Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What's Next?

Tonight, I found myself researching tiny houses to install on plots of land in rural Texas.

Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like? Shouldn't there be a sporty car? A new wardrobe? Or at least a yoga retreat?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what's next and where I will find meaning. Since I don't have a family of my own, I typically look to my career for meaning, but big law has nearly run its course. It's time for a change. A change that could be an adjustment as minor as a new lawyer job, as considerable as a new career, or as major as a new career in a new city. Fortunately, I have options. A truly embarrassing array of options. With no children, no spouse, and no student loans, my only constraint is a mortgage, which could be discarded in short order through the sale of my house.

I can do anything. ANYTHING.

For this, I am grateful, but--let's face it--people with too many options often spend so much time considering them that the opportunities pass them by. Like that guy that never settles down because the BBD (bigger, better deal, for the uninitiated) might be lurking behind his next swipe on the dating apps in his smartphone. Yup, like that.

None of the women in my family were so free of obligation, so flush with resources and so enriched with choice in their mid-thirties. There is no defined path. No template to follow. I am truly fortunate, but I also need to start narrowing my options so I can evaluate and choose.

When you're in a rut, what do you do to break free of the lethargy and move forward?

Friday, January 27, 2017

0% Financing

When I bought my house, I moved my hand-me-down queen mattress to a guest room and bought a king mattress. The mattress was a little pricey, but it is out of this world--the fluffy cloud I dreamt of while sleeping on a hard-as-a-rock mattress in my furnished apartment in Tokyo. I've never slept better than I'm sleeping now.

I bought the mattress from Mattress Firm, which has become ubiquitous in Austin. For every coffee shop and yoga studio, there seems to be a Mattress Firm. Mattress Firm offers 0% financing. Although I could afford to pay for the mattress in cash, the b-school side of my brain realized that taking them up on their 0% financing offer resulted in a discount (time value of money, y'all). So I financed the mattress.

What I did not consider is that after having law school student debt hanging over my head for a number of years, my tolerance for debt was almost nil. Today, as part of my 2017 goals, I paid off the remaining balance of the Mattress Firm line of credit ahead of schedule. I now have no debt obligations other than my mortgage and I hope to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2016 Recap

For a few years now, I've made a list of goals, some big and some small, to complete throughout the year. Working this list gives me a sense of accomplishment and progress. Progress makes me feel happy. So I continue with this approach year after year.

Without reciting each of 2016's 35 goals (you can check them out on the tab labeled "35" above), here is a summary recap of what I accomplished in 2016.

Health

There were three major accomplishments in this category:

  • Quit drinking full calorie soda. I have been trying to accomplish this since I was an undergraduate, but my efforts have been half-hearted. This year, thanks to a partner in my office who held me accountable and my own desire to lose weight, I finally kicked the habit and no longer crave the full calorie Coca Cola that I once sought for comfort 2-3 times per day.
  • Develop an exercise habit. I have enjoyed exercise since I was a child, but have found it difficult to carve out the time for it since becoming a lawyer. I looked at my time utilization after work (both on busy and slow days), identified opportunities for multitasking and time that was simply wasted on low value activities, and I joined a new gym with amenities and classes that excited me. I knew from my past experience with half marathon training that running was an effective way to jump start weight loss, so I downloaded a Running for Weightloss app by RedrockApps that has been a great help. The app does all the work for me--it provides playlists and layers over the music verbal cues from coaches prompting me to run, walk or sprint at appropriate intervals. Regular workouts truly became a habit in 2016. I now find time to exercise at least three times per week even when work gets busy or I experience a personal crisis.
  • Lose weight. After a breakup in 2016, I had the wholly unoriginal urge to lose weight. Thanks to dropping one habit and adding another, as described above, I lost more than 10 pounds in 2016 that I've had no trouble keeping off. I'm very short, so this was enough weight loss to make a noticeable impact on the way my clothes fit. Also, I've felt better around the clock both physically and mentally.
Family

After six years in big law, I noticed that my relationships with friends and family had become too strained by my work-induced absence. I made a concerted effort to change this, which, in turn, had a negative impact on my work. For example, when I took a week off to sit by my grandmother on her deathbed (mind you, I had not taken a vacation since starting at this firm), despite that I continued to participate in client client calls and complete assignments, I was taken off of more than one client service team (and never reinstated).

Finances

In 2016, I reached some major financial milestones:
  • Student Loans.  I paid off the balance of my student loans.
  • Refinanced Mortgage.  I closed a cash-in refinance of my mortgage at 3.875%. This was something I did to manage cash flow going forward. I hope that I will be able to stay in my house when I leave big law.
  • Side Hustle.  In the second year of my side hustle, I generated $12k in passive income. Not an extraordinary sum, but it helped repay my student loans and, later in the year, covered the cost of some home improvement projects.
Career

I completed my sixth year in big law. Never thought I'd see the day.

Personal Happiness

I have struggled for years with sadness over the failure to get married and have kids. This year, I did what I could to stymie the sadness by (finally!) freezing my eggs.

I experienced more loss than usual this year (the death of a family member, childhood friend and my dog). With each death, my sense of perspective was strengthened. 

Hobbies

I worked on my vegetable garden, became a better cook, and took some dance classes. Big law continues to make it difficult to commit to hobbies that include any sort of regular schedule or group activities so gardening (thanks to a well lit backyard) and cooking have continued to fill the void.

Household

I finished repainting the interior of the house. Never again will I purchase a home that's been slathered in flat paint. I should have refused to close without a purchase price reduction or the builder's completion of a repaint, because this project took an immense amount of time and effort. With the exception of the stairwell, I did all of this work myself. Lesson learned.

What did you accomplish in 2016 that you're proud of?  Not losing yourself (or your friends) to the presidential election totally counts.