“When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret here for anyone who can grasp it.” – Rumi

I came across this not too long ago, and it resonated deeply with me. I’ve written previously on closed doors and dead ends, and of the frustration of frantically searching for happiness everywhere, yet finding it nowhere. The next chapter of my life, on which I will be embarking soon, was one which practically fell into my lap, with virtually no effort expended on my part.

It’s funny how it works out sometimes. Struggling so hard for so long, and suddenly, the right thing finally finds you like it was looking for you all along, too. Every part of it – speaking to a recruiter in Seattle, interviews, house hunting, finding a house within 1 day of actually physically viewing listings, having that offer accepted the same night, inspections passing with flying colors, high credit scores to facilitate the lending process… No major hiccups yet. It’s like I’m guided by a force much greater than luck. This life was desperately seeking me while I was desperately seeking it, and we finally found each other. We embraced lovingly on the cold, wet streets of a hard city like San Francisco. There was relief. Silence of the inner turmoil I’ve lived in longer than I can remember. Actual excitement. Romance.

Since this whirlwind picked me up in December, I think I’ve had maybe one or two down days. I’m used to so many more, having depression and not medicating myself for it. I’ve focused on the positive, thus life is positive right now. There is hope. That, too, baffles me. I’m able to get through all the muck and shit if I just have something to look forward to. I’ve known that all along.

I sit, on my last full day with my firm, at my client’s offices about an hour south of San Francisco. I’ve transitioned what knowledge I can. I’ve reviewed what work has been prepared thus far, and given value-added comments to improve it. I won’t be able to see what comes of it, though. I’ve done the separation checklist tasks like transferring my retirement account out of the firm, turned in my corporate AMEX card, switching my mobile phone to personal liability, turned in my firm-issued iPad, done my final timesheet, and shook the hands of my client to say goodbye. I’ve drafted a farewell email to be sent Monday before I turn in my laptop, with my personal contact info and LinkedIn profile should anyone want to keep in touch. It’s like I’m supposed to cry, but I’m not sad. There is an overwhelming emotion, and I don’t know if I can quite put my finger on it. It’s certainly not sadness, though I can feel a tinge of it, perhaps around the edges.

Like a life well-lived, I leave with no regrets. I explored this career path into another country, I explored back home again after that walkabout. There is nothing more for me here. I can peacefully pass into the next chapter with no unfinished business. I’ve done all I can do. Is this contentment? Is this a sense of climax, of completion? Usually there are so many deadlines, one after another, I don’t have time to take to celebrate the completion of a project because I’m already focused on the next one.

That next project isn’t quite ready for me, yet. The new job starts February 16 (which is kind of a funny story because I wanted to start February 15, mid month, good round number, but apparently, and I never knew this – there’s a HOLIDAY in February! I’ve never actually had it off! President’s Day! Who knew?) The new condo closes and I take possession on February 29.

I have some time in San Francisco to wrap up my affairs before flying one-way on February 12 to my new city. I’ve arranged for an Airbnb for the few weeks between my arrival date and the date the condo closes. It’s in a part of Seattle I wanted to live in to get a feel for, but ended up not going with a place there: Capitol Hill. This will be my first stint in a new city where I won’t be living in the gay boy capital of the city. I lived in Darlinghurst in Sydney, and near the Castro in San Francisco. On the judgmental map of Seattle, I’ll be with the Single Girls Drinking Wine, which suits me just about right. Yep, grownup panties on.

I’m taking this moment for what it is. A moment of clarity. Of understanding. Of peace. Of looking forward. Of closure. “It’s really happening,” I have to tell myself over and over again. Squeeeeeee.


January effect

Just before the holidays, I watched as my e*Trade account swelled with the sweet unrealized gains from Apple and Netflix stock. It’s been a roller coaster with Netflix, as seen in my posts on investor love affairs and behavioral finance.

And now, when I need them most, when I need to liquidate all my holdings to be able to put 20% down on a condo I’m purchasing in Seattle for the next chapter of my life, Netflix goes on a freefall, and shits the bed. It’s skydived at the most inopportune of times. Asshole. No, seriously. You’re a fucking asshole, Netflix.

It was only because of the December upswings that I was even crazy enough to think I might be able to afford to purchase in the first place. And then… whoosh. Someone let the air out of the entire market and January has been horrible for the markets. Volatility in China, earnings report releases, extended outlooks on revenues, the Fed continuing to increase interest rates, it’s just too much for investors right now.

I’ve mentioned the January effect in a previous post on investor behavior, and normally Januarys are known for being bullish after investors lock in gains/losses in December for tax purposes. This January has been anything but. Problem is, I’m still bullish. Sort of. I mean, I’m reallocating my entire portfolio to real estate in a market experiencing what San Francisco has in the last five years. I’m just getting in on this one early enough and at a price point that is only just a little uncomfortable but still doable.

But that “still doable” is becoming more and more like “looks like it’ll be nothing but newspaper burritos for meals my first 3 months in Seattle.” And shockingly enough, you know where investors are really making money right now? In the private markets, in private equity and venture capital. Once considered too risky for my blood, I’ve debated putting money into private equity/venture capital lately because of the rosy outlook in that sector. However, I just can’t morally bring myself to do so, for fear of becoming “one of them” – the VC capitalists who inject money into a local economy like San Francisco without regard to repercussions in housing markets and other micro economies.

So I’m sitting here, trying to come up with a believable heartbreaking story to persuade my cool Auntie Chianti to loan me the cash I need to top up my down payment, to make up for the deficiency caused by my shrinking portfolio. “I never ask for anything,” and “I really want this,” just don’t seem convincing enough. “I should have sold in December,” and **nothing but sobs** also seem plausible.

 photo talons_1.gif

Yes, I have sharpened my talons in case I need to cut a bitch to get my money. But, the problem I have is I’m a grown ass woman, and there is no excuse. I’m the captain of my ship when it comes to my investment portfolio. Truth is, I was subject to one of the primary emotions stimulated by the market – greed. I saw the stocks go up in December, hoping they’d go up more, greedily awaiting the day I could cash in at an extraordinary high, never knowing those days had already passed me by.

Time to suck it up and take a bath in the blood of my Netflix stock, while I figure out financing for the last leg of my downpayment. Netflix, you’ve truly broken my heart all along the ride, and it’s time we said goodbye again. Bye, Felicia.

 photo heart_1.gif

I’m selling furniture I don’t want to take with me on OfferUp. Have you heard of that app? I had a really good experience as a buyer when I first moved into my little San Francisco apartment, so in addition to posting a notice on the notice board in the lobby of my building for my neighbors, I took some quick photos of the stuff I was selling for OfferUp. OfferUp creates a virtual marketplace, where a buyer can respond to a seller’s posting, and offers a messaging system to arrange a meet up, where cash is then exchanged, with OfferUp taking no fees in the transaction. That’s right, it’s free.

My experience as a seller this time around has been anything but pleasurable. I ensured I included all measurements in my postings, to preempt stupid questions. Buyers still message asking for the dimensions. So, in response, they get a snarky and curt, “It’s in the ad, or you can google the IKEA name of the furniture and find it on IKEA’s website.”

 photo brain_1.gif

I have quite literally received every stupid question that can be asked in the last two weeks using this app. No, I will not disassemble the furniture, go with you to yours, then reassemble it for you. If I’m selling two together, don’t offer an amount for 2, then figure it out they both won’t fit in your car then offer ¼ of the price for just one of them. Then re-ask me for the dimensions to double check if they’ll fit in your car. It’s still in the original ad, idiot! Nothing’s changed! Did you even read it? When did so many stupid people get money? Then, no matter what price I put up there, people offer half. Even when you mark the box that the price is not negotiable, or cannot go below a certain point. Don’t waste my time asking, when that box is checked! OK?! And no, you can’t come pick it up at 11pm on a week night. And don’t give me a huge window then flake. Or the best is the woman who couldn’t conduct business via chat in the app, but instead she called saying she wanted something I was selling for a child with special needs, over and over again, and how he saw it and just fell in love with it. And oh, he’s on a feeding tube. Then expecting me to give it completely for free. Calling me “hun” only annoys me, hun.

 photo im-done.gif

I’m done with the stock market. I’m done with the housing market. I’m done with the secondary used goods market. I want to be done with all of it. “Only a little longer,” I tell myself, before I can just move to Seattle, get settled in the new job, enjoy the pride of home ownership once again, and focus on building a routine. But it’s not really a little longer. It’s at least a good month plus before I’ll be moved in. Til then, it’s stressing over every dollar, running up credit cards since all the cash is going toward the home, living around boxes, packing more boxes, and closing up loose ends a little every day in preparation for the transition.

In life’s journey, I’ve fallen in love and had my heart broken. I’ve lost a parent. I’ve lived abroad. Now I’m changing jobs. Moving cities, yet again. This time, with a life of a little kitty who depends on me not to cock it up completely. No pressure, or anything.

It gets better

Surreal is the perfect word to describe my life right now. I’m absorbing moments like a sponge, and if I don’t react, it’s no insult to the moment. It’s just a lot to take in.

I just checked out of my airport-adjacent Doubletree hotel, which was only booked for its attractive low rate for my two-day jaunt up to Seattle to secure housing. Not entirely unpleasant. But that could be the remnants of a celebratory bottle of prosecco talking, that I cradled lovingly under my arm, back to my room just after checking in last night, before putting my bag down.

 photo good idea at the time.gif

I sit in again, in the same African themed bar (which still, in no way resembles African cuisine or libations) as I did approximately 1 month ago (see a previous post here), awaiting my flight back to San Francisco, with time to spare before I board my flight. Surreal is this moment. It’s every moment since last night, when my offer on a condo in Lower Queen Anne was accepted.

I think back, to the last 6 years of my life, when it didn’t feel like my own. I didn’t exactly feel in control of it. I was sort of riding along in my own side car, when I was supposed to be driving. I don’t think I was. If I was, I was lost. I had no idea where I was going, or what I was doing. That all changed recently, after a series of most unexpected events.

 photo little thinking.gif

I was reminded today, in a subtle way, “Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.” For someone who was so lost, who felt adrift and out of touch with everyone for a long time, my message to anyone who feels like this now, is that if you steer your ship, even if your navigation system seems broken, just keep going. It’s ok to lose your way sometimes. It happens to everyone, at one point or another. You will come out the other side. And you’ll be okay.

Life isn’t always a smooth ride, it doesn’t always offer complimentary peanuts and soft drinks. Some roads are not yet forged, and the trail you blaze may be bumpy and rough. But it is yours. Own it; love it. It is you.

I never thought I’d have my own “success story.” I’m a bloody train wreck sometimes, with scattered moments of clarity and common sense. Yet somehow, I managed to land a challenging job that leaves me hopeful for the next chapter in my life. I made choices and moves that end up with me moving to Seattle, buying a home, and still breathing. I’m above water.

Here is my message of hope to you: it’ll be your turn next. Help things along. But keep going. Don’t give up. Sometimes, it gets shittier. But depending where you end the story, it does get better.

House hunters: Seattle

What. A. Day. I set my alarm for 5am in order to get a shower in before my taxi to the airport, from which I’d be departing for Seattle for a day of my very own episode of House Hunters: Seattle. Cheddar cried his usual “don’t leave me alone” codependent meows this morning as I dressed in the near dark of my pre-dawn apartment. I think he knows now when I pack my duffle bag that I’m not coming home that night. Don’t worry, I left the fairy lights (for Americans, Christmas lights) on for him so he doesn’t feel abandoned in a dark apartment.

Today, there was business to be done in Seattle. I got a great recommendation for a local realtor and lending agent from a friend who recently moved here and had a positive experience. I’ve been preapproved for a purchase price up to 750K, of which I hope I will not have to test the upper bounds. 

It’s already been a roller coaster – first there was booking the crazy two-day jaunt only a week ago, after putting in my notice with my current employer and landlord. I’ve been prowling Zillow and MLS listings, and came up with a great list of places to see on my trip up with the realtor. I emailed her the list yesterday at 8am, to allow her to plan the showings. Within an hour, nearly half of the listings on my list were already in multiple offer situations with sales pending. That includes some on which I really was getting my heart set. The roller coaster dipped, and I got a horrible feeling in my stomach. 

I was frustrated and exasperated, that so many of the good ones which met my criteria were not meant for me. I kept refreshing the browser, hoping for new listings, only to be more disappointed when more listings were not coming onto the market. What I didn’t want was for my two day trip up here to be in vain.

I found a couple new listings later that evening, after hopelessly spiraling into a dejected despondency. The Seattle market was just too hot, and being far away when things move so quickly was not to my advantage. I haphazardly emailed those listings in a desperate attempt to find something while I was here, but feeling like I’d lowered my standards and upped my budget considerably to do so.

My realtor was great – she picked me up from the airport this morning, after my flight shockingly was on time and without incident. We got right to it, first viewing a place that was on the very low end of my budget. It was in a less desirable neighborhood, and would suffice as a backup, but had no real personality or me to it.

The second property was one I liked immediately – it was a condo in a newer development, 4 stories in total: first floor was living (kitchen and living room), 2nd floor was 2 bedrooms and a bath, 3rd floor was the master suite, and the 4th was a modest but sufficient rooftop deck. Cheddar wouldn’t have been able to run very far from one end of the place to the other, and there were lots of stairs. But I was prepared to put an offer on it. No other offers had been made on it as of this morning, but the realtor said someone was coming by for a second look, which could lead to an offer. The pressure was on. It was a beautiful place in Beacon Hill, easy freeway access, beautiful mountain views, and 4 times the square footage of my current apartment in San Francisco, at a whopping 1,625 sq. ft. It was a lot of house for just me. It almost felt too big.

The next property we looked at was one of the ones I half-assedly tossed to the realtor the night before. It was a quirky old home in a state of disrepair I’d never seen before. The house looked like a drag queen house of horrors which had seen better days. It was on a lot with a steep slope, and the lot was zoned such that the property could be developed into a grouping of 4 condos, and tear down the existing structure. So it’d be a great development opportunity. But it just needed so much work, and not just a coat of paint. It, too, was too much house for me, and rather than being a calming respite at the end of a long work day, it would be a constant source of stress, be it living in it in its current state, or tearing it down to be a total construction zone. I’d probably have opted for the 2nd option – none of that house appealed to me, except that it had the requisite number of bedrooms and was within my budget.

Then, we zoomed away from Beacon Hill, with the 4-story with the rooftop deck on my mind, as I began realizing I’d be making an offer on something today after all. We zoomed over to the Queen Anne section of town, North and West of the downtown area. Queen Anne is the blue chip stock, the bread and butter, of everyone in Seattle. This neighborhood has something for everyone, my realtor explained. Prior to stopping in Queen Anne, we stopped at an area Queen Anne-adjacent, called Elliott Bay. To me, that is where the apartment on the TV show Frasier was. Gorgeous city views, high rise apartments, great location. The apartment we viewed there was one such high rise apartment, and it became apparent it was a total bachelor pad. Even the color on the walls screamed masculine lumberjack with a beard and man-bun. The place was on the high end of my budget, and had pretty high HOA fees as well, on top of the mortgage. It was nice, with water views, but I couldn’t get past the price.

We moved on to lower Queen Anne, to a little place that I’d chucked the realtor last night – it didn’t just come on the market, but it was outside my budget, above the cap I’d previously set. I’d heard good things about Queen Anne, and this was not stretching too high above my budget, not like the Elliott Bay apartment which was near the max of my loan pre-approval amount. So this one was reasonable and doable, and not too uncomfortable. It was listed as a 2 bedroom, 3 bath condo with a more manageable 1,352 square feet. There was technically a 3rd bedroom, though it couldn’t be called such, so it was quite a comfortable place. Room to grow. It was built in 1968, had modest water views, and fantastic finishes, including custom shoji screens and a wrap-around outdoor space. It’s blocks to the Space Needle, and quite easy to get to my new place of employment. I wasn’t expecting it, but this one sang to me. It was the one. Within 2 hours of seeing it for the first time, the realtor submitted my offer, after we looked at a couple more in the area, just to be sure.

We went to a coffee shop nearby and wrote up the offer then and there. Then we went back to the place I’d just put an offer on, and I looked at it again with new eyes, seeing things I hadn’t seen the first time through. Yup. This one.

So I’m sitting in a Metropolitan Market in Queen Anne, blocks from what may be my new home (fingers and toes!) I can actually see the Space Needle now from my rainy window in the market. Hope abounds. Nerves too, but mostly hope. No fear, if it doesn’t go as planned. Just need to pick myself up and try again. Plan B and all that. And C. However many plans it takes.

After the roller coaster that has been the last 24 hours, the sellers have until 9 tonight to review my offer. No frills – full asking price, and since they were motivated sellers, and the property had been on Zillow for 122 days, I asked for half of the closing costs. I’m a motivated buyer, and if they’re just as motivated, let’s split those closing costs, shall we? Call it a day? Avoid the drama of a multiple offer situation and move on with our lives?

Yes, let’s. 




Prime directive

Lately, my new Netflix indulgence is Star Trek: Next Generation, the best of them, in my opinion. A few episodes mention the “Prime Directive,” which prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations. Whether they’re travelling through time, or protecting a planet or civilization from utter destruction, this is the go-to rule they must obey at all times.

I feel like the last few years, I’ve been violating my own personal Prime Directive, in a way. I’ve been interfering with my own development. True, moving to Sydney, then back to San Francisco after leaving, and now to Seattle, one could argue I’m only distracting myself from real development. Anything I need to deal with will follow me wherever I go. I never thought of it as running away, but I certainly wasn’t staying put and choosing “through” as the way to get past whatever was in front of me.

Yes, perhaps I’ve not taken the straightest, most efficient path. It’s a bit more of a curly doodle than a straight line… but it’s my path, and the roads were not always paved. I’ve done some hard miles, but I’d like to think I still learned things, even if I was perhaps traveling sideways instead of forward.

Thanks to the ever-present constant in physics of time, technically, I can say I was moving forward, in that time moved on, with or without me.

Another pearl of wisdom I picked up from a recent episode of Star Trek came in the second season, once Whoopi Goldberg joined the cast as the Guinan, the intergalactic bartender. I want that job. But I digress…

Wesley Crusher, the child prodigy of the Enterprise, fell in love with a young woman, and seeks advice from Guinan. She told him, “Every time you feel love, it’ll feel different.”

Those words hit hard. Damn, she’s good. It’s true! The things I love about one person are unique to them. Even if someone else had those same qualities, they probably wouldn’t have the exact combination of attributes that I love in someone else. Each person I encounter brings out something different in me. What resonates in me with each person is its own song. I connect with certain people over some things, but not others. Every love is unique.

When it comes to love, I wish I could say I abided by my own Prime Directive even more. Just once, I’d like to not in get in my own way, sabotaging myself from the outset by overthinking it, fantasizing, imagining, expecting, worrying, doubting, wanting it too much, forcing it, rather than letting it grow organically and naturally evolve.

The Prime Directive intrigues me, because in theory, it’s a great idea. But it’s also wholly subjective. What one interprets as a natural course of actions may indeed be interfering, when viewed from another perspective.

Take the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, for example, which states it is impossible to “beat the market” because stock market efficiency causes existing share prices to always incorporate and reflect all relevant information. There is no arbitrage because all information gaps which can lead to arbitrage simply don’t exist under this assumption. We all know the market is not perfect, nor does everyone have all information at any given time. So the Efficient Markets Hypothesis sounds wonderful in a vacuum, but it’s just not how it is.

That’s how I think about the Prime Directive. It’s almost a paradox, because all the interference by a member of Starfleet could be said to stop development, but that interference with every being one encounters IS development. We learn from every encounter. How can we interact without developing somehow? Every love feels different and is different, and has an impact, even if immeasurable.

In the end, I have to be the person I was meant to be. San Francisco, Sydney, Seattle… they are all places that have contributed, or will, to the me that I am. If living in those cities was wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Working at the company I have for the last 11+ years was not interfering with my development, despite moments of feeling distinctly that, but it was necessary for me, in order to be the person I am today.

Time to leave the capsule, if you dare

It’s not just because today, the world is mourning the loss of David Bowie that, “the stars look very different today,” like the lyrics in one of his great works, Space Oddity.

Today is the third most surreal day in a row I’ve had. I am writing to officially share that I have been offered a job in Seattle. It would be a step up from where I currently am, so it’s a challenge and also a good fit. I haven’t accepted the offer yet, but that is merely a formality. I will be accepting it.

The details are inconsequential. But front of mind right now very much is all things transition. I’ll be leaving my little apartment I’ve been renting in San Francisco, with my 10 month old kitten, Cheddar. I have less than a month to sort out movers, give notice on my apartment, find a new place in Seattle, and then begin work. Making it ever more complicated is that I will be looking to purchase my home in Seattle, since the market is much more comfortable for what I can afford than San Francisco.

I’ve run through the gamut of emotions since the offer was received Saturday afternoon. I’d had brunch with a friend in town for the weekend, consisting of bottomless mimosas, so that of course led to incessant tears the moment the email came through with the offer. After I could breathe and see and stand again, it was shock that took over. Then it was RELIEF. Then happiness, tinged with sadness at seeing a definite end in sight of my time in San Francisco. There was hope.

There was also apprehension and dread. I knew that come Monday, I’d have to make a lot of uncomfortable phone calls to let my current employer and my many bosses there for my different client commitments know what was happening. It doesn’t help that it’s my busy season, and people leaving now can very easily burn bridges if the transition is not handled appropriately. I wanted to minimize the bridge burning, if I could, just to maintain professionalism. While my inner punk rock teenager is walking around sticking out her tongue and flipping everyone off with an endless stream of cuss words coming out her mouth, I’m more than just that person. I genuinely feel bad for teams I’m leaving at the most inopportune of times. I have been wanting to be in a position to give notice for many years, and I have finally found a path that is right for me, to take going forward. This has been a long time coming and I ask only for your continued friendship and support.

However, I don’t feel bad for me. I’m really looking forward to a new start in a new city, making new friends, learning new things, picking up new skills, and making new discoveries.

How I feel can best be described by the words of Zach Braff’s character in the final episode of the long-running show, Scrubs: “Even though it felt warm and safe, I knew it had to end. It’s never good to live in the past too long, and the future wasn’t so scary anymore. It could be whatever I wanted it to be.”

I’m comforted by thoughts like, “What you do next doesn’t have to be the rest of your life.” But maybe I’ll want to. I don’t know yet. But it’s the next step. And it’s a good one. “It’s my turn, finally.” I have nothing but gratitude for the last 11.5 years of my career with my firm, and nothing but respect for my colleagues, past and present. I’m overflowing with appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgement.

I’ve been on a journey to find myself and what I need, what I define as success, and what would make me happy. Here is a diagram that fully depicts how I’d been feeling, except it wasn’t just couples on that step. Everyone else seemed to be up there too, looking down on me from Know-it-all-ville.

 photo figured it all out.jpg

But I’m having a bit of a Dorothy Gale complex from the Wizard of Oz. Maybe the right words were there all along. Maybe it was in me all along. Friends. Family. Love. Support. Camaraderie. Patience. Respect. Journey. Learn. Faith. Trust. Reward.

I was waiting for the day that I could truly identify with this, and I think that day is today:

 photo rubic.jpg