Eight years and 18 months

Today I celebrate two anniversaries.

The more important one = today is my eight year wedding anniversary.

The other anniversary is not so great. You can probably easily guess what that one is. The day I got let go from my job.

My only comments around my marriage anniversary are that #1 > it’s the single best decision I ever made. My wife is kind, patient and forgiving. She has a big heart. I’m extremely lucky I married her. I thank God for this everyday, at this point. #2 > I’m glad I got married when I did. I was a bit older which proved to be beneficial in how I thought as a married person. Back then, I was also full of energy and determined to make tomorrow better than today. That created a solid bedrock on which to build a marriage.

In terms of the anniversary of my job loss, lots more comments.

To recap the past 18 months — I went from early relief into a few weeks of shock then into denial (it was their fault and I’ll bounce right back somehow). This led into a deep depression that was suddenly killed off by landing a great asset sales project. This work was always meant to be temporary and it lasted for six months. It ended with a good outcome and I made enough money to help cover the costs of fixing up my apartment in new york, funding all my retirement accounts and some surplus to live off of for awhile. I’m blessed I got this project.

The project work was all-consuming and stressful, especially during the final couple months. I spent about six weeks afterwards traveling and de-compressing. I was in good spirits and w/ renewed confidence. This gave me a solid burst of energy to accomplish some big things: (1) moving my family to Chicago by myself, (2) completing over 30 significant do-it-yourself repairs in my NYC apartment, and (3) getting my life organized in general. All of these required a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

On the last point “getting my life organized”, I’m in the 7th or 8th inning of this process. This has occurred in the following stages, most of which are still on-going:

  • Stage One:  De-cluttering (literally making big piles of similar items, throwing out what wasn’t needed and then organizing. I still feel like I have too much “stuff” from 13 years of NYC crazy fast-paced living but, at least now, I feel like I know where everything is. I also relish in the fact that I won’t need to buy clothes, toiletries, books and a lot of other “stuff” for many years forward.
  • Stage Two:  Mental organization. I have a mental disease called ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). I may get into this as a separate topic in the future. Until then, I was diagnosed for ADHD in 2009. Until recently, I did not put much time into learning about this “disease”. Over the past nine months, I’ve finally had a chance to dig into learning about how to better channel the positive attributes of this condition and learn to live around the significant inconveniences that come with it. I found a professional in Chicago to help me with ADHD. I also switched medications.
  • Stage Three:  Social organization. By this, I mean review of my relationships and use of “free time”. Unemployed, I have little time to go out and spend money.  I cut back on social interactions considerably. Additionally, when I quit drinking in July, I inadvertently changed my social life significantly. Over the past six months, I’ve gone out of my way to become less judgmental, especially of family members.  I’ve also made it a priority to showcase a better example to my nephews and nieces. Turning to friends, decisions here were more challenging. I’ve had to both face the fact that I’ve been written off by people and I’ve had to fire a group of “friends” who I no longer want to invest time into in the future. Its probably best for these people as well as for me.  Looking back, there are certain groupings that people seem to have fallen into:Drinking Buddies: A handful of friends disappeared after I quit drinking. These were just “drinking buddies”, not true friends. Some I always knew were hallow  individuals  out solely for alcohol and/or a good time. However, I hung on through the years hoping for a few more good nights out. After they heard I quit drinking, I have not received any correspondence from the drinking buddies, nor am I waiting around for any.  I wouldn’t respond anyway. IWNDWYT (in AA parlance, this stands for I will not drink with you today). For this crew, I hope IWNDWYEA, “EA” standing for ever again. I’ve wasted enough of my time choosing to hang out with you.

Toxic Friendships:  Mark Cuban has a great quote about good employees:

“The people that tend to work for me a long time, not only are smart, not only are driven, not only are learners, but they understand that the greatest value you can offer a boss is to reduce their stress.  Anybody who reduces my stress becomes invaluable to me, I never want to get rid of them. Employees who tend to think that they are invaluable are typically the ones who create the most stress, by creating firestorms and creating drama and making things more difficult for me.”

This quote is transferable to friendships. I reached the conclusion over the past few months that OLD friendships are two-fold. (1) Those that cause me more stress and (2) those that help me to be a better person. I have to be fair and invert this equation as well. In which friendships do I cause people more stress vs. where do I improve peoples’ lives. The interesting thing was that I discovered that people who indeed check the my box as toxic likely view me as just the same. There are certain people where our only common bond seemed to be drama. Without drama, we don’t speak. These people always seem to need something but are not there for me. They never offer any help. They only want to hear the drama. I’ve had to fire these people. I ghost them when they reach out. They are not positive and just make my negativity come out worse. We’re all better off without each other.

Banderilleros:  These are some of the most toxic of the toxic. Banderilleros are bull fighters that hook banderillas (barbed sticks) into a bulls neck to keep weakening them before bringing out the muleta (red cloth) for the final kill. Social Banderilleros love when you are in a weakened state. Like flies to shit, they suddenly appear and start swarming around after things fall apart. They can’t wait to stick their banderillas in your neck. These are sadists who enjoy feeling superior to you. If you encounter them when everything is going well, they are dismissive and full of backhanded comments, eager to reassure you that they are doing even better and that your luck will run out. They constantly gloat. Even when they know you are down, they kick you by going on and on about themselves and how great their lives are in comparison. Often times, for days after these conversations, its hard not to feel crummy about myself. I fly right into their web.

A recent movie named “Brittany Runs a Marathon” does a great job of portraying the protagonist (Brittany’s) roommate as a Banderillero. Once Brittany finally starts taking control over her life in an assertive manner, the roommate feels threatened and does everything in her power to weaken Brittany.   I immediately identified with Brittany and how the character felt as she took control over her life. She fired her roommate as a friend. Likewise, recently I fired the Banderillero’s in my life. Around the holidays, they all came buzzing wanting to meet up or talk by phone. I turned them all down in a way that made it clear I had no interest in  spending any more time with them. Although awkward at first, it now feels good to be free of these toxic people. No longer the fool for these predators to feed on.

The Utility friends:  Then there are the friendships with former work colleagues, classmates, etc. who shared some current common interests with me. Unfortunately, communication with these people has dissolved over the period of my unemployment. For the first six months or so, communications seemed to stay largely the same. I still met these people for coffee or drinks. We texted quite a bit – mainly in a joking manner. However, eventually the texts became more unilateral with curt responses. These people never seem to offer help or dismissive of my networking requests. They eventually decline any invitation to meet up and they just seem to fade into the distance. For some reasons, these relationships never really seemed that important but they kind of sting when you realize that you’ve been “written off”. It feels like a mild form of getting fired over and over again. Then you just begin forgetting them.

The Complete Douche-bags:  Even worse than the banderillas are the total douche-bags. These are people who once appeared as friends but not only wrote me off, but did it in grand fashion. Most of these people I met in New York, especially during my hedge fund years. I’ve had a few so-called friends ridicule me openly in front of others – poking fun at my situation and making insulting comments. I’ve also had a prior “friend” openly mocking me within ear shot while a couple other people I thought were on my side laughed in amusement. In another instance I called an old manager who I thought liked me. I told him what happened at my last job and how I was let go. His response was “ya, I’m having to clear out all the dead wood over here as well. Good luck.” Then he hung up. It feels like these douche-bags want me to feel as awful as possible. After all of these instances, I felt as low as humanly possible. I couldn’t help thinking “did I do something terrible to these people in the past without realizing it?” Its been difficult to get over these instances and, unfortunately, it has caused me some social isolation. I’m afraid to put myself in this position again. I didn’t need to fire these people, they fired me. These douche-bags caused harm because they validate that they think you are and will always be worthless. Never a threat, never an asset – not even worth keeping in their network. Just rubish. There is nothing I can do about these douche-bags than to just treat them like the shit they are and flush their memories down the toilet.

The true friends: My father told me once when I was young to not waste too much time hanging out with people because, when I got older, I’d look back and only have a few genuine friends in my life. He went on to define these people as the few who would show up at 3 am to bail you out and not cast any type of judgement towards you.

My dad was spot on. There are only a few people left in my life who I would now call true friends. It takes rough times to shake these people out. I’ll make sure to protect these friendships best I can. Hopefully I can show these people how grateful I am to have them as friends.

  • Stage Four:  Financial organization. I have reduced down my family’s cost basis considerably. My wife going back to work and covering our Chicago rent has helped immensely. Additionally, I am constantly looking for ways to cut out additional costs. I try not to spend a single unnecessary dollar. In this way, unemployment has been great. It has re-taught me the value of the $1, something I admittedly lost over the past 20 years. When $0 is coming in each month and thousands are going out, its hard not to panic about every nickle and dime. Everyday, I think about how foolish my spending had became in the past. How much I threw down the drain with unnecessary purchases. All those nights out drinking away earnings that could have been compounding in the market today. These are true regrets. But, all I can do now is to change for the better and go forward with a more cautious approach.

    I’ve procrastinated on building out an income statement and balance sheet budget for months. The anxiety of seeing a spreadsheet that shows my wealth evaporating is just too much punishment psychologically. Every day, I think about spending a few hours to get this done. Then night comes and I have gone another day without beginning. In due time.

So, that’s where I stand. I pushed out a lot of resumes over the past six months and have received almost no responses. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up the job search – it just seems like a giant waste of time. I’m now beginning to think about how to begin creating my own future without working for anyone else. It seems like the only way forward. Plus, as I understand my ADHD and my bad tendencies as a worker, I think its better I give it a go on my own. More on this to come.

Lastly, I’m back doing the damn Chicago to NYC commute every week to sell my apartment here. It was a great idea to take the property off market for a couple months. By mid-December I was 100% burnt out. Depression was eating me up.

It was good to be able to spend a lot of time with my son and family. I was able to get setup in Chicago. I now feel a lot more productive when I am at home. I needed this period. I also got to spend some quality time with my parents.

Now, I come back to NYC re-energized eager to sell this apartment. So far, the traffic has been hitting much stronger than it was last autumn. I received 15 visits this weekend alone – a record high. There were a couple second visitors and more people expressed a genuine interest. I have a good feeling that I’ll be able to sell this apartment soon. Fingers crossed. Once this is done, my expenses will be very low and I’ll be able to focus on getting my career pursuits back on track. I can figure out how to best approach entrepreneurship in a smart fashion.

So, in closing, I’ve managed to clean up a lot of my life. I am on a better trajectory than I was on just a few months ago. There is a lot of wood to chop but I’m slowly getting there, with a lot less baggage in tow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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