So irritated

I’m in a terrible mood today. Lots of factors. I haven’t been taking “my” time off. Noah feels a lot of pressure to go work more. I don’t think this is mostly coming from me. I think he wants to go do these things. When we get to the point of having more than $100k in cash and way over half a million dollars in investments before we get into some of our other assets and we have virtually no debt (other than our mortgage)… you aren’t working because we desperately need the money. That’s crap. Yes, I have things I would spend money on… but it’s crap that we need it. We don’t need more money.

But Noah would really like to stop working for a company. And he wants to build something on the side before he quits. From where I am sitting he is working two jobs.

I’m struggling with this. Recently he’s been doing a lot of wandering over to the computer to type frantically during our “family” time. I’m feeling abandoned and angry. I haven’t been spending much time with friends–most of what I do get is distracted or rushed. When I do have “time off” I wander off by myself and Noah follows me because he wants attention.

I’ve been sick for a while and that is making life hard. People make plans with me and then decide to cancel them. Three, four flakings in the last week? That adds up for me. Lots of people canceling on me in a week makes me feel really bad. If I hadn’t already scheduled the open house I wouldn’t add one to my calendar right now. Right now I feel like the only appropriate place for me is way way way under the water beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

I got a letter from Kaiser. My case manager is someone handling me being mad at the guy I just fired. That’s going to be what he does and that’s it. They are just trying to make sure I can’t sue for malpractice. They don’t want to help me.

I want to die. I want to get away from people dumping their needs on me while I can’t take care of my own. I don’t know how to get my body to feel ok. I don’t know how to stop feeling like people actually hate me. I don’t know how to feel like I deserve to be alive.

I should probably start with more medication. I haven’t had any today. Part of the trouble is: I’m running low on pills and I can’t bring myself to buy more pills when I have a freezer full of edibles preventing me from buying real food and putting that in my freezer. But all the edibles have wheat or dairy or both. If I have a minimum of three months on an elimination diet… that means I just don’t get to use a big chunk of my freezer for 1/4 of a year.

Reselling it isn’t legal.

I won’t want to take stuff that has been sitting in my freezer for 9+ months on the trip, so I can’t just start my stockpile.

I feel like I’m being mean to Noah and I can’t tell if I actually am or if I just think I’m a mean piece of shit. I’m not being cheerful, that’s for sure.

I feel like both Noah and I are tapped out lately. Both of us want support and the other doesn’t have much (if any) to give. Noah is being ridiculously nice with trying hard to figure out how to cook given this moving target.

Why am I so mad at him for typing a lot when I read a lot? Because I’m a hypocrite. Because the kids want attention and him checking out means that absolutely all of it falls on me and I’m bitter as fuck. I continually feel sad and guilty because I can’t actually help Noah with his work much, but he can help me with mine. And he does. So I feel like a using piece of shit. I’m not helping him so I have no right to expect him to help me.

It really doesn’t help that I’m sick and I don’t feel good and I have no energy. I’ve been doing very little for weeks and I’m not better. I’m less tired than I was, but I feel like “exhaustion” is still a good descriptor for how I’m doing. I’m eating a little more now that I can have garlic. I’m not pooping consistently (well… I’m pooping… but it’s not hard) on the expanded diet and that is making me sick with worry on top of not feeling good.

The last doctor I talked to told me it could only possibly be wheat or dairy. So I reintroduced everything else and lost solid poop. I think she’s wrong.

Also I suspect that I’m on the path to having just the word “Kaiser” trigger anxiety shitting. Yay for feeling like they “care” about my “health”.

I get into these states where I hurt and I don’t know why I hurt and people around me aren’t very helpful and I get so very angry. Then people don’t want to be around me because I’m such an angry person.

I want to die so much. Today I don’t feel very much hope. I want to cut so much.

Noah and I had a fierce argument about Paul Graham. Cause I totally fucking care and all. Or not. Noah likes Paul Graham because he explains how to do things. I am less enamored because the guy is clearly only talking to the top 5% of society but he tries to make it sound like his advice is applicable to *everybody* and if you don’t follow it you are just lazy. Or something.

I have a hard time with people with enormous privilege breaking down their process for success and saying, “It’s easy! What you do is start with step A and then go to step B and then move to step C.” When they don’t understand that there were actually 350 steps before step A that they didn’t realize they were taking. I used as a counter-example Warren Buffet. Everything I’ve read from that man sounded pompous. He makes it really fucking clear that if you haven’t taken the prerequisite 350 steps you’re fucked and he has nothing to say to you. (That’s what I’ve read–I’m sure I haven’t read everything he’s written.)

Not too long ago I read a story about a young girl moving to this country and getting a job as a maid/nanny. She couldn’t figure out how to use the washing machine. So she did the whole family’s laundry by hand. Week after week spreading things out on the grass to dry. (True story–written by the girl who later learned to use a washing machine.)

There are so many steps involved before you are able to go be “successful” in an advanced society. Some of them can be skipped, not most.

I think the most important step is when you figure out that it isn’t YOUR responsibility to hand wash everyone’s clothing. If that girl had even known how to complain about not knowing how to use the machine it would have been different. She had no words to use to ask for help with her ignorance at first. Her ignorance was so big it was hard to develop a chink in the armor for education.

There are habits of rich people. I read about this. (Strangely, many of my natural habits-early riser, be awake many hours before you start ‘work’ are actually habits considered mandatory by successful people in large studies. Whatever.) There are habits of poor people. Understanding what your habits are and changing them is hard. Doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor. Your habits are your habits. Examining what they are and how you got them is hard.

I get so angry because people like Paul Graham don’t understand that learning how to use the washing machine is almost a prerequisite for starting a company or it is entirely irrelevant. If you are rich enough to pay someone else to do your laundry it doesn’t matter. You have leap-frogged having that skill matter. If you are poor and you want to appear professional, you had best fucking learn how to do laundry. Doing laundry such that your clothes stay “nice” is a skill (one my mom had and I lack). I’ve seen this skill. My mom had clothes throughout my childhood that would have looked appropriate on a lawyer in a nice office. She could keep her clothes nice. I can’t.

I understand that Silicon Valley likes to believe that it has “changed all the rules” and really what it has done is make it so the people in the top 5% have more freedom than they used to have. Woo. Watch me do cartwheels in happiness.

We argued about this because folks online didn’t like Paul Graham’s most recent essay on being mean. Noah can’t understand why anyone has a problem with the essay. I said, “His definition of mean and mine probably aren’t the same. His friends are nice to him–their social equal who is also already rich. How do they treat the janitors in their companies?”

I’m sure these people are wonderfully civil to absolutely everyone in their lives. Even the janitors. But do they make sure their janitors have reasonable living wages or does that just not matter? My definition of mean may be different.

I’m fine with requiring civility from a “civilized” society but I don’t equate it with nice. And saying that mean people don’t succeed is… well…

Mark Zuckerberg is currently the cock of the walk in the valley, right? Know how his “real names” policy is harming a lot of people? Oh–but that’s probably not “mean”.

It’s always ok to step on people low enough down the ladder. You aren’t mean. You are just making good business decisions.

I am incapable of thinking of a company as “successful” if it treats the janitors and secretaries badly. I think your company sucks and I hate it and you if you try to convince me why really it is so great. Don’t get me started on Google. (Yes, they are better than average in the valley. That impresses me less than you might hope. I want ALL employees to be treated like people.)

Is this why I am not a Captain of Industry? Probably. I also make no claims to being “nice”. I’m sure Mr. Graham would be happy to tell me that I’m failing in life because I’m so mean. (Or maybe he wouldn’t–after all he’s NICE!)

I think people fail for reasons a lot bigger than whether they are nice or not even though “niceness” may appear to figure in. People who succeed have the largest social networks and often that comes along with being charismatic and likable. In my personal experience being charismatic and likable means that people get away with being extremely not-nice whenever they want to.

If you make sure your rep’ is clean enough, you can do fucking anything.

Look at Bill.fucking.Cosby. He’s “nice”.

My experience of dealing with people in the valley (and I’ve met way more than my share of millionaires and multi-millionaires and one or two who I think were close to billionaires) is that they are as nice as long as they feel like it and not a minute longer. I’m less impressed with this than other people might be.

I don’t hate Paul Graham. I don’t want him to stop running YCombinator because from what I can see–they do interesting and important work that I sure as shit don’t want to do. I don’t even want him to stop writing about what he does.

What I like about Warren Buffet is he is a shameless old bastard. He’s got what he’s got. He doesn’t feel ashamed. Near as I can tell he thinks he is better at earning money than almost anyone alive and past that he doesn’t seem to put his ego out in writing that I can detect. I’m totally good with that. Be what you are.

Paul Graham always sounds to me like he is writing for the top 5% but he really wants the top 40% to read it and be inspired and hurry up and do something. I have… feelings about this.

When I’m getting mad at Paul Graham I’m aware I’m doing it from a few different angles. First: I’m aware that as a bright female I’m definitely one of the ones who is letting my generation down by “not doing much” and his essays always feel… that’s my problem. That’s not about his writing. Secondly: I read his essays from the point of view of someone who grew up in the bottom 5%. Most of the people who were there with me are still there. I married up more than I “got out” on my own. There were no bootstraps present. Ok, even that isn’t true. I got out because of the settlement. I was bit by a dog and the accident settlement was well managed and I dragged myself out of penury. It wasn’t really Noah who did it.

But I had so much help. I am so painfully aware of the help and support I got from a thousand different sources. I’ve been good throughout my life at pulling five minutes of support from person A and five minutes of support from person B and making that somehow be enough. I’m sucking at that lately–my life is so different–but that has been how I have traditionally gotten my needs met. Most people like me aren’t given that help and I feel angry on their behalf. Mr. Graham isn’t really writing at the bottom 5% though and my anger is… not helpful. I don’t know how Mr. Graham could give most people in this demographic even vaguely useful help, period. For folks in this camp learning to use the washing machine wouldn’t help because they are lacking so many skills… they just won’t catch up.

The 6%-35% are the target demographic (I’m pulling these numbers out of thin air) I feel pissy about. That’s really complicated, though. Many of the people in this demographic could benefit from Mr. Graham’s advice if they really buckled down and took seriously that mistakes and failure are mandatory for learning. Most of these people have the potential and they’ve had most of the support necessary for ensuring that they have the ability to follow through on potential… what they need is drive. That is so much harder to teach. If you can teach drive you are a better teacher than me. I can’t.

I can’t teach drive. I can inspire it, sometimes by accident, but I don’t know the steps. I’ve read all the books on determination and trying (ok, not ALL the books) but I still can’t teach it.

Either you have the will to get back up when someone punches you or you don’t. I don’t know how to teach that.

So why do I get so mad at Mr. Graham? Probably mostly because he’s a successful white man and I’ve Got Issues.

I honestly don’t believe that being “nice enough” is what is keeping more women from succeeding and men like Paul Graham give people in authority more standing to reject women who aren’t nice enough. Paul Graham said that mean people fail! You were mean to me! I’ll make sure you never work in this town again.

When you research what happens to women in the tech industry… I think it is a big fat fucking lie that people who are successful are nice. Elon Musk seems like a pretty fucking successful guy and a quick casual google search seems to indicate that he’s a son-of-a-bitch to work with. He’s a mixed bag in terms of how “nice” or “good” he is. The actual word used to describe working with him was “dick.” He’s doing good for the world and bad at the same time. People have very mixed opinions on him.

I believe that when rich white men pompously stand up and say that the way to be successful is to be nice they are screwing over a lot of people. It is simply not true that being nice is the way to success. How many fucking people have “nice”d their way to richness and fame? I’m not sure I can name one. Wait! Maybe Julie Andrews. I’ve never heard a serious negative story about her.

And Mr. Graham does try to say that he’s only talking about his field–clearly in other fields there are meanie-pants walking around.

But I find it galling and irritating that he’s going to try and claim that he can evaluate whether or not his friends are mean and how much that related to their success. Maybe he and I just don’t use nice/mean the same way. It is very possible that he means just social civility with no actual measure of the impact of behavior on people around you. That’s a convenient way to ignore all harm caused by dominant groups.

Man I’m in a mood.

It really isn’t Noah’s fault that I’m in a bad mood. Even though he does like to show up during my “alone time” and act like a lost puppy in need of love. He is a lost puppy. He does need love.

I just wish he would ask for it when I’m not traipsing off to be alone. What was wrong with all those hours I sat in the living room and you were off doing your thing?!

I love you. I do want to give you attention. I also want attention. I want to have something to talk about other than my not-cooperating body. I want to feel cheerful and like life is good. I want to have positive things to say.

I could live a full-time life of denial. That way I could only talk about pleasant things. If I matter little enough that I don’t even need to come up in the conversation… then maybe I could manage to be pleasant enough that people would want to talk to me.

Today it is good that I can’t run anyway. I’d like to jump off the overpass in front of a semi. That sounds properly cathartic right this second. Maybe I could finally get something through my stupid brain. A truck! HA!

I should eat again. And my battery is D-E-D.

4 thoughts on “So irritated

  1. P.

    Paul Graham is not holy. He semi-regularly says hostile things about everyone that is not a fellow white man (women, immigrants, etc). A few years people called him (loudly) on it after he yet again said no 13yo girl is interested in computers, so his public face is a bit better now. But still.

    But I think that PG is supposed to inspire and motivate people like Noah and remind people like me that it’s time to drop out of the industry. He’s doing his job well. The only thing I’ve heard about PG that didn’t anger me is that he inspired the current generation of spam detection. (Which I did not bother to fact check, because PG.)

    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      I’ve read a lot of his writing and I’ve had a conversation with him and I’ve invested through YCombinator–for full disclosure.

      I don’t dislike him as a person. He is certainly quite civil and courteous. I dislike many of his opinions. (As detailed above.)

      Later, when talking to Noah I also thought: It is *not* useful to tell women that they will fail for being mean. Being nice won’t get them anywhere either. Mean will have more usefulness. But I differentiate between mean and uncivil. They will need to be civil and charismatic and pretend to be a good person–but they will probably need to be mean.

      If you care more about building your business than any of the individual people in your employ… you aren’t nice any more. Not in my opinion.

  2. Michelle

    oh, fuck no. I hadn’t heard of Paul Graham before reading your journal today but I made it all of three paragraphs into his essay before I started grinding my teeth.

    When I worked for Julie Packard’s husband he was that particularly noxious flavor of privileged surface-nice, and wanted me to be an indentured servant and didn’t care about me working outside in a hailstorm and losing my fingerprints because he was too cheap to buy gloves to protect from the chemicals he was lying about. I left that place but not everyone could.

    Then there was the faculty guy who called me a whore at a department meeting for asking if they could spare some funding to get me to a professional conference.

    No, fuck people like that.

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