My Job Is Not My Life… Except When It Is

I work in tech, but I don’t love programming. Like, it’s fine, I don’t hate it and sometimes it can be soothing, but if you asked me what I might be up to on a Saturday night, contributing to an open source project is not in the top 25 most likely answers. Maybe not even top 100.

Now in most professions this might be considered good. Healthy. Like a semblance of work-life balance. We don’t expect garbage collectors to pick up trash on their days off, accountants to be crunching numbers. But in tech? Ha! If you’re not running a side project or reading up on the latest configuration management tool you are falling behind. At least that’s the impression people give, anyway.

So in good tech fashion I will be, at the behest of my manager, taking a 12 week part time course from September to December in the evenings.  6 hours per week of class time plus another 6-10 per week of “homework.” Fuuuuunnnnn.

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Do you want to lie on the ground and feel like garbage with me?

There are some silver linings. I got to pick the course and it is something I have experience in that needed brushing up. And my employer is paying, so that’s good. And of course this is all kind of empty whining because I have a job that pays well and I should probably just be grateful for that. But, man, my fall is going to be BUSY.

Are you required to do training outside of work? 

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Dubrovnik in Pictures

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City walls

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View of town from city walls

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Lovrijenac Fort (The Red Keep)

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Earing a picnic dinner on AirBnB patio

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City by night

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Best squid I’ve ever had (Lacroma)

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Benedictine Monastery (Lokrum)

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“Dead Sea” (Lokrum)

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Neptune Fountain at Trsteno Arboretum

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View of the pier by Trsteno

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Living My Values: August Update

Goal update:

  1. Charity. Allocate 10% of paycheck for donation to charitable causes addressing poverty, hunger, civil rights, education, and the environment. PASS! I am actively contributing 10% of each paycheck. So far I have given to one conventional local food bank, another local nonprofit that specializes in getting fresh overstock produce that would otherwise be thrown out to food banks and low income residences, and set aside cash for brother’s fall tuition (which for now I am considering part of my “charity” bucket).
  2. Civics. Volunteer to get out the vote in nearby swing state. Write to my mayor and state representatives about police enforcement and local issues. IN PROGRESS. I have updated my voter registration and gotten the contact info for a local canvassing org which I plan to contact next week.
  3. Meat. No meat eating in August. Reduce regular meat consumption to 1 lb/week. IN PROGRESS. Guys, not eating meat sucks so very much. I am a terrible vegetarian.
  4. Energy. Talk with my neighbor about getting solar or participate in a community solar program. Turn down water heater temperature. IN PROGRESS/FAIL! Planning to go to community Q&A next week for setting up condoized solar. Water heater was already below 120F (hellooo Legionnaires’) and dropping further was uncomfortable so we will be keeping at current temp for now. I also researched into buying new energy efficient fridge but the economics don’t really work (would cut fridge electric use in half but only save $30ish/year for a $600 appliance. Going to still look around to see if I can find any other energy demons but I think we are near our min base level usage.
  5. Water. Reduce shower times and research lower flow showerheads to cut household water use by 25%. FAIL! New low flow showerhead was painful to use (did this weird sputtering thing). Part of me wants to get an egg timer for the shower but another part of me is like maybe I am okay with long showers being a vice of mine?
  6. Finances. Reduce my expenses by refinancing (under way) and switching cell carriers when my contract ends. Start dipping my toes into P2P investing in such a way as to give individuals attempting debt recovery access to my capital. IN PROGRESS! Refinance is closing in a couple weeks and have all the paperwork out to start investing with Lending Club.
  7. Simplify. Draft a home maintenance schedule so as to reduce the amount of time spent thinking about upkeep later. NOT YET STARTED.
  8. Personal. Continue my current habits of healthy diet, exercise, sleep, reading, and volunteering. MIXED. Been keeping up with everything but reading (been earworming podcasts instead).

 

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Progress, slow yet steady

 

Alright, so assuming I am giving up on #5, maybe I should come up with  new goal. How about:

Home. Finish the following outstanding home maintenance projects: siding repair, gutter repair, fix windows, clean dryer vent, reseal kitchen and bath grout, minor plaster repair, set up patio furniture.

What goals are you working on? What progress have you made?

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Shrinking My Life To Match My Values

The past few months I have been in a rut. Lots of anxiety, but not much change. I have been tunnel-visioned, I think, into focusing just on growth and accumulation in my finances. And because of that, I have neglected progress in so many other areas of my life.

20160728_095003Vacation has been helpful in allowing me to redirect that unsettled energy. Instead of thinking about what actions I cannot take because of life constraints and being annoyed by it (e.g. quit my job, have kids now) I have been thinking about things I can do now to make my life closer to what I want it to be on axes other than family and finances. What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind? And how do I get myself closer to my version of a “good” life, a “good” self?

With that in mind I have come up for new goals for the rest of the year:

  1. Charity. Allocate 10% of paycheck for donation to charitable causes addressing poverty, hunger, civil rights, education, and the environment.
  2. Civics. Volunteer to get out the vote in nearby swing state. Write to my mayor and state representatives about police enforcement and local issues.
  3. Meat. No meat eating in August. Reduce regular meat consumption to 1 lb/week.
  4. Energy. Talk with my neighbor about getting solar or participate in a community solar program. Turn down water heater temperature.
  5. Water. Reduce shower times and research lower flow showerheads to cut household water use by 25%.
  6. Finances. Reduce my expenses by refinancing (under way) and switching cell carriers when my contract ends. Start dipping my toes into P2P investing in such a way as to give individuals attempting debt recovery access to my capital.
  7. Simplify. Draft a home maintenance schedule so as to reduce the amount of time spent thinking about upkeep later.
  8. Personal. Continue my current habits of healthy diet, exercise, sleep, reading, and volunteering.

Note that most of these goals are about shrinking my life rather than growing it. Reducing my environmental footprint, reducing my personal capital accumulation and directing it outward to others who need it more, streamlining my existing processes. With the notable exception of political action, of course, where I want to expand my influence than decrease it.

There are a couple of pipe dream items I am not putting on the list this year. For one, BF is unconvinced my aquaponics obsession is going to last (“But we can grow eggplants on our windowsill! And teach our kids about nitrogen cycles!”). But all in all I am glad to be taking steps forward now and not delaying my best self until the finances are convenient.

What do you value? What actions have you taken lately to be your “best self”?

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Money and Anxiety

Warning: Navel gazing overshare, below

Periodically I get anxious about my finances– a fact which comes as a surprise only to those readers who thought it a 24/7 affliction. My anxiety tends to surface when I am feeling down about my work, which unfortunately lately has been happening more often than not.

Here’s the logic: I do not much like my industry. But my job pays well and I need to support my family (both the generation above and future generation below). So for now and until I have enough to semi-retire in roughly 10 years, in my industry I choose to stay.

“But wait!” says my rebelling brain. “Ten years is way too long! Can’t you make it shorter?”

My brain has two ways of dealing with anxiety: “act” or let it go. And since money is the only thing I can’t really let go, I instead have these optimization binges, complete with spreadsheets and incessant Mint or PF blog or Redfin checking (because apparently anxious-me thinks RE investing would greatly reduce my stress levels?).

So I recrunch the numbers, consider where I can spend less or how many more hours I could work. I think about refinancing or renting out the second bedroom on AirBnB while BF goes out of town for the weekend. I pretend for about ten seconds that I am handy enough to do all our home maintenance. I curse my exorbitant food spending and needing pricey PT every other year for a new sprain or ache. And in my very very worst moments (really not proud of this) I think about how much “easier” it would be to date a high earner instead of someone on a social worker’s salary.

Sometimes I make some moderate change in my finances and that’ll do the trick. “It’s progress,” I say to my brain. “You can’t say that I didn’t try.” But other times there won’t be any realistic changes to make or any progress I do see is deemed not enough. The anxiety gets worse and my brain thrashes until it hits a low of a depressive stupor.

I have considered on and off going to see a therapist about my money anxiety. I haven’t yet for a few reasons:

(1) Under my insurance therapy is very expensive and that directly triggers my already money anxious brain.

(2) I fear the process of shopping around for therapists, thereby opening myself up to the scrutiny and judgement of a series of strangers who may make me feel worse during an already unsettled time.

(3) I have a stereotype in my head that therapists come from affluent backgrounds and treat those who do too. I worry they will not understand my cultural context (the obligation of taking care of a parent financially) or be able to help me unlearn behaviors I adopted when anxious and poor.

(4) I vaguely worry (though this is more of a rationalization than a real worry) that the medical records at my therapists office will be poorly secured and that someday they will be hacked. I worry that potential future employers will discriminate against me if they knew about my intermittent lapses in mental health.

(5) Having friends who were forcibly hospitalized when I was a teenager, it is hard for me to fully shake off the general feeling of mistrust for the judgment of mental health professionals. This is much less of a worry to me now as an adult than it was when I was an agentless minor.

(6) My anxiety and depressive moods always go way eventually and, believe it or not, have gotten substantially better over time. I hold out a weak hope that maybe the problem will figure itself out on its own and someday will lessen to the point of being a non issue.

Anywayyyy, that’s where I’m at. </cathartic rambling>

How about you? Do you have overwhelming anxiety about money? Have you ever seen a therapist about it?

Feel free to comment below or send a message through my Contact form if you want to send me a note privately.

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Friends With Money

My friend Ann and I were visiting thrift stores a few weeks ago. She was updating her summer wardrobe and I was playing the part of her personal stylist, a role which I am surprisingly good at. Ann’s fiance, Kevin, was also with us offering opinions.

I joked as we left the store, bundles of clothes in Ann’s arms, that picking out clothes for her was my ideal situation. I could shop vicariously through Ann and not spend any money! I thought this would get a chuckle since my “miserliness” is at this point well known in our cohort.

To this Kevin replied, “But you can afford to buy clothes yourself, you don’t need to shop vicariously through Ann.” Which is true. But I didn’t need to buy any more clothes. And, I argued, there are other things I wanted to prioritize, like saving my money for when I have kids or for switching careers/semi-retirement.

Kevin is often insistent that I should spend more money. He comes from a decidedly affluent background and is a bit of a consumerist, always buying the “best” of any household item, going with Ann to $200 dinners on a Thursday night just ‘cuz. And thanks to two very high incomes and a large inheritance between them he and Ann can spend like that without issue. I don’t fault them for it, it is their money, but it is a different mindset than mine.

Ann is a lot less pressure-y than Kevin and is respectful about my money related anxiety. Though, it has been interesting to see how her own spending patterns have changed since she started seeing Kevin. My friend, who used to never shell out more than $20 on a nice meal now spending hundreds on museum glass frames for her old $5 street art.

It’s weird sometimes interacting with Kevin and Ann. I know that I am in a very privileged and good (financially speaking) situation, but it is hard sometimes being around them not to feel like I am being silly with my frugality, that my false austerity is a social inconvenience. I also worry that my lifestyle is inflating, creeping steadily upwards to meet that of my friends due to feelings of social pressure. First world problems, I know, but something I am thinking about now.

Do you have friends of different incomes or spending mindsets? How does money affect your friendships?

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Bits & Pieces: Can We Have A Redo On 2016? Edition

  • Summer rain is back, which means random bouts of sudden summer depression are also in the queue.
  • Chris Hayes has summed up how I’m feeling right now
  • An economist friend recently lamented to me about armchair Brexperts (*raises hand*) and how now in our cohort, thanks to John Oliver, opinions about Brexit are like assholes– everyone has one. It reminded me how This American Life, a podcast I love dearly, completely missed the mark when reporting on the industry I work in. The piece was oversimplifying, pandering, not actually focusing on the real issues or nuances within the industry. I thought about how often the media informs us our opinions and how even good journalists can get it not “wrong” but clearly not right.
  • Been going through a bout of imposter syndrome lately at work. I often have anxiety that they’ll “find me out” and fire me. This waxes and wanes but has been hitting me hard since the company was acquired.
  • Read this old study summary from Pew about clustering subgroups within the middle class. I found it interesting because it gave a decent name to my childhood home environment that I’ve never quite been able to squarely explain.
  • The Money Diary series on Refinery29 has been scratching my money voyeurism itch, though reading through the comments reminds me why we can’t have nice things.
  • Is inclusive growth possible (even using redistributive means)? Can anti-globalization be not racist?
  • My 8-year-old laptop melted down 2 weeks ago (I have been browsing and blogging on my phone). I’m trying to wait patiently until new Macbook Pros get released (hopefully in Q3?). I may not have the resolve to keep this up much longer.
  • Ready for June to be over and get on with July travel. I think getting away from my life for a bit will help ease the malaise.

How are you?

Do You Use Gender Neutral Pronouns For Your Kids?

BF and I are getting in a nesting mood even though we are a couple years from marriage and a good 4-5 from children. We’ve been talking how we want to raise a family and one thing we are still mulling over is whether we want to use gender neutral pronouns for our kids.

On the one hand, by using cis pronouns by default we perpetuate cis normativity, both for our child and as agents who affect our community’s culture. On the other hand, by using gender neutral pronouns before our child chooses to express a particular gender with society as it exists now, we directly draw attention to our kid’s gender in a way that we don’t particularly want to do. If our kids express trans or genderqueer at some point, the switch in pronoun use acts as a useful catalyst for having conversations about gender. Whereas by defaulting to ze/hir it feels like our kid would be positioned as a battleground for our agenda.

Right now I am leaning more toward cis pronouns by default and adapting if our kid expresses an alternative gender identity. I feel like it would be easier on the kid (and honestly for us as well). BF mostly agrees, but is reluctant to let go of the idea altogether.

I know some bloggers use gender neutral pronouns when writing about their kids so I’m wondering: what’s your motivation for using gender neutral pronouns for your kids? Do you use them in meatspace too? Why or why not?

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Brexit: Will They Or Won’t They?

Not a testament as to whether I think it is a good or bad thing, but I wager based on polling and media coverage that Britain is going to leave the EU.

What say you? Will Brexit happen? Do you think that is a good, bad, or too complicated to ascribe “good” or “bad” as descriptors sort of thing?

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