What Keeps You Up At Night?

There was a long time, when I was a child and young adult, when money would keep me awake. Or, at least, the lack of it. I’d worry for hours deep into the night whether we’d become homeless, whether I’d be able to afford college, whether I’d lose my job and be unemployable forever more. I traversed all these worries link by link for years until, relatively recently, I realized: money is no longer my problem.

I have been extremely lucky in this regard. High paying jobs and the principles of financial independence have led me to a place where I feel assured we will have enough money to live, to pay the bills, to take care of the kids, etc. We may not be retirement-ready rich, but it’d be silly of me to expect we’d ever be truly poor.

And with this, I felt free.

For a time.

Here’s the thing: chronic anxiety is a strange beast. When the object of the anxiety is gone, the anxiety itself doesn’t just magically disappear. It may seem that way, for a while. There’s a lull, a respite. But there’s always something around the corner or even an infinite number of things to fill the vacuum.

That terrible social faux pas I made last Tuesday, trying to meet my work goals, not being fulfilled by my labor, serious physical ailments befalling my family and friends, political turmoil, families still being separated at the border, the threat of autocracy, the threat of ethnic cleansing, climate change, whether it is amoral to have children in the current age, whether I’d feel if my life had meaning if I couldn’t have kids, the idea of death. The list goes on and on.

And the thing is: all these concerns, though of varying import, are all real and legitimate. But they are also suffocating. This anxiety, at times a useful tool to be harnessed to motivate personal process, can in the worst of times stifle my ability to even move.

This is the key idea that I want to start working through now that I see it clearly: there’s no amount of controlling my environment that will make all these problems disappear (though certainly I should work to help others). For my own sanity, I have to accept that there’s an entire world of problems out there for everyone to suffer through. But what’s keeping me awake at night isn’t the world. It’s me.

What keeps you up at night? How do you deal with anxiety?

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How Much Did We Spend On Our Wedding?

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Our wedding has come and gone. We are now married. (This, in my book, was always the minimum threshold of success.)

In terms of cost, I think we did pretty well. I talked with one of my coworkers before the event, astonishingly telling her “average wedding costs” per women’s magazines and the like ($30k+ in our area). As a part-time wedding hair stylist, she didn’t believe those numbers for a second. “It’s at least $80k out where I live on the Cape!” I think we run in very different circles.

As you can tell from the table above, we got a lot of help with wedding costs. His mother insisted on paying for the catering, which was by far the most expensive line item. It costs a lot to feed 60 people! That said, our caterers were excellent. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food; they did all the set-up, clean-up, and serving labor; plus they provided hot apple cider and coffee for our guests, and welcome end to the event on a cool fall day outdoors. And after the event they packed up all the extra food for us, which meant our diet was nothing but wedding leftovers for an entire week.

There were a couple things here and there that didn’t go quite as planned. Because our original musician ended up moving away for conservatory, we decided to go the “let’s play something on our computer” route. Unfortunately, our speakers just decided not to work? So that was kind of a bust.

But overall the event was fine to good. The weather was perfect and the trees in the park had just started turning their leaves, bits of red and orange flecks amongst the mostly-green topiary. I brought a dozen decks of playing cards for people to use during the reception and I think it really helped in keeping our guests entertained. I got to see some out-of-town friends, which was nice. And our families were on their best behavior– a welcome relief.

I might update this post with some wedding photos once our photographer sends us the final copies. Or I might not. If you can’t tell, I’m mostly just glad our wedding is behind us. I love my husband and enjoy being married. But, big orchestrated events? I can do without another one of those for a good, long time.

Did you enjoy your wedding? How much did you spend on “the big day”?

What We Spent In Ireland

Flights

$672.06 + 67,324 Amex MR
Economy class on Aer Lingus x2

After hours of frustration that an Aer Lingus ticket booked with 50k BA Avios would somehow be more expensive than booking with cash, I decided to use my Amex points to cover the cost of a ticket. There were cheaper flights available, but they’d have been at weird times and require layovers in Germany? 🤔

Accomodations

$889.41 + 50k IHG + 25k Starwood
AirBnB x3, Castle x1, Holiday Inn x2, Westin x1

If I had to change one thing about our trip, I’d have spent more time in the Irish countryside and less time in the cities. For our one night in the country, we got to stay in a beautiful castle next to a field of ponies in a lush room with a two person jacuzzi. Just look at how gorgeous this is:

And that castle stay cost less per night than the sketchy, illegal AirBnB we stayed at in the bad part of Dublin, for which we picked up our keys– I kid you not– in a lockbox attached to the barred windows behind an abandoned building.

Transportation

$986.49
Car rental, parking, tolls
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We got a small hybrid, which managed to last the entire week without a fill up. Fiancé did all of the driving; I have a hard enough time when driving on the right side of the road. 🚘

Food

$640.78
Lots of restaurant food, most of it mediocre.

I am going to be honest: I did not have high expectations for Irish food. Our first dinner in Dublin, the mushy orange paste on my plate had been so boiled to death that I could not tell whether it was tomato or carrot. 🍅🥕?IMG_20180909_161918
When we took trips out of the cities, I found it much easier to find good food. The best by far was the multi-course dinner in the castle we stayed at. They took something as simple as chicken broth and took it to the next level. Note to self: the secret is to cook down to a concentrated stock and clarify with eggs. Sadly I forgot to take pictures of it and, really, most of the food, so you get the above shot of a kind of mediocre suburban mall meal instead. 🤷

My advice? When in the cities just go for the Indian food or cook your own meals; save the pubs for the rolling countryside. Be warned though: even at the best of places, though, the flavors were still quite subtle (read: if you like heavily spiced food, you will be disappointed).

Activities & Sights

$644.90
Victor’s Way, Dublin Fringe Festival hip hop performance, National Museum of Ireland – Arts & Archaelogy, Book of Kells, falconry lesson, seaweed oil massage with brushing, Black Cab Tours, Giant’s Causeway, Irish Linen Centre, Newgrange monument tourIMG_20180913_142339~2

As Fiance’s first international trip and our designated honeymoon to boot, it was important to me that our trip to Ireland be special. Cue the $350 falconry lesson and $130 seaweed massage. 🐣🌿💆

You hear that? That’s the sound of my soul leaving my body. 😱👻
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Jokes aside, I am glad we splurged on this special occasion. We got slow motion footage of real life hawks dive bombing us for food and Fiance’s skin has been sooo soft since his exfoliating massage. Absolutely worth it.
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That said, the frugal traveler could get by in Ireland in a lot less. Ireland is replete with beautiful natural wonders and inexpensive historic sights to visit.IMG_20180909_142459~2
I personally recommend the willing traveler head north to visit Giant’s Causeway if at all possible. We didn’t manage to walk on the Carrick-a-Rede bridge while in the area, but have heard great things about it too.

Shopping

$247.04
Avoca scarf, tweed vest

Fiancé bought himself a scarf and a tweed vest that’ll be part of his wedding outfit. Usually I would also get gifts for my friends when traveling abroad, but I didn’t see anything I thought they’d like.

Other

$503
Luggage fees, airport parking

These are the “unforced errors” of our trip. As in, it would have been so easy to circumvent these costs if we had planned ahead. In particular, Fiancé came straight to the airport from work, which ended up costing us $300 in parking fees. If we had researched the parking options and he had dropped the car off at home and taken a taxi or instead, or even if he had just used the economy lot, we could have easily saved $150-250 on that item alone. Sigh.

Summary

  • Flights – $672.06
  • Accommodations – $889.41
  • Transportation – $986.49
  • Food – $640.78
  • Activities & Sights – $644.90
  • Shopping – $247.04
  • Other – $490.26

Total spending: $4,570.93

Honestly, I am not thrilled with how much we spent, about a thousand dollars more than what I had expected for this trip.

Part of the mistake here was that we approached planning in a divide and conquer fashion. I booked the flights and hotel while Fiancé dealt with the auto-related items separately, so I ended up greatly underestimating how much the big ticket stuff would cost. Had I known our car rental and parking would be so expensive, I might have suggested we go to a better value destination. Or, at the very least, been a lot more proactive in curbing our expenses on “Food” and “Other” to compensate.

The other reason for the overrun here was that Fiancé’s mother is very generous and offered to let him use her card for whatever as a wedding gift. And I think it may have, ahem, caused him to be looser with the spending than he otherwise would have been. 😑

All in all though, I’m glad we took the time to have a nice vacation together. The next international trip on the horizon is a friend’s wedding in Copenhagen, but we haven’t decided whether we’re both going to that yet or just me. In any case, I would like to squeeze in one more fun travel experience before we have kids.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Traveled anywhere fun lately? Any recommendations for Copenhagen?

What Is Casual Dress Code Even

It looks like I’ve been getting a lot of traffic on my “Should I Think Less About FIRE?” post. It seems like it came from someone’s email newsletter, but I can’t tell from whom? In any case, thanks internet stranger! And welcome new readers!

I know I’m on break, but I had a couple quick things I wanted to talk about with regard to my new company’s casual dress code.

First of all, “casual” pretends it is not a dress code, but it totally is. It mirrors what I think a lot of us had as school dress codes. As far as I can tell, casual means that one can wear jeans and T shirts, but that things that are more skin-revealing (even tank tops or off-the-shoulder looks which are trendy right now) or bodycon are really out of place.

Even within the realm of T shirts and jeans, some tees are normal and others are out of place. Lightly patterned tees (stripes, dots, little dog prints, etc.) are fine, but emblazoned words and three wolf moon-esque shirts are not. Also, fit is extremely important. Especially if one is literally wearing tees and sweats, the right fit is the one thing keeping wearers from being seen as truly unkempt.

Second of all, my business casual-leaning wardrobe is really close to feeling out of place at my current work place. I’ve been defaulting to my silk shirts and jeans and I’m worried it’s causing people to see me as too dressy to be technical? Like sometimes people don’t bother telling me things I can completely understand because they are “subtle”, but like I would really appreciate people to just tell me in order to perform my job thank you very much. Maybe this is just in my head? A projection of imposter syndrome, perhaps?

In any case, I think I’d be well-served to add a couple more pairs of jeans to my rotation and some non-silk shirts. I don’t really want to just wear tees, personally. Feels too informal. Some minimalist cotton or linen blouses, I reckon, but no button-ups because even as a bust size B, those tend to pucker like whoa. Recommendations welcome!

Third of all, I have a $50 credit to Saks through a new Amex partnership via my Platinum card. I can burn the credit between now and the end of the calendar year. It’s enough to buy maybe a third of a garment? Not really sure how and whether I’ll end up using this.

Alright, back to my exponentially increasing to do list!

Does your workplace have a “casual” dress code? What does that even mean? Any minimalist cotton or linen tops you’d recommend?

What Kind Of Life Do I Want To Live?

I have been pretty alone with my thoughts lately, which has put me in a wee bit of a quarter life crisis.

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s just f-i-n-e.

To pull myself out of this morass, though, I want to do something positive. Like identifying what kind of person I want to be in my life. I need a goal in order to create a plan, right?

Some of the things I outline below are less plausible than others based on my current behaviors, which I note. Some are also less important to me than others, which I also note.

Alright, with that said, let’s get started. I want to, in my life:

Very important

  • Raise two well-adjusted children. (more likely)
  • Maintain good health well into my old age. (likely)
  • Be seen as a highly technical person. (unlikely)
  • Create a deep and lasting impact on the lives of others. (unlikely)

Commentary: I have a bit of imposter syndrome when it comes to being seen as a “highly technical” person which, for those not in STEM, is code for “has an iota of intellectual worth.” This reflects a really dumb and toxic part of STEM culture but it’s in my brain now and I have to deal with it before it eats me alive. I’d also like to make a lasting impact on others which, given my current introverted, risk-averse, what-if-I-mess-things-up-even-more? nature is harder. I think developing a more specialized skill set will help me make it more possible though.

Important

  • Foster multiple children. (somewhat likely)
  • Be the kind of person that invites mentees or those in need into my home for meals with my family and makes them feel loved and cared for. (unlikely)

Commentary: It is important to me to be a generous person showing love for the people and in the language I care most about: children and food, respectively. While I think fiancé and I will end up fostering one day, I think I need to be more proactive about establishing other types of relationships with others wherein I am offering knowledge, assistance, and just warm human kindness instead of just taking it.

Somewhat important

  • Speak multiple languages. (unlikely)
  • Have my art or writing recognized at a national level. (very unlikely)
  • Create a successful company that works to solve difficult societal issues. (very unlikely)
  • Establish a large charitable foundation. (very unlikely)
  • Have someone write a biography of my life posthumously. (very unlikely)

Commentary: Here we get into various legacy-building items. I guess I want to be remembered? It feels vain to say it, but it’s true. I’d also like to be a polyglot– I am currently monolingual to a fault in spite of years of language instruction. Ideally I’d like to be able to speak Spanish (easier since I’m okay-proficient, just downloaded a bunch of Spanish-language podcasts to listen to) and Mandarin (way, way harder). Unless I force myself into an immersive setting, I don’t know that I’ll be able to make much progress on this.

Not very important

  • Establish multigenerational wealth. (likely)
  • Write and direct a movie. (very unlikely)

Commentary: It’s funny that one of the least important but ideal things (establishing family wealth) is perhaps one of the things I spend the most time on. I’d also like to direct a movie one day but given that I have zero related skills, that seems like a big leap.

What kind of person do you want to be? Are you that person already?

Three Notes On Families

I’m en route to my brother’s graduation in Chicago (activity and food recommendations welcome!) so this one is going to be even more slapdash than usual.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about families.

1.

The administration’s new policy of separating all families at the border, including those making asylum claims, makes me sick. These families come to the US for relief and shelter, and we kick them while they are down. There are some snapshots and accounts reaching the public: this audio clip released on ProPublica broke my heart.

We donated to RAICES Texas, who is offering legal representation and bond money to those incarcerated for their border crossing. We will also be attending our local chapter of the nationwide Families Belong Together protests on June 30th. Our true blue federal representatives are already on the right side of this issue (and by that I mean the left side), but we’ve made calls to them anyway. Even our Republican governor is saying and, on a surface level, doing the right things for now.

At times I cannot believe this country, my country, would do this. But America’s history is full of racial violence, segregation, and cruelty. And yet we must fight for its ideals.

2. 

I recently finished reading Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko. The book has felt really appropriate to this moment.

Pachinko follows a Korean family through the generations, from Japanese occupation and colonialism through the second world war to the nineties. It’s an epic about family– chosen and “blood”– sticking together in a country that is intent on dehumanizing and forgetting them.

The book makes me think about how often we as humans have used ethnocentrism to caste people, even those who have fully integrated into the dominant culture. It makes me think of the intergenerational trauma that gets passed down in every family where no more than a few generations back at any point in history, the family narrative was one of war, genocide, migration, and hurt. And how quickly that is forgotten by the young ones who don’t live through it. How really all families, to a degree, are “mixed” and yet how culturally divided families themselves really are. Human history as waves of trauma and their rippling effects.

3. 

I think to my own family, itself mixed, intercontinental, and broken. I wonder how many disagreements between my parents and myself– on race, on sexual norms, on gender– come from differences in the culture versus a legacy of trauma. Is culture just a product of the trauma of the times?

I’d been taught from a young age that family was the most important thing. And by family, it was meant “blood” family. Your parents, your children, your grandparents, cousins, etc. Blood sticks together. “Blood” family– not friends, not even your spouse– they were the only ones you could trust when things got hard. How much of that message came from trauma?, I wonder.

And yet it is my chosen family– my friends, my partner, my community– among whom I rely and feel safest. Is this a function of my American-ness, my millennial-ism? Perhaps. Papering over the deep well of hurt and resentment from my family’s past makes it easy to start fresh and new, for me to move forward with my own life. But it also feels ahistorical and flippant.

What am I hiding from? What am I unwilling to engage with in my family’s past?

What are you doing to end family separations at the border? Have you read Pachinko? How do you feel about your “blood” vs. chosen families? Any recommendations for things to see, do, or eat in Chicago? 

All The Clothes I Bought In The First Half of 2018

After last year’s big clothing overhaul, I’m still basking in the glow of a nice, new-ish wardrobe. Honestly, I’ve found the idea of clothes shopping since to be kind of a chore, in part because I know I’ll have to get anything I buy tailored to make it feel as good as my clothes do right now.

And besides my wallet could use the break– I’m hoping to keep under $350 this year, but won’t be sad if I go slightly over. I also told JP from Fired Up Finance that I’d join her 12 items for 2018 challenge, so that’s another motivator for the relatively low key spending so far this year. Depending on how you count it, I’m somewhere between three and six items (do socks count? do duds count?). This does not include my wedding wardrobe, by the way, which I consider under its own separate budget.

Everything I Bought

Merrell Jungle MOCs – $80.00

MRL-R60801-01-yThese are, by far, my favorite shoes of all time. So comfy, good for urban walking and also light hikes through all sorts of weather. My old pair lasted me about a year to a year and a half, but I wore those shoes every. single. day. And they were probably still serviceable, though they were starting to develop some holes at the toes. If this replacement pair lasts me the year, I’ll be happy.

Mizuno Wave Paradox 3 – $53.13

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Over the past few years I’ve burned through quite a few pairs of Mizuno Wave Paradoxes which feels unfrugal but honestly I probably should be replacing them more often than I do. After burning through my stash and realizing that the original design is no longer being sold, I bought an updated though still older version from the same line which is designed for over-pronators like myself. They aren’t as lightweight as the original Wave Paradox, which were a dream, but so far I like them.

Silvertoe Socks – $28.29

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Bought a couple packs of Silvertoe socks to replace the thick, hole-in-the-sole pairs I’d inherited a decade ago from my parents. These are nice, thin, and feel appropriate for casual to business casual settings. No complaints so far.

Uniqlo Warhol Shirt – $9

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I was idling at one of the consignment shops in the schmancy part of town, and wasn’t feeling enamored by the selection and, more importantly, the prices. Everything was basically at the retail sale price (i.e. about as much as I could spend buying it new straight from the store). Also, they were selling heavy fall/winter wear in June which… why? But anyway, amongst the racks I found this Warhol-esque Campbell’s Beef Noodle tee shirt which was sold at the MoMA for a while. It’s soft, catches the eye, and serves as my one fun purchase of 2018.

Duds – $39.50

I tried out some pieces from Grana but they didn’t end up fitting my body shape well. That resulted in a $8 restocking fee. I also tried buying a pair of Merrells used on Poshmark, but found that their sizing had recently changed. I ended up donating the slightly too small shoes and buying the pair I use now new, as described above.

Total – $209.92

Things I Want

I want to get some more casual tops, but am waiting to start working at my new job to see what the dress code is there first. Also some linen, because summer is hot and while silk is light and breezy, it shows all the sweat, all the time.

What clothes have you bought so far in 2018? What clothes do you want?