Did I mention I hate home ownership? Like, despise it. With a passion.

I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve put into our already painful overpriced plot of Bay Area land/house/box that we will live in, hopefully without major issues, for the next years of our lives.

It isn’t even the cost that’s getting to me. It’s that the more we spend, the more of a nightmare management of the home is. From too many decisions to make, to not feeling at all equipped to properly oversee contractors who are literally putting holes in our floors and walls, I am just over it. And there is still so much to do.

Yes yes yes I know this blog is filled with first world, still-have-a-job-during-the-horror-that-is-a-horribly-managed-global-pandemic problems. Sue me. I realize I’m fortunate. I’m blessed. Or, whatever. Yes. True. All of that. But, that doesn’t change the panicked feeling I have when I arrive at my house to check on something unrelated and the contractor’s subcontractor, who has already put in the beginning of plumbing work for the vanity, says “your vanity is 72″ right?” and I’m like… uh… no, 66″ — I confirmed that multiple times with the GC in our What’s App chat (btw, all the contractors like to tout using What’s App for communication, but this just means they can ignore you even more by saying “ok” to things you write in What’s App but then apparently not actually read them.

I’m not going to claim I’m an easy client. I’m particular. But for 25,000 I hope I get to be a little particular. Maybe that’s not enough money to merit particularness. In total we’re spending about 35k on the bathroom. I feel like that’s a lot. I mean, that’s the new car we’re not getting for a while. So. But I can’t be as hands on as I’d like because COVID and being pregnant and all. It’s already dangerous meeting my contractor while he’s in the bathroom and I’m in the hall. It’s stupid. I’m being stupid. After being so careful during the first half of my pregnancy, I’m risking my life over a bathroom.

But it kind of has to get done. It’s not there anymore. Well, the subfloor is there. And the studs. And some drywall they didn’t take down. I don’t know if they should have taken it all down. But it’s still there so. We need a bathroom. We need this bathroom to get done.

I still need to buy tile. It’s hard for me to visualize what things look like without seeing them done, and tile options are overwhelmingly limited yet awful. I don’t want too much grout, but large tile is not relaxing to me. Ok, so bathrooms are like, my thing. I like to relax in a nice tub. Get away from it all. As much as possible in a house with two little kids, a husband, and a father-in-law. So this is very important to to me. Maybe too important. But between how much I’m spending on it and wanting to feel GOOD about it on the other side of construction, I am freaking out about every detail and yet unable to properly manage this project.

That’s not to mention the nine thousand other things going on in the house right now that we’re trying to get done before we move in (spoiler alert, it’s not all getting done before we move in.) We decided we can’t justify paying another 3000 for January rent (plus I will be having a baby sometime in January and we want to be somewhat settled before that happens), so we made the call to move on Dec 21.  A month out from my due date. Baby could come sooner, but G-d willing, baby will keep cooking through the move.

Will I have functional electricity and plumbing? That’s another story.

We’re getting the panel replaced. It has taken a month and a half for my electrician to get an appointment with the electric company. So that’s happening in January after we move in. Hopefully that’s not a big deal. Seems like most of that work will be done outside. Jan 7 isn’t that far away.

The HVAC is getting done now. The crew seems to know what’s up. And in this case its all the new vents. And the furnace. Now in the attic. I hope they’re doing this all right. 20k. Including AC. We didn’t have AC. Remind me to never buy a Bay Area house without AC again? Pretty please and thank you. My husband, who I put in charge of researching cost of putting AC into a home without it, made a comment once that it would be under 10k if there was already ductwork in the home. He missed the whole part about if your ductwork is from 1966 and filled with asbestos and in your crawl space you’re going to want to put in new ductwork anyway and that will cost 20k. And require putting holes everywhere in your house. That will cost TBD but surely a few thousand to fill. Thanks husband. I don’t blame him – this shit is confusing and complicated as new homeowners, and I always expected things to be expensive, but it is just like … everything is expensive and complicated…

So there are holes in my floor? Who will fix them? How do I find a trusted floor repair service to do this? Many floor companies I’ve talked to apparently won’t do a job this small. The super sketch ones will. Do I go super sketch? Do I keep looking? I don’t know. There is a 3×3 hole in my hall closet into the crawl space. I mean, that’s kind of cool. who doesn’t want a 3×3 hole in their closet into the crawl space with no cover? It will be a show piece for the house cooling party that we’re throwing once we’ve all had two doses of COVID vaccines. Check out our new house — check out our new hole in the ground. Want to see the bathroom? Oh, well, look at those beautiful studs! Who needs a toilet when you can pee into the hole where the shower once was? Crawl space is amazing peeps.

I hired a gardener. I know nothing about plant life except it seems like it should be more green than not green. Gardener was hired because I had an emergency need to prep house for termite fumigation situation (apparently that’s a big deal) and someone who I knew through an old hobby responded to my post on Facebook in a random local group and said her husband can help. And he turned out to be a gardening service owner. And he gave me a quote for bi-weekly gardening service. 125 a month. Ok. But who does he hire to do the work? What do they actually get paid? I’m guessing these men doing the work are undocumented immigrants, which I’m not ok with, but I’m uncomfortable asking. And I’m worried about what they actually get paid. But it also seems most gardening services are owned by white dudes who have undocumented immigrants do the work. I don’t now. Maybe they are documented. How would I find out without making it uncomfortable to answer? I’m morally opposed both to hiring people who are undocumented and even mores morally opposed to paying some white dude 125 a month (which doesn’t even seem like that much) to pay people 10 an hour to do the work. Which, maybe they get more than that, but I would like to know. And I have too much social anxiety and panic to ask. But at least my horrifying field of doom grass has been cut. It looks like its dying. It’s winter. I guess that’s normal. Is that normal? The pepper bush is the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Trees seem ok. The gardeners cut a wire to the lights in the front of our house. Didn’t tell me. I asked and he said they did it, but they fixed it, or something. I don’t think its fixed. I want to fire them but I don’t have time and now it’s awkward because it’s the husband of someone I sort of know who I might meet again. And I don’t have time to find a new gardener yet. So for now, they are going to have to do.

I bought too many things for the bathroom. What does that mean? Let’s just say 3 giant vanities (same one, 3 colors) were delivered to my driveway from Home Depot. Poor husband nearly broke his back getting them inside. I wanted to see the colors in person. But in hindsight that was dumb. Ordered a blue, grey, and white one. Leaning towards white. Was always leaning towards white. Home Depot supposedly will pick up a return for free, but that didn’t go so well the other day when we scheduled a return and couldn’t be at the house all day for pick up. We still don’t know if anyone came to pick up the items. One thing is for sure, we’re not going to be able to lift it and get it back to the store ourselves. So we have to return about 5000 of merchandise within 30 days or its ours to keep. Uh. Ok, bad job me. Blame my husband for getting stuck on the idea of a blue vanity. I’m aiming to win him over with purple walls (we both like purple) so we can keep the vanity white, and make it easy to go natural when I decide I’ve had enough of this house and need to sell it in about 2 months.

Oh, some costly-but-happy things… My new washer and dryer is being delivered in a week. Woohoo. The current ones appear to be from 1966 and even my husband (who was very adamant about not replacing them as long as they work) made a comment that they seem to be useless. So, I splurged (because why not, I’m spending all my money anyway) on some nice GE front loaders. At the very least in this house o mess of mine, I can have clean clothes. I mean, if the new electric panel ever gets put in. And someone can confirm the current wiring in the laundry room won’t destroy the new washer and dryer. It might. I don’t understand electric other than our house was not wired correctly. Much is not grounded. Some outlets are. Circuits are not set up right. I don’t know. Is my house going to burn down the first time I do a load of wash in my new sparkly sapphire blue washer? Possibly. That’s one way to clean clothes.

We need a new garage door. The old one is not only manual, but it is mostly broken. I mean, you can bang at it for a few minutes and get it to open if you’re strong enough. We dream of an electric garage opener.

How was this house 1.65M again? Would I have done better buying a 2M house? Did we get screwed? I don’t know, Zillow seems to think it’s worth that. Is Zillow fucking with me? Did Zillow spend 30 minutes having a panic attack trying to open the garage door the other day? That has to knock the Zestimate down at least 100k right?

There is still a random “wine closet” broken refrigerator thing with a lock on it with no key in our garage that the sellers left for us. Thanks sellers. Um. We need to fix our doors as well. And I’m supposedly putting in a door frame for the open nook in my son’s room so there can be a closet there a well.

Did I mention I’m having a baby in T-43 days? And trying to NOT be stressed right now?

Yea, moving in the last month of my third trimester. Great idea peeps.

44 Days Left Until Baby 2; 14 Days Until Maternity Leave; -2 Days Since I Changed OBs and Fought My Diagnosis

Time this year is all sorts of wonk. I don’t know what’s up or down anymore, but I do know some medical events of the last week have been a bit of a wake up call for me that money isn’t everything and I need to take my health — physical AND mental – seriously.

When I got pregnant, I was aiming for a Feb baby. It’s silly but when you go on maternity leave (at least in my state) you get paid less than full salary (and lose out on some benefits) so it is extra frustrating to go out during a time period with a lot of paid holidays. The worst is going out over Christmas as my company gives a full week of paid time off then. The best time to be out, assuming 3-4 months out, is Feb-May. You still miss a few paid holidays, but it’s not that bad. And you also come back to work right before summer which is usually a bit slower and even if not people tend to be in better spirits and it’s not like returning at the start of the year when things are extra stressful.

But, alas, I got pregnant somehow on my first try, and I studied the calendar to determine that my 4 weeks of optional disability leave before my due date ran over the Christmas break week . But then I figured out the timing actually worked out where I could go out at Christmas and take the paid week off and then immediately go on disability.

For the record (and new readers) with my first kid I was stubborn and worked up until my due date. This may have contributed to having high blood pressure at the end, which led to an induction, which led to a bunch of other interventions which maybe is what led to my son having to spend 36 hours in the NICU. We aren’t certain what caused what, but it was a quite traumatic labor and when I set out to get pregnant again I told myself I won’t be stupid and I’ll go out on leave as early as I can even if it means losing some pay and other benefits.

Then came COVID. And work from home. And analyzing the losses of going out on leave early (a few thousand dollars.) And planning to work until my due date again. It felt odd to go out on disability early when I was literally working from my bed anyway. What would people think? I care too much about that, but mostly I care about losing my ESPP contributions when on disability leave, which are worth about $1000 pre tax a week after you remove the cost I put in to buy them. And the first week of disability is entirely unpaid, but that will happen no matter when I take it.

The thing is next year will either be so incredibly lucrative for me that losing a few thou won’t be noticed… or I will come back from having kid 2 and be such a mental case I can’t hold down my job for the year ahead and I’m fired by summer. Luckily I do still vest RSU when I am out, which is a godsend, so even with a summer axing I’ll be fine. It will be devastating given if I can just hold on one more year I will significantly shift my FIRE date sooner and I’m basically holding a lotto ticket for dear life as a train going a zillion miles is passing before my face… so… it’s hard to plan anything. I just need to plan the stay healthy.  That is the best I can do.

Speaking of do, I’m due in 44 days. Which is not a lot of days. Especially if you consider this week my (now former) doctor wanted to induce me in 20. Why? Well, let me tell you, maternal care is a mess because there just isn’t enough research and data to support serious recommendations. Some doctors are too conservative. Others, many, ignore women who have symptoms of serious complications until it’s too late. I have to say I’m glad my doctor errs towards conservative, but I was extremely frustrated by her too conservative recommendations based on data that in itself was faulty. Let me explain.

High blood pressure in pregnancy is no joke. Women die everyday from complications related to blood pressure rising out of no where. Babies die. Seeing high blood pressure readings should be taken seriously by doctors and patients alike.

But. One has to then consider how these readings are gathered and the accuracy of these readings before making a very serious diagnosis that impacts the course of your care — and your due date.

BP readings are notoriously inaccurate. That is why doctors often take 2-3, to determine if one read was influenced by how you were breathing or sitting or anything else. The diagnosis criteria for gestational hypertension is two reads of 140/90 at least 4 hours apart. In my case, at an in office appointment in Oct, my first read was 148/75. Scary. They took it again and it came down substantially. No one said anything to me like — oh, if you get one more high read like this we will induce you early. The only thing they said is that my second read was good, and not to worry about it. Ok.

Now, to get an accurate BP reading, I’ve since leaned (thanks internet) one is supposed to sit still in a chair for 5 minutes before the reading is taken. No where could I find how wearing a mask in an enclosed windowless space might impact the BP read of someone with a history of anxiety and claustrophobia, but I digress. I question the accuracy of that first read. If it was real, it’s quite scary. If it isn’t, well, it’s meaningless.

Fast forward 4 weeks. Due to covid my 32 week checkup is virtual. The nurse calls me and while on the phone with me has me take my BP at home. I’m not thinking while I do this… I walk quickly to the chair by the home machine after taking my weight, sit down with my back not supported, barely breathing, clenching my phone in my fist, muttering some comments as I begin to take the read. I wasn’t concerned as I had just taking it 3 times a few hours earlier and it was fine. So as I read the numbers… 142/90… out loud… I said to myself, that’s kind of high…

I asked if I could take it again. It came down. (Then later my husband, who purchased the machine, determined he could change his own BP read by 15 points based on the tightness of the cuff!)

But none of that mattered. The moment my OB got on the phone, she tells me she is diagnosing me with gestational hypertension and I will be induced at 37 weeks. What? I ask, shocked. I feel fine. I am pretty sure my home machine gave me an inaccurate read. As she explains he logic to me, the more frustrated I grow in her not requesting for me to come in to at least check the second read in office before scheduling an induction 3 weeks before my due date!!!

I requested an in office check and labs. She scheduled me for an NST and fluid scan that I agreed to and surprise surprise, every test I took came back clear. At the office, my BP was 127/70. While I may end up with high BP in this pregnancy and am higher risk for it due to being overweight and geriatric (pregnancy wise), there is no reason to induce at 37 weeks without two accurate high readings.

So I switched doctors. She agreed with me 100%. Said why take a second reading if you aren’t going to use it!

My first doc wanted to put me out on disability immediately. I politely declined. That would be 2 weeks of lower pay and a week I’d be out anyway with full pay lost entirely. And without time to properly transition, I would still be answering work emails and doing work-without getting paid for it. Instead, I decided to compromise. I’d go out on leave Jan 4 as initially planned. With work being super stressful and just sad lately, I have no desire to work a day longer at this point.

Regarding work, I understand why I was kicked out of my role, but the way it was and continues to be handled is one kick to the ego after another. My work friend, who will be promoted into the position I had (officially, once I go on mat leave) is good at what he does — but like most men is overconfident. That works for him at this company, because confidence and clarity are by far the most valuable leadership traits, whereas output matters little. It is good for him to have this opportunity — and as I told him if anyone else was stepping into this role I’d be pissed but I’m genuinely happy for him (I am) so it all works out. Sort of. I have a new role which is still stressful and ill defined, but it’s a bit less visible. I went from a position where I was seen as a strategic leader to one where i am more or less a project manager. Does it hurt? You bet. But I have an end date in mind and stock to collect and a baby to push out. I know my new boss won’t keep me forever. I’m hopeful I have a few months after I come back from maternity leave to find my footing before anyone considers asking me to pack my virtual boxes and get out. It seems this might be achievable.

And I may still have this baby early. In 2 weeks? In 2 days? Baby could decide to come early on its own. We officially move Dec 21 (as in hired movers are moving our stuff to our house then) so I’m hoping not before that. Or before Chanukah and Christmas. I would like to make it through the month with baby still cooking. That would be wonderful. Then come Jan any day can be a maybe baby day.

And then? Well, then I’ll be mom of 2 at 37. A homeowner. Not yet a minivan owner but that’s happening soon as well. I’ll be well on my way to 40 and maybe no more kids or maybe one more kid. I’ll be fully engaged in this next phase of my life – mid life, I guess – and trying to make sense of it. After my scary self-diagnosed bipolar manic episode in late 2019, I am hoping I’m now stable. I look at who I was those few months and feel so detached from that person. So embarrassed and ashamed of her. But maybe that was my last hurrah. Maybe that was my inner crazy child dying but not giving in to her mortality without putting up one last fight. I don’t know what it was. But I feel different now. Depressed, maybe. In a mellow way. I guess that’s what having nearly $2M in networth does to a person. I am spending too much these days but I feel a little bit more stable. If I am an just get through next year, just get to $2.5M by 1/1/2022 (or close to that), I can calm down a bit more. I want to be able to not worry about every dollar earned or not. To be able to take a job I’m good at — one where my work is valued as appreciated, vs considered acceptable largely due to pity. I need to find that job – that career. And it may not pay well. But I want to have enough saved where that doesn’t matter. Maybe I can make it happen. The next year will answer if I can. Or at least if I can try.

So I’m Having Another Baby in, Like, 6 to 9 Weeks.

Every once in a while I get a jolting alien kick from within, or a glance in the mirror at my humungous belly, that reminds me I’m quite pregnant at the moment. It’s easy to forget (well not that easy given how sore my butt is from the weight of carrying an adorable little parasite again.) In less than 10 weeks, my world is going to change. I’m going to have a baby, again. A baby! Only 2.5 years ago (not even) I had one of those. Now he’s curious, rambunctious, alphabet-addicted toddler who likes to draw on the walls when no one is looking.

How am I going to handle two of these? And why do I want another one? Haha.

I love being a mom. Truly. I didn’t know if I would. I know I’m not the perfect mom. But being a mom has changed me. Maybe I get sad a lot still, but when I see my son and his adorable little innocence and excitement around learning new things (“I wrote a W! Good job!” he exclaimed to himself the other day) how can I really be depressed? As long as my son (and future kid) have their health and safety, then I feel all the warmth in my heart to carry me through the dark times when my mind’s chemicals tell me I ought to exit stage left a bit early.

Nonetheless, I’m scared shitless of having another one. Every new baby is different. Last time I was a mess, with my long induction, son’s brief NICU stay, father dying a week after my son was born, inability to get my son to latch immediately and round-the-clock pumping, etc. And with all that, I actually got more sleep in that first two week period than I might get this time around. The NICU stay was terrifying, but it also meant that for the first 36 hours of my son’s life the nurses took care of him round the clock, and I got to dose off in the NICU chair as much as I needed. Then, when I went to my father’s funeral on the east coast a week later, for a few days I had a bed to myself and no baby crying (though I did pump on and off all night each day and managed to keep my supply up), and my husband had a series of wonderful friends and family come in to help him overnight so he could get some sleep too.

This time, we at least know what to expect (sort of ) but we’re on our own (sort of) and with another kid we have to keep alive. I know people do it (and do it with many more kids) but I’m still scared.

The worst of it is that because of COVID we’re in a bit of a pickle. My father-in-law will be living with us in his own space with his own entrance, but at 76 we cannot be near him for two weeks when coming home from the hospital as we’ll have to quarantine. My husband has told me that we can’t hire help either, because if we do that we’ll just have to continue to quarantine plus we’re risking more exposure to our newborn. So we’re on our own for two weeks for the. most part (it’s possible his father can occasionally watch our son from a distance in the backyard if we need a momentary break, but he can’t actually go near him.)

We’ll survive it, but it’s going to be really hard. And that’s IF everything goes well.

What if my new baby ends up in NICU again? For longer? What if something happens to me in delivery and I get stuck in the hospital and my family can’t visit? It’s quite scary right now. I knew going into this that COVID was not going away but this January and, knowing I’d be 37 when I deliver and wanting possibly a third kid, I made the choice to move forward to start trying to get pregnant anyway (it worked on the first try you guys… I did not expect that after basic fertility treatments for my first!) I thought maybe I’d be pregnant in a few months and I’d deliver in March, or April, or sometime in late spring/summer. I knew it was possible as with the beginning of the pandemic I began a daily walking route, started eating healthy, and dropped 8lbs in a month. My body was just ready, clearly. And on Mother’s Day I took at test and got my answer. Pregnant.

So here I am. Pregnant in a pandemic. Woohoo. Oh, I’m terrified. I’m also remodeling my bathroom. And going to showrooms during the weekdays wearing a mask and trying to social distance and hoping we don’t catch this thing. Cases are going up everywhere. My good friend who just had a baby got COVID a few weeks ago (in another state) and she ended up fine. I don’t know if I would. I’ve gained too much weight this pregnancy. I’m still about 25lbs down from my delivery weight from kid 1, but I wanted to gain max of 20lbs this time around and I’m double that now. I think it’s just a mix of my body craving carbs and the depression that kicks in around second trimester that makes me move towards a donut-only diet. Ok, I’m not that bad. But I have had a few too many donuts, despite telling myself that would not happen.

Anyway. Here’s to hoping that I–and no one in my family–will end up with COVID. That I’ll have a completely boring and uneventful labor, unlike last time, and have an opportunity to have my baby brought to me and put on my chest and left there to latch vs taken away in an instant because he’s not breathing. Here’s to hoping my mother, who lives in Florida, doesn’t catch a horrible case of COVID right when I’m due, as I seem to have this curse where family members die immediately after important events in my life (wedding — mom’s mother died three days later. Son’s birth — dad, a week later. Please, G_d, no death this time. Let’s make this one about life!)

A Bruised Ego and Preparing to Move On

I wasn’t a good fit for the role. Not in an environment where my boss wants someone who leads by being aggressive and confident to the point no one else’s ideas matter. I don’t want that job anyway. My idea of leadership is meeting with different team members, understanding their needs, solving their problems. Maybe I didn’t do that well either, but I will never be the kind of leader she wants so it makes perfect sense she has replaced me with my coworker.

Is my ego bruised? Of course. It’s painful to fail. It’s painful to look back and think — “If only I…” which in this case is pretty much if only I focused on not fixing things in the weeds and building an engine but instead just focused on producing high impact stuff that got noticed then maybe I would still have my job/title. I’d still be struggling, though. My best bet is to take my learnings here and apply them elsewhere. The timing is bad to do that though, and for all of the bruised ego and feeling like despite doing some good work this year no one has noticed or cared, I have to say I am ridiculously fortunate to be in a place where I am about to be able to step away from work for a few months, have a kid, reset, and come back to a new role that clearly isn’t my “forever role” but one that I can likely hold onto for the rest of the year — if I can manage being shot in the gut daily with reminders of both my failure and how my overly confident work friend is basically going to leverage the engine I built (and got no credit for) to be hugely successful. If he maybe would make an effort to recognize this publicly it would feel a bit better but he won’t. And I have to bite my tongue and smile and pretend I’m ok with how everything has been handled, which I’m clearly not, but what does it matter?

I wish I was in a position to succeed with the new role, but it’s already a mess. I realized I need to basically—at all times—focus on “the next 30 days.” That is, in a marathon, or war zone for that matter, you can’t think that far out. So I have 30 days to survive and then another 30. I can plan a bit for the future but primarily I need to be heads down for these mini sprint battles. I need to give them no reason whatsoever to say I didn’t achieve my commitments. I need to deliver quality work but more importantly I need to deliver work on time. As I watch my friend build his empire and try to not be too jealous. Because at the end of the day he deserves the opportunity to grow in his career and even if I held onto the role for dear life it was never going to be a fit for me. Neither is “this” job, but I think from a pure survival mindset “this” job allows me to get through the next year, put out some decent work, and prepare to move on. It’s really a blessing in disguise. I need to focus on gratitude and not all of the other shit. So my coworker is basically taking the woman I hired and the system I built to make his plans successful without giving me any credit (though he has told me as much.) Why do I care? Should I care?

What hurts most is going from being a strategic leader on my team to being kept out of all planning. I don’t understand why I can’t be involved at all. I mean, I do — my boss clearly doesn’t like my ideas and thinks I would overcomplicate things — but this whole transition is so horribly unprofessional and petty I can’t help but be hurt a little. I’m sure in her mind she’s thinking I’m damn lucky to still have a job (true) but things like how I still don’t have a new job title (hasn’t even been mentioned) while my coworker is clearly getting promoted into my current title doesn’t sit well. I’m planning to not ask and just keep my title on public channels for as long as possible. It will help immensely when looking for a new job.

Now, I know my long-time readers think that it’s probably all me… and a lot of it is… but I often end up with bosses who don’t jive with how I work. I respect my boss for her ability to function like a machine and get lots of power and not care about people or what makes sense much so she can focus on the business stuff that matters and will help her survive and continue to move up. She is a beast. And I say that in a good way. Really. But I don’t like working for people like her. I like working for people who are inspiring and collaborative and who want to work together to achieve common goals. I hope to find that in my next role. Whatever that is. Whenever that is.

There is a slightly but growing possibility that I may make pre tax 700-900k next year. Which is absolutely insane. Now, I know you are thinking holy hell shut up and do you work whatever they ask of you even if that means standing on your head in a vat of horse shit for hours at a time. And, hey, I’m with you. Before this job the most I made was 190. Which is nothing to shake a stick at salary wise, but I never dreamed I would make 700k+, let alone in one year. Even after tax it’s an impressive number.

Knowing I am making that, possibly, I understand the not-so-nice behavior of my colleagues, esp those in more senior roles who are likely looking at 2M+ in one year. We are all in the boat of tight golden handcuffs. The difference between everyone else and me is that I want out, so while part of me is sad I’m not looking at $700k+ total comp in perpetuity, another part of me is ridiculously grateful that after bonus season in 2022 I won’t have a strong compelling reason to stay. I figured at that point I need to find a job that has at least 250-300 total comp to be equal (and less the following year as I vest the last of my early grants) — still a lot, but at that point, if I’ve really saved 300k+ after tax and after expenses this year, I feel like it’s a good time to take a step back, make a little less, and find a job that isn’t destroying my sanity for once. If such a job exists. This company and (past) role on my resume will likely open a fuck ton of doors that weren’t available to me years ago. I’m lucky. I’m in a good spot. I need to be happy for my friend who is moving up in his career, happy that it worked out (as planned) that I am somewhat protected for a few months through maternity leave towards my final vest date (even though I could get caught up in a mass layoff and that may happen and would be sad), happy that my boss sees value in this one area I’ve done well in, where I can “live out my dying days” making stuff people will probably like enough to not immediately fire me.

So. Yeay. Woohoo. I did it. Or I’m close to doing it. I’m 60 days (or less) and counting to maternity leave. I’m remodeling a bathroom. I’m hoping I don’t get COVID in the hospital. I’m staring at our nation’s leadership in bewildered terror that our president is trying to kill democracy, and he has his followers convinced the election  was a sham while presenting absolutely no proof of fraud. There are a lot of big problems going on in the world right now. People out of work. People going hungry. All my little petty shit above is nothing compared to what’s going on right now. I’m in a little stressful bubble but boy does that bubble pay well—and I keep reminding myself even if I make it through just half of next year, my earnings will be substantial, and I can take some time off and figure out what’s next. As long as I make it to mat leave I’m in a really good place. If I make it to end of next year, a really, really good place.

As my blog title notes — money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy freedom. It’s so true. Life is short. I don’t want to spend life constantly worried about paying for the basics. I like working. I want to work. But I want to do work that is meaningful. That I am proud of. That I wake up in the morning excited about. I hope I can find that. I know all jobs and careers  have these issues. But this one, after 15 years in it, is clearly not the right fit, despite how shockingly lucrative it has become.

Needless to say, if I make it to the end of the next year, I owe you all a drink.

 

Reason #27482837 Why I Hate Being a Homeowner and Other First World Rich Person Problems

1.7M. You’d think after spending 1.7M on under 2000 square feet maybe you would own a property that doesn’t need a cent more spent on it for at least a few years. Oh, I knew we would have to pay for a gardener given my husband and I don’t have much of a green thumb — or time — to take care of our tiny park. And undoubtedly little things would come up here and there, or so I’ve been told. But I guess I was both naive and exhausted in the home buying process (as we all last few weeks of negotiating contracts for work to be done) and so here I am… 1.7M in and about 70k-100k of work in process, and that isn’t even getting us to the house of our dreams. Just a house we can live in.

I don’t fully blame our realtor for not calling these issues out, though in hindsight I wish I had a realtor who would help us really understand the costs of fixing some pretty basic things that I just missed. I should have been a more informed buyer. At the same time after shopping for over 2 years and looking in areas where 1300 sq ft goes for 1.8M+ I got jaded and desperate. I had a few target neighborhoods in a city I didn’t really want to live in, but I told myself (based on what friends and family members said) this is a starter home and I should focus on its potential, not its current state, as long as it was livable.

I still don’t know if I overpaid. The neighborhood is quite the mix of homes. Ours is on the higher end for sure. But we also have a but more property than other homes in the area. My brilliant thought was that more property gives us more room to grow in the future — for us, or to add value to the house, or both.

Well, I’m a homeowner now. No going back. I like the neighborhood for the most part. I kind of also jumped at the chance to buy something unreasonably far from my current job so it will be easier logically to move on in a year or two once I’m fully vested. Ie instead of buying the home 15 minutes from my current job, where it would be awfully hard to leave unless they kicked me out the door. So I bought this house, in a way, as a gift to myself of freedom, a ticket to whatever is next.
I may have made a mistake in buying this particular house, but I am not sure. I didn’t have to deal with a crazy bidding war—but the neighborhood we bought in has less of that going on for most of the houses, with the exception of a few high target areas. I wonder if the home was overpriced in the first place. Who knows. It doesn’t matter much as selling it at any point will cost at least 6% of the sales value, which is a giant number. So I would like to at least experience a little of the Bay Area magic where these pricy homes go up in value so fast that they cover those costs and them some when you sell. I’m not so optimistic about that—especially given how much we are putting into the house NOW.

Did I understand what ungrounded electric means, or how much it costs to fix it? No. Did I realize that the forced heating ducts would not work for a new AC system and to put in AC it would cost $20k vs $5k. No. Did I realize that to replace the ancient washer and dryer I would need not only a new circuit for $500 plus $300 for every outlet in the room, but I wouldn’t actually be able to permit it because the kitchen’s electric is such a mess if a city inspector gets near it they will make us rip the entire kitchen out to redo the wiring? Nope. Did I understand that getting a bathtub in the bathroom (instead of a shower) and redoing the old tile and fixtures would cost $35k? Well, I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but was in a bit of denial about how much it would cost.

Beyond costs (which I’ll itemize below), the whole process of finding contractors has been incredibly stressful. I’ve interviewed dozens for each job and at the end of the day am unsure if I picked the right ones. I backed out of one bathroom remodel contract at the last minute (the project manager was very aggressive and I felt that would maybe be bad when I needed to ask him anything during the project) and switched to a smaller firm where the owner is involved more in the day to day. Then, yesterday, I realized in the blur of contract signing I managed to negotiate for little details like the installation of two electric plates but did not read the payment terms at all. Since my husband is pretty much useless when it comes to anything money related it is on me to catch such things. And half asleep in my third trimester is not a good time for me to be signing $25k contracts. I realized, yesterday, that we agreed to paying for basically everything up front. I dumbly thought we would be protected by CA’s $1000 down law, but apparently they can require payment on the start of each piece of the project vs completion. In looking at other contract I almost signed, I see a much more reasonable payment schedule—all on completion of the items. Well, fuck me. I just hope this contractor does good work and doesn’t walk before it’s done. He has enough reviews online that at least it seems I have some leverage in being able to call out anything horrific in the partnership, but I still will be out 24k, minus the $1k I get to pay when everything is complete.

I’m also rushing for good reason but rushing is never good when it comes to being smart. I’m due with a baby in two months. Every month we don’t move in is costing an extra $2500 in rent, plus we are losing my FIL’s $2k towards the mortgage of $7k a month. So we are paying basically $10k a month to not live in the house right now. Well, $7k since we are living in the apartment, but still—what a waste (did I mention this post is about first world rich people problems?)

The bathroom situation is especially overwhelming right now. I still do not understand why half the contractors said it would take 1-2 months to get a permit at the moment, while mine managed to get it in a day. This seems highly suspect. At least there is a permit so that means things will have to pass inspection. Ok, good. I’m tired of all these times with unpermitted work. Yet my contract says nothing about having to pass inspection (the other from the firm I didn’t hire actually has a payment chunk due on inspection passing.) I feel woefully unprotected and dumb right now.

The good(ish) news is that if I can purchase in stock or readily available supplies (which limits our choices immensely), they supposedly can get the bathroom done in under 4 weeks. So my goal of having it done by or soon after Jan 1, when I hope to move in, is within reach. I’m torn on buying in stock whatever vs nicer finishings — the construction is so expensive that it is pretty clear I won’t be remodeling this bathroom again for many years if ever. I want it to both be really nice for resale value (my heart still says if I earn and save enough money in the next 5 years (and am not stuck in a great job nearby) I want to sell it and move to my target neighborhood) and nice for our forever home should this turn out to be that (which quite frankly is more likely as my husband and I aren’t fans of change.)

So every little material decision is a project in and of itself. Shower system? Maybe we like one in stock but a part is missing for the color we like. Tub? They all have bad reviews or some issue. Tile? Husband and I can’t agree on anything. Vanity? Don’t ask. Ok do. The vanity is probably the biggest headache of them all. Cheapo vanities in standard sizes are readily available, but will they help resale value? The bigger issue is the space we have for the vanity. I always assumed vanities should go against the wall. Well we have about 66” to fill in that case. My contractor says we can go up to 69”. There are no 66-69” custom vanities. We can buy a 60” freestanding vanity that is centered between the toilet and the wall—or replace with something similar to what is in there now (18” linen cabinet and 48” vanity — but these are hard to find non custom and the linen cabinet adds another big cost) or we do semi custom and get a modular (still cheapo yet expensive) system at 66” but have to pay an extra $1k+ for custom top to fit and installation. Also my contract says something about how our cabinet maker must do the installation (another miss on my part) and the cabinet makers seem to not do this or charge a lot for this service.

Nicer custom vanities will not only cost $5k+, they will take at least 8 weeks to arrive. So that means there is no way the bathroom will be done before baby comes. While I’m tempted to discuss this option with my contractor — getting all the work done and having the vanity installed later in spring with the plumbing work done then — I just feel like it would be a horrible idea to leave this unfinished with a new baby and have it’s lack of completion hanging over me the whole time. I think for my sanity better for it to be done with lower end materials than missing the vanity for the next few months and hoping my contractor will finish the job months after I’ve paid him most of the total amount.

So the goal is between now and end of day Tuesday, order EVERYTHING. Try to buy in stock items, and buy things that look nice enough but are low end enough that one day if we want to replace one item we can maybe do this without having to rip out the entire bathroom again (and save costs by hiring individual contractors vs a GC.) But I don’t trust people esp people who make $25k in 4 weeks and I don’t have the knowledge to properly inspect their work beyond aesthetic issues. What if things are installed wrong? Well I’ll only know after the fact. Then I pay someone else to fix them.

ah the joys of new home ownership paired with trying to not get fired while surviving the last 2 months of pregnancy with my second child.

I went into all of this accepting we would spend about $50k on the house up front. I thought this would be enough. It’s looking like it will all be closer to $100k. I sold a chunk of stock so I have the money but I also realize that 1. That money has lost out on significant gains in the market I will never get back and 2. We should have just sucked it up and bought a house that was 100-200k more that had all this shit done already and that could be paid off at 2.65% over 30 years. Now, if buying a gone, I would definitely be looking at the fixtures, the electric work, the status of the HVAC system (and not going by my husband’s comment that he thinks it will be $5k if there is existing ductwork.)

Here is how things are adding up:

-$35k – bathroom remodel (could be more)

-$10k – new electric panel and recessed lights throughout house (does not include rewiring, which we have decided to hold on and address with subsequent remodels)

-$20k new HVAC system and asbestos removal

– $2.5k kill termites

– $1k roof repairs

– $2k – washer and dryer set

-$1k – new wiring for laundry room

-$1k – misc, new locks, random heavy crap sellers left being hauled away

– $1k closet doors for kid’s room so they don’t smash their fingers on the built in unit (there is a closet indent but the sellers got rid of doors)

-$5k patching everything contractors do where holes are left, replacing flooring (hoping this doesn’t cost more than this!)

$5.5k – new garage door and wiring (replace manual door)

That’s it for now. I guess. We are still looking into re wiring since nothing is grounded and that seems bad. All the outlets are also upside down (who does that?) and I am probably going to soon spend $5-$10k to plant some trees in my backyard covering a not so great view, and add a playground for my kids. And there are other landscaping things I’d like to update so it is more sustainable and less expensive to manage. I found a gardener for $125 a month, so that’s a new forever cost. It’s important though since everything is dying!

I am sure I’m forgetting things above —but the grand total is about $83k right now… and I’m sure that we will find $17k in additional repairs and items to fix once we move in.

And, yes, I should have bought a house that cost $100k more! At this rate. And for all of this I get to move into a 100×100 square foot room since my FIL will be taking the master suite. Which I am ok with, but for the amount I’m spending on all this, I still feel kind of sad. I feel good about giving my kids a house, I can tell my son is excited to have a house as much as he understands of our move at this point (he likes to run around the house and calls it the house with green grass.) So that makes me warm and fuzzy inside. But not $1.7M + $100k I’m up front costs earn and fuzzy.

What this house really needs to make it “the” house is probably going to cost more than it will ever be worth. The sellers converted a full bedroom into a master bathroom that is designed in the way you would think a bunch of old people would design a master bath spa retreat (without permits, of course.) My dream is to bump out the house in the back (doable) and turn the master bath back into a bedroom (we want a 4br house) and then add a new master bath that is lovely and not quite so insane. It seems possible we could even add a small 5th bedroom in this addition, which may be helpful for resale / living with 2 kids and 2 parents with work from home jobs and possibly one more kid. And/or I’d like to add on in front and put in a nice living room, and redo the kitchen and laundry area and current living areas and open them up to make a super cozy family room. The reality is it really doesn’t make sense to do this work, probably ever. Our best bet is staying for 3-5 years, approaching this house as our starter home, hoping we at least make back what we paid for it when we sell, and being much more informed buyers when we look to purchase our true forever home.

I’m hopeful the work we are doing now adds value to the house. Given I think we probably overpaid it won’t help with sales price much in a few years but we should be able to get back what we paid as long as the housing market doesn’t tank (and if it does we can then afford to move to a nicer house for less anyway.) I worry about the master bath hurting resale value, and while I think my idea to convert that back into a bedroom and add master bath elsewhere with a small bump out is a good one, I realize that project will be another $100k or more and just a mess to do.

I just want to feel good about this purchase. But I don’t. It’s my own fault, but I feel like I’ve been had. The winners here are my realtor, the sellers, their realtor, my contractors, my neighbors (who benefit from high cost of sale of home for their own home values), the city (now getting taxes off a $1.7M value vs much less) and just about everyone but us. Ok, ok, so we have a house. A house to build memories in. A house to call home and never get kicked out of as long as we pay our mortgage and taxes and our subcontractors don’t sue us because I didn’t realize that’s a thing that can happen if you pay your primary contractor and they don’t pay their subs. Fucking fun times y’all.

I feel grateful and fortunate to be able to buy a Bay Area house in the first place. I realize it is a huge privilege to be at this point. But, geez, it really is a nightmare. It raises so many questions about if we made the right choice, if we should have just stayed renters forever, if we are going to spend the rest of our life house poor and fixing shit that keeps breaking vs just enjoying life —or if this is a smart decision that will be both fruitful in the stability it provides and maybe even grow in value in some sort of crazy way that makes it a reasonably decent investment (unlikely) or at worst a break-even luxury purchase.

All I know right now is I need to figure out what vanity to buy… and not stress about it to the point I go into pre term labor.

My New Buckets FIRE Retirement Strategy

This will be a short post — but just documenting as I figure out my family’s goals for Fat FIRE / Coast FIRE using a new buckets retirement strategy. I really like this model as it helps me understand how much money I need to earn and how much I need my existing savings to grow in order to live the life I want. Since these are “Fat FIRE” goals they are a bit aggressive, but I like aiming for aggressive goals. I know if I hit them, then I’ll be in a really good place. If I don’t, then we’ll still probably be ok!

I’m now including my husband’s savings in a total Fat FIRE goal–he’s note exactly on the Fat FIRE train, but he’s naturally frugal and has agreed to maxing out his solo 401k annually, so I’m looking at all our money together for our net worth goals. At the end of the day, it is “our” money since if either of us get sick and need care, our funds will go to that.

  • Goal 1: 7M in retirement accounts by age 65 (by 2048 – to last 35 years)
    • Current: 514,000 (est 2M in 28 years at 5% YoY)
    • Gap: 5M (1.3M in today’s value before returns)
    • (*at 10% YoY value is 7.4M and I don’t need to save a dime more today to hit goal!!!!)
  • Goal 2: 3M in taxable accounts by age 50 (by 2033 – to last 15 years)
    • Current: 757,076 (est 1.4M in 13 years at 5% YoY)
    • Gap: 1.6M (750k in today’s value before returns)
    • (*at 10% YoY value is 2.6M and I only need 125k more saved today to hit goal – riskier since 10% YoY over 13 years is shorter time horizon, but not impossible)
  • Goal 3: 150k per child 529 before they turn 3
    • Current Kid 1: 35k (Plan – superfund 75-150k next year)
    • Current Kid 2: 35k (Plan – superfund 75-150k next year)
    • Current (Future) Kid 3: 18k

Since I am unable to save more than allowed in tax-advantaged accounts for retirement, what is likely to happen in that some of my 7M retirement goal will be in taxable accounts once I save the 750k additional to hit 3M at age 50. And, of course, the above does not into consideration that my accounts may perform well about 5% YoY, especially with dividends reinvested! But for now, I think these are really good goals. Some may say they are crazy goals (do I really need that much) but at least they are clear goals I can aim for, to help guide spending choices over the coming years.

The above also does not include emergency fund, home equity (I would like to own house outright on top of the amounts above.)

I am doing this all pre tax because I’m too lazy to calculate it post tax and I think if I can get to 3M + 7M pre tax buckets I’m still in good shape!

What do you think? Is this strategy too aggressive?

Some Real Numbers and Planning a Real Career Change

I slept last night so had some rather clarifying revelations  this morning:

  1. I need some actual financial targets that are meaningful. They may be scary, but at least then I can actually feel like I’m making progress towards a real objective and financial security vs an arbitrary number.
  2. I need a career change. I know what I want to do. I’ve wanted to change into this career since I was 22. It will require a much lower salary for a while and some additional education… a master’s degree would be helpful but it’s also possible to get a certificate and spend time teaching myself. It means I need to plan for this as well to figure out how / when I can afford that pay cut and not mess with my retirement goal.

To start, and to make the career change palatable, I need to figure out that retirement goal number.

  • Set a retirement goal: My (family) goal is to have 10k per month (inflation adjusted) in after-tax retirement income at age 65 (assuming my house is paid off or I use proceeds from my house to buy another lower-cost home in cash.)
  • Determine 4% rule amount: how much do I need for withdrawals of my accounts at age 65 through age 100? So I’ve read you need 2.5M today to afford 100k/yr expenses in retirement. With inflation of 3% for 35 years, that is a total of 7M needed to retire (when I’m 65.)
  • Calculate my current totals:
    • IRA Pre-Tax: 523.9 (366.7 post tax)
    • IRA Post-Tax: 96.9
    • Total 2020: 463.6
    • Total 2055 @ 5% Returns = 2.5M
    • GAP: 4.5M
    • (I need about 1.3M today w/ 35 years to grow 5% / yr to hit goal if I never touch it) or about 836k in additional savings today in my retirement accounts

Now, do we really need 10k a month of retirement spending (in today’s dollars?) I don’t know. Maybe we could live on less. Assuming we want to retire in a HCOL area and travel and pay for my kids to travel with us and pass on some inheritance, I’d like to at least aim for that. I have 35 years to make it happen. If I can make it happen WITH a career change, that’s even better. If the career change will get in the way of that 7M at age 65 goal, then I just want to understand what that means for expectations when I retire. (*Note I’m not including social security because who knows if it will exist in 35 years.)

Right now, we can save about 100k per year in retirement accounts. Some of this is actually going to be Roth, but for the sake of simplicity I am going to count this as all pre-tax (70% of value) to figure out what we will have in retirement when. Once I change jobs, or if my husband gets a FT job, we may have less opportunity to invest in retirement accounts. (*Note, at the moment I’m not including my taxable accounts in this calculation — only retirement accounts. The taxable accounts do change the picture substantially, but the moment I am not counting those as they are basically my house payment put into the markets vs into paying off house.)

  • Calculate my future totals (2022):
    • IRA Pre-Tax: 723.9 (506.73 post tax)
    • IRA Post-Tax: 96.9
    • Total 2022: 603.6
    • Total 2055 @ 5% Returns = 3M
    • GAP: 4M

I need to spend some more time with these numbers because right now, even with the ability to put 100k to retirement accounts for the next 2 years (which is also unlikely as I’m probably going to change jobs in early 2022 and/or go to school so will have a gap in savings) then I don’t see how we’re going to hit the 7M goal at 5% per year return.

The picture looks very different if we can secure 8% YoY return with dividends reinvested as well. With 603k invested at 8% YoY for 33 years (assuming after 2022 we don’t invest a dollar more in retirement) we would have 7.6M(!!!) when we retire (and it would be more because a chunk of that is pre-tax.)

This tells me that it’s very important to hit goal of having 603k in my total retirement accounts by 2022. It also tells me I need to then hire a good CFP/CPA to figure out a strategy for future investments and conversions–because too much of my retirement money is tied up in pre-tax. I want to work it out where if I go to get a master’s degree for 2 years I can do some conversions then (when we have very low income) so that at the end of the day we actually are cancelling out the loss of income through low-tax conversions.

That said, I do want a third kid, so chances are I will be working in my same career (although a different company) through the birth of my third child and at least the first year of their life. Then school? I don’t know. That’s going to be a while. But it also means the opportunity to continue to contribute to my retirement accounts. Phew, this is looking a bit better if 8% is realistic (is it?)

  • 2020/36: 436k
  • 2021/37: 506k (baby 2)
  • 2022/38: 603.5k
  • 2023/39: 633k (baby 3)
  • 2024/40: 660k

At 40 or before, I do a major career change and feel like I’m in a good place for retirement, right? Or not. 660k with 25 years left to retirement is just 4.5M in retirement. I guess that’s because I’m not including actual gains on the account over five years, only contributions. The initial 436k should gain 200k at 8k. Which would put me at 880k at age 40 (including total family contributions) which still only gets me to 6M at age 65. Ugh I wish I was better at math! Well, 6M at 65 sounds pretty good too, considering I’m not counting social security or any of my taxable savings, which should also be substantial at that point. I feel pretty ok with the plan above, assuming growth to 880k of these accounts (or something like that) by the time I turn 40.

Since I’m going that post tax, let’s say I need 1M in my retirement accounts before I feel like I’m “safe” for retirement (i.e. money I’m not going to touch until I’m 65) and then I’m in a really good place for a career change. Or I pull the plug earlier, but I do think getting through my third and last child while having good insurance and a stable career (if you can call my career stable lol) is a lot smarter than switching now. That doesn’t mean I have to wait until then to take a class or two or prep for my career change. It just means I have a real goal to save for retirement. Once I get to that safety net in my retirement accounts — aiming for 6M-7M when I’m 65 without adding another dollar to my retirement accounts — then I’ll feel a lot better. Then all I need to do is be able to afford my expenses between “now” and age 65. I can do that with my taxable investments/savings and income. My family’s lifestyle will be dependent on my ability to move up in my new field as well as gains on my taxable investments (which are 757k today and should be about 1M by the end of next year if I can hang on to this job for dear life and the stock market doesn’t crash. Knock on all the wood.)

Perhaps I should splurge and buy a new computer with a functional “4” key (yes this is why I am not using the dollar sign in any of my posts… I have “4” as my clipboard paste item but I can’t have that and the dollar sign. I should probably reprogram some key I don’t use to the the “4” — or I should buy a new computer? Hah.

Ok, this makes me feel a little better. I do want to figure out the “37-65” annual income vs living off savings and where I can dip into savings for a career change without having to take a major lifestyle cut. And I like to spend money, so I’d like to be able spend as well… especially on fixing up my house (a major addition, at some point, or moving to a nicer place in an area I want to live) and travel while paying for my sister to come with us. And helping my mom out when she runs out of money because she probably will.

In any case, once I have enough in “retirement” accounts I’m just going to feel a lot better. I have to catch up since I didn’t have access to a 401k in my 20s and my husband started his retirement contributions in his 30s as well.

Shorter term, since 2022 seems SO far away, here are some realistic goals for the end of next year:

Calculate my future totals (2021 End):

    • IRA Pre-Tax: 623.9 (436k post tax) + 5% = 654k
    • IRA Post-Tax: 96.9 = 101.7k
    • Total 2021 (Pre Tax): ~750k

Total End 2021 Goals:

    • Home Debt: -900k (300k equity + 1.2M loan)
    • Taxable Accounts: 1M
    • 529 Kid 1 = 75k
    • 529 Kid 2 = 75k
    • 529 future Kid 3 (my account) = 50k
    • Retirement (Mostly Pre Tax) = 750k

Actual Earnings 2021 Goals:

    • Income: 250,000
    • Vested Stock (Sold Pre Tax Value): 500k
    • Other Benefits: 30k (ESPP growth), 4k (401k match)
    • Total Income: 784k (very approx)

This would be an incredibly positive total income next year and end to 2021. That’s only 13 months away. It’s going to be a crazy 13 months with a lot in the air. If I can get the above set by end of 2021 (leading into getting pregnant with my third kid) I think I’ll be in good shape.

I need to do a better job of running these numbers. If I can hit the above goals, I’m going to hire a good CFP to help me figure out my strategy for the years ahead.

Will I Ever Be Good at Anything

Rough day. Husband is (rightfully) mad at me because I took a work call in our bedroom which is also his office which is also where he is currently running a massive virtual conference and apparently my voice picked up on the recording so everyone could hear me. So he is pissed. I should have done my call from the kitchen but my son was screaming in the background and I hate taking video calls from the bathroom in case the virtual background fades out at any point. I should have asked my mother in law to watch my son today but I had a bunch of meetings that popped up in the morning and I didn’t want to drive my son the 30 minutes to her house. I thought I could handle it. I couldn’t.

The juxtaposition between he feeling of seeing my total annual income to date in my paycheck account to the feeling of utter worthlessness is jarring. This time of year is always hard for me. I don’t do well with the way the air smells. My sore lungs and sheer exhaustion. I’m trying to hold on at work to just not get fired before I go on maternity leave. I’m trying and failing to stop caring about my demotion, my billionth reality check of being not smart enough or personable enough to thrive in a professional environment. I’m trying to manage contractors for the new house and have no idea what I’m doing or if I’m making wise decisions. Every decision to me is like having a tooth pulled without Novocain. And I’m 30 weeks pregnant.

My apartment is a mess. I don’t want to live like this. I tell myself when we move to the new house I’ll somehow keep things organized. I will keep the kitchen floor free of crumbs. I’ll cook healthy food so my toddler doesn’t eat crap all day. I will simply and figure it all out.

Yea, right. I’m hopeless. I can’t hire help right now because of COVID risk. Even last time when I had a baby I hired 6 months of monthly home cleaning services. Husband won’t allow that now. It’s good I’ll save money but I don’t know how to keep things from falling apart. I’m falling apart.

I really wish I wasn’t such a train wreck of a human. I mean, for being such a train wreck I’ve at least managed to save a decent amount so my family is in an ok position. Not a perfect one. But I’ve fought for this financial security. I’ll keep fighting. I am just tired of messing up constantly. Of not fitting in. Of trying to fake it but clearly failing over and over and over and over again. It’s so tiring. At least earning money and increasing my net worth makes me feel like I add some value to the world. I have a reason for existing that is positive that negates some my destructive behavior. It doesn’t feel like much. But it’s something.

I like being a mom. I wish I was better at it. That I had more energy to play with my son. I worry about the moment he realizes what crying means and he notices how sad I am. I want to hide that from him, but it’s hard to hide how lost I am. I just have to hold on and hold it all in.

The only thing I can think is that my best path forward, which I’ve been trying to do, is to disappear as much as possible. It seems things go best when I try to function as a robot and not  as a person who is overly sensitive and incapable of existing in the world. It takes so much energy to do that, if I just minimize myself it works sometime. I make a routine that is very strict and follow it. Like now on Saturday mornings I tend to clean up my son’s room and the kitchen. I need more steps like that. At home and at work. If I can just give up on this idea that I can ever be happy or proud of my work and instead really switch my mindset to focus on being liked and getting things done and having no personality I can probably be in a much better place. This really is the ultimate solution. I waste so much time lost inside my fears and anxieties and it doesn’t seem to help at all. I need to let go of chasing anything and just let it happen while not letting things fall into chaos.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I’m really overwhelmed right now and it doesn’t help that I’m a horrible wife, mother, employee, everything. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Maybe I can change. I don’t know how to. I feel sorry for my husband. Sorry for my bosses who have to put up with me and eventually fire me. Anyone who expects anything out of me.

I’m tired. So fucking tired.

What Comes Next? Vesting and Career Investing

It’s funny. I filled out my performance review this year and in tabulating all of my contributions since last January, including ones that arguably delivered (significant) quantifiable ROI, I feel jolted into a sense of satisfaction meets unease—pride paired perfectly with the PTSD of being constantly reminded by my boss that I am not a leader, that I’m bad at running meetings, and that people generally don’t like me.

The reality is we are both right. I have a long way to go to be able to take the quality of my work and have a presence to match. And maybe I made a bunch of poor strategic choices this past year, but it’s hard to say when the only objectives my boss set for me was to hit deadlines (I was doing ok at this until one big project slipped) and make people like me (well, I don’t think I made major inroads in becoming queen popular this year while holed up inside my bedroom working in my PJs—though non interaction seemed to solve for this over a chunk of the year when people probably forgot I existed until I put out some decent work.

My issue 100% is consistency—which in a creative role is a massive challenge for me. The end product is usually good but the path to get there never clear. When I’m off on my own doing creative work and/or managing an agency I can GSD effectively. But throw in the kitchen sink of stakeholders / opinions, especially in an environment where I’m told my opinion doesn’t actually hold the same weight as everyone else’s, and I can’t seem to move things forward as I should. If I was just a project manager, I could do it. But as project manager and creator I find myself so often stuck. I know better than to stay stuck, and if anything it is best to just push forward and put out something vs drown in the sea of trying to make everyone happy and making no one happy.

But to be fair to myself, I was also put in a hard to win situation. My boss wanted me to lead, but her idea of leadership is somewhat incompatible with the processes designed to be collaborative. She made comments on how I brought too many people into the process (probably true) and yet in the end this collaboration was actually one of the most positive feedback notes received during the review of what went well and what didn’t.

What didn’t go well is not knowing how to guide people to my strategic vision and instead trying to execute on “theirs,” however conflicting it all was. My boss was not involved much—she just wants the person in this specific role to lead and figure out what to do and get buy in, but she has little interest in participating in determine what any of that is. She wants someone who will list be excellent. Trusted. Smart. Influential. Charismatic. Assertive.

She, apparently, wants my coworker. I mean, to do this. She put him into my temporary role and moved me out of it without clear communication to either of us. As she was, it seems, prodding him to step up and lead and equipping him with a career path to taking over my role, she was quietly plotting to move me out of it. I’ll never know if I still have a job because I am pregnant or if the leadership team actually sees value in me and wants me to stay (perhaps a little of both) but I’ve been put into a role where success is even more unlikely given again I have no control over the work I’m doing, only put in a position where I’m expected to both drive projects forward and make everyone happy.

I’ll do my best.

What is most challenging right now is that I’m being tasked to come up with a strategic plan for next year, yet I can’t move forward with this until other planning I am not involved in is done, yet I go out on maternity leave in less than two months and there isn’t much time remaining to move forward on a plan let alone create a plan. I take one step forward and two or twenty back. If I don’t plan, I am told I am not making enough progress. When I try to move things forward, I’m told I’m moving too fast and I need to wait. Somehow, no matter what I do, my former boss (now boss’s boss) seems to find fault with it. Luckily I have a few projects to take me through mat leave, and I’m hopeful they won’t ask me to leave between now and then with so much that needs to be wrapped up. But upon my return from baby 2 this spring, I acknowledge my days are numbered. The question is how long can I produce good enough work assigned to me and never miss a deadline so their argument to throw me out becomes one of documenting every last word choice made in emails and meetings and not one of failed project delivery. That won’t save me forever, but it’s possible with the right focus I can make it to the end of next year. I really hope I can.

But I also realize that there is no where to to here but down. I’m seen as a mediocre performer at best, saved by occasional delivery of projects that make my team look good. I want a job where people respect me for my strategy and results, not random output that has no greater value. So maybe I can find that next. This job, despite its ups and downs, has truly been life changing for me. Financially, I will be walking away from a few years of stock appreciation mostly sold and now safely in my bank account and diversified across index funds (and a new house.) While I’m sure had I been an A+ player I’d have even greater wealth due to rates and large stock refreshers I did not get, it all works out in the end as there are no golden handcuffs after next year, and it’s much easier to seek out a new role with a comparable package since this company has made it clear they don’t care if I stay (and clearly prefer that I don’t.) But I also take with me a solid chunk of time at a respected company that is not a startup no one has heard of. And while my role may be shrinking into oblivion, my resume has grown enough to at least land me interviews (or I assume it would) vs what life looked like job hunting prior to this role. This is not to say I’ll easily get hired anywhere, but I do think I have a shot at being high on the list of who to call when I submit my applications.

The real question is — how do I make it through next year? The amount of money on the table is non trivial and losing any of it would feel like taking a winning lottery ticket and dropping it onto subway tracks with a train coming at full speed, instantaneously blowing it away as if it never existed. So. I have my personal marching orders. Survival. Survival in the hard months upon returning from maternity leave when sleep is practically non existent. If I am able to continue to WFH due to covid this may help—but it also may prove challenging as partially the return to an office last time enabled a mental split from mom life to work life, and my occasional naps in the breastfeeding room out of sheer exhaustion were not interrupted by a toddler screaming out the alphabet for the nine thousandth time in a row. So this will be interesting, to say the least. An interesting year of being good enough that they won’t fire me. Or at least that they will wait until performance reviews next year to do so, giving me a few months of safety upon my return to work. It’s all possible. I think I can deliver on what is expected as long as I do not over commit and I hide as much as possible. I say little, in meetings or otherwise. My only objective is driving positive sentiment about interactions with me. Everyone should say how easy I was to work with, how they felt heard in meetings, and how I helped them deliver on their vision. If I can do this, barring any major unexpected layoffs, I should be safe. Unless I’m already on the chopping block.

But I don’t think I am. It would be in poor taste (and with questionable legal standing) to fire me a few weeks out from maternity leave with the delivery of a number of successful projects in the recent past. It would be equally questionable for them, within 3-6 months of returning from maternity leave to fire a woman who is performing at least at moderate levels. I never try to contribute anything less than exceptional work, but the reality is after you have a baby (and I hear after you have a second one) sleep is non existent and it’s hard to perform at the same level for a little while, until baby starts to sleep through the night and isn’t waking you up to nurse every few hours.

So on one hand, I feel good about where I am. Two months out from maternity leave, if that, with a clear line of sight to half of the remaining vesting periods. I can’t (and wouldn’t) slack off at this point, but I it feels very possible to make it through that, in the least. Then, I have my 6-12 months of holding on for dear life. And figuring out what’s next. I’d love for my company to acknowledge my contributions and fight for me to stay, but that clearly isn’t going to happen. I’ll be lucky if I see any sort of raise this year (I received a <2% COL adjustment last year with a tiny stock refresh valued under 10k a year compared to my initial grant of 50k+ a year) so I’m clearly in the bucket of employees who are good enough to stay but not good enough to fight to keep.

Would I feel blissful if my company suddenly gave me a massive stock refresh this year as thanks for what I’ve contributed? Sure. That would be nice. It’s not happening. I probably am making more than my new boss right now with my total package, at least should I ever get a refresh bringing me back to where I started. It’s not happening. I don’t even have a title right now. They put someone into my role and moved me into a new role and didn’t have the respect to clarify what my new title is, or to even make it clear that my colleague is stepping into the role I was performing (outside of just organically allowing it to happen.) The whole situation is just unprofessional and unsettling, but who am I to complain when I’m looking at my stock vesting account and see the amount I may receive next year? I really can’t complain. I’m so grateful. And I want to stay and stay not just because HR is saying something about keeping me until legally I’m no longer protected, but because I actually am doing good work. If I am going to leave in early 2022, which is the plan, I want to leave on a very high note.

While it seems like a very long time between now and March 2022, it really isn’t. Especially not in returning to the first year of motherhood. It will feel long and yet also fly by in a blur. I need to have a plan for what’s next since I’m the breadwinner and carry the insurance. I can’t just take time off. I’ll have to be on the top of my game when kiddo #2 turns 1.

Every last ounce of me is determined to make it happen. I am not going to be a superstar or anything close to it, but I’m going to make it through to the day I receive all the stock offered when I joined. And I’m going to surprise no one when I put in my notice, but I’m going to do so after a long period of consistent, high-quality work and everyone feeling good about whatever it is I’ve done, so in the years to come people will remember the positive about my contributions and maybe forget about how socially awkward I am and horrible at communicating. I’ll say as little as possible and hope that gets me across the finish line.

Trying to Find Happiness in Any of This

There are real reasons to celebrate these days. For starters, Biden won the election. While it wasn’t a landslide as many hoped, at least he received enough votes to push evil out. I’m not exactly optimistic about the future of our country with so many people willing to vote for a racist man who doesn’t believe in science, but for now, there is reason to be happy.

I’m trying. To feel a little good right now. Because as my own world spirals further out of control and comfort, I can rest a big easier knowing there will be adults in the White House for the next four years to navigate us through the dark days ahead of this pandemic and whatever other surprises 2021-2025 has in store.

But I miss my family, and normalcy, and fear the choices I made in the past week (getting a voluntary 3D ultrasound, having contractors over to my house, going to view tile in a local showroom) will kill me, my husband, and/or his parents. And yet, I feel like the only way to stay remotely sane is to try to live life somewhat. But to live life somewhat is a huge risk right now. And I don’t like taking such risks. Yet my mind is past the point of embracing logic. I’m worn out, mentally, physically, psychically. I am not doing anything that stupid (of course I’m wearing a mask in all social interactions) but I feel like there is really no difference between doing what I am doing and going out and seeing other humans or sending my son to daycare, which we are not doing. What if after being so “careful” my few deviances from being smart about avoiding any and all germs lead to me on a vent having a c-section where the doctors try to save my baby and accept I am a lost cause?

This isn’t just crazy pessimistic talk, it is all real possibility. I should be locked in a bunker right now and instead here I am making dumb decisions. Trying to move things forward with a house that cost too much that will cost even more to prepare for move in. I’m regretting becoming a home owner already. I feel sick to my stomach over what I’ve done with this decision. I’m only getting through it by telling myself I’m going to give it 3 years and if home ownership doesn’t work out I will sell, probably for a significant loss, but that loss will be worth it to return to life as a renter. Or maybe in 3 years time I’ll love being a home owner. I doubt it, but maybe. I did it because why? Because deep down I’ll never feel good enough unless I own a home. I don’t particularly like the home I purchased (or the 100 square foot bedroom my husband and I will be sharing while my FIL lives in the 450 sq ft master suite) but I dug my hole there so I’m going to lie in it and be claustrophobic and deal with it for 3 years. What’s 3 years anyway? I just wish I wasn’t going to lose about $160k when I sell. That’s going to be a rough pill to swallow. But that’s the price of dumb decisions.

With home ownership everything is incredibly complicated. Sure, you can pay people to do things, but it’s hard to know who to trust. One contractor may be really good at one thing and have great reviews but you find out the thing you hired them for is outside of their expertise—despite their confident talk about how they would do the project. For instance, HVAC guys giving you advice on moving an attic entrance. Or electricians explaining you need to update your circuits when maybe you don’t really have to — or maybe you do, because you bought a 1960s house that still has mostly original electric and ductwork because you’re dumb. Because your realtor was tired of you and just wanted you to buy a house already. Or she didn’t know any better. Or this is what happens in the Bay Area when you want a decent-sized lot and square footage. Or maybe you overpaid by a lot because your realtor convinced you to put in an early offer. Because they’re all in cahoots. Because in real estate you can trust no one but yourself and when you don’t know anything you are going to get screwed.

Right now I’m looking at about 100k of work up front. Not everything is a must have, but everything is going to be a pain in the ass to do once we move in (though permits are taking so long right now I doubt we will actually get everything done before we move in — did I mention between rent and mortgage we are paying 10k a month right now?!!?!) My husband is up to his ears in work at the moment, with his biggest conference of the year coming up soon, and I’m just trying to survive working full time, transitioning to a new role (and clinging on to employment) at 29 weeks pregnant while trying to figure out how the hell to project manage a house.

I feel sick. Defeated. I want to feel hopeful and happy and all the good things one should feel when becoming a home owner (supposedly.) But I can’t stop the nausea. The dizziness. The constant sense of dread. Maybe if my husband had the energy to do this with me, i would be ok. But he’s exhausted too. And behind on his work. I’m tempted to recommend that at the end of this year he quit his job. I’m not sure how we can do this with only his 77 year old father helping out watching our toddler during the day, a few days a week. I don’t see how this is doable. And because of COVID we can’t hire outside help. So I’m going to see how it goes through the birth of my child, but I’m seriously thinking of asking him to become a SAHD. That definitely won’t help financially, but maybe I’ll have my husband back. If I can keep my job next year, I’ll make enough so that he doesn’t have to work. The keyword is “if” and then, what next? My job is only high paying next year due to my stock. After that I am back to 175k a year plus bonus if I get my bonus plus a little stock but not much. I’ll be at 200-250k at best which isn’t bad but isn’t enough to afford the house probably. And that’s IF i keep the job. Like, forever. With my 1.5 hour each way commute once we start commuting again.

I am trying to take it one day at a time. In 2-3 years I can sell. I’ll consider this an adventure in home ownership. A very expensive adventure. Maybe we will get lucky and break even. I was stupid and bought one of the more expensive homes in the neighborhood— the value is in the larger lot—but the home itself is meh. I mean, if the plumbing and HVAC and electric are updated it might be worth more, but not necessarily enough to pay for said plumbing and HVAC and electric upgrades.

Alas, I feel myself slipping towards a dark place. I am not interested in ending my life (yet) as it isn’t that bad—it’s all salvageable and I do want to have my second kid and I like being a mom and I know worst case we sell this house and I convince my husband to move to any other state in this country where I can buy a nice house with cash and early retire and try to find a low-stress job to pay the bills and feel productive without all of this crazy $7k mortgage stress for the next 30 years. Don’t get me wrong, there are times I think maybe if I get covid and fail to be able to breathe it will be meant to be—I’m so worn out, so tired of all of this chasing and trying to make this all work that I kind of don’t care anymore. I don’t want to suffer, I’m certainly terrified of pain and the fear of what it would be like to die, should I be aware of it, but I kind of am past the point of it feeling like it matters much. I mean, after I have my kid. I want my kid to survive and I will do whatever it takes for that to happen. But at this point, at 29+ weeks, they would cut my baby out of me and baby could survive. Again, I’m not going to kill myself, but I’m sure thinking about how little I like living these days. It seems the more money I save, the worse it gets. Maybe that will shift at some point. But I should be happy now and I’m not. I just feel like I got myself caught up in something horrible with no good way out.

It is lonely and scary and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel good about any of this. But it is what it is. And I realize I am so much better off than most people in the world. I should be grateful. I bought a fucking 1.5M+ house. Who does that? I mean, in the Bay Area it’s not that crazy but it’s still kind of crazy. A 1.5M+ house with an old electric panel that may catch fire any minute and asbestos in the ducts and no AC in a quite warm part of California and a whole bunch of other mess that we have to fix (probably.)  I should have kept renting. That would have been smart. But instead, here I am—proud(?) homeowner. Defeated by myself. Trying to just go numb, because that is better than feeling anything right now.

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