Tuesday, April 16, 2019

That Five or Ten-Year Plan

Via the New York Times, from a series where they interviewed a group of women junior associates at one biglaw firm in 2001, and then checked in again with some of them in 2013.

I'm a regular reader over at Corporette, a habit that began around 2016 or 2017. It's a bit of an odd internet community, more a message-board for whatever readers want to talk about rather than anything to do with the blog's actual content. Things get weird sometimes, people occasionally say absurd and unkind things (see, e.g., this discussion), and there's the occasional troll about. But many other comments can be insightful or interesting, and so I keep going back. And hey, to the extent that I still feel a powerful nostalgia for an old-fashioned and "retro" style of blogging (circa 2009), Corporette certainly fits that bill! I specifically remember a college friend recommending the site to me in 2009, but I couldn't quite get into it then, maybe because I hadn't yet started working. In any case, the site has changed very little since.

There was a great discussion there recently about people's five or ten-year plans, both on a personal and professional level. A little over five years ago, in November 2013 (so if one is inclined to split hairs, it's turned out to be a discussion about six and eleven-year plans instead), they'd posted something asking about where readers hoped to be in five years, and then in ten. This year, it was time to check in about whether things had gone as planned. The answers were a mixed bag, which isn't exactly surprising, as life is complicated and unpredictable. When it comes to my own life, things also didn't turn out exactly as I hoped. But that's actually a good thing! If things had happened the way I planned, I wouldn't be in this new job that I greatly enjoy.

The original inspiration for this discussion was a set of New York Times features that had done essentially the same exercise in the decade prior, interviewing 21 women junior associates at one top biglaw firm in 2001, and then going back to some of them in 2013. And the pattern of how things changed between 2001 and 2013 is, in my view, substantially similar to the pattern of changes for the 2013 and 2019 group. That's consistent with how diversity and equality-related conditions have not improved substantially in the legal industry between 2001, 2013, and now. (Things are far better than when Justice Ginsburg was starting out, when many firms openly stated they would "engage no women" as a matter of policy. But it's commonly understood that, at some point in the decades since, things began to stall.)

One theme common to many of the Corporette updates was that people (particularly those on the cusp of starting their career, or in the earliest stages of it, in 2013) often found that certain obstacles in their industry or workplace, particularly ones related to discrimination, including harassment and #metoo problems, were far more powerful than expected. Oftentimes, people who, in 2013, were optimistic that discrimination might not directly affect their own career trajectory or workplace had those hopes dashed somewhat, and would now describe themselves as having been too naive about these realities in 2013. Many who encountered those types of challenges made a choice that it wasn't worth it to stay where they were. A lot of those people were attorneys, and I can vouch for how common that experience is in this industry.

More happily, there were also many who found that, for serendipitous reasons, life moved in a different direction from what they originally planned. And indeed, even for some who ran face-first into discrimination-related challenges and found that they couldn't stay with their original company, or even in the profession they originally planned on, there was also some of this more positive effect at play. That's another thing I've also found to be true for myself.

With that context in mind, this is how I would answer the questions about where I was in 2013; where I am now in 2019, and whether things had gone according to plan; and where I hope to be in 2024:

Friday, April 12, 2019

Outfit Post: First Signs of Spring

Top: Grana Silk Raglan Tee (old)
Shoes: Sam Edelman Lior Loafer, gold glitter (old, similar design or similar color)

On the morning I was getting dressed in this outfit, I managed to accidentally navigate my phone to the weather for the California Bay Area, where I'm originally from, instead of for NYC, so I thought I was dressing for 55 degrees Farenheit and a clear, sunny day, instead of for something in the mid-40s with a chance of rain. It was only after I'd already put on the entire outfit that I realized I was looking at the weather for the wrong place, but I decided to wear it anyway, though with a wool-blend coat and these shoes (which hold up okay to rain and don't get dirty easily), instead of the pink canvas Soludos llama sneakers (only size 9 left for now) that I was originally planning on. 

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K joked that, if I was willing to speak to the Google Home and ask it what the weather was, I would not have had that mix-up on my phone. But I continue to categorically refuse to talk to my technology, much in the way I refuse to use Siri on my phone. It just feels too awkward to me, the idea of talking to a device! I'm pretty sure I'll never be willing to do it. 

Anyway, with a heavier coat, this outfit was reasonable for the weather we had that day. It was the first day I was able to wear my new Uniqlo x J.W. Anderson wrap skirt outdoors, and I was happy to find that it stayed put fairly well throughout the day, and that it was easy to adjust the way I liked without too much fussing in the morning. The tie did loosen up a little and the waistband did shift slightly by the end of the workday, but not so much as to be annoying, or to need any significant adjusting or re-tying throughout the day. It's a true wrap skirt, but with enough fabric that there's no real risk of a wardrobe malfunction. Although the size S of the skirt would have worked for me as well, and in fact, looked quite similar in the mirror, I picked out the size M so that I could wear the skirt a bit more relaxed at the waist if I wanted to. 

I really enjoyed wearing this outfit, and I loved wearing my new skirt. The look is quite simple, but it was nice to be able to go out with bare legs for the first time this year, even if I had a heavier coat on. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Money Diary: A Somewhat Typical Week, Part 2

And now for the rest of the Money Diary for my somewhat more typical week (part one here) than in last year's diary (part one, part two)! This week is not fully "typical" in the sense that I don't spend like this every average week of every month. That ~$45 Target order should be our only large purchase of shared household goods or cleaning supplies this April, we typically spend around $50 to $60/month on that, and we split the cost. Sephora orders are a twice per year-ish thing for me, and my next one this year, if needed, probably won't be anywhere near as sizable as this week's ~$109 order because I only wear makeup twice a month or so, and none of my other products are running out. Also, I don't get any skincare products from Sephora anymore, and the only other things I buy there are the Cocofloss and Olaplex No. 3 treatment. Furthermore, I think the additions to my closet captured in this Money Diary should be close to it for the whole month.

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With that additional context, this Money Diary gives a good sense of what my spending looks like most of the time. A few of the biggest things are happening off-screen in other weeks, of course, including my student loan payments and travel spending. (I generally go on one big, long vacation per year, and maybe take one or two additional long weekend trips to visit friends or family.) And I'm often a little coy about the exact amount of my rent, mostly because I'm a bit embarrassed by the fairly high total. Outside of that, though, the diary is accurate in how it depicts my typical approach to spending, including for restaurants, groceries, and coffee shops. My food costs combined are the next biggest spending category for me by far, after student loans and rent.

Another fairly typical day at the office, and I can't help but order the same Sweetgreen salad with kale, spicy chickpeas, spicy broccoli, chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, and burrata again. I may be ordering it almost every weekday from now until they discontinue the burrata at the end of the season.

With the upcoming trial, K's been having a hard time at the office, so after leaving work a bit past 6:00 PM, I go a bit out of my way to stop at a nearby bakery and coffee shop to get a brownie, cookie, or chocolate croissant for him as a little pick-me-up. I didn't realize that they actually close at 7:00, so they've already sold out of most of their baked goods. Happily, they have a few of their giant chocolate chip cookies left, so I get that and it comes out to $4.87 with tip. Normally, I'd get a second item so we can split both, but they don't have anything else left that I think we'd like, so I just get the one cookie for us to share later.

As for dinner, I get Chipotle. Unlike in last year's diary, this time I add guacamole to my steak salad, as I often do these days (one of the many bits of lifestyle inflation I've indulged in since graduating from law school), bringing the total to $13.50. I eat at home, and after resting and digesting for a while, I use the stationary bike in our apartment to do a workout. Afterwards, I try to do some pilates exercises, but it's been a very long time since I was last doing those regularly, and so my muscles are no longer capable of much. K gets home pretty late, and we share the cookie.

Please follow the link below for the rest of this week's money diary!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Money Diary: A Somewhat Typical Week, Part 1

Almost exactly a year ago today, I tried my hand at a Money Diary post (part one, part two), having been inspired by the Man Repeller format. That week turned out to be highly non-typical, involving no less than two purchases of small household appliances, one (an upright vacuum cleaner) that K and I had dragged our feet on for more than a year, and the other (a hand mixer) brought about by my sudden desire to try baking, a hobby I'd never previously shown an interest in taking up before at any other time in my adult life. As it turns out, I enjoy baking, but don't often get inspired to try new recipes: I've since made Alison Roman's chocolate chunk shortbread cookies four more times and two batches of cheesecake-swirl brownies (using Smitten Kitchen's recipe, but with sour cream added to the cheesecake mix the second time, adapting from an America's Test Kitchen recipe found here, I'm still figuring out the right balance of cheesecake to brownie). 

A few things have changed since the week of my last Money Diary. I've refinanced my student loans. I've quit Blue Apron and eventually quit Hello Fresh with no plans to try another similar service for a while. Hometown Hot Pot has become a lot more popular and much busier on Friday and Saturday nights, to the point where the wait is generally well over an hour, and we don't go half as often as we used to (sad!). I've switched around my preferred lunchtime orders; I now go almost exclusively to Sweetgreen and rotate between two salads, the kale caesar and a custom one.

Most other things have stayed the same, however. K and I still have similar grocery and eating out habits. We still split shared expenses in the same sort of eclectic way. And of course, I continue to pay a similar (very large) proportion of my take-home pay to my student loans, $3650/month now, and will continue to do so for at least another two calendar years, probably closer to three. Alas. (Those payments still happen offscreen though, in other weeks.) 

I wake up late this morning, around 11:00 AM (as is my usual weekend inclination). We used to go out for brunch once a weekend most weeks, but while the weather is cold, we've started staying in. I cook brunch for us, consisting of hash browns, eggs, and bacon. K cleans up after, as is our usual practice. 

Before long, I head out for a quick trip to Trader Joe's, by far our cheapest local grocery store. I've found that Friday nights and Saturdays are generally the best times to go. People in our neighborhood really like to stock up on Sundays, to the point where even Fairway (worse quality produce, also more expensive for everything) gets heinously busy, so I make it a point to get the grocery shopping done on Friday or Saturday if I plan to cook. Today, I get ingredients for dinner tomorrow: flank steak (the most expensive item at ~$11), the "potato medley" (a quantity that lasts us two meals), and some broccoli. I also get more frozen hash browns, maple chicken breakfast sausage, cereal for K, fresh mozzarella balls, truffle cheese, and these chocolate cookies. We still split groceries the same way as before, where I'm typically the one who shops for us, a bit more than 80% of the time (strange as it might be, I actually enjoy grocery shopping*, even in NYC where the aisles are cramped and popular stores, including Trader Joe's, get heinously crowded). When I go, I keep track of amounts I spent on bigger items we'll both eat, such as meat or fish, and we'll split those. I cover everything else fully, such as vegetables or snacks for both of us. (On the rarer occasions when he shops, he pays and doesn't record what he spent or "charge" me for my half of anything he gets.) It may sound weird and nitpicky or complicated, but I swear it's not!

K's parents are visiting us today before they head off for a long vacation, so while I'm out, K starts doing one of our "big cleans" so we won't be embarrassed by the state of our apartment when they come by. He cleans the bathroom and vacuums, and is pretty much done by the time I get back. Whenever K starts one of our "big cleans", I usually jump right in and help (but as I mentioned over at Jess's, I'm almost never the one who thinks to proactively start doing one of our "big cleans"). But today, by the time I've put away the groceries, he's completely done and I don't see anything left for me to do, and so I relax and work on my blog.

Later in the afternoon, I go to the in-building gym and run on the treadmill. These days, I only wear my newest pair of running shoes when I actually run. If I'm doing any other kind of workout, I wear an older pair that's been "retired" from the high-impact exercise of running. It seems to have helped with the longevity of my shoes.

K's parents arrive around dinnertime and we head straight downtown to Congee Village, one of our favorites. Normally, we might suggest Hometown Hot Pot when they visit, but these days, the wait on Saturday nights is just too long. As it turns out, Congee Village is also quite busy, so we end up waiting close to an hour anyway. (It would have been an hour and a half or longer for hot pot, though.) We get seafood chow mein, sauteed string beans, pan-fried bean curd with soy sauce (one of our favorites!), sweet and sour pork (not something I'd normally get, but it's great here), and clams with black bean sauce. And we actually eat almost everything, except maybe 1/4 of the noodles and 1/3 of the string beans, which K's parents take back with them as leftovers. Dinner was $94 before tip, tip is $19. K treats us, as he often does when his parents visit. (Thank you, K!)  Afterwards, we head home to relax and chat in our apartment for a bit, before they drive back home.

Please follow the link below for the rest of the week through Tuesday.