Half the story – a “default life”

Half the story – a “default life”

My name is Mayumi Young.  My amazing husband is Clinton Young.  We live in San Diego, have been married for just over a year, and are ready to start a family.  We’ve been practicing being parents with our crazy cat, Ripley.  She’s 11 and if she is evidence of my parenting skills, I have a lot to be worried about.  So far, we’ve remembered to feed her everyday, and she is still alive.  So, I think we’ve done our parental duties.

I’m 37 and my husband is 33 (yes, Demi isn’t the only smart girl on the planet.)  I am the typical corporate ladder climber turned entrepreneur.  I became a CPA because I got an “A” in my Accounting 101 class in college.  I found out how much accountants were paid out of college, compared that to my Syracuse University student loan balance, and basically said “I’m in!”  Not that $32,000 a year (before Uncle Sam) took their share was anything to get excited about.  For me, getting hired by Price Waterhouse (one of the Big Six accounting firms at the time) was a big deal, especially coming from a small town in Massachusetts, raised by a single mom who had an 8th grade education.  Of course, I was going to go to college and get a job.  My mother sacrificed everything for me, my education and my future, and I wasn’t about to let her down. 

After 2 years at PW, I realized that I was getting paid less than minimum wage (they didn’t pay overtime and I worked a lot of overtime), and I was deeply unhappy.  I thought that a warm, sunny climate change would solve my regular bouts of depression.  So, I asked a couple of people, and San Diego came up in the top 3.  I looked a map, saw that it was South (yes, despite having an expensive college education I didn’t know where San Diego was on a map).  I moved almost immediately.  The change of environment was exactly what the doctor ordered…no more depression, but I was still unhappy.  So, I did what any one would do under the circumstances…I shopped.

After 4 years of public accounting I was “burned-out,” I thought about starting a business, but didn’t know what I’d do and thought that I should buy a home…next step to fulfilling the “American Dream” right?!  So, a headhunter called me, and offered me a job doing international finance for a telecom company.  I left PW, got my pay increase, bought my house and was excited for the next adventure.  Buying a house was one of my better decisions in life (pre-real estate boom purchase in San Diego,)  and pure luck.   Now, making about $60k a year, I found myself working even harder to “earn” my higher pay (let’s call it self-worth issues.)  I was just trying to make sure they didn’t know that I wasn’t that smart so I worked harder to prove that I was worth the “high pay.”  Where I come from, $60k a year at 25 years old was something to be grateful for.

After 2 years, I found myself in another airport somewhere in the world and met a little girl (probably about 9 years old) and her mother.  The mother asked me what I did for a living and I proudly parroted with a big fake smile “I love my job!  I am an international finance director and get to travel all over the world.”  The mom looked at her daughter and said “that is so wonderful, wouldn’t you like to be like that someday!”  I felt sick.  The little girl looked at me in a way that gave me the chills.  It was as if she was saying – you are such a liar.  The truth was that I was dead inside.  I hadn’t shed a tear in about 8 years. I was an emotionless human robot.  I was working about 1,000 hours of overtime a year and had no life, no friends, no happiness.  I worked harder each year to hide from all of the pain of bankrupting my life for my career.  Of course, at the time, I blamed corporate America for the inadequate pay to cover the insane overtime, but my memory is pretty clear on this point…No one held a gun to my head and said “work until you kill off everything you love in life.”  Since children have a special spot in my heart, the fact that I felt like I just lied to a kid (and she knew it) was unacceptable.  That airport incident began a chain of events that led me to quit my job at the “height of my career.” 

I was tired of living a “default life” of increased responsibilities and income, with decreased happiness and health.  Despite the increased income, I had the exact same amount of money left in my bank account as I did when I left FOR college – $0 (more on this point in another blog.)  I considered my options only briefly (I think it was about 30 seconds):  spend another day in my own personal purgatory and probably contract a fatal disease or have a heart attack from stress at the age of 28, or live a life on purpose and become an entrepreneur.  It was clear to me that I couldn’t spend another minute of my life doing what I was doing. 

I called my mom and told her about my decision.  My clarity and fear of my own presumed death, combined with a renewed sense of control over my life gave me the courage to tell (not ask) my mom that I was quitting my stable job for a complete unknown with not a dime in the bank.  The woman who never held a credit card balance in her life, and who managed to raise and send her daughter to a private University on $5 an hour (I never went without), did have concerns about my rash decision.  I reminded her that she always told me as a child “you can be anything you set your mind to.”  I told her that THIS is what I am setting my mind to, and I asked her to support me and my decision.  She did.  My mother is an amazing woman.  

With the right dose of “20 something” confidence, my mom at my back and a whole knew life waiting for me, I was excited beyond measure.  Now…what am I going to do for a business?  No idea.  I know…I’ll go to Hawaii for 3 weeks on frequent flyer miles, find myself, take a few months of much deserved rest, learn how to surf, and decide in 3 months.  If I don’t come up with something by then, I can always get another job.  Thinking back to my PW days, I decided I could do a better job than all of those nimwit business owners that didn’t even reconcile their bank statements.  Right?!  It’s not THAT hard.  Hmmm…not enough money in the bank account to pay for 3 months of living expenses.  No worries, I’ll figure that out when I get back from Hawaii.  Oh look – a tax refund check arrived in the mail a week before I took off for my trip to Maui.  I forgot that I had bought a home just over a year prior, and had my first full year of deductible mortgage interest payments.  It just happened to be equal to 3 months of living expenses.  This was NOT luck. 

That is the first half of my story.  Not much else to say there except, thank goodness it is in the past…onward to the journeys of a new future.




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