Designing My Life, Part 1

I started reading the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s an interactive book that gives writing prompts every chapter. In the first chapter they advocate putting together a Health – Work – Play – Love Dashboard as a “You are here” sign to signify where I’m starting from. Here is mine; I’ve rated each area from 0 to 4 and written a small blurb about why.

Health – 4

This is the highlight on my dashboard right now. I’ve been exercising for months and I’m in great shape. I eat right, I move enough, I have a good amount of energy. I struggle a lot with impostor syndrome and disappointment in myself but I’m starting to pay more attention to my mental health. I’m trying to be more mindful, more grateful, more self-affirming. I’m trying to adopt a growth mindset and change the stories I tell myself.

Continue: Diet and exercise routine

Action Items: Develop a routine of self-affirmation, meditation, and gratitude.

Work – 2

I’ve stagnated in this area for all of 2018. I’ve been on autopilot at work through a reorg, a manager change, and a performance review cycle. I excused it by telling myself I was focusing on all the other areas, but now that I’ve made good progress on everything else I want to dedicate more time to my work. It’s not that I’ve been slacking at work, I got an “Achieves expectations” during the performance review earlier this month, but I could definitely dedicate more time, thought, and energy to it.

Continue: One thing I have started recently is to minimize context switching between tasks at work. For example, when I work with other engineers to finalize a design, I try to implement that design immediately after so I don’t lose the context and don’t have to remember the details later.

Action Items: Dedicate more time to my work. I am pretty productive when I do work, but I leave work early to go to the gym so I don’t give myself enough time to actually focus. I need to get to work earlier, or work a little in the evenings or weekends to make up for coming into the office later.

Play – 4

I’m happy with my friends and hobbies as they are. I’ve decided not to worry about actively reaching out to friends who hardly reach out to me. I only keep in touch with friends who reciprocate the effort nowadays. I play badminton and hang out with friends in person often. I’ve spent a lot of evenings setting up this blog and I’m happy with how it’s going.

Continue: Stay close with long-distance friends who keep in touch with me and hang out with people in person. Keep playing badminton. Keep posting monthly net worth entries on this blog.

Action Items: I’m spending a lot of time talking about personal finance in Facebook groups and on Twitter. I also check my account balances pretty often. I can de-emphasize this area.

Love – 3

My boyfriend’s goal for the past year has been to get a new job while working full-time at his current job. I carried our relationship in a lot of ways while he focused on his job hunt by applying to a lot of companies on his behalf, going over to his place so we could spend time together eating dinner, and in general not expecting very much of him. He’s conscious of needing to step up in our relationship now that he has accepted a job offer. I shared a list of how I want him to be more conscious of my time.

Continue: My boyfriend and I care deeply about each other. He is the one who kick-started my physical and mental health improvements, and I’ve greatly improved my communication skills with him showing me how.

Action Items: I should learn to let go since my boyfriend won’t need so much support anymore. And I will keep working on better communication.


Grinding and good news

Whew, the entire month of August has been playing catchup. I was behind on -everything- because of taking so much vacation in July and I’ve been frantically crossing things off my to-do list the past few weeks. For example, I renewed my car registration for another year, paid for six months of car insurance, and paid yearly membership dues to a nonprofit where my membership had lapsed (I checked if I could get a matching donation from my company but unfortunately that organization is ineligible). I applied to reimburse expenses against my company’s wellness program (mostly drop-in fees to play badminton and a DXA scan) which were approved and will be included in my next paycheck, signed up for the badminton email list at my company, and played with them once (there’re some really good players there who can help me get better). I also bought a one way flight to the east coast on Thanksgiving and bought the return flight today. All of this adds up to higher balances on my credit cards.

I had taken my boyfriend’s sister to a small career fair nearby at the end of July and the start of August had me helping my boyfriend set up his apartment, apply to jobs, and prep for interviews. I also met with my college roommate for vegetarian hot pot that first weekend and learned that she had gotten competing job offers from two FAANG companies and accepted one of them! She got an amazing package because she was able to get both companies to compete with each other and I’m so super thrilled for her! The next weekend was National Bowling Day so I met with two friends for brunch and bowling, we also made plans to meet for lunch at my company later. Later in August my boyfriend accepted an offer with a kickass salary from a second FAANG company!! Being his discontent self he continued interviewing at other companies for the two weeks after he accepted 😛 I went to Yosemite the last weekend of August with my boyfriend, his sister, and his cousin. My college roommate and I drove to Santa Barbara over the Labor Day long weekend

In the good news on the health front, I’ve gotten into a routine of exercising four times a week even though I’m still a couple weeks behind with my workouts. My zumba and bosu instructors know me; I followed my zumba instructor on Instagram and stalked my bosu instructor on Linkedin. Guess what? My bosu instructor is a top manager at a nearby company and teaches bosu as a side hustle, how awesome is that! I’d love to be her. On the bad news side, my Fitbit broke just 1 year and 4 months after I bought it. I called their customer support but it’s out of the 1 year warranty so they could only give me a 25% off code 😦 Even though the devices break super easily, I love their app and challenge friends every week so I’m opting to buy one second hand off Craigslist at a steep discount and will hopefully have it tonight.

Between everything else that was going on, I procrastinated all August on my main project at work while staying diligent on my secondary projects. Till now the delay was okay because no one was depending on my work but that main project now has a deadline in late-September so I’m tipping my work-life balance towards work for the the next month (exercise will be my only life). As such I asked my boyfriend to be more considerate of my time and energy last night by questioning why he asks me to do certain things which are not strictly necessary, why he doesn’t anticipate his requests on my time or energy, and why he has put mindless entertainment over actual conversation with me. It was a difficult talk for me since it’s extremely hard for me to talk normally when I’m emotional. I first wrote down all the things I resented, did a guided meditation session to get over feeling angry about the wasted time and energy, and then was able to tell him how I needed him to change. It took all yesterday evening but it worked and things should change going forward.

Europe with friends

I’m still catching up on my routine tasks since I was on vacation in Eastern Europe and Denver for a good part of July but it feels good to be back. Both vacations were great, but the Europe trip was VERY hectic and my style of traveling didn’t mesh so well with how the group traveled. I am super glad to have gone though, as I’ve only taken international trips if I have a others to go with. I had pretty high credit card spending in the past few months as a result of booking airfare for traveling; it’s back under 1K now. 1K is a normal level of credit card debt for me each month if there are no irregular expenses. It’s about to go up again as I plan to pay for my car registration and book a flight to my parents’ place.

My investments are continuing to grow at a nice rate, and I’m pleased with where my portfolio is heading. My aim has been getting to 70% domestic-30% international and I’m almost there. Within the 70% domestic bucket I want to have a 70% large cap-30% smaller cap allocation. I’m currently at 90/10 but any new investments are going into smaller companies so this will get better over the next couple months. I do have some money earmarked for medium-term spending so some of what’s in the stocks column is in cash or a money market fund. Meanwhile my emergency fund is in a high-yield savings account and I’m making a whole $4/month in interest. 😀 My mother has asked me to put trailing stop orders on all my investments but I feel like I would be better off holding them and rebalancing opportunistically, I’m researching this now.

I am having trouble balancing relationships lately. Until now I’ve been pretty good at keeping in touch with long-distance friends, but lately I go hang out with people in person instead. I’m dedicated to working out at least 3 times a week so there just isn’t enough time to socialize with everyone after sleep, work, and exercise. Trust me, I’ve installed the News Feed Eradicator browser extension and cut out other sources of wasted time already. Right now I’m prioritizing: my family, my boyfriend and his family, in-person friendships, long-distance friendships. This way I have time for those who are closest to me and can see the difference we make in each others’ lives. I need to accept that this means I won’t be in touch with as many friends who are farther away. I know my close friends won’t mind either way.

I’ve realized so many gains from working out, it’s really adding up. I actually have triceps now!! Whoop!! My calves look more defined when I show my legs and wear heels. I know I have more stamina since I went on a 20km hike in Europe and wasn’t dead the next day. I wasn’t sore the day after I went kayaking back in April, and I picked up badminton again without too much soreness. In general I don’t get as sore after workouts. I know how stretch to prevent injuries and how to deal with minor aches better. I fit my pants better and don’t chafe on my thighs, but on the other hand I fit my shirts worse and chafe at my arms and chest. I’m more aware of how ergonomic things are and of maintaining good posture. I’m more mindful of my mood and my thoughts. I’m so thankful for my health, I’m going to continue my workout regimen as long as I can.

My boyfriend told me he loves that my lips are the same color as my gums. He’d previously said he likes that my gums show when I smile. I shake my head in front of him but it makes me smile thinking back on it. It gives me confidence that he notices me, takes joy in the little things, that they matter to him. He and his sister moved to a new apartment last weekend and I was amazed at how orderly the move was! Today when I reminded him not to throw cardboard in the trash, he collapsed it, kept it separately, and pointed out that he’s been setting bottles to the side to be recycled. Environmentalism is one of my top values and it means a lot that he wants to practice my values in his home.

Big changes settling in

Wow! So much has happened in the past two months: professionally, personally, health and adulting-wise, and within my family. I told you big things were afoot last month but it didn’t seem right to write about them while they were still developing and I still had strong feelings about them. Life has settled somewhat this month, certainly my net worth has hardly changed!

The biggest change is that my manager quit at the beginning of this month to explore his gender identity. He was a super interesting guy, and I respected how he always went out, took classes, tried different things, and welcomed new perspectives. I felt close with him, he knew not just my work but also my feelings about my work. He had taken coaching sessions and I enjoyed the times he coached me at work, he made me realize some things about myself which made me smarter about my attitude towards work. For example if I feel my life is heading in the right direction I am often content doing less impactful tasks at work, which could be holding me back professionally. I continually need to keep those insights in mind and keep acting on the learnings by making sure I am working on the tasks which will deliver the biggest impact for my company and my career. The senior-most engineer on my team went through manager training and will become our new manager and a new engineer will transfer to my team next month.

In my personal life I feel closer not only with my boyfriend but also with his family. His sister graduated with her masters degree in mid-May; I flew and attended her college graduation. Afterwards she moved in with my boyfriend and they are both job-hunting so I try to help her by giving her my transit card and referring her to my company. My boyfriend received a job offering 240K/year in total compensation (base salary, bonus, and stock) but turned it down because he didn’t like the teammates on the team he would be joining. I hope he studies hard and accepts a job at a place he wants to work in July, I know he is more than qualified and prepared. He took up the ukulele and practices it for 1hr every day, if he also prepped interview questions for 1hr every day that would be enough for a really nice offer with a good team and company in the next month.

I am taking a more hands-off approach with his job search nowadays, it’s healthier and less stressful for both of us this way. Meanwhile, he is actively thinking about my development all the time. In May he told me, “You’re a woman now. You never put time or effort into physical appearances before. But it’s time to let that identity go. You have no limits.” and he gave me a portrait session and brainstormed how I should pose at work to look like an alpha female. I love this boy so much! (^_^)

On the health front, I hardly exercised the first half of May. I’ve been taking advantage of the awesome weather and catching up on missed workouts since then, but I’m going to miss exercising again next month since I’m going on vacation. I got my annual physical, blood test, and dental cleaning (everything’s normal), and ordered traveller’s diarrhea pills to take on vacation (just in case). I also bought a scale which estimates body composition and started creating Fitbit competitions every week. I am close to last each week but it keeps me paying more attention to how much I walk on a daily basis, especially compared to others who also have full time jobs.

I’m definitely maturing because I took extra care of my car this month. I shopped around, bought new tires, and filled out a mail-in rebate for them. I took the car into the dealership for a recall and basic regular maintenance. I had bought ding-and-dent protection on the car and I actually made use of it by getting all the exterior dents fixed and the interior stains removed at no cost to me. These fixes cost as much as I had paid for the ding-and-dent protection, so I’ll count that as money well spent. Finally, I paid off my car loan!!! My 5 year old car would look new were it not for my friends breaking two grab handles. My boyfriend broke one coming back from Clearlake in mid-May and a girlfriend broke another this past weekend getting into the car while tipsy. D: Oh well, so it goes. *shrug*

Lastly, I got sent the save-the-date for my cousin’s wedding in November. My aunt just called me today asking if I could participate in a dance in the wedding reception and filling me in on the dates of the different events. And my cousins decided to plan a bachelorette party next month, it’s going to be five of us cousins and cousin-in-laws flying to Denver for a weekend. Between my July 4th vacation and this, it’s going to be a hectic July.

P. S. : In mid-May, I took two weekend trips to Clearlake with my boyfriend. The 4-hr one way drives gave us ample chance to re-acquaint with each other. In one discussion he said, “The same way economics trumps racism, necessity trumps toxic masculinity.” to which I replied, “De taali! (Gimme five!)”. But he was like, “What!? No! No taali!”, and made me chuckle. So he’s a feminist but not excited about being one. lolol

Taxes and overview

Monthly Networthshare Entry:

I did my taxes in April. I’d set up automatic withholding but I still had to pay the IRS because of capital gains. I should be getting a state tax refund soon though. I also took a DXA scan to compare with the one I took last April and I’ve lost 2 lbs of fat since last year! Yay for a lifestyle of healthy diet and exercise! Otherwise, I’m spending all my time with work or with my boyfriend; just showing up, buckling down, and pushing through.

This month I’ll revisit where my net worth comes from:
Cash: From my checking and savings accounts. Does not include : Venmo balance (currently 2K!), Splitwise balance owed to me, or cash rewards balances.
Stocks: From two brokerage accounts. Does not include: Coinbase wallet or Robinhood since they aren’t significant amounts of money compared to the other two.
Bonds: I own T-bonds, like actual physical pieces of paper. I had assumed they were filed away somewhere, but I could not find them when I went through all my papers for taxes in April. I’m listing $500 but this is mostly a flag for me to hunt them down.
Retirement: I have a 401K and a Roth IRA. Most of my 401K is my Roth contributions but a small part is a taxable employer match.
Other Assets: A rollover IRA, this is a taxable account.
Credit Cards: Balances from the two credit cards I use. I have auto pay set up to pay these off every month.
Auto Loans: a 0% loan which I’m 3 months away from paying off.

Work and friends

I’m putting a lot of time and effort at work lately. I had my annual review at work and got a sweet bonus. I’m aiming for a promotion this year so I’m making friends of my teammates and figuring out how to work on the most important tasks with good visibility for the next few months. I’ve been spending a lot of time at work but I observe myself getting better both technically and socially. It’s been gratifying. My manager is learning how to be a life coach and he guided me through finding my top 5 values. They are, in order of importance: practicality, integrity, resourcefulness, thoughtfulness, and caring.

I went skiing for the second time ever this past weekend. I went with teammates and it was actually really nice, my coworkers are a fun bunch even though I was terrible at the actual skiing portion. I had taken a break from taking exercise classes for two weeks last month in order to attend dance practice for my performance in my company’s Chinese New Year celebration so I worked out extra hard this past month to make up for it. I’m able to see my triceps now!

A college friend is visiting from the east coast and I had dinner and a nice conversation with him two days ago. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to keep so many friends from college even though I live so far from them, there’s a handful of friends I phone with on a weekly or monthly basis. Old friends are the way I keep in touch with the world outside of the tech bubble I live in, they keep me grounded by sharing what they’re up to, what they’re excited for, and what they’ve been thinking about lately. Finally, I’m thankful for my boyfriend who pushes me to become emotionally mature. He meditates regularly and had me join him a couple times. Afterwards he asks me what thoughts I had during the meditation, but I didn’t have any because I fell asleep. (o^_^o)