Why I Don’t Want to Have It All

Class started off slow. Instead of sitting cross-legged on our mats, hands resting palms-up on our knees, we rolled up blankets and placed them — lengthwise — beneath our backs. We stretched out, our heads propped up on blocks, our arms flung out to our sides, our eyes closed. We concentrated on the rise and fall of our stomachs. Our chests.

After coming under the gentle spell of our own breath, we rocked forward onto all fours, and then leaned back into child’s pose. Then we slid forward onto our stomachs, where we were told to stretch our arms out above us and rest our foreheads on the floor.

That’s when I felt the tears burning behind my eyelids. They were so sudden, they took me by surprise. I pressed my forehead and nose into my mat, hard. I rocked my head from side to side, allowing my hair to fall around my face.

So does it still count as a quarter-life crisis when you’re 32? Because I have been in a down and dirty funk, y’all. While crying in public was new for me, that mix of sad and angry and disconnected has been sitting deep in my gut for months now.

Last week, a post I wrote for LearnVest — on the guilt I feel over the income disparity between me and my husband — went live. The post quickly accumulated over 100 comments, many of them referring to me as selfish and spoiled, and was syndicated on Business Insider, FOX, and AOL/Huffington Post.

In the piece, I wrote about no longer wanting it all (and by “wanting it all,” I’m referring to the six-figure salary I often feel I’m supposed to be vying for). I mentioned wanting to give up the constant hustle… wanting to concentrate on my book and my yoga… wanting to become a mother (something else I continue to fail at). I worried that those things were not as valuable, because they did not carry the same price tag as my husband’s career.

At around the same time, I contacted Peter Shallard about his Clarity Couch Challenge. I answered questions about where and how I felt stuck. I talked about the fact that I had lost passion and excitement for my work, and that I was no longer sure what I was working toward.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? he asked me. And how would you monetize it?

They’re common questions in the coaching world, and we should be asking ourselves those questions over and over again, constantly reevaluating our career path, changing course in accordance with our responses. But that second part – how would you monetize it? — is a toughie. It’s why, all too often, we approach things from the opposite end. We pinpoint the work that pays the bills, and then we throw everything we have at it, to the exclusion of all else. What would we do if we couldn’t fail!? Hell. Who has time for that!?

I don’t know if I’ve lost energy for my career because I’m depressed, or if I’m depressed because I’ve lost energy for my career. It’s quite possibly a little bit of both. But right now, I’m not interested in monetizing a goddamn thing. And that scares me.

How does your depression affect your work? And how does your work affect your depression?


  1. I can relate to how you’re feeling in this post & what you talked about in the LearnVest article.

    For the first year and a half of my marriage, I was freelancing and finishing up my MFA (making so little, my income paid for basically groceries and the odd bill here or there) while my husband was working his full time job and making our main income.

    Earlier this year, the stress I was feeling about not making as much (or even a fraction of what I thought I should be making to help pay our bills) was expounded when we were really struggling with finances. My husband, ever the supportive guy, told me to keep at it and not give up on writing and that we’d be fine. But I was losing sleep over our bills and constantly felt like I wasn’t pulling my weight at all. On top of that, I was seriously starting to hate the freelance work I was doing. I resented the sporadic and small paychecks and the work wasn’t exciting anymore. And I wasn’t doing ANY fiction writing, feeling guilty if I spent time on a short story when I could be writing something for pay.

    I applied for a full time job with an amazing online company soon after that, and got the job. I work from home still (something I NEVER want to give up. Ever), make a full time salary, work with a wonderful remote team, and have started working on my fiction more than I have in the past couple of years.

    We have money in savings and I feel like I’m finally doing my part with our income. I like my work and I’m writing even more than I was before. I was happy to give up freelancing because it stopped being enjoyable and wasn’t cutting it for me in so many ways. I had no energy for it anymore and I had even less energy for feeling lousy about myself, my money, my contributions, etc.

    I think people who judge you for what you said in your LearnVest article just don’t get it. I don’t want “it all” either. I want to work at home, make enough money to live comfortably and not lose sleep over bills. I want to feel like my husband and I are on level playing fields (even though he still makes more than me).

    There’s NO SHAME at all in wanting what you want out of your life. Screw anyone who passes judgment on what you desire and how you live. At the root of that judgment is fear and maybe even jealousy. Having it all for one person looks different for someone else. For me, freelancing wasn’t giving me what I needed. It was holding me back. I’d rather publish short stories and get my novel finished– and I can do that since I’m not worrying about money or hustling harder for clients.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long comment, Steph, but this post really resonated with me. I feel ya! Remember: haters gonna hate. Just keep doing your thing.

    • Oh Kristin – Bless you for sharing your story in its entirety. It’s so much like mine that it can’t help but make me feel slightly better.

      I love to share my personal stories (like the LV piece) so that readers feel less alone. Sometimes, I need that, too.

      I’m glad you were able to make things work. Fingers crossed I can reach that point eventually!

      • I have my fingers crossed for you too, but I honestly think you don’t need luck with the brains you have in your head and the fire you have for your writing. It’s just a matter of what form the next phase will take for you. I am so rooting for you, Steph!

  2. Kristin, you are a smart cookie – haters gonna hate. And Steph, don’t hate on yourself – of COURSE you’re having a hard time maintaining energy! Look at all the things you have going on… book, freelance work, yoga training, potential house buying, baby-making… that’s a big list of things that require TONS of energy and focus. No wonder you’re drained. I know you’re not sitting around twiddling your thumbs, you’re making it happen one day at a time.

    • Can I just say “ditto”? Everything you’re doing is incredibly draining. And a lack of day-to-day “great job” and “thank you” emails from coworkers and supervisors while you’re working your a** off on things with long-term, but little short-term, payoffs (like your starter kit freebie, book proposal, and new networking platform) can really get a girl down.

      I keep a folder in my work email called “back pats” where I keep all of those little thank you notes for days they feel few and far between. If there’s something I want to achieve, but the steps to get there seem daunting, I strategically share the goal with someone I know believes in me and will keep me accountable. And when I’m so down I don’t want to work toward anything, I try to get up enough motivation to do one thing that I know I really love doing (even if getting there seems like more effort than it’s worth). It’s always worth it.

      Thank you for sharing how you’re feeling. It helped me feel less alone as well. Best wishes in sparking your passion again soon! I know it’ll happen.

  3. You all have my sympathy. I live in South Africa where women isn’t emancipated even now. It is still expected of a husband to provide for the family and for women to manage the house and children. This obviously has there own set of problems. So I guess it is all an balancing act, do not be to hard on yourself, lower your standards and expectations, communicate with your spouse- if it does not bother him to bear the responsibility for now give yourself some slack till you have figured it out. (Try being more minimalistic, one really do not need to have it all.)

  4. Oh man, I so feel you! I haven’t cried in public just yet, but I did have a huge breakdown a few days ago at home, and crawled into my husband’s arms like a child, sobbing. It was a great crying session—halfway through I blurted out, not realizing I felt this way, that all I wanted was a chance to breathe a little. Because lately, I am really, really tired. I’m happy and grateful for the way my career’s turned out overall, but there are some days when I feel like I’m just checking off a to-do list, and I know I need to find a way to bring more meaning back into it. What is so often left out of the idea of “having it all” is fulfillment. What’s the point of having it all if it does nothing for you, if it lacks meaning?

  5. Glenn Freiner says:

    I normally do not comment on these blogs. My wife made me read your article from LVEST. Reading everything in its entirety, I think that the following points are poignant:

    1) Every marriage is different and every marriage dynamic is different. As long as the dynamic between you and your husband works, no one else’s opinion really matters.

    2) Discussions about money are like discussions about politics and religion: they will elicit a reaction from readers. It was a well-written article that stirred a reaction from the readers.

    3) In any marriage, as in my own, discussions concerning money need to occur. Separate or joint bank accounts, who is the breadwinner, how are decisions made. Some of that again depends on the goals of the married people what they want and what they are willling to compromise for. Life is yin and yang, one thing gets sacrificed for something else. You don’t know happiness unless you experience sadness.

    4) Form the tone of the article, you miss your husband when he comes home late. I worked at a startup. Some of what I did I was able to work from home. Perhaps that is an option for him. One thing I do take exception with; for someone coming home late especially at midnight, whether it is husnand or wife, please don’t berate me for not spending enough time. I am trying. Rather than resentment, we needed to sit there, lay out all our cards on the table and fins out where we were. I needed to do another three months of crazy hours before there was enough savings so I could cut back and spend time with my wife. There are only so many hours in a day.

    At the end of the day, your marriage is your business. Remember that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one….

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Glenn! And you’re so right to call me out on my late-night nagging.

      My husband and I went through a rough patch in our marriage about a year and a half ago and, at the time, we weren’t communicating very well. The picture I paint in my LV article leaves out a lot of the stuff that was going on then. (I’ve written about it elsewhere.) Since then, we’ve worked on on listening to each other more. Now, whenever either of us is feeling upset, instead of flying off the handle, we sit down and talk to each other about what we’re feeling, and why. It’s helped us see things from the other’s point of view and, by extension, to be more empathetic.

      Now I understand his fears around financial responsibility, and he… well… he tries to understand all my crazy. 😉

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