2017 – how did you get here so quickly? Time continues to fly by, and although my bank account is looking healthier than it did a few years ago, I am still the same old person. 2017 already looks a bit shaky given our political climate (how on earth did Trump get elected president? So #unpresidented). Anyway, 2017, here are some things I want to accomplish in you — which sounds awkward but you are a year and therefore I’m not doing anything obscene by entering your cavernous orifices via January 1. Continue reading The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: A Contract with 2017
“I don’t understand this depression thing. You have a job, you have a husband, why are you depressed?” my mother asked, following up five minutes later by asking me if I’m ever going to get a job she can “explain to her friends” because “that would be nice.”
Over dinner, my sister, seven years my junior, was reminded by my mother how in high school she couldn’t write long papers like I could (she had a learning disability) and, yet again, I cringed as my sister was compared to me knowing full well what that does to her own psyche. Luckily she’s a strong chica, but she went through serious depression as well and deals with a mile-high pile of her own shit on a daily basis. We both do in our own ways.
Time is flying by so quickly. I’m coming up on my six month wedding anniversary. I’m 33. 30-fucking-three. Ovulation calculators remind me that if I get pregnant this spring my child will be born when I’m 34. I’m fully an adult now but I still flinch when my mother or father criticizes the choices I make and things I do. I try hard to not be as self absorbed as they are. I think daily of the ways I will not be like them when I have children of my own. I imagine how to be a little less myself when I’m a mother, how to hide the real me.
I never thought I would change, but I think in some ways I have. I’m still the same old miserable-at-life mess that I’ve always been. I can waste time like it was trash itself. I still am passionate about what’s right and justice and empathy and honesty. But as an adult, I care less about proving myself and more about adding value to society. I still hope one day the value I add will be recognized, and while I’ve given up long ago on being famous it was only in the last few years when I no longer coveted fame as the be-all-end-all goal in life. I began to develop a newfound appreciation of my anonymity, realizing I found happiness in the moments when I walked down the street alone in new cities where I knew no one and didn’t have to worry about running into a person who wanted to strike up a conversation.
Fiscally I no longer crave wealth in the way I once did. It’s not that I ever wanted to be extremely wealthy, I just wanted to be in the upper middle class with the ability to afford my shopping binges at discount designer outlets and Sephora.com, plus regular excursions to new cities and places around the world, and a home with a nice bathroom with a giant tub and beautiful gourmet kitchen to cook in and perhaps a backyard pool or community one where I could socialize with actual friends. But now I’m over that dream as well, to an extent. It would be nice to have a house, sure, but I don’t need one to be happy. It may even reduce my happiness because I find other than anonymity what keeps me content is freedom. I like to have the husband thing committed so I don’t feel totally lost, but I prefer freedom to being trapped in my life, especially in my area of residence. When life is a big blur the only thing separating one time period from another is when I’ve moved from one apartment to the next. This is how I tell time.
Lately, especially with what’s going on in the world of politics, I feel inspired to do more about fixing the world. I’m not sure exactly how, but I like to tell stories and I like to create and I like to help people, so there’s got to be something I can do professionally where I can pay the bills, put away a modest amount of savings AND give back to society. I’ve considered returning to journalism because I feel like I didn’t give it enough of a chance in my career — I was too young and afraid and didn’t understand the world enough to provide any useful commentary on much of anything. Unfortunately, pay in journalism is so low and to start over would be practically impossible if I could even find an opportunity. Typically that would require moving to a middle-of-nowhere market and as a married person that requires convincing my spouse to move as well… which won’t happen. But the thought is there.
When I have kids – if I can have kids – I know I need to settle down a bit and really pick a career that will consistently pay the bills. Maybe my current world is ok I just need to learn how to be more on top of things. Or I do something different. I don’t know. I will have to move if I want to try something new. Hubby is open to moving, though partial to particular regions where it always rains. I prefer the sun. I really don’t want to move anyway. But I will if I have to.
Life goes by so quickly. And when you step back and look back on all the crazy in the world your little piece of it doesn’t matter at all. Look at who we elected President. We elected a sociopath to the White House. Who knows what will happen in the next four years. Maybe my stocks will increase in value short term, maybe the entire market will crash. Who knows. I am a bit worried, but more so just tired of worrying. If I lose all my money, so what? It is scary, but it probably won’t all be gone. If it’s all gone, then there are bigger problems. I’m more concerned about civil war and nuclear holocausts and climate change and injustices and lack of access to education. I’m more concerned about other people than I am myself. I guess that’s what I mean about being a changed person. I’m tired of caring about myself. I want to care about other people… whether that be my children or the children of the world. I’m so tired and beaten down from working a job where the rewards are solely financial. I need a break and a breather to feel value on a deeper level. I’m still scared shitless but I’m also starting to break free of all my fears. Starting… is a start. Not letting my mother’s nagging get to me is a start. Not allowing that voice in my head that tells me I suck at everything when I clearly only suck at “this one thing I’m doing that I happen to be getting paid for right now aka my job.” No accepting that I am a failure on all levels, that I must be either GREAT and AMAZING and a WINNER or a total loser.
I really don’t want the rest of my life to be this. There has to be something more.
On one hand, moments of my youth feel like just yesterday. On the other, I do feel a very real sense of the time that has passed over the course of my life. I don’t feel old quite yet, but I definitely don’t feel young either. My friends all are having or already have children, fashions are reverting to what was popular when I was in elementary school (the revival of the choker brings on all the feels), and I’m somehow – despite my mental illness – ready to have children. I know it’s going to be very hard, but I feel surprisingly ready. Maybe I’m not logistically ready, but I feel ready from a maturity level, which is an odd thing for me to say, but as I acknowledge that many parents are not actually that mature, I have found confidence in my own future parenting skills.
If all goes to plan, I’ll be pregnant and possibly already with child at this time next year. I have a not-so-secret hope for twins, which is probably the worst thing to wish for, but I have always wanted twins since I was a child and with infertility treatments to help induce fertility (which I need anyway) the odds of having twins are much higher. We don’t have any history of twins in our families so it would be extremely unlikely in the event of a completely unaided conception. but giving what the infertility doc said about my ovaries, natural pregnancy without the help of at least medicine is extremely unlikely. And I’m not getting any younger. Continue reading Life Goes On: Thoughts on Entering My Mid 30s
It seems like every day since I turned three I’ve had a midlife crisis. I envy people who knew what they wanted to be since they were dressing up in the role for kindergarten Halloween, but I’m not one of those people. Our childhood shapes our hopes and dreams early on by how our parents reward or criticize us by even the slightest creasing of their eyebrow. I imagine in most families parents are happy with their kids doing fairly basic things — hitting the ball in a baseball game, coming home with a “B” on their report card, getting their first job. Other parents aren’t impressed by standard success metrics. Parents like mine expect more. They raise you to feel special and then your life is spent trying to be special or giving up and feeling let down. You officially have a parental-induced complex that even the best cognitive behavioral therapist can not eradicate.
Different cultures have different measures of success. While every family is unique, there is some truth to how particular groups fuck up their children in fairly standard ways. Asian parents teach their children that they must not feel special, only be better than everyone else, and being better than everyone else is not about innate intelligence or specialness but instead about working hard. Creativity is less valued – however, any talent that requires a lot of repetitive practice is considered high value (i.e. playing an instrument.) Jewish parents, meanwhile, put pressure on their children to be special and successful. Working hard is important but more important is some superhuman talent – we are the “chosen people” after all. Being good at something is not enough. We end up with such complex of hating ourselves while also desiring to be special that many of us develop biting senses of self-deprecating humor (Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart, Mel Brooks, Billy Crystal, the Marx Brothers, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Ben Stiller, Howard Stern, Adam Sandler, Larry David, Carl Reiner, George Burns, Milton Berle, Howie Mandel, et al.) There is a humor than one must have when they are incapable of achieving equal parts success and fame for their unique, novel contributions to society. Such complexes can be hilarious as comedy is the intersection of feeling bad for someone and relating to their situation just enough to laugh with them at the same time.
So. Here I am – this 32 year old Jewish girl who’s actually now a woman who lives in a one bedroom apartment with her new husband and a job which, despite paying well, is one where success is based on being practically a machine and not unique or special or creative or whatnot. Here I am, still dealing with the complexes my parents gave me and still feeling like life is meaningless if I don’t do something more special than save enough to retire on. I don’t exactly long for fame anymore – I used to want to be a famous actress but then I realized my face did not fare well on film or in any medium that would capture it from an angle other than slightly to the side and from above (not to mention my non-existent acting skills.) What’s changed, however, is that while I still want to create, I feel more comfortable with my ideas and my talents. I acknowledge now that most successful people weren’t successful from day one – they worked at it and they failed a lot and then they had a lucky break – and they certainly didn’t try to please someone else in order to achieve success. A lot of people took risks because that’s what their heart told them to do and for everyone that made it a few thousand didn’t or did to some extent but you never heard of them. There’s a heck of a lot of television writers in LA who you’d never recognize when you happen to be in line behind them at In-N-Out. But they get to write on a daily basis and get paid for it and their ideas come to life and that’s all sorts of cool. At the end of the day it’s just a job, like any other job, but I can’t help but feel like doing that would be a bit more fulfilling than waking up every morning to come up with a new way to promote the newest upgrade to business software.
With that, I signed up for a screenwriting class online that starts on Wednesday this week. I figure I’ll be a horrible screenwriter (dialogue is not my forte) but it could be fun to write a script even if it will undoubtedly suck. I have a lot to say about the world and people and the psychology of people and maybe writing is a way to accomplish that. Screenplays at least have a beginning, middle, and end, and can become more than just a self-published book that collects virtual dust on a Kindle shelf, if it even makes it that far. I look at the lists of comedic screenwriters and women are few and far between. In one list Lena Dunham was recognized at a top 10 comic screenwriter and Tina Fey is listed as well – but the majority on the list are men. (For the record I don’t find Tina Fey’s comedy very funny outside of old-school weekend update and Lena Dunham is too young/hipster for me and makes me feel like an old lady.) Jenji Kohan is listed as a comedic writer with a vag but she writes for television not film – not a bad thing, but still I’m looking for female comic screenwriters, not TV writers. Todd Phillips of the Hangover series has a dick, Adam McKay has a dick, Mike Judge has a dick, The Farrelly Brothers have two dicks, Seth MacFarlane (who, tangent, I saw singing karaoke in LA once and it was magical) has a dick, Wes Anderson has a dick I imagine he admires in the mirror nightly, and Judd Apatow has a dick that he uses to inspire his screenplays (40 Year Old Virgin, This is 40, Knocked Up.) Ok, so where are the female comedic screenplay writers?
Ok, so there are some. Here’s a list of female screenwriters (not all are comic screenwriters) and many of them have written well-loved films over the years. There are women writing in Hollywood – but just like in tech, women in leadership roles are few and far between. I’m not saying I’m destined to be the next great comic screenwriter (I’m not even funny) BUT there is a lack of comic roles for women to play and it would be quite satisfying to take a stab at resolving that.
Besides specific roles, the type of comedy women write and what men write is quite different. I watched Tina Fey’s “Whiskey Tango FoxTrot” and cringed at how dumb the movie was — while comedies written by men are creative in pushing the limits, everything in this film was just so cliche. It wasn’t funny. At. All. Amy Schumer is the hottest female comedian today – yet her movie Trainwreck was a trainwreck of a comedy. Her standup is ok and I appreciate her shtick, but there was nothing creative or original about her film. And, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t funny.
Then you have movies like Bridesmaids where women writers attempt to do the “Hangover” thing for the ladies — Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo gathered together some of the most popular female comedians and tried to capture the same spirit of the aforementioned film – yet, in the end, they got stuck at poop jokes and nothing as creative as a tiger showing up in their bathroom or ending up at Mike Tyson’s house. You have Melissa McCarthy’s annoying shtick which is hit-or-miss funny if you can forget she’s just doing the same thing she always does in every fucking movie … and Kristin Wiig being Kristin Wiig… and because it’s a female movie it has to be all feel good and let’s be friends forever bullshit bullshit bull.
The last funny-ish film I watched featuring women was “How to be Single” – which was still not that funny but at least it had its moments. Ok, it was god awful horrible but for an airplane movie I did have a few LOL moments when I hoped the people in the seats next to me were really asleep. The movie was written by Abby Kohn (who wrote one other romantic comedy), Marc Silverstein (the dick) and Dana Fox (who seems to cowrite for male comedy writers.) Really, that movie was only funny because of Rebel Wilson, who is almost as annoying as Melissa McCarthy but somehow her shtick is charming and believable which makes her quips laugh-worthy. Without Wilson, the movie would have been god awful.
So where does this get me? I doubt I’ll be writing the script for the next “Room” anytime soon, but perhaps I’d have a shot at writing comedy. There’s a huge gap in screenplays featuring women that are comic but not flat-out dumb or traditional rom-coms written by dicks and the people attached to them. It seems like a good mission to have to write one hilarious movie that isn’t so damn cliche and instead can be like Woody Allen-style funny from a female’s perspective and sans all the child molesting / marry your step daughter stuff because even though I want gender equality in Hollywood I have to draw the line somewhere.
It was just yesterday when my boss told me he doesn’t want to fire me only he doesn’t want me to be in charge of things like I have been because I suck at being in charge of things and to his surprise I wasn’t upset or pushing back on this I just nodded and agreed and confirmed that he wanted me to stay as long as I focus on the things I do best and completely stop trying to do the many things I can’t do well. He gave me the option to leave if I want but I don’t really want to leave, I want to just focus on being good at something and then being able to leave work at a reasonable time to take classes and try to not be too tired to write. Now that the wedding is over and I’m not pregnant yet I have time. Time to write my first “will never be seen by anyone and will be horrible” screenplay and learn a thing or two about if I have a chance at ever writing for a living. I have a secret little fantasy of this working out extremely well and then going for my MFA at UCLA in screenwriting and getting really good at writing and writing all these hilarious scripts that sell well at the box office but also give female actors some real funny material to cut their teeth on versus the standard bullshit comedy that is written for women.
I might lose my job but I think the best thing to do now is to try to keep it, do my best, limit my responsibilities, do a good job, and give myself a set number of projects to accomplish in a given week so I feel productive, look productive, am productive, and can go home and have a life and focus on my writing / creative projects. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is but at the moment I’m feeling hopeful and like maybe I can make this work. I’m too old to be letting life pass me by. I spent my entire childhood and early adult life dedicated to being creative and suddenly as an adult I cut this huge part of me out of my life. If anything, even if this is just a hobby, maybe I’ll find myself again.
Every day, it hits me that I’m knee deep in adulthood. There is no more “what I am going to be when I grow up” – I’m grown. Creases have etched lines into my once porcelain-smooth forehead. I peer closely into mirrors and study the corners of my eyes, cringing at the forging estuary of crow’s feet. The thin skin on my hands is translucent wrapped around my bones. I’m not old, and yet I am.
Every day, I think, I’m so far from where I thought I’d be at 32, but, then again, I never imagined myself at 32. 21 or 25, sure. Maybe even 28, but not a day over. Thirty, it seemed, was a lifetime away, until it wasn’t. Here I am, 32 approaching 33, just 8 months away until you can say I’m in my “mid 30s,” what a gas. It’s a surreal transition to always being the youngest in your class – the “baby” – to being one of the oldest in the room. It happens so fast. I didn’t have time to adjust to the transition.
Every day, I wonder, what’s to come of this world? I think ahead to my desire to have children, and I wonder if I ought to go out of my way to have a family in a world where ISIS blows up innocent men, women and children in the name of their so-called religion, and where Donald Trump wins the Republican seat on the road to the White House with equally malicious hatred and the sparks of similar evil. I worry for the future – as we approach the age of robotic warfare and super drones and new chemical weapons which cannot be stopped. I fear the future even without evil, with its android fast food workers and self-driving cars and little boxes that answer your questions and can tell you everything you want to know without ever having to think for yourself. I know I’m getting old, because I miss how things were when life was simpler. I miss mail order CDs and having only a limited number of shows to watch at any given time and being forced to sit through the commercials and I miss the time when we weren’t so glued to technology so when we left the office we had a life outside of work.
What an old crumugin I’ve become. Me, the futurist who loves innovation and works and lives in the place where Apple was invented and new technologies continue to evolve to change the very nature of how we understand and interact with the world around us. Life feels so much faster now because there’s no time or reason to pause. I miss long hot New Jersey nights with crickets chirping and fireflies dancing in the distance occasionally lighting up just before your nose. I miss snow days and summer camp even though the bullying was torturous and elementary school even though I was a loner and couldn’t stand one minute of it at the time. I don’t even wish I could go back and do it all over again – I would just like the opportunity to pause and reflect without missing out on so much that’s moving forward faster and faster. There’s no stopping now. There’s just Monday and Sunday and what happens in between is a blur. There’s Monday and Sunday and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I spend a lot of time browsing home listings on Zillow around the area I live. I found a $1.4M house that seemed decent enough, a small starter home with a teeny tiny backyard patio area and a community pool requiring an extra $500 a month HOA fee. I look at my near-$200k salary and my $350k in savings and think this isn’t enough- this will never be enough – to afford the life I want slash the life I thought I’d have should I ever achieve such success on paper. I try to feel proud of this achievement. I’m sure when I actually make $200k I’ll smile a little, just because, that’s something. That’s a big something to say I add enough value that someone is willing to pay me that much, or I’m at least a great con and awfully convincing. Maybe $500k in networth, this random goal of mine I’ve had since 21, will make me pause and give myself a little silent high five as I grow my second grey in two or three years, well later than I had hoped to hit that number. But by then I’ll either have kids or I won’t, I’ll be a different person. I’ll be married and a mother or a never-mother and a serial careerist or a runner-away-from-career to something else where that $200k salary will again seem as out of reach as it once was.
I’m tired. I feel healthier than I have in a while with my exercise routine and slightly healthier diet plan which has netted me a 30-pound weight loss from my heaviest. I wake up at 5:45 and work out from 6 to 7 some days and get to work at 9:30 and work until 7 and rarely take a lunch break and get home if I’m lucky by 9. I can’t sleep at night because my mind is racing a million miles an hour with all the things I have to do and haven’t done and I can’t shut it off until nights like tonight when I’m so exhausted I have no energy to eat I’ll just lie down and close my eyes and likely fall right sleep, but there will never be enough hours until the weekend to catch up. I’m feeling really inspired by my job, though it’s hard, and it’s worth the commute, but nonetheless, I’m tired. It’s dark out. It’s only 8. I wish to be curled up in my bed. I wish to be curled up in my bed with a good book despite the fact that I rarely read and if I do it’s non-fiction and even then I’m skimming through for the juicy bits and asleep before I find any.
There is this great lack of meaning in my life which keeps me stuck in a chronic state of depression. My therapist says I need activities outside of work – in the evenings – after work – at least once a week. I did go out with a friend last week for dinner. That was nice. It takes a lot of energy. It was spontaneous so that worked well. If I planned it I might have wasted up my energy on worrying how tired I’d be. I can’t imagine how I’ll manage to have time for kids given that I can’t find time for taking any sort of class right now for self-enrichment. My current life and having kids do not compute. I’ve got a year or two left in me and then I have to move on. I’ll do my best. I’m not going to self sabotage this time. I’ll stand up for myself. I’ll do the best I can. I will be motivated no longer by my idealist nature but instead by the reality of the world and a desperate grasp at any semblance of security I can have for myself and my family.
I’m fortune. I love my husband-to-be as he is silly and strange and not mature at all and despite his face aging equally fast as mine I look into his eyes and see us at 22 and when he holds me I’m not a day older. It will be strange getting older then and still feeling this way and being 35 and 40 and 50 and 60 and onward if we’re so lucky to hold each other at 99 and still feel 22.
Life is depressing. I think our problem is that we consider depression a mental disorder. It isn’t. Chronic happiness is a mental disorder. Life is shit. Look at it. From the ISIS and Trump’s of the world down to our bodies decomposing as a natural state of order as soon as we pop out of the womb to our children at every moment potentially dying before we do whether by terrorist attack or car accident or their own body deciding it does not compute with its own cells, life is shit. Sure, there are happy, beautiful moments, and we should pause and appreciate those. But anyone who is chronically happy is delusional. I’m too much of a realist to approach my philosophy of life any other way. If you decide to focus on some set of goals and work your ass off to achieve them and feel some semblance of success and happiness in the progress, then good for you. But that won’t keep you from a painful death or maybe a surprise one. That won’t help you avoid the even worse by inevitable fate of all man to watch their loved ones leave this earth or hear of their passing from afar. That won’t change the shittiest shit nature of existence that most animals are fortune enough to not fully know in the same way we as humans do. Our awareness is the most beautiful and shittiest part of all, because we know exactly what is happening at every stage – we watch our own bodies fall apart and we try to ignore this by focusing on redecorating our kitchen or taking on new projects at work or going on a vacation for seven out of 365 days where we maybe experience something new and feel alive again before returning to whatever routine we’ve found to be desirable or at least quicksand-like in its grasp of our once more risk-attuned ways.
So, forgive me for my depression. I think it’s quite practical in terms of how to feel about the state of things, given the absolute bleakness of our situation as a species and individuals. This isn’t to say I crave death or romanticize it in the least. I fear it and wish it to stay far from anyone I know for as long as possible – but no matter what we do, we’re all inching towards that fate. I guess those with religion can look forward to an afterlife, which wouldn’t be quite so bleak. The rest of us – how can we put on a smile that’s sincere and believe that we ought to be spending our limited days in an office making something that 100 years from now no one will remember or care ever happened. That isn’t the point, however, as everyone is the cog in a machine – even Hollywood actresses who I used to envy so – they’re just people whose talent and luck has thrown them into the spotlight – one in a hundred million—yet they’re just mere mortals like you and me.
I’m tired. Tired of trying to figure out the right way to do things or being scared of being embarrassed about not being able to afford a house or not knowing how to raise a family and be a good mother and maintain a career that I have no feelings for beyond being grateful that I can do it without completely sucking and I seem to be rather good at parts of it if I push my anxiety to the side and just get shit done. I like learning and trying new things and figuring stuff out, though I give up too easily. I’ve completely accepted that I can’t maintain this career for the long term. I count my pennies and wonder how much I’d need to retire on should I move somewhere extremely affordable and become a part-time copywriter or assistant something or other. The number ends up too high to be realistic so I go back to my initial plan to stay put and just hope I can keep doing what I’m doing until I have a few frugal years and save up some cash and have more options.
I miss a life that I never really had. I think that’s the definition of nostalgia. I’m feeling it hard lately, from the moment I wake up to the instant my eyes shut and I drift off to sleep at night. I miss what could have been. I’m grateful for what has become. I’m unprepared for the future, but it’s here and it’s here and it’s always here regardless of my inability to prepare. Here it is, as I turn another page, close my eyes for another night, and get through another 24 hours in one breath in the race ahead towards no particular outcome other than the inevitable.
Today, we received notice for our annual lease renewal. Our rent will be increasing $170 a month to a total steal of $2465 for a one bedroom apartment, not including any utilities. If we lived in the city the same apartment would be at least $1000 more. That’s life in the most expensive area in the country — no matter how much you make, you’re still not making enough to afford the life you thought you’d have at this point. You just have to wake up from the American Dream and realize it’s just that – a dream.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be one of the few who is making a high salary — more than I could ever had imagined making and more than I believe I deserve. At the same time, I acknowledge that in order to afford a house here you pretty much need to be taking home $400k (as a couple) which isn’t in the cards for our future, despite my relatively very high income – even if I manage to find success and stability in my job. I realize that many others will never even make as much as I do, and I feel I make too much, but it’s a loop of relativity when I try to comprehend how much I’d really need to make in order to purchase a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard.
Do I need a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard? Even if I don’t, soon our rent, for a one bedroom apartment, will creep up to $3000 a month, even in the suburbs. We won’t exactly be priced out but we’ll be able to save less and less each year. At some point, I think we’ll have to accept that it’s time to leave. And with a total income of about $250k, we’re doing much better off than a lot of people who live here. It’s just not enough and it will only get worse as we attempt to start our lives together.
If kids end up not in the cards, maybe it’s doable. We can stay in a one bedroom apartment, no need to pay for extra space when it’s just us. We can live in a one bedroom for the rest of our lives. This isn’t at all the life I had imagined, but we can survive easily without that much space. If we do have children that changes the story quite a bit. I don’t see how we can have children and remain here, especially if I need to take time off for any reason. The pressure of being the breadwinner, especially suffering from severe anxiety, is too much. If I am responsible for me, myself and I — that’s no big deal, I can roll with the punches, live cheaply when needed, and just weather any storm that comes my way. With children, we need a much bigger security net. We’ll have to move. We will have no choice.
I write this at a time when many entry-level workers here are seriously struggling, unable to feed themselves or pay rent on minimum wage. I feel embarrassed to look at my quite high income and still feel so hopeless, because if I feel hopeless, how on earth is the rest of everyone supposed to feel?
I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to have children we can’t stay here. I don’t have a solution yet or an answer to “where to do we go,” but sooner than later we have to get out. I’ll very much miss the beautiful scenery and sunshine. I’ll look back on my 20s and be glad I had the opportunity to live in such a glorious part of the world. But it’s time to grow up and move out. Or, at least it will be soon.
People say to not worry about the future and to just live in the moment. I find it very hard to do that. We now face the choice of staying in our current apartment and paying an extra $2000 to do so next year (and continuing my 3 hour a day commute) or finding a place closer to work that will either be more expensive or less livable or both. We’ll probably just stay here for another year – neither of us wants to deal with moving, and $2000 doesn’t seem like that much compared with the inconvenience of finding a new apartment and lugging our stuff to it… moving isn’t free either. So we’ll probably give it on more year here and hopefully by the end of the next lease I’ll be pregnant and we can then figure out where on earth we’re going to live in the future (aka not California.)
I had hoped that I’d be at a point in my career where I’d feel so distraught over losing my job / career in order to have a family… but while I appreciate my job for what it is now, and really admire my colleagues and am so grateful for this opportunity… I have no personal investment in this career. I feel no sense of pride in my progress or role. In five years, to continue on this path, I end up in a leadership role were I will never fit. I acknowledge it’s soon time to leave. Right now, the best I can do is hold on for dear life, do the best I can, and try to save money by living relatively frugally and bringing in a good income where most of it goes straight into the stock market / my savings accounts. This may be my last significant savings opportunity in my life, given I plan to move to an area with a lower cost of living and obtain a job which pays significantly less in my next career move. My goal is still to get to $500k in savings before I make this move, and the goal is becoming much more dire given that I’m rounding the corner of my mid 30s and I know I can’t handle this life for much longer. If I can just hold out until $500k — I can completely shift my lifestyle to one of lower income and greater flexibility in another part of the country. We can live off of, say, $100k total across both of our incomes and still live a decent life. If we make more than that, great, but we don’t have to (or, in the case of staying here, I’d likely have to earn over $300k in order for us to hit the $400k mark and afford a small home.)
What was once kind of this running silent joke in my head about how one day I couldn’t afford to live here and that I’d move away is proving true. I guess what has changed is that I’m more ok with that than I was before. I used to think that I didn’t want to trade my career for a simpler life. I didn’t want to be one of those women who had kids and no longer had her own identity, especially a professional identity. But now, I don’t know, my professional identity is not who I am. Despite not making it to Hollywood or Broadway I’m an actress nonetheless, everyday portraying someone who I’ll never be. I’m over this obsession with what I thought was success. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, no game to win. I have maybe 60 good years left on this earth if I’m lucky, and many fewer with all of my loved ones in good health. I hope to make the most of them, and it doesn’t matter if that occurs within a tiny apartment or a giant house. It feels good to finally accept that… to embrace the loss of this embedded classism my parents have taught me, to stop feeling like if I can’t maintain the level of comfort and luxury from my childhood that I am a failure. The only true way to fail is to lock myself into a life where I no longer have any reasonable options for escape.
How in one breath can reality shift from a romanticized daydream of being a somebody who creates to success begin defined by job title, income, and home furnishings? Of course, this didn’t all happen in just one breath, but today I stop to pause in half-congratulations, half-jealousy of a fellow graduate who has gone on to do great things in the arts and now, 10 years post graduation, has worked hard and created and become one of those people who I thought I aspired to be and I’ll never become because – why? Because I was afraid? Because I didn’t believe in myself? Because I didn’t know what I wanted. I still don’t. Perhaps I never will.
I could easily blame money – the fear of not having money especially – but that was never really primary to the equation. I never gave myself the opportunity to not have money. When I failed in roles that mattered little to me psychologically early in my career I just moved on to the next, each role one further step removed from my deep-rooted passion to make something form nothing and so on – no comment on whether or not I had or have the talent to do so. It doesn’t matter. I’m one of the everyman. No better or worse or different than the next person who is here and gone in the blink of an eye, atoms of self splattered back out to the universe in due time.
Every single day I lose more and more of myself. I try to tell myself that’s a good thing. That’s growing up. That’s being an adult. That’s taking charge of life – grabbing it by the balls and saying fuck you world I wasn’t supposed to do this well but here I am. I’m doing well at that game I didn’t have a clue how to play and fucking A I’m faking everyone out and trying my best when I’m not having panic attacks and somehow I convinced people to pay me a lot of money and now every day I wake up knowing that I’m not a good actor after all and the opportunity is slipping from my grasp yet again… but I never clutched it tight enough to feel so distraught about losing anything anymore. I am not directing a performance where opening night will make or break its run. I’m not painting a picture which might one day hang in a gallery somewhere and be talked about in schools. No one will sip tea and muse over by blue period… of marketing. That’s life. I should be so proud. So proud that I let go of dreams because I wasn’t confident they were even my own, and just said fuck it, I’m going to just do whatever it is the world will have me do and pay me for because that’s better than sitting on my ass, wallowing in self pity and drowning in my solitude.
But I’m always one step, one moment, one millisecond away from this inevitable crash which I return to time and again. It’s as frustrating and horrifying as it is soothing. It’s my eternal womb state to return to, when I am shaking so much I cannot do much of anything except curl up in a ball and cry, deeply wailing alone because I know that there including anyone else in this pity party would only be a childish, selfish activity outside of any paid therapy sessions remaining in my FSA funds. But there I am, a grow woman, falling apart again, just like she did at 5 and 12 and 15 and 21 and always. Growing up doesn’t really go up if you’re constantly falling down. And, I admit, there are so many times when it feels so hopeless. I have these serious deliberations with myself over whether or not it makes sense to keep trying, keep faking it, when I’ll just always be a lie. I’d like to think it’s imposter syndrome – plenty of women suffer from that – but trust me, it’s not. I’m not a fit for this world, but I also wasn’t a fit for any other.
My self worth is defined by my networth. I am $320k give or take in happy with myself at the present moment. I am what I consider approximately five years away from being destitute without outside help, and five years away from having too much pride to ask for any. I could maybe last for five years on about $50k a year and spend down my savings. I’m five years or less way from total failure. I don’t think I’d ever let myself get there, though. If things got that bad – I don’t know what I’d do. But I can’t fail like that, I have too much pride. I’d find some freelance work. I’d do something. I’d get another job. I’d pick myself up and walk again. I’d walk as fast as I could until I fell. Over and over again. For many years. Until it’s over naturally and no one can accuse me of being suicidal or selfish for wanting to disappear or any of that nonsense. I’d just be old and gone and have made it, have survived through it all – for what, these days I’m not so sure, but I’ll keep on running until I see that finish line and when I do I’m sure I’ll regret having wasted all that time sprinting with my eyes only half open.
I guess the short of it is that I have no idea who I am anymore. As a child I defined myself as an artist, even though I knew I wasn’t good enough to really BE an artist – but I wasn’t an athlete or mathematician or scientist or academic or much of anything else — I could only see myself as an artist and the only purpose of life was to create – to output something(s) unique that no one else could share. To give some gift that comes from my hands or my voice or my mind – because I was raised to think this is all I was worth, my entertainment value. And now, I wake up, I go to work, I crack a few jokes I probably shouldn’t be cracking in order to maintain my appearance as a senior business leader (as if I actually have that appearance in the first place is a funny and inaccurate notion), and then I come home, and I go to sleep, if I go to sleep, to do it over again.
When I have children this will change. My life will be for their dreams. And maybe that’s ok. I don’t want to push them towards any dream of mine that went unfulfilled. I know that’s a recipe for disaster. But I’m at this point where I feel so empty because I don’t have anything to care about. I could do a better job caring about myself to start, for sure, but I have so much to give externally and I can’t help but think that’s motherhood calling, hello biological clock. Or maybe it’s just what is feels like to truly mourn the loss of possibility, accept and embrace the status quo as my forever now, just suck it up and live without wanting life to be anything more than a collection of mundane moments with the occasional exceptional spark which warms the heart until the next one comes along.
When you get to your 30s, you realize that 10 years isn’t really that much time from start to finish. Somehow childhood seems so painfully long at times. The stretch between one birthday and the next can feel like a decade. Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like centuries. I remember very clearly sitting in class staring at the second hand slowly clicking its way around the clock. I wasn’t the best student in school, but I certainly was an excellent study of the glacial movements of a clock’s minute hand.
The last 10 years have been filled with plenty of ups and downs. My 20s had their fair share of crazy and now that I’m well into my 30s, I do feel that time of my life is over. And despite that probably being a good thing for my health and sanity, I still feel the need to mourn the departure of my extended youth. I don’t know how it happened so quickly, but it did. And just as the last ten years have passed by so quickly, so shall the next ten and the ten after that. It seems as if there is this cruel joke played on us by time, where all of childhood is leading up to this miraculous part of life where we are just-turned adults and free to be both adolescent and in charge of ever instant of our destiny all at the same time. Then, you’re 21, and, then, you’re 30 – a true adult with wrinkles suddenly etched into her skin, tired eyes and dull hair requiring specialized shine treatments to look half as youthful as you did just years earlier.
I’m less afraid of aging than I used to be. I’m still terrified of death, although in theory if my belief that one loses consciousness entirely and is just nothing for the rest of eternity, it should not be scary anymore than sad, and should not be sad any more than egotistical, as any sorrow for such departure is the same sorrow that should be poured onto thoughts of the world before one was ever conceived – but somehow that doesn’t seem sad at all, the infinity pre-dating our own birth.
Regardless of one’s sentiment towards our inevitable mortality, we can likely agree that our time on earth is finite, and the years which we have in good health are even more greatly limited. We watch our parents age and part ways with the earth, which is horrible but at this age becomes part of the routine. Then there are the unexpected early departures — relatives who grow sick or lose their life in accidents that have no mental preparation. I’m fortunate to date not to have lost any loved ones, not even my father who was told seven years ago that he had no more than two years to live. But none of this luck can last forever. Life is this transient light which shines for only but an instant, and we must shine despite the lights of others dimming and, others, growing in luminosity all around us.
Nine years ago, I almost died. I don’t like to talk about the car accident I was in because every time I think of it I feel sick to my stomach, probably from minor PTSD. I was driving on a two-way highway when I was exhausted early one morning — I was returning from a work conference and hadn’t slept well the night before, and thought I was ok to drive home. I had just started driving only six or so months before, so I wasn’t the best driver yet either. My tire blew out, I had shifted to far into the curb in the center of the highway and my car skidded across the road and ended up spinning around and around in a ditch. I remember very clearly the dirt coming up so violently to the window as I spun to a stop, completely stunned. About a minute later, two cops came and knocked on my window. I was just sitting there – I was fine, somehow. I could have easily hit a car or truck in the lane next to me, or could have gone off a cliff if I had been on the other side of the highway, but somehow I didn’t hit anything as I skid down the road and into the dirt, completely unable to take control of my car.
I walked away from that accident with no damages to myself and barely any to my car. I was very, very lucky. I never told my parents or many people about it. I didn’t want to worry anyone. I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, or any close friends nearby. I told myself to forget about it, and I did, expect when I think about that day, and remember so clearly the moment when I spun around in the dirt until I finally came to a stop.
And that was nine years ago, but still it haunts me. But then, as I faced death head on, I don’t recall being very upset about the prospect of dying. I was scared, for sure, but I was extremely depressed at the time and thought to myself, in that moment when I was given a second chance, who would care if I was gone? I had never felt more alone.
The beautiful thing about being in a relationship en route to marriage is that you have this one person who cares not only whether you live or die, but who would notice should you be hurt or in need of help. And, in turn, you share that responsibility and that love. You have long left the family unit of your parents and siblings, and now you’re on your own, – and being on your own sounded great until you realize that means no one is looking out for you. When you have no family nearby, when your family barely thinks to call to ask you how your doing, and when you realize they never actually cared how you’re doing because they only value you for their narcissistic supply, you value relationships more than ever.
See, I was the girl who always thought she’d never get married. After watching my parents have violent fights since as early as I can remember, I thought marriage was a bit of a joke for most types of people, especially any with my DNA. I was hopelessly broken, unable to commit or to be worthy of being committed to. The best I could hope for was a series of heated relationships which would be entertaining, to soothe over the long periods of solitude.
But then, when I met my boyfriend, I realized that I could indeed love and be loved. We had a rocky relationship for a while – as we were both immature and scared to grow up, both coming from broken homes and lacking a solid foundation of familial stability, despite deeply longing for that sense of comfort and calm.
Now, deeply in love and on the dawn of my wedding year, I see this overpriced event as the entrance to this new phase of my life. It isn’t that much of a difference from today, but it is a commitment to a commitment. It is knowing that no matter how hard life gets, at least in our health, we have each other. And, just as one never mourns the time before she was born as she would thoughts of her future passing, it’s the worst feeling in the pit of one’s stomach to imagine one day losing your love; yet the thought of life before them is nearly impossible to recall.
When I stood beside my grandmother last year as they slowly lowered my grandfather’s casket into the ground, she shouted “wait for me, I’ll be there soon,” with tears pouring down her face. I had never witnessed such visceral grief. It was real, raw, and I understood, and I closed my eyes and could see years from now myself with the same deep sadness. I wanted to comfort her but I did not know how – how do you comfort a woman who will never again see the man she loved and battled with through that love for so many years?
And in the end, life is only worth what we’ve created and who we’ve loved. In the arms of my sweet future husband I finally know what love is. I can see living with him just about anywhere and together we’d be fine. That part of my life is great now, but I haven’t gotten to the other part – the part longing to create – to maybe make a mark on this world before I leave it. I often tell myself it’s silly to want this so badly, as in the meaninglessness of life, so too is creation pointless in our blip of existence on the infinitum of time. Is someone who is an artist, writer, musician, actor or designer any more of a successful, complete person than a person working to promote software? Anything s possible at any age, yet it gets harder as you grow older and get set in your ways. As I wait for a moment of inspiration, I know I wait for a moment that will never come.
But love did come, and with love comes the sadness of knowing one day the man I love, and I too will disappear from this earth, at least the parts of us which make us human. I try, now, to value each second together, as the clock no longer ticks on as slowly as a slug making its way across a sidewalk, lacking any noticiable forward momentum from the human eye. I watch my iPhone clock go from 6am to 6pm in what seems like an instant, and holiday seasons return in what feels like shorter than a month’s timespan (didn’t the Christmas lights just come down?)
Since there seems to be no way to slow life down, I only hope I can manage to make the most of it, to fight off this curse of depression, and to embrace my consciousness’s brief stay on this unlikely little home we call earth.
At this time, 10 years ago, I had moved to a new part of the country, obtained an unpaid internship, and was living in a four-bedroom apartment with three other girls and their many friends who always seemed to be around. My tiny room, furnished with a crooked used futon and not much else, let in just a hint of light from it’s windows at the top of the back wall. The closet door, made of old wooden panels, did nothing to make the room appear any more spacious then it actually was.
I don’t have full recollection of the timeline of events that occurred that first year after I graduated college, but I’m pretty sure I had yet to meet my future husband, and I was at the lowest point in my life, just starting to pull myself out of a deep depression. My only victory was survival on my own, but the future was ominous and bleak. I was more alone than ever holed up in my tiny apartment, looking for a part-time job to supplement my income of $50 an article published for my internship, which would not cover my $450-a-month rent for the tiny room on a nice block in a nice neighborhood of a nice place I had never heard of in my life.
As my depression ebbs and flows, I try to remember the darkest times in my life, when I felt truly hopeless, and remind myself it’s no where near that bad. Today, I have an apartment, a fiancé who is my true rock, a car (didn’t have one of those 10 years ago either), I know my way around the majority of the Bay Area, I have a job that while very challenging is a testament to never giving up if only as a confounding reflex to uncertainty and failure. I have a few friends. I have a savings, which, 10 years ago, was about $5k, now it’s closer to $350k. I have so many things that should make me fulfilled yet at times I still fall back into sadness where it’s hard to catch my breath.
Ten years later, am I any better suited to withstand the basic trials and tribulations of life? I am facing such a great opportunity now and all I can think is – don’t fuck this up. Just do something. Just do anything. I end up frozen time and again, pulse racing, looking up at the ceiling or the wall, thinking about a thousand things I have to do and unable to make progress with any given one. I can’t fuck up this time. I know I said that last time. But this is it. Really. Sure, I can maybe find another job, but this is my chance to really show what I can do — pull out all the stops — make a dent — be a very clear part of the success of something vs just a little part of maintaining the status quo.
The only thing I can think of to resolve the scenario is to try to pretend to be someone else – anyone else. As myself, I can’t think, I can’t do, I just get caught up in the details without making progress. And that is a one-way ticket to nothing good. I have to move fast and show what I can do. I’m not sure what that is. I need a superhero identity, someone who is me but isn’t. Someone who can move mountains and save the world, albeit in a smaller, less philanthropic sense of, well, just acquiring new customers.
Ten years ago I had no idea I’d be where I am today. I didn’t even know about this career or that I’d be any good at it. When I went to school I didn’t understand why anyone would major in business. I had no concept of the professional world outside of it being this amorphous place where my father worked because he was a math guy and therefore he did math-like things which never really seemed like business to begin with. I understood the arts, though not how to make money in them, but at least art made sense to me. I just had absolutely no idea what life would hold in the next 10 years.
Now, as I look on to 10 more years of my life… from 32 to 42… I know they will be equally as surprising in hindsight. If I have children, there’s no way to predict how they will change who I am as a person, or my world view, or my ongoing inner monologue of non life-threatening suicidal thoughts. When I have children, I imagine, their world will become my world, and I’ll focus on providing for them, nurturing them, and trying to ensure their mental health is somewhat more sane than mine by offering them a loving, caring, and forgiving household that they won’t appreciate until they’re my age.
The future with kids is such a different story than one without. With children, I want to make good money and provide for them. The fact that I was able to secure my current salary gives me hope that I can offer a good life for my family, even if my future husband will earn significantly less. I can make the life I want for myself and my family on my own, if I have to. In five years, if I can do a good job, I should be able to take home $250,000 a year – which in this area is not a lot as a solo income supporting a family, but if we together can earn $350k a year, that should be plenty to have a stable middle class life, even in such an expensive part of the world. We can even maybe one day afford a small house, which I think would be the biggest of all life accomplishments, though terrifying in that I’d know I’d be handcuffed to working similar jobs full-time for the remainder of my life’s best years.
If children were not in the picture at all, I’m not sure what I’d do. I still feel like $500k in savings/stocks is a good goal to have for some sense of stability in life. At $500k, without kids, I’d be more likely to save a little more then return to school for something I’m passionate about — perhaps photography, art, or even film. I would care less about earning a lot of income, and more about breaking even while allowing my savings to compound for many years to come.
But then, I wonder if being a slave to the career I’ve managed to paint for myself is less about income and more about this massive fear to not be a “something.” The center of my ego is a woman who has managed to, on paper, look impressive. The cherry on top of that ego is, today, to have clear, quantifiable success metrics and a number of colleagues who can genuinely say I helped a business succeed. I don’t think that would make me “happy,” but it would make me proud. I would feel accomplished. I don’t think I’ve done anything I’m substantially proud of in the last 10 years since I graduated college, other than maybe a few shows I directed that managed to go on and be seen by actual audiences. I don’t feel anything over obtaining better job titles or increases in salary, thought that’s helpful for many other reasons. I haven’t felt proud in a long time. Maybe that’s ok and just part of being an adult – there’s no use in pride for ones own victories when you have children to feed and clothe. It’s being an adult without children when meaning somehow ceases to exist.
Shit. I’m less than 6 months to 32. That’s not quite old but it certainly not young. And while I’ve saved up a decently sizable portfolio of investments over the course of my 31 and a half years, every day I freak out more regarding how I’m quickly watching the opportunity to have children disappear before my eyes. Yes, women can have kids later and later these days, but with my PCOS-crapified ovaries I know getting and staying pregnant is going to be a total bitch and damn expensive if not impossible.
There is no way in hell that I could work in a job like the one I have now and deal with getting pregnant. At least when you have kids they’re these physical creatures you can talk about with others and offer as a reason to work from home on occasion in order to deal with the whole biological needs of being a mother with infants. When you’re trying to get pregnant and not having any organic luck, then you have to deal with tons of doctors appointments and the crazy of hormone injections and such that mess with your mind. Yes, people do this all the time but I’m sure working for a startup makes it a heck of a lot harder. And I don’t think I’d ever see an occasion where I’d feel comfortable explaining to my current boss that I need to take some time during the day to go to a series of doctors appointments in order to get knocked up. That’s personal, and I would want it to stay personal.
While I’m not looking to get pregnant today, the reality is that I DO want to be married by next June (12 months) and very shortly thereafter want to begin the process of trying to have kids. I’ll be 32-and-a-half (holy shit) and in order to have my first kid by 34, well, that doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of time. Mr. HECC needs to hurry up and propose to me (hoping that’s happening in next 30 days because now we’re at the 9 year mark and we’ve generally both agreed on the get-married-and-have-kids timeline) and we just need to move on with our lives. I’m perplexed at how I can be 31 with a job making over $150k a year and a networth approaching $350k and I still feel so terribly lost and behind. I have a job, not a career, no matter what it looks like from the outside – and a boyfriend who might as well be my husband but who isn’t – because I’ve been so preoccupied with not being like those girls who just get married in their 20s because that’s what they think they ought to do.
And on top of all this, I am seriously considering grad school now more than ever – because this whole situation of just taking jobs that I can get versus jobs that I’m actually capable of being good at is absolutely draining every ounce of my being. I’m learning a shit ton and there are many aspects of my role that I like too, but it’s just not for me over the long term. I’m so grateful that the few people I have on my team are rockstars and helping me stay somewhat sane, but nonetheless that isn’t a career I can maintain even for a few more years. I need to make changes and I need to make changes fast in order to at least make a significant attempt at having a family, which at the end of the day is way more important to me than becoming a millionaire in my 40s.
So now that I have that straight, it definitely changes my priorities and plans. What kind of career can I have where I can – instead of being at the office 10 hours a day not including commute – spend time at home and be able to be a part of my potential future children’s lives? What job can I do where I can live a somewhat standard middle class life and be able to afford a house with a porch and a backyard… one that I can watch my children run around in? If my 20s were the years where I just wandered blindly and tried my best to save and save some more, my 30s are a time to open my eyes and just accept that being in the upper middle class, like I was as a child, isn’t necessarily the only option or a real route to happiness. So what if I’m squarely in the middle class? Did endless trips to the suburban shopping malls actually make me a happier person? Did my parents putting me through a private college for four years set me up for more success then I would have had if I went to a state school on scholarship and loans? Yes, it made it possible for me to take more risks then I might have if I didn’t have the cushion, but maybe those risks were bad ones to begin with. Maybe those risks are the ones that got me to almost 32, unwed and looking at a likely barren future.
Of all the things I freak out about, having kids and being able to have kids is something that I think I have a right to worry about. There is a such thing as a biological clock and time is FLYING by. I’m grateful to at least have the man who I see being the father to my children in my life, and for that to be an extremely stable relationship – but who cares if I’m going to be a 33-year-old newly wed and facing years of expensive, painful, and otherwise inconvenient infertility treatments? Being a woman IS different than being a guy – especially one in their late 20s / early 30s. Guys don’t have to rush into having kids – and guys don’t have to stab themselves with hormones in order to attempt to get pregnant, going to the doctor for many appointments in order to conceive and then engage in an entirely new series of doctors visits for ensuring the baby is born healthy and all… not to mention all that stuff that comes with being a mother once you give birth. And if you want more than one kid — well, so long to career progression in your 30s.
But do I really care? I don’t exactly have my heart set on becoming CMO – and what that entails. Is the American Dream working so hard until the day you retire that you don’t see your kids grow up, or have time to enjoy any hobbies or other moments in life that don’t involve soothing client worries or generating more business? I hate admitting that part of me wishes I were born at a time when these choices were made for me. What a terrible feminist. But it’s hard to be everything. Well, it’s not possible to be everything. And I am really, honestly, over dramatically and extremely terrified of believing time wouldn’t progress quite so rapidly if I chose to ignore it – and that my own ability to be a functioning woman wouldn’t be sidetracked by attempting to get ahead in a career where I’m yet another broken cog in an otherwise malfunctioning machine that will spin on and on and on whether or not I happen to be there to fill my little place in it.