Tag Archives: anxiety

Wanting a Life That Isn’t About Making It to the Next Vest.

My spreadsheet has some good news — if I can hold out four more vesting periods, I’ll be able to afford taking a job with lower pay for a few years while I sort out a better career path. “All I have to do is just survive until 2022, and then… things will be better. Somehow. Or, at least different.” I think this to myself over and over again as my fast-growing toddler and infant cling to me and I realize that a year from now my infant and toddler will be, well, a year older–a big year of changes and growth that I don’t want to miss. I don’t want to “just survive.”

Then–there’s the fact that I’m almost 40. Fuck. How’d that happen? 40. It is just another year and yet it is–fucking forty. That’s old. No offense to my readers who are 40 or much older. Because there’s nothing wrong with being old. And certainly when you’re 70, 40 seems young. It’s a matter of perspective. But it’s one of those ages that when you’re a kid and when you’re 21 you think is old. Not to be morbid, but random people start to die at 40. Not a lot of people. And it happens before 40. And others live to 110. But you hear things like… just today actor Dustin Diamond died at 44. Cancer. He found out about it 3 weeks ago and just like that, he’s gone.

I don’t think I’ll die in my 40s just because I’m turning 40–but I certainly feel my mortality in a way I didn’t in my 20s or 30s. Time is always finite, but it is–finiter. And being 37 thinking “man, I just want to survive until I’m 39” doesn’t sit right, even if it means I’ll have (maybe) $500k more in my bank account. It’s fine to want to get through the year and do a good job at work to earn my keep and then some, but I’m so so so tired of spending my life waking up every day thinking how do I get to the next X. Friday. Vest date. Year end.

I’ve lost all passion for living. Not that I had a ton, ever. But I used to look forward to things in the short term. I don’t know how to anymore. Occasionally I look up and see my toddler cuddling with my husband and I feel like I’m watching my life as if it were a movie. How cute they look. What a perfect father and son. A little boy who is no longer a little infant who is no longer a combination of DNA in my belly. A little boy who soon will be a big boy and then a man with little time in between to even notice the transformation unless I’m paying close attention. And here I am, waking up each day thinking how I’ll survive to 2022.

I’m not going to change this mentality any time soon. Surviving until 2022 is still a major goal of mine. As I’ve mentioned before many times, it is the winning lottery ticket that I just need to keep in my hands for a short time via quality and on-time work and then the proceeds can significantly impact the stability of my family’s future. I just want to figure out how to stop playing my life like it’s a game and just start living it. But how?

I don’t know if this is depression or if it’s just what happens when you’re an adult who has lost her way. I don’t know if I take some pills to boost my dopamine that I’ll suddenly feel “in” my life again. Like, is this actually chemical? Is this why in periods of mania and/or depression I find myself craving chaos, something that shocks the system and provides a different sense of time. I get that from some healthy things… like starting a new job, for the first few months. Those early wins. The first months where unconscious bias of your hiring manager gives you the benefit of the doubt and tells themself you can do no wrong — after all, they hired you and you must be great. Your work proves them right.  You’re a shining star, picking things up so quickly. Impressively so. Until you’re not. Until everything great is expected of you, and anything less than excellent causes grave concern and achieving success becomes a higher hill to climb each time. The novelty is gone. It’s just another job. And you’re just another employee.

There’s seeking that thrill in work, there’s not finding it there and accidentally chasing it in real life. There’s stepping back and slapping yourself in the face with a big reality check and a reminder that your life isn’t meant to be some crazy adventure. Stability is good. Enjoying the little moments is what it’s all about. There is no plot. No  winning. No game. Well, the only winning is–actual survival. The health of your family. Helping your kids solve challenges. Inspiring them to do so on their own. Changing their many diapers. Getting them ready to face adulthood a little (or a lot) better than you did. Watching them grow. Spending time with your parents and other family members as long as they have left. Talking about meaningless whatevers. Disagreeing and debating for the sake of social entertainment. That’s life. That’s what maters.

Survival is pathetic. It’s basically a form of long-term suicide. Just watching the months and years go by. Experiencing all of it from the outside. Afraid and uncomfortable. Unable to say the right things but somehow perfectly capable of saying all the wrong ones. So you just get through it all. You kick yourself, constantly, for all the things you’ve said wrong. You wish to start over. You run from your past, even if your past was just a few minutes ago. Your life is survival and escape. And you’re so tired of it. You want to be normal. Happy? Maybe. At least just living for the moment instead of trying to get through the moment. It may be a pill is needed to make that possible.  A pill to fill my mind with the chemicals needed to wake the fuck up and fall in love with life before it’s too late. Hopefully there’s plenty of time life. But there’s never enough. So why waste it wishing the days disappear as fast as they appear? No good reason. This has to change. It must.

 

433 Days Until Something Better.

I browse job postings on the daily. Usually they just depress me. I feel painfully unqualified for everything. While I’m in a better place than I was on my last job search, now with 3 years under my belt at a public company with a name that would be recognized, my experience still makes absolutely no sense when compared to jobs out there in the real world. But today, I found a job that actually seemed like it might be a good fit at a target company that is about 15 minutes from my new house.

However, I’m not going to apply. I’m tempted. Trust me. But between being on maternity leave and my earning potential over the next 433 days, I just can’t get into the process of attempting to get a new job. But I’m getting close to the time when I should start applying. I’m going to try to wait until 2022 before I start applying, and then I’ll let the resume outflow flood gates loose. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Or not. I guess as long as I have a job I’m in no rush to jump to the next thing. Maybe on Jan 1, 2022, I’ll still have a job. It’s possible.

I’m hopeful. 433 days sounds like a lot. But time still has its way of flying by, especially in the first sleepless year of having a kid. I’m hoping with the whole work from home situation ongoing people will just forget I exist. That’s not going to help me get ahead in my current company, but getting ahead is not actually possible anymore. I’ve lost any chance I had at a leadership role or promotion and am lucky if I don’t get an official demotion this year. So maybe I can just stay quiet, put out a few good projects, and ride the year out without people remembering I’m still on the payroll… at least until next year’s performance reviews and when I’m already at least deep in the process of applying for new roles.

But I’m so tempted to apply now and to get out. My ego is beyond beaten down. It isn’t what happened, it’s how it happened. It is a new leadership team forming for my group and not being told about it and not being placed on it — not being officially demoted yet clearly being removed from any strategic decision making. I am not at all surprised by any of this, I just feel like the least they could have done was given me a new title and explained I wouldn’t be considered a leader on the team anymore. Just some honesty and clarity. But I guess that’s too much to ask for when my boss is probably thinking I’m lucky I was pregnant and that she can’t fire me per some HR policy or something. Anyway. I’m trying not to dwell on it. I am lucky. and she could have still let me go as she has plenty of documentation on my failures and my admission of my mental health issues that get in the way of my doing a consistent good job. So. I know things are shit and they aren’t getting any better. Not at this company. It would be nice to think I could move up again. Redeem myself. It’s not happening. That’s ok. I feel humiliated and want to just put it behind me, but I can’t. Not yet.

I’m trying to focus on how to go into a new role — if I can get a new role — with a new personality. I can’t let any mania or depression lead me to admitting anything to my boss about how much of a mess I am. I need to hold it together. Keep my true self hidden. Figure out how to not overcommit and get everything done on time. I’m scared because I feel like I’m doomed to repeat this mess over and over again for the rest of my career. I need to learn how to control myself better. The last two years have been an exceptional cluster. It’s not new for me though, but normal cluster me with the exhaustion of young children is pretty much a recipe for getting fired. I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long. I put out some good work in between falling apart again and again. So I just have to get rid of the mess part and focus on the good work part. Somehow. Maybe next time I can not crumble as I always do.

It just feels like a lonely road. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this who gets it. My husband doesn’t work in the same industry and he’s watched me fall apart time and again over the last two decades we have known each other. While he used to be worried about it, he has also seen how every time I’ve gone through getting fired I’d find a new job that pays better soon after and he no longer is too concerned. He doesn’t like to hear about my work either way. My therapist doesn’t get it either. The only coworker who gets it is the one who took over my prior role, so that’s awkward. But he knows how messed up things are and how it wasn’t all my fault. I wish I had friends I could talk to about work shit. But I don’t. I mean I don’t really have many friends. I blog because who do I have to talk to about any of this? It’s nice there are people out there who read this blog and can relate, or at least understand this type of corporate environment and can see how it’s not completely my fault or have some context of even if it is then maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s ok to seek out a lower stress role and try to float, or something.

I’m tired of chasing money, I guess. Not that I was… the stock gains happened without chasing them. Now I have this crazy potential earnings amount on paper for this year and I freak out whenever I think of losing that lottery ticket. So I just have to calm the fuck down and carry on. For now. Then… well, then… I have to figure out what happens then. On my own. Because who can help me? Who would even start to understand… how I’m so “successful” and yet have no employable skills. People hire me because they think I’m brilliant and then they soon realize that I’m not. But how else can I get hired? I’ve only been hired because people think I’m special. Well, clearly I’m not special enough.

A Job Without a Title

When I was demoted/layered/whatever-you-want-to-call-it a few months ago, I was told I’m being moved to a new role, reporting to a new person, and didn’t have a say in the matter. As I was about to head into my maternity leave and was gracious to survive last year’s PIP by the skin of my teeth, and some information I knew via the grapevine via my colleague having already replaced me in that position, I knew it wasn’t worth fighting it. My choices were to agree to the change and do my best in the new role or to move on. With my stock package it makes no sense to move on, at least not now, but I’m still struggling with how it was handled and feeling like I failed myself yet again despite having done some really good work last year.

Of all the flubs in my demotion, I’d say the one that hurts the most is not actually having a new title. I was pitched the new role in a way that surely was HR- and legal-approved in advance of my leave (it’s not a demotion, it’s moving you into something that you can excel at!) I was clearly removed from direct contact with my then boss as much as possible–she seems to appreciate my work at a distance and prefer to not have to meet with me on the regular. My new position was not fleshed out. That too was pitched as my having the opportunity to build something from the ground up. However, my plans were ignored, my budget and project proposal not seriously considered, and any ideas I had brushed to the sidelines. It’s clear this role is not a priority and seems to be created for the illusion of not demoting me one month before my leave. Which, given the amount on the table I have to earn this year due to stock appreciation, I should be beyond grateful for. It just hurts. It hurts because I don’t even know what title to put under my name. I don’t even know if I’m still at the same respective level…

My boss initially wanted to have my annual performance review early, before I went out on leave. Then it got pushed a bit. Then I went out on leave earlier than planned, but I didn’t hide the fact that this might happen. So as it stands, I’ll know in a month, via my paycheck, if I managed to get a bonus last year. I should also know if I received any sort of stock refresh once that hits my account. I’m not expecting it, though. And that’s fine. I know they’re throwing the stars and the moon at my colleague who now has my former role. He is smart and hits deadlines so why not? Last year I eeked by with a standard cost of living raise (~1.5%) which was, of course, better than nothing, but also a clear reminder of how the company views me and the value I bring to it. I’m not sure if anyone who keeps their job at the annual performance review gets 0%, so I’m assuming the 1.5% is for the lowest performers in the company who aren’t asked to leave. That’s incredibly motivating.

I know it’s not just me. It is just me in that I fucked up majorly a few times last year in ways that could have been avoided. I know that the way things run is a bit all over the place, and to survive you have to just make sense of it all and have a ridiculous amount of confidence to make it seem like you know what’s going on so everyone else believes that you do. I just want to do good work, and that requires time to get the appropriate information. People to collaborate with. Perhaps a boss who cares about any of my work other than is it done on time and did anyone complain that I’m running late. While deadlines matter, a lot, some context for any delays might help. Or some support to brainstorm and come up with answers vs leaving me on my own and saying because I couldn’t handle it on my own I clearly don’t have leadership potential. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I don’t even care anymore about “leadership potential,” but I do care about career path so far as being able to pay my mortgage and not going a thousand steps backwards in terms of reasonable salary expectations over the coming years. As I approach 40, it’s clear that there are two directions to go here–up, or flatline.  I guess it’s the mom track. Or the ADHD track. Or the you-don’t-belong-here-but-you-occasionally-do-good-work-so-we’ll-keep-you-on-the-sidelines track and get rid of you when we don’t need you anymore. You’re easy to cut.

Apparently leadership requires a hyper focus on doing the things that have the greatest visibility and ignoring all of the problems that need solving. I tend to get fixated on fixing vs on making myself look good. That alone is a problem. So why am I not fixing that one?

I know this year is just a year and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it through. I’m so fortunate to be in a position where, as long as I don’t totally fuck things up (or get caught up in a massive layoff) I should be able to survive from now until Jan 1. But then what? My new role has no legs. It’s not like I’m going to stay at this company for 5 years in this new position and be successful. I’ll always be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to requesting budget and getting support of ideas. Even my boss isn’t sure what to do to support me as he also can’t get budget buy in for my projects that he thinks are important. Funny that when I joined the company 3 years ago I was in the weekly departmental leadership meetings. How far I’ve fallen.

It is just scary because I still don’t know what my career is. I have some idea of what I want it to be, but no idea how to get there. And I’m old now. Like, not old, old. But old enough that changing careers at this point is hard. Hard when you’re a mom of 2 young kids and want another and realize your career is 30 years more, max, and that’s maybe 6-10 different jobs, or less, until you’re retired, if you retire at typical retirement age. Those years will speed by in a blur. That’s life. You want to do something meaningful. There’s so little time left. But you have to pay your mortgage. And you’re not actually good at anything. Except writing incredibly long blog posts about how you’re not good at anything except writing incredibly long blog posts.

So, I’ve got this year to survive. And survive it, I will. Knock on wood. But then what the fuck do I do?

 

 

Finding Confidence and Value

There are some things I think I’m pretty good at. Work wise. The issue is, I’m not consistent. I’m not able to put the final polish on anything. I’m a starter. A connector. I can understand complex ideas and opinions and simplify them so they make sense, whether that be streamlining messaging or a complex process. I see the big picture and follow all the pipes through their knots and see where we can move the fewest pieces to fix what’s broken. I enjoy solving problems like this. Building systems.

I do not enjoy executing on said systems or taking projects across the finish line. I get things going. I step in and see what can be optimized. Lack of logic, failure to appreciate efficiencies, and the worst–internal politics and recognition for perception over performance–are what gut me the most. Reward for following broken processes vs a culture hungry to always do better. To solve real problems versus do what it takes to look like you’ve got things in order. Fixing the foundation instead of swimming in quicksand and dragging everyone in with you.

It really hurts that I was not put on the new leadership team in my group. I’m not surprised. I sometimes talk even more than I think. But I’m not valued for what I do best. I’ve been demoted to a role where I primarily am a project manager, which is just about my weakest skill. I’m trying to see this as a positive — a year of getting better where I can really use time to improve. It’s ok. I like being able to focus on this and figure out how to be a better communicator and get super organized with project plans and such. It’s painful for me, but necessary to learn how to do this better.

I try not to think about how I’m not in the leadership group that is clearly focused on strategy and direction. I’ve gone from trusted advisor to my group’s VP to someone she would rather never talk to. Yes, it’s that bad. No, I’m not imagining things. I don’t think she hates me, per se, but she doesn’t see me as supporting her own goals right now outside of maybe a few projects I’ve put out that have gotten enough recognition for the team. But does she value my ideas and strategic vision for anything? Clearly not.

In exploring some ideas this morning, I thought for a moment if there might be anyway I could regain her trust and move back up the ladder. But… it’s impossible. The only way to move up in this organization would be to leave my department entirely. I’m stuck. I can do amazing work the whole next year and it will get me nowhere (though worth doing to keep my stock at the moment and focus on this project management and communication skillset I so desperately need to improve on.) But it hurts. It’s not like we’re a giant team and only a few people are in this leadership group. It’s pretty clear I’m not in it when I should be in it, if I hadn’t screwed up so badly. If I hadn’t gotten myself into a situation where my boss probably has had multiple meetings with HR on the best and safest timing to fire me.

Sigh.

I’m trying to just focus on reminding myself that I am good at some things. I think this is just the wrong job for me, and probably the wrong department. I have no idea how to chang ecareers right now but in a year… if somehow miraculously we can get close to the 3M networth mark, well, then maybe I can really explore this. Go back to school. Try something new. Take a risk. Take some time. Stop feeling like the scapegoat of my organization which just makes me perform worse.

Since I can’t compete with the polished professionals who thrive in corporate culture and manage to put off the impression they never make mistakes (and get really mad at you when you do), I need to find a career and environment that encourages people to collaborate and fail forward and be themselves. That isn’t here. I know that will never be here.  I thought, for a while, my unique viewpoint was valued. I felt happiest when my boss asked me to review something she was working on and provide input. Then that stopped. I’ve been banned. Blacklisted. Relegated to the bottom of a very short totem pole that is top heavy. And I’m trying to avoid jealously because it’s useless and really I know I did this to myself. If only I hit deadlines this year… even if my work wasn’t as good… I’d probably still be clinging on to my previous role vs, well, whatever this is. This limbo of title-less existence. Being forgotten and either purposefully forced out or given the “we hope you leave” treatment so eventually I do. Well, I’m sad about it. It is what it is. But either I am good at what I do and I’m undervalued or I suck at what I do and I desperately need to find something else TO do as I’ve got 30 some-odd years left of work to go and while this is definitely work it sure isn’t working.

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.

Financial Planning in the Age of Coronavirus

Like many of you, I’ve been trying to stay afloat–mentally–under stressors that appeared practically overnight. With the economy humming along somewhere through a very long bull market, it was clear the upward tick to the markets wouldn’t last forever. However, I don’t think anyone thought it would end so jarringly.

I sit here from my “shelter in place” apartment in one of the worst hit counties in California. My company went a little early in moving to WFH and I’ve been adjusting, but the last weeks have been a bit of a blur. On the Saturday before my company decided to move to a WFH policy, I felt I was coming down with something. I don’t think I had a fever, I just had mild aches, and my chest immediately felt impacted. I went to work on Monday (if I had a fever I definitely wouldn’t have) and waited for my company to make the call. It wasn’t far into the day Monday when whispers of the company going fully remote made their way around the office, then an email formalizing that we would no longer be coming into the office for the next few weeks.

My lungs tight and heavy managed to breathe a sigh of relief. All I wanted was to get home and keep my family safe. At the time my 76-year-old father-in-law who provides childcare was still coming to our house via the train. It made no sense. I feared for his health and safety. In those 24 hours our worlds changed. Grandpa no longer would take the train to provide childcare. But my husband and I would still continue working, albeit with both of us WFH, with no childcare.

Over the next days my lungs felt like they had a cool liquid pouring into them, a slight burning sensation, and I felt winded after walking or picking up around the house. With no fever, I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac, but I emailed my doctor and she said normally she’d have me come in to check out my symptoms (as they were concerning) but with coronavirus going around she couldn’t, so she’d just treat me for pneumonia–just in case that’s what I have. Coronavirus testing was out of the question since I hadn’t been to another country recently and had no known contact with another person who tested positive. I was put on a course of powerful antibiotics and provided an inhaler to help me breathe.

The next day, our entire region went on full lockdown.

Two weeks later, my lungs still hurt. I’m not sure if the antibiotics did anything. I’m not convinced I have coronavirus, but I’m also not convinced that I don’t. My husband had what appeared to be a bad stomach bug with a low fever the same week I first felt ill, and now coronavirus reports say that sometimes it starts with gasterontestinal issues. He too felt some tightening in his chest. Neither of us were coughing, though–so what we have could be pretty much anything. If it’s coronavirus, we’ll never know outside of suspicion. I know whatever is happening to my lungs, this cold fluid sensation and the tightness in the center of my chest, is new to me. Could it be crippling anxiety? Sure. But the cold fluid sensation is strange and I continue to have mild respiratory symptoms.

I think I’m ok. Physically I’m just trying to take it easy. Mentally, I’m a mess. I know way more than I ever wanted to know about pandemics and how they exponentially spread. I’ve spent countless hours trying to convince my boomer mother, stuck in her snowbird condo in Florida, to take this seriously–especially given she’s in an area with a lot of older people mixed with young tourists where things will likely get bad.

Then, there’s my portfolio. Down something like $200k, give or take, prob give quite a bit more in the coming weeks. I’m a buy-and-holder, and got my start in investing right before the 2008 downturn, so I believe in the power of investing when everything is going haywire and how the recovery is when wealth is made. Downturns are good for the market and give us a time to buy on sale. But this whole situation is unprecedented and things can get a lot worse than they are. It’s unlikely–given its fatality rate–that the economy will fail to recover once a vaccine is tested and brought to market. But I don’t know how the economy can handle everything shutting down for a while, especially if this goes on (or on and off and on again) for 18+ months.

I’m using this opportunity to rebalance my accounts, but not to sell for no reason. I’ve been doing some unrelated research regarding asset allocation including real estate, as well as what one should really have in cash for a home purchase. I’ll write another post about that eventually, but I’ve basically determined that 30% of my net worth should be held in real estate. I’m looking at 30% of my net worth including a downpayment, closing costs, and a conservative 12 month emergency fund. In order to afford a $1.7M house, we need $500k cash in the bank.

My CFP who I hired for a year (who is no longer my CFP) recommended putting my downpayment into municipal bond funds for the tax advantages over the low interest-paying savings accounts. Well, that plan went to shit in the last two weeks. Apparently muni bonds funds are usually super stable. But after I put $200k into them, they decided to become volatile in a way they haven’t been since 1987. So far I pulled out the $200k (down to $192k) and put it into a short term bond fund, to take the loss in the intermediate state muni. That hurt a bit. Will probably just move everything to cash soon. It seems like this will be the year to buy–that is, if I can keep my job!

On top of all of this I’m not questioning the timing of trying for my next child. Due to infertility issues (at least with my first kid) plus now my “advanced maternal age” of 36, I really don’t want to wait. I also really don’t want to be pregnant–with the weakened immune system that comes with that–in the middle of a global pandemic. If I do get pregnant, we also have to move, which isn’t horrible since I do think this will be the year to buy. But if we’re on a year-long shelter-in-place, I don’t know how we’d move. We couldn’t even look at houses–or rentals for that matter. I think we could manage a year with two kids in a one bedroom (we’d save a ton that way) but legally you’re not allowed more than 2 adults and one kid per one bedroom, so we’d be in a bad situation… if it gets to the point where I’m pregnant and we aren’t allowed to leave our homes except to get groceries and medical supplies.

My overall thoughts right now is:

  1. Make sure we have our downpayment fund (ideally $500k) secure in cash or cash equivalents by fall (we have about $363k right now if I sold the bonds, and if I needed to I could make up for the rest selling stocks, but I’d prefer to not have to do that.) Be ready to buy when no one else is buying.
  2. Try my best to keep my job. I’ve actually been making progress on my coaching plan and things seemed to be turning around. Then Corona hit and–who knows. I’d be on the chopping block if there were layoffs, probably. I’m hoping we don’t have layoffs coming, but I have to assume they are with the state of the world. If I assume they are, then buying a house sooner than later makes sense (kind of, I mean not having a job won’t be great after buying a house, but that’s why I’m making sure we have a 12 month emergency fund.)
  3. Just try to get pregnant and see what happens. Worst case, I’ll be giving birth while incubated with a shared ventilator wrapped around my head, with my husband waiting from home to hear if I’ve survived childbirth and coronavirus and if the baby is ok. Ok, that’s a pretty horrible worst case, but it’s a possible one. More likely if I were to get pregnant I’d get a different standard of care as the doctors would try to keep me out of the office as much as possible. Given my infertility situation, it’s still unlikely I’ll get pregnant naturally. I do worry about being able to get infertility treatment in the next year, especially if we need something beyond the medication-based treatment protocol we did to conceive baby #1… The good news is that I conceived baby #1 right after a 3 month in-between job break where I focused on my health, travel, and relaxing. This isn’t exactly the same scenerio–I’m working and stressed–but I think over time with this WFH situation, if I can manage to keep my job and be as productive as I know I can be WFH, I can really focus on making the most out of every hour in the day to eat healthy, exercise, sleep, and do the things that set my body up for the healthiest possible pregnancy.

Things sure are crazy for everyone these days. I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to figure out how to balance being a mom and working from home with no childcare and getting to that level of health I want–I ordered some new running shoes and plan to use them, while staying six feet away from the other residents of my neighborhood, to disconnect from the panic sensation that fills me daily and reconnect with the sounds of nature and the taste of spring air. I hope things go somewhat according to plan, but not counting on it.

 

 

 

 

I Was Put on a PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) and I’m Going to Beat It.

I thought the job situation was improving. Sure, I struggled a bit to meet a few deadlines, but I was getting on top of all of my projects. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’ve been let go from jobs numerous times, so my current pickle is not exactly surprising. Nonetheless, it’s pouring salt on a long-time festering wound that I’ve been trying to heel, and I’m equal parts upset about it and wanting to fix my problems and be a survivor at my company, at least for the next year.

Looking back on the last year–the year that was officially reviewed–it is easy to forget how in January of 2019 I had just come back from maternity leave and was still pumping 3x a day at work. I pushed out some of my maternity leave to take later in my son’s first year, so I actually was out 6 weeks in 2019 beyond my typical PTO. Nonetheless, none of this was mentioned in the review, in writing or otherwise. Instead, I got handed a “coaching plan” which is a nicely phrased version of a PIP which is a nicely phrased version of you’re going to be fired soon and we’re just covering our behinds.

Many of my friends have advised me that this is writing on the wall and there is no use to trying to address the issues in this plan… it’s far too late at this point to recover. I should be focused on finding a new job. Maybe they’re right. I could regret doubling down on my current role and trying to fix the issues noted in my PIP. So many are subjective, it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever successfully “pass” it. But there are some changes organizationally happening on my team that might help (or hurt) and my gut tells me to give it my all, wait it out, and see what happens. I’ve accepted I’ll never get a promotion in my company, but I don’t need a promotion. I need to survive and collect the RSUs that are rightfully mine if I’m able to stay. It’s that simple. Just. Don’t. Get. Fired.

My boss SEEMS to want to help me, but I’ve learned long ago to trust no one. I mean, I trust that she’s going to do what is best for the company and her career. If I’m not what’s best for the company or her career, I’m out. The big question is–am I already out in her mind, or can I come back from the dead like one great big corporate zombie that everyone loves?

The whole thing makes me feel ill. It’s hard to sleep and concentrate, so that makes it extra challenging to recover from my issues in the office. I’ve reviewed my PIP multiple times and have come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t my missing deadlines or failing to collaborate effectively with others–it’s that I can’t actually do my job. It’s not the type of job one gets training in–you’re either good at it, or you’re not. And I’m, well, I’m good enough to get by in it if its not my primary responsibility, but it’s pretty clear I’m struggling with the fundamental requirements of the role.

BUT. But. I’m also thriving with parts of the role–I don’t want to toot my own horn (because it’s rusty and busted anyway) but I can’t think of anyone else who would be successful in this role. It’s not because any of my individual tasks/projects are so difficult that no one could do them… it’s that my job is so allllll over the place that it would be hard to find one person who can do all of these projects even remotely effectively. I wear many hats, which seems to work in my favor, until it doesn’t. The hats go flying and no one cares enough to catch them.

I’m in such an emotional roller coaster right now I’m trying my darnedest to hold it together. I need to. For my family. For our future. For my self worth. And because I really want to know–am I failing at this role because I’m not good at it OR is there something else going on. Can I be successful at it? I have some pretty specific marching orders. Even if “success” in these areas is as subjective as whether that dress is blue or gold, I can at least focus on trying to do what the plan says. I can meet deadlines by better project managing and getting people involved in these projects my earlier on. I’ve learned that I need to see myself as a project manager versus creative. I am not the expert here. I am the consolidator of expertise. This kind of goes against the next bullet in the PIP which is have a strong viewpoint about my work and believe in it–but I can do that without it being my viewpoint. Turning in quality work will be challenging because I always make stupid mistakes (I miss the details, thank you ADHD, and sometimes miss stupid things like when I used the word tantamount and meant paramount and the VP caught it and did I mention I’m an idiot?) Other than that, I just need to pay attention in meetings. Ok, I can do that.

Everything above seems simple. If I just show up at work early, leave late, make sure that I’m project managing vs creating then, well, maybe people will stop hating me so much? I don’t know if it’s possible as whenever I turn something in everyone has SO MUCH FEEDBACK on it and wants to change what I’ve written. I don’t disagree with their feedback, I just wonder why I can’t think of these things myself so I can deliver something they would actually like. That’s my real goal and I don’t think I can achieve that… which is why I know I’m long for this career in general. But if I can hold my breath and hang on for dear life for the next 2 years, it will be an incredibly bumpy ride, but also incredibly worth it. I hope I can.

I do not want to lose my job.

I’m already feeling incredibly guilty for taking a small amount of additional time on disability for PPD, and am ashamed to face my colleagues when I return to work, especially knowing that I will be taking additional (legally-protected) leave in the next year to spend time with my kid. I hate, hate, have being THAT woman and would not blame my employer for figuring out the fastest way to show me the door.

I’m hoping that won’t happen. I don’t pray, but I’m praying that won’t happen. I just can see how they’re understanding how they can operate perfectly well without me, and they would rather replace me with someone else–or any mistake I make will be a quick reason to show me the door. I feel bad for becoming a mother and worse for not adjusting well to motherhood.

When I return to work, I really need to bring my A-game, from day one, through day a billion. I always try to do this, of course, but now I have to fight hard and strong to keep this job. I don’t deserve it, I am not good at it, and I have to try hard to do whatever it takes to be a good employee. I don’t know how to do this, because I’m socially awkward, unintelligent, and a complete fraud. But I’ll try. I’ll try and I’ll stop telling my husband I’m going to get fired because it makes him upset and he says I need to stop telling myself this because I self sabotage.

How can I keep this job? Like, really keep it. For at least three more years. Twelve more quarters. Thirty-six more months… 1095 more days…of amazing, irreplaceable-quality work.  Non stop. Full energy. Listening to my coworkers and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals. Helping my boss who already looks great look even better. Being a team player. Never asking for anything other than the opportunity to do what’s right for the team and company. Maybe, maybe I can keep this job those 1095 days.

It’s a whole new ballgame now, being a mom. I’m terrified. I feel very alone in this journey and need to figure out how to just make it work, on my own. I wish I was smarter… higher IQ… or at least better at faking it. I’m so scared right now. It’s like I’m hanging onto a cliff with one hand with hurricane force winds swirling around me and gravity times a thousand puling me down. I’m holding on for dear life. I want to somehow minimize my interaction with others… I’ve been far to personally invested in my work projects. I get too emotional. I care too much. That’s the problem. I need to care less and do more.

There has to be a way.

Update on Life after hitting $500k and losing my job

My current psychologist is – interesting. She is unlike any psychologist I’ve had in the past and at this point I’m seeing her because she’s actually covered by my insurance at $25 a session and that’s not much more than the cost of a movie for pure entertainment value. I’ve only gone to three sessions with her thus far, but she is, in a very odd way, helping me work through my issues.

We are culturally very different – she’s an Indian who was a trained engineer, so she just approaches life quite differently. For instance, today when I shared that I was disciplined with a belt in my childhood, she mentioned that it’s normal for boys to be hit with a belt and not girls, and I stared at her and explained that I think that must be a cultural norm for Indians but not in the U.S…

Anyway, she has a very strange way of telling me how strong I am whenever I provide information about doing something in my life that isn’t wallowing in depression, and she always has her head slightly cocked to the side with a slight crazed gaze in her eyes, just a bit too intense in a room with high ceilings, bright white walls and two chairs. But I’m rolling with it… because I need help. Because I’m depressed and anxious and really unsure how to make life work.

I did have a pretty big breakthrough today – but she didn’t catch it or care. I said I had a drinking problem from 2001 to 2014. This is a pretty big deal as while I’ve admitted to drinking too much at parties and such before, I never fully admitted that I had an actual PROBLEM with alcohol, and for so long. This stemmed from her asking me the standard doctor question of “how many drinks do you have per week.” I answered, in my typical I don’t know how to answer that question fashion, that it’s either 0 or — too many on one night. I haven’t gotten that drunk in a while, not head spinning pass out drunk, so when I mentioned that I occasionally have one class of whiskey at night to go to sleep she seemed concerned (despite that this is much healthier than the once a week social binges that ultimately caused my DUI) — anyway, it felt good to say that I had a problem, to admit to this, and to really feel like I’ve distanced myself from this problem despite partaking in social drinking on occasion. Maybe I’ve just grown up. A little bit.

While I’ve grown up in some aspects of my life, I haven’t in others. I’m not sure what to do about this job situation, per the usual, but now that I’m back from my trip and looking at my bank account, I am tempted to jump into something with a consistent paycheck. I have one freelance project that may turn into something ongoing, but that’s still not enough to cover the cost of life – rent, food, health insurance, etc,  and having a child. There are recruiters reaching out to me about jobs in a position I’m qualified for on paper but don’t want to fill, and there are jobs I apply to that I don’t hear back from because I’m not qualified for them at all, at least on paper. It’s frustrating.

The best scenario would be that I build my freelance business quickly enough that it makes sense to be self employed for good, or at least long enough to gain experience in the areas where I actually want a full time job. But it’s also hard to turn down offers that pay $150k-$200k when I’m currently making $20k on unemployment and less than that if I start consulting, lose unemployment benefits, and it doesn’t work out. I can sell stock if needed, but I really don’t want to dig into my net worth if I don’t have to. I’m not in a financial crisis or anything, but the goal is to not cause one later in life when I’ve worked so hard to build a cushion.

I’m figuring I’ll have a full time job by October OR I’ll have 2-3 ongoing freelance clients that are happy with my work. Otherwise, I’m going to be in trouble. People tell me that I should just enjoy my time off but I have a hard time doing that.

Island Hopping in the Seto Sea and Trying to Find Peace

I haven’t traveled alone a lot thus far in my life. After my trip with a friend to Thailand half-a-decade ago I stayed on for a few more days, got food poisoning in Bangkok the morning of my flight to Singapore, managed to make it to my flight and wander around Singapore solo for a few days before traveling back to the States. That was a lonely excursion and it was only a few days solo, but I did enjoy seeing Singapore and it was easy-ish since everyone spoke English.

Japan has been different because English is definitely not common here. I knew Japanese would be the primary language, obviously, but I thought there’d be more English speakers. It’s actually quite strange how the country seems to be obsessed with American / English-speaking culture, yet few can speak the language. Case in point, in most hotels and spas, there is English jazz music playing… but no one understands what the singers are saying. Even many shops have their signs written in English… one wonders if the people who work in the shop have any idea what the sign says…

The good thing about Japan is that the train system is so easy to navigate. I heard this from friends who have been in the past but I didn’t really believe them. Japan has a crazy amount of train lines and for international visitors you can get a 7, 14 or 21 day “all you can eat” pass which (in my 14 day version) I’ve certainly been putting to good use. The pass doesn’t cover all the trains, but an app makes it easy to figure out which trains can be ridden between one destination and the next. There are local trains – which are subway style – and then there are long-distance trains which range from fast to super duper fast (the super duper duper fast trains are not included in the pass.) The train I’m on right now is going 170 MPH…

Most people on their first trip to Japan do the Tokyo-Kyoto loop, some adding in Hiroshima (which is south of Kyoto). My trip has been Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka-Hiroshima-Kyoto-Naoshima-Hakone (extra fee)-???-Tokyo. I considered heading down to the south island to visit Nagasaki and get out of the normal tourist loop, but am glad I didn’t because they’re having crazy rains down there right now and bad flooding… so this worked out much better.

I’m spending too much on this trip– I don’t even want to add it up at this point — but I also acknowledge that once I have kids (and, hopefully, another full-time job) I won’t be able to travel like this. Even with PTO, I would never relax and enjoy traveling if I had a job to go back to. It’s unfortunate but true – I can’t NOT think about my job. So – traveling when I don’t have a job is something I can’t take for granted at all, even if it sucks that I have to pay for health insurance and such being gainfully unemployed.

The trip was extra expensive because I – probably in bad judgement – decided to offer my sister a free trip to Japan as a belated college graduation gift (I had promised her I’d take her to hawaii if she graduated college, which then turned into Japan somehow). The trip in total is probably about $7000-$8000 not including “free” flights w/ points (I’ll do a final tally once it’s over)… with my husband’s portion around $2000 so I’ve spend $5k-ish total on the trip. Was it worth it? (Is it?)  Yes, definitely. There are a few over-spends where I see I could have saved cash but overall, for 24-day trip it’s not so bad. Without stays at a few fancy traditional-style inns (Ryokans) and spurges on dining (A5 Wagyu was worth it) I could have cut out $2k probably, but – YOLO. Right? I said it. YOLO.

Hubby and I are still planning on going on our ACTUAL honeymoon in September… to New Zealand… and I’m itching to also explore Australia while we’re in the down under parts… but I’m not sure I want to do another 3+ week trip. Husband definitely doesn’t, he maxes out his travel acceptance at two weeks… and since it’s our honeymoon, I think it would be nice for us to fly there and come back together. Bummed we can’t stop in Fiji but Zika is still prevalent there and on the off chance that I can actually get pregnant I shouldn’t be getting myself Zika (Mosquitos love me so I doubt there would be any way to avoid them.) Supposedly there is no Zika in Japan… if there is, well, my bumpy, itchy legs are not a good sign.

I’m glad I’m getting to travel extensively now, it is helping me scratch that itch so I don’t feel like I’m locked up and away at work for the entirety of my healthy years. Even now at 33 and out of shape I’ve definitely noticed my body does not travel as well as it used to — my feet have taken a beating unfortunately. We had been walking about a half marathon a day for the first two weeks of our trip (from sitting on my ass all day) so I pretty much f’d up my feet badly. The last few days traveling solo I’ve been able to listen to my body a bit more… when I need a break, I take a break. When I need to take a bus, I take a bus. When I need to stay at my hotel for the night because I can’t move, I do it. I’m feeling much better.

Part of this trip, I hoped, was to lose some weight. I am really ashamed that I managed to gain back all the weight I lost and then some. I was at 182 at my highest and then got down to 170 fairly easily, but the 30 pounds I lost took a lot of dedication and hard work over six months… then I got depressed, started binging like crazy and was up to 184, unsure of how I went from 140 to 150 to 165 to 170 to 184… but I did, and I felt awful. With this trip only being 3 weeks, I realistically can only lose 6-9 pounds at most. I don’t think I’ve lost much, but I’ll be quite happy if I get back to the states and I’m under 170 (I was about 175 when I left on my trip.) If I can get to ~169 from Japan, I have the next month including a weightloss bootcamp I’m going to for a week, where I want to lose another 8lbs, getting me closer to 160 by mid August. I’d love to be back at 150 for my honeymoon (I was briefly at 140 but my wedding weight was 150 and I think that was a good place to be) … so I’m targeting 150-160 for mid September. Going to probably have to go Keto for Aug/Sept to make that happen… but it will be worth it. And maybe, with doing that, I can actually get pregnant… which will save a good $50,000+ in IVF fees when that probably won’t work anyway.

With so much going on, it’s good to be alone for a bit and slow down. It would probably be helpful to unplug but for better or worse this country has really good wifi and I have a rental device that has me more connected than I’d be back in the states. I’ve tried to put my phone down for a bit… and take it all in. I love seeing new landscapes and architecture, getting lost down random alleyways (as long as I feel safe, which I always do in Japan), and just embrace being a nobody in this world. Yes, I know a few random people who live in Japan but odds of running into them are quite slim. I’m anonymous here even though everyone sees me, as no one looks at me, no one notices, no one cares. And in forever terms that would be awful but for a week or two it’s kind of nice. I don’t have to worry about what I look like (as long as I’m culturally presentable) — if my hair is frizzy or my stomach is bulging out because I’m not wearing Spanx… no one cares. Despite my mother complaining that my digitally-shared photos don’t include enough Japanese people in the background for her friends to believe I’m in Japan when she reshapes the pics (face palm), I have no pressures here, no annoying parental voice that linger in my head despite my long departed youth, no worries other than getting to my hotels on time, not getting my things stolen, and not running out of cash.

I know the real world will be back soon enough… and I HAVE to figure out a model of real world that works for me in perpetuity. It’s becoming more and more apparent that a career change is a necessity. It’s still hard to make the decision to leave a career that pays $150k-$250k annually for a job that may, especially to start, pay $60k-$100k and only see $150k in many, many years, if ever. But, I really want to have a family, I want to have time with my family, I want to be able to travel but I don’t need to travel luxuriously, and I’m almost ok with not being able to afford property and just to be a renter for the rest of my life. I’m trying so hard to take it one day at a time, and failing frequently, but getting closer to finding some sort calm admits the whirling storm of my ever-anxious mind.