Now, every minute I spend on my own that isn’t at work feels like I’m missing the little time with my son that I have to be a mom and bond with him. This morning, I’ll be at this cafe for under 2 hours, but I question the use of every second of my “free” time. I’m also primarily here to catch up on work that I didn’t finish during the week, especially one deck for an important meeting tomorrow.

I know I can figure out how to be more productive at work, plan better in advance, and mostly avoid these weekend work sessions. I can’t, at least in my current career/job, get hours during the week to go to the park with my son, or teach him things, or enjoy those lazy afternoons and cuddles and naps together. I come home from work at 6-7 and am exhausted. I hate the mom I am then. I try to engage but don’t have the energy. I count the minutes until my son’s 9 o’clock bedtime, when I can slip away to my room and mindlessly browse the internet until I fall asleep, and then wake up to do it all over again.

The money right now at least feels like it’s worth it. I’m making more than I ever thought I would in a single year, at least if I figure out how to keep this job. It’s not forever–I have two more years of stock vesting and then I’m back to a pretty good but not amazing salary. And that’s fine too. But I don’t see this lifestyle being worth it for anything under what I’m making now. And, at some point, if I could actually make what I’m making now ($400k-$500k a year–crazy, I know, esp for someone who never made more than $190k previously) I’ll have saved enough and I won’t HAVE to work as much anymore. But I won’t sustain this level of income. Even if I keep this job, I’ll be back to $200k a year–which isn’t BAD–but it isn’t enough to get me to early retirement. My company definitely doesn’t value my services enough to give me a major stock refresh (I mean, they’re on the verge of letting me go, so I’m not surprised.) But this impacts how much I’ll make in the future, and makes me wonder what I will do after these two years are over (or sooner, if I get fired from this job, which I’m hoping I can avoid!)

The stock market crash this week hasn’t phased me much, but seeing $100k or so disappear from my networth kinda felt like, oh well, that money isn’t real anyway. Nothing is real. I live in a one bedroom apartment and cannot afford a house. Well, I can afford a house if I can continue making $500k a year for the next 30 years. Which won’t happen. I mean, if I was actually good at my job and could move up to a VP-level role in the next 5 years, it’s realistic I could make $500k a year for the next 30 years. But I don’t want to be a VP, even if I could. I see how much work (time) goes into being successful at that level and don’t think it will ever be worth it.

I can do this until I’m 38. And I’m all in on trying to keep this job for 22 more months. I want to do this by delivering my projects on time and making all stakeholders happy and not overcommitting to anything. I don’t think I can do this because my creativity is not consistent and I go through long phases where I get stuck, especially without being able to collaborate with others (i.e. I have to come up with three directions for a video script right now and figure out how to present these in a clear way and I feel kind of lost, despite having 3 general ideas.) I don’t know how to do my job and my whole coaching plan centers on being more confident in my work and upleveling how I communicate my ideas to everyone (which means do not ask other people to collaborate until you have something polished to show that you believe in.) I just want to sit in a room and brainstorm with a small group instead of solving these problems on my own. But it’s hard to group write and that doesn’t really work either.

Anyway, I’m not going to be a VP. That’s pretty much the short of it. The short short of it is I’m walking a fine line between failing miserably and keeping my job longer than the length of this coaching plan. I am still unclear if the coaching plan is a “protect the company to document everything wrong I am doing” and a plan to actually help me succeed and learn how to be a better team player. The stress of wondering which is true makes it even harder to do good work. I wonder–should I be looking for another job? Am I missing the memo here? Does my boss think she’s being kind giving me a 5 month coaching plan so I have a lot of time to find a new role while I finish up some key projects and the departure is a win win for everyone? If that’s the case, I wish she would tell me. But of course, she can’t tell me that. So I’m left to wonder. And stress. And distract myself more from getting my work done. It’s not good.

The best I can do right now is forget about the coaching plan (other than the actually helpful guidance on how to be a better employee documented in it) and just do my best to do my best. That’s the best I can do. I’ve already missed a deadline, though, because I freaked out about not knowing how to solve for feedback on a video and feel like I’m spinning my wheels with the editor on it vs being able to give clear direction and wrap the project up.

I’m just frustrated. Not with work, but with myself. With my role and career. Because there are moments where I feel like I’m in my element, that I’m delivering good work. That I’m offering something to the company with my unique viewpoint and skills and abilities. But mostly I just feel like a total cluster. And everyone else sees that. I don’t know how I can, in the next four months of this coaching plan (and beyond) change that. I have some ideas how to fix parts of this, but I’m already perceived as a mess and it’s next to impossible to redeem myself.

The easy answer is get a new job and start over. But, there are many reasons to stay at my current company. I like the company. I like our product. Did I mention I’m making $500k a year? My boss is actually a wonderful, inspiring woman who I am, as Insta-influencers would say, #blessed to have as my supervisor (despite that she is kinda over my #hotmess nature), I like my coworkers, I think I still have a lot to offer to the company, and I don’t want to leave. I’ve said I’m not leaving by choice (in my brain, every. morning) and I mean it. They have to ask me to leave. I don’t want them to ask me to leave. But I don’t want to start over.

Amidst all of this, I am getting a new boss. A new boss who is basically being hired to do my job since I failed. It may be a good thing if new boss can help me learn how to do the things I need to do in order to succeed in this role, and give me a framework for how I can lead better in the future when I do take on a new job outside of the organization. Maybe this is a great thing! However, it’s just going to be another layer of politics, and I can’t imagine someone coming in will be happy to have me on their team. Typically I get a new boss and they throw me under the bus immediately to buy them more time to fail (last company new boss fired me then left the company eight months later!)

Well, that’s life right now. I’m trying to just take it one day at a time. I feel better knowing I have ~$1M in stocks (though also knowing that could drop 20-30% next year is kind of scary.) I’m putting all my RSU vesting straight into my downpayment account and hoping housing prices come down in the next year as well, so we can get a good price at least. And, I’m going to try to keep my job, somehow.

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13 thoughts on “Rethinking What I Want Out of Life”

  1. Your lack of self confidence, when you are crushing it compensation wise, is puzzling. They wouldn’t pay somebody even 200k that they didn’t feel very good about. I doubt your career is in peril at all. And generally it’s duck soup to go to a competitor at your level and make even more. I think you are over thinking and under valuing a brilliant talent, yourself.

    1. My base is 170. The stock I received just went up since I joined. 170 is still a lot but for this area it’s not super competitive. Just with bonus and stock right now I am “killing it” and/or overpaid, depending on who you ask! I don’t think I could get a job at a competitor (as it happens, we have no good competitors) but I could prob find another company with 170 base–just not $500k total comp! That isn’t real. I mean, it is real, but because I was lucky to pick a company that has increased in value so quickly. It’s unlikely I’ll find another company like that.

  2. Could you ask your current supervisor if the coaching plan is really a coaching plan or if you should be thinking about your options? Even if she doesn’t answer, you might be able to get some clues off her body language or choice of words.

    1. In my review, she mentioned that at the end of it, if I don’t hit the goals we’re going to have to talk about “options.” But she didn’t go as far as saying the plan is designed to fire me. It’s really hard to say.

  3. I just think you have a market value that’s higher than you see. You did not fool your current employer, they saw you as a bargain at 170k plus those substantial extras. There is a reason for that, it’s called talent. You’ve got it, I had it too, and I also brought in 400-500k due to extra perks, just like you. But I felt I deserved it, probably deserved more. I just think you do too. But you have to believe in yourself. And why not? Just look at you!

    1. Thanks. My coworker friend / mentor says the same thing about money – that you should always believe you are worth more than you are paid. The challenge is that I was hired for being a great individual contributor, but at this point in the company that’s not what is needed. I need to be a massive collaborator and get lots of buy in from many opinionated people who most often disagree with all of my ideas. I don’t think I can be successful at the company anymore. I’m not sure what I should leave because I want to stay and I want to do well here. I just don’t know how. Everyone seems to dislike that I think different. I’m told to own my ideas and have a strong point of view but when I do I’m still told I’m wrong. People literally ignore me in meetings. I know I can improve my presence but so many people have many preexisting notions about me, it feels like an uphill battle that I can’t win at this point. I can only hold on for dear life as long as possible.

  4. The whole world shutting down is really crazy. I’m thinking you might be glad that you didn’t buy a house at the market peak. Hope all is well.

    1. Yea. I just wrote a post about this. I think there’s going to be a good time to buy in the next year. The only challenge is if I’ll have a job. Right now my company is fairly stable compared to many others in the world, but that won’t last forever.

  5. Hey, I’m a reader of your blog just wondering how you’re doing these days since you live in California? Hope you and your family are safe!

    1. Thanks for asking. 🙂 I just wrote a post answering your question. I need to write on here more. I’ve been writing so much over on my public blog that I’ve neglected this one. Time for some new posts.

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