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Modern life is bringing me down
May 27, 2014 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Life has been really good to me, yet I feel unfulfilled in this endless cycle of daily routines. Am I expecting something unrealistic or is this a sign I need to change my lifestyle?

I graduated from college some years ago. At that point, I was coming out of a break up, couldn't find a job, and was basically at a low point. I started saving up money and going abroad for months at a time. Did that for about three years. Finally I was tired and wanted to "settle down". Got extremely lucky and found a great job back home in an industry I like and I've been at that for two years now. Last year I met an amazing guy and we've been together for a year now. It's been a solid relationship and I can see a future with us. Everything's great right?

I feel spoiled even just writing about this, but something about this routine of the modern life is just not doing it for me. I get super irritated in traffic, which has not changed in the 10 years I've been driving. I feel lucky to have a paying job in the creative industry, yet the 8-9 hours screen time is killing me, especially during the slow days when I literally run out of stuff to do online. I used to hang out with anarchist kids and listen to punk music about how much this kind of life sucks. Then I guess at some point, I grew out of that and more or less conformed to a more "realistic" life. I thought that there could be a balance between having a fulfilling happy life and a job that pays, but I'm struggling to find that balance.

I don't think I appreciate this modern life as much as I thought I would. Perhaps it's the "grass is greener syndrome" and I just need to get over it. The political culture of this country (US) just makes me sad. I see my toddler nieces on their ipads at the dinner table and that makes me sad. I see people wasting their lives away doing meaningless tasks to buy bigger houses and bigger cars and that just fucking depresses me.

My partner and I have talked about moving to a different city or living abroad for a while. It's something we're both interested in doing, but probably not doable for another 2-3 years at least. I live in a pretty progressive city already, and we're able to get away into nature or go by the river on weekends. I garden when I can and that relaxes me. I've thought about other job options, but I can't seem to think of another fulfilling job that I could go into without experience and that doesn't pay minimum wage.

Is this something I just need to put up with? Have you guys ever felt this way? How did you cope with these feelings? I try to think positively and I'm reading the Feeling Good Handbook for help with anxiety, but I don't quite want to completely brainwash myself to enjoy something I don't enjoy. Any advice is much appreciated.
posted by monologish to Human Relations (39 answers total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would find things outside of work that interest you. It sounds like you do a lot of unstructured fun things (walks, gardening, etc.), but do you commit to regular things that would fulfill you?

For me, that's theater. I write and direct and produce and act in plays and I love it. I work all day long, but when I have rehearsal or set building, I know that I'm working until I can get to the thing I love to do. It sounds like there may be no "can't wait to get to this" in your life right now.
posted by xingcat at 1:03 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I think this kind of ennui is a lifelong struggle for intellectual folks and can easily drive those susceptible to mental illness into depression. Personally, reading classic literature distracts me from the today and now. When I surface from a long book written by someone living in an era long gone, I feel capable of handling reality again for a little while.
posted by theraflu at 1:04 PM on May 27 [36 favorites]


Perhaps the Master is a fiction and the field you plow is used by noone.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:10 PM on May 27 [13 favorites]


I know exactly how you feel.

The mind likes to have stuff to ruminate on, or a problem to 'solve.' The mind likes to churn.

You can find your meaningful task and dedicate time to it.

You can sit and relax on the porch with a glass of iced tea.

Remember this: problems will come. My dear they will come. And one day you'll be on the way out of this life wishing for a just a bit more time, or health.

So enjoy the boring times too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:11 PM on May 27 [8 favorites]


Fulfilling work helps, but work-life balance helps more. Could you go part-time at work, or find another job that pays more per hour but demands fewer hours of your time?

Do you have to have a commute? Could you move closer to work and walk or bike?

I'm totally with you that a 9-5 office job isn't what I want out of life. I have a more flexible and fun human service job which I genuinely enjoy, though it can be frustrating. But I also know that my ultimate goal is to stop working full-time. I'm planning for and saving towards that goal now. Until I get there, I try to reduce the amount of time I spend driving (which I also hate) and spending money on pointless consumer items.

You might like the Mr. Money Mustache blog--it's about frugality but also about simple living and anti-consumerism.
posted by chaiminda at 1:11 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


Everyone in life has things that they like, and they're different from everyone else's. Why do other people's lives depress you? Some people value big houses and big cars (I like iPads and wasting time on metafilter), and someone like you might find that depressing, but nobody's forcing you to do a job you don't like or drive a long ways to get there. Maybe the job enables you to do things that you DO like (like afford a garden, camping equipment, or it gives you the ability to completely disconnect at 5pm everyday). Maybe it isn't worth the tradeoffs, but that's a value judgment you'll have to make yourself.

Figure out what you value and what makes you happy and move towards that. Anarchy and punk music, in a lot of ways, are reactionary counter-culture movements, but they don't actively value things as much as they criticize existing things (and that's fine, you can be against government and High art). Find what you value, and focus on that. If that indeed is traveling the world, don't keep putting it off (2-3 years? is that REALLY true?) But don't escape from one fantasy into a world travel fantasy just because you think it's better. There's got to be a positive reason that you want to travel, and it shouldn't just be that you want to be anywhere but here.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 1:13 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


The feelings you have seem to be really common among people I know in the creative/tech community. They have addressed it by quitting their salaried positions and switching over to being a contractor working on 3-6 month gigs. That way you are paying the bills but you can also take some time away from the daily grind after each gig is up, if you need a temporary change of pace.

My approach is a bit different - I have switched my focus from expecting my career to be personally fulfilling, to seeing it as a way to save up money to do things that really matter to me, like traveling, eating well, and pursuing my expensive hobbies (photography, day drinking, etc).
posted by joan_holloway at 1:13 PM on May 27 [21 favorites]


I feel spoiled even just writing about this, but something about this routine of the modern life is just not doing it for me.

If you make a list of what you want, what does it look like? Nothing on the list that's a negative, so no "Live in a culture that is less [bad thing]," or "Shorter commute" - more like "Live in a culture that values [specific thing]" and "Walk 20 minutes to work."

When you were hanging out with the anarchist listening to punk and talking shit about the kind of life you now have, what were you guys working *towards*? What did you want to do or make or be?

One thing that helped me was not idealizing my job - any job - as needing to be "meaningful." That's a lot of weight to put on something that also has to bring in money. I have a good job that pays well and where I work with smart, thoughtful people, and it doesn't drive me crazy or make me think about it on weekends. It just is.
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on May 27 [22 favorites]


Something that can help with that search for balance and meaning is service. I think that deliberately taking time out of your life to do something for someone else, generally in an organized way but not necessarily, gives you back so much more than you can give that it turns up the brightness in your life tremendously.

The key is to find the volunteer work that fits you. Don't do something that you hate -- do something that you love. It's still service, even if you enjoy it. As Frank Ostaseski used to say -- it's not service unless both people are being served.

Service brings many things into sharp focus and helps cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is the seasoning that makes life meaningful. I think you may find that this would help with the frustration you have with modern culture.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.

--Rabindranath Tagore
posted by janey47 at 1:20 PM on May 27 [23 favorites]


I know this is only a single aspect of what you mentioned, but this happened to me as well when I had a 45 minute car commute to work and back. I get twitchy in traffic. I hate it. It's miserable.

When we moved, We made sure it was no more than a half hour bike ride away from work. Now I commute all the time by bike, and it's amazing. Those endorphins help with my mood and general outlook quite a bit…that's not to say I don't feel exactly the way you do sometimes, but it helps.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:22 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


i don't have much to add, but i wanted to point it out bc it's exactly what got me thru the ennui of "this is it?".


rtha has it with...
One thing that helped me was not idealizing my job - any job - as needing to be "meaningful." That's a lot of weight to put on something that also has to bring in money. I have a good job that pays well and where I work with smart, thoughtful people, and it doesn't drive me crazy or make me think about it on weekends. It just is.

i used to think i had to have a job that would make a difference. those jobs are few and far between and usually way less glamorous than they appear. my job pays well, i leave it at the office, and i get to do things in my free time with the money i make - like eat what i want, go on trips, and afford hobbies i wasn't able to when i was poorer.

also, being able to walk to work (i drive when it's raining) has improved my freaking life so much i can't even say it. i am in love with and would marry not driving to work.
posted by sio42 at 1:24 PM on May 27 [12 favorites]


I just gave this advice in the previous question, but it relates to you too.

Can you do both? Can you work at this awesome job, save up your money and then take it and head out to some other life?

Seriously, if you can define what you'd rather be doing, then it's easy enough to say, "Well, that takes $$$ and as soon as I've saved it, we can go do that." Work is so much better when you're working towards a goal.

If you don't want YOUR children glued to iPads, don't let them be. If you don't want to get married, buy a house or settle down, you don't have to.

Just because it's what 'people do,' it doesn't mean that you actually have to do it too.

If there are things you can do to make your current life better (move so there's no commute, get a place that you like better than your current place, get a haircut) then do that. My life got MUCH more enjoyable when I decided not to commute.

Sometimes you get in a funk. You look back on your idealistic young self and say, "Damn, what happened to that girl, she used to be so serious," but what happened is you grew up. You made choices, and sometimes it's not as much fun as it was back in college when you could drink coffee all night at Denny's and talk about utopia. Now I sit up with decaf in my living room and we talk about how great it's going to be when we all live together on the commune. After retirement.

Seriously.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on May 27 [6 favorites]


" people wasting their lives away doing meaningless tasks to buy bigger houses and bigger cars and that just fucking depresses me. "
Maybe they're writing their novels in the extra bedroom. Maybe they're carting around rescue animals to new homes in that SUV. Really, how other people chose to live isn't' any concern of yours.
So, what are you doing that makes a difference or is an outlet for your own talents? You're not just your job or your commute. Moving to some interesting cool place is fine for a while, but you're still you, even in more picturesque surroundings.
So, what aren't you doing? Listening to punk music is one thing, but creating your own might be more rewarding. Or scanning your photos of those days and making a video and sharing it. Or learning a new language or how to bake or volunteering in a community garden or whatever strikes your fancy.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:33 PM on May 27 [7 favorites]


The one thing I've found that effectively fights that humdrum Sisyphean feeling is having some sort of personal goal to work towards. It can be professional, mental, physical, social, whatever. It can be huge and ambitious or smaller and silly. The only thing that matters is that your goal is something that truly interests you and requires some investment of time and effort.

Learn a new skill. Write poetry when you're caught up with work. Volunteer for something you really believe in. Run a marathon, or just a mile. Teach yourself to sing, and practice in the car. Whatever floats your rubber ducky, just as long as you keep at it.

Ultimately, you want to be able to look at yourself in a year and recognize that you did something interesting, that you're a little smarter or stronger than you were when you started. Whichever path you choose, the satisfaction is in moving forward.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:35 PM on May 27 [5 favorites]


monologish: "I don't think I appreciate this modern life as much as I thought I would. Perhaps it's the "grass is greener syndrome" and I just need to get over it. The political culture of this country (US) just makes me sad. I see my toddler nieces on their ipads at the dinner table and that makes me sad. I see people wasting their lives away doing meaningless tasks to buy bigger houses and bigger cars and that just fucking depresses me. "

Okay, so, what would make these things better? Then, do those things. My husband and I favor dense, walkable cities, so we live close to the urban center in a dense(ish) neighborhood, and we both spend a lot of time working with projects and advocacy groups to improve the city in the way we feel are important -- encouraging property redevelopment in blighted neighborhoods, building community gardens, improving educational opportunities for urban children (which also makes it more attractive to people currently in the burbs), advocating for a bikeable cityscape. Just this year we've seen a major intersection revamped completely to make it more bike- and pedestrian-friendly (thanks, untimely water main break!), and the completion of a looooong bike path including bridges over arterial highways. These are things we've been involved in advocacy for for several years, so it's very exciting and encouraging to see them to completion! I'd like more recreational opportunities for children in our community, partly to reduce passive screen time, so for nearly 10 years I've been volunteering with an organization that's building a children's museum, and we finally broke ground this summer! I am excite.

A lot of your complaints are societal but your solutions are personal. Those are good, it's important to live out your ideals in your own life! But maybe you'd feel more fulfilled and content if you were working on the societal aspects of the problem as well. Which is doable! These things don't just happen in a vacuum and there are tons of local efforts that are already underway and need your support, and with the internet it's easy as anything to get your own effort rolling. Plus you meet a lot of like-minded people when you get involved in those sorts of efforts, and it really helps when you don't feel like such an outlier ... we're much happier knowing other families who have chosen to stay in the city with children instead of feeling like lone weirdos amid a mass of sprawl-lovers who don't share my values. It's good to have people who commiserate with our complaints and share our worldview and understand the frustrations and rewards of being a little bit counterculture (while also being responsible, boring, middle-aged adults).

Also, yeah, your commute jumps out at me too. Can you reduce that? Or can you carpool, so at least you're having human-connection time while commuting?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:44 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


The political culture of this country (US) just makes me sad. I see my toddler nieces on their ipads at the dinner table and that makes me sad. I see people wasting their lives away doing meaningless tasks to buy bigger houses and bigger cars and that just fucking depresses me.

When you find yourself seeing these aspects of life that you find make you sad, instead of immediately filing it in the "failing me" pile, see if you can find a more positive aspect to it. Our political culture is every day making great strides in equality. Touch-enabled tablet computers allow toddlers to develop certain skills much faster than they would have before, and give parents much-needed breaks. A bigger house has a workshop in the basement the previous one didn't, or a nicer kitchen to help stay healthier. A bigger car makes a stressful commute less so, making a person more pleasant at work.

Perhaps, when some stranger's meaningless workaday task that day just happens to make a big and meaningful difference for you, those extra little bits of happiness from the momentarily-peaceful toddler and the relaxing basement workshop and the healthy meal and the less-stressful commute is why they're able to not fuck it up and make your life a little easier and a little happier.

There's all these little strands of cause and effect all around us and things that appear shallow and pointless at first glance don't necessarily have to remain so. And, what's more, is that your own life is just as full of them as any other. There's little victories and momentary bursts of happiness everywhere if you look for them, and they build up into something genuinely significant if you let them.
posted by griphus at 1:46 PM on May 27 [6 favorites]


Your problem is you're projecting the ideals you want to live by onto everyone and then despairing at the state of society. Some people really like living in big houses. It's not some kind of moral failing on their part to pursue bigger houses if that's what they enjoy.

And if you run away to another country, you're just going to find they have problems over there as well. Europe just elected a bunch of right wing parties to the EU parliament and has some absolutely virulent streams of racism (dig into Pakistainis, Poles, or Roma and you'll see rhetoric that your worst stereotypical Southern racist wouldn't say), as does Australia. Every place has racist, regressive assholes, that's the human condition.

The common thread in all your problems is you. What do you need to change about yourself?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:06 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I don't know how long your commute is, but I'm guessing it's more than 10 minutes. Here's an article on how commuting sucks joy out of your life. Of note, any commute longer than 10 minutes each way lowers your quality of life. If you have a commute longer than 45 minutes each way, you'd need a 40% increase in salary to reach an equivalent level of happiness.

Also, consider that some people like living in big houses, driving big cars, and playing on their ipads. I grew up as one of those kids who played on the computers all. the. time. I would literally spend every free moment--including hours I should be sleeping--on computers. But now I love traveling and am considering downsizing so I can go on more adventures in life. I wouldn't worry too much about your nieces. And even if they are genuinely made happy by stability and high social standing that comes with big houses and nice cars, so what? At least they would be happy. (Which is more than you claim you have.)

I think that traveling is fine. (We hope to spend some time abroad soon too.) And it's okay to want exciting things. I get that by trying new hobbies and having projects. When I have no money, my projects are writing and pencil sketches. When I have money, they are home improvement and fishkeeping and woodworking. There is no reason that your physical environment has to change in order for you to stretch your mind and challenge it.

And yeah, I would like to eventually not have to work a full time job. But part of that means I have to work extra hard and be extra frugal right now so that I can save up enough money. Unfortunately, (almost) none of us can get exactly what we want. This is the hand you're dealt. These are the rules you have to play by. What do YOU want to do with your life?
posted by ethidda at 2:10 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Day to day routine life can get boring, and you start to feel stagnant instead of challenged and dynamic. It isn't necessarily about this particular modern life - your job, your city, your commute. It's ANY life that you have been in a routine pattern for a few years.

I cope with it by being intentional about doing stuff that mixes things up. Literally, I keep a list of interesting stuff I want to do, from making my own pickles to checking out those nudist hot springs my friend told me about.

New hobbies: Guitar lessons? Mastering arm balances in yoga? Sewing? Buy an old vintage car and fix it up? Something social where you'll meet new interesting people to socialize with? Tennis? Surfing? Buy some tickets for a 2-week international vacation (Christmas-New Years is a good time because offices are usually closed for a few days anyway), make a list of day trips and weekend road trips to do in the next few months. Enroll in a woodworking or metal shop class. Buy a dog? Paint rooms in your house crazy colors? Throw a raging party for your friends (the ones who are still cool enough to rage). Apply for 2 new jobs just to feel the possibilities. Reconnect with punk you: Get a tattoo, go to some shows, put red streaks in your hair. Volunteer in the local arts/music scene. Go to Burning Man, throw some dinner parties (cool ones, not lame ones). Flying lessons? Mountain or road biking? Making your own beer?

If you are at your screen for 8 hours a day, maybe your boss would let you work remotely from Kathmandu or Caracas.
posted by amaire at 2:16 PM on May 27


Sorry, I completely linked to the wrong article! I don't know how that happened. This is the right one: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2011/05/your_commute_is_killing_you.html
posted by ethidda at 2:24 PM on May 27


YMMV, but I got over it by realizing that the past really fucking sucked.

Seriously, that didn’t sink in for me for a loooong time. I was kind of a romantic, imaginative, nerdy little kid/adolescent/young adult and I liked to think, “If only I lived in the middle ages or the 1890s or the blah blah blah whatever, I would have fit in and been appreciated and people would have been so much more intellectual and fulfilled and blah blah blah (I can’t even type this without wincing now it sounds so ridiculous.)”

Then I really thought about it one day. I thought, in the past people didn’t have the pill. They died of polio. They didn’t have GPS. They didn’t have canned food. Any one of my ancestors would have slapped me silly for complaining and been ragingly jealous of the modern life I live. My related Rousseau-esque “perfect life in harmony with nature and back to basics” fantasy crumbled like the proverbial house built on sand, too, when I realized that survival in nature is really fucking hard. Reading Herman Melville’s “Typee” really helped too- about a narrator who is disillusioned with Western “modern” (for 1840 or whatever) culture and goes to live on a relatively isolated island for a while with the natives. Long story short, things aren’t as idyllic as they seem. Nathaniel Hawthorne also wrote about an “idyllic” artistic community in his novel “The Blithedale Romance” which explores similar themes. Human nature is human nature, lessons are learned. For the vast majority of human history, life in nature wasn’t pleasant and stress-free, but nasty, brutish and short.

That realization humbled me a lot. Have you ever had a medical scare that was remedied purely by modern medicine? That also really helps put things in perspective fast. Or perhaps your mother might have died in a difficult birth were it not for modern science. You literally owe your life to modernity in those cases.

I felt like you a lot when I was in my early 20s. I still have moments when I really hate the supermarket or traffic. Who the hell doesn’t? But this fantasy of “beautiful nature” or “the idyllic past” or “a perfect unchanging communal system” is just that, a fantasy. I also stopped seeing “human nature” as one with a certain style of living. I started thinking of humans as adaptable creatures with big brains that allow them to survive in a sort of “meta-environment” and stopped lamenting that living in “modern life” as a human was the equivalent of being a tiger in a zoo. It’s not; people aren’t tigers and never have been. People aren’t even built to withstand rugged natural situations; we are built to create complicated advanced systems that allow us to survive.

Why do toddlers on ipads make you sad? I think that’s fucking awesome. Ipads are awesome. Who cares if kids aren’t in nature? Seriously, why is that intrinsically better? Ipods are fun, they’re having fun. Nature is fun, too. But to me it’s not “better” just different.

Maybe you really do need to go live on an island for a while until you miss the comforts of modern life. Or read “Into the Wild.”
posted by quincunx at 2:27 PM on May 27 [7 favorites]


It's a bit cheesy, but Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project was written for people like you (and me). It's all about finding ways to minimize the bad parts of life, get rid of the little niggles, and maximize your joy in the good things you have.
posted by rpfields at 3:59 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


For me, I have to be making things. It took me years and years and years to realize that if I'm not actively engaged in creative projects, I start to go stir crazy dealing with real life. It's something about satisfaction and planning and focus, all bundled together. Just a guess that maybe it'll help you, if you're even a little bit creatively inclined.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:10 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


I think it's pretty interesting that your post got so many likes. I get cha.. and I'm personally not convinced stuff makes people happy.. then again I'm not into stuff and not happy a lot of the time.
A friend said to me modern life should be dipped in and out of, she's pretty balanced and I found this quite sane.

Years ago my family moved to a remote island. It was an exceptional place in a bad way. I know that maybe doesn't sound possible, but it's true. There was no culture, no beauty, no history.. and it was full of ex pats of the most grotesque stereotypes imaginable. You were hated if you were too black or too white. I now have a young sister who thinks travelling is great and life here is shit. It's not like that ofcourse.. not to a thinker. The biggest answers don't they say are inside.. if I had the map I'd loan it you.
posted by tanktop at 4:13 PM on May 27


I had the same problem. For me it was the 8-9 hours of screen time. I cut that to part time and do something physical with the rest of it. I make less money, but I'm way happier. Something about sitting on your ass all day STARING is just really not good for happiness. I need to physically move for part of the day.

If you're not caught up with the rat race of thinking happiness lies in having the biggest + best house/car/smart phone/whatever, than crushing your soul for a paycheck doesn't make any sense.

(note, this doesn't work if you plan on having babies. Babies require money and an ability to do mind-numbing repetitive tasks. Unless you make enough money to outsource the diaper changing.)
posted by Dynex at 4:22 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Oh, I should add — I mean creative projects separate from those related to work, even when you work in a creative industry. Something that isn't intrinsically stressful or "necessary" to your life.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:38 PM on May 27


You can live in the 9-5 world by living in the lesser-used fringes of it. Try your soul-crushing commute half an hour earlier and see if one of your regular lunch places serves breakfast. It will change your aspect about saddling up at the desk. Try a standing desk so you can move fluidly as you work and come and go without having to do the sit down stand up thing all day. Find a project you can do at lunch break. Change it up in little ways, don't throw it all away.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:46 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I also have a paying job in a creative industry, and I grew up as a little blue-haired punk rock anarchist. I totally understand where you're coming from.

1) Stop worrying so much about the minutia of everyone else's life. Seriously, outside of your immediate circle of loved ones, that stuff will drive you crazy.

2) Find novelty in your own life. It doesn't have to be grand. Travel to work a different way, learn a new cookie recipe, watch a movie that is totally out of your usual genre comfort zone or from a different country. Write an essay or paint a watercolor or do a creative thing that is not your core competency. Go through your book collection and sell extras on eBay. Just.. do different things, even if you're not sure it will be great.

I know when I felt like you what I was craving was novelty and learning new things, and making the effort to find little ways to add that has helped a lot.
posted by jess at 4:49 PM on May 27 [7 favorites]


You say you work in a creative field but does the work actually engage you? 8 to 9 hours of screen time a day is a lot and would become incredibly soul sucking for me no matter what I was doing. That you end up with more than enough free time to get bored on internet makes me suspect you might just be bored with your job. Who cares if it's in a creative field and sounds great on paper?

That's not to say I think you should immediately upend your life and start over somewhere else, "grass is greener syndrome" is definitely something to be wary of. Exploring new outlets for your current interests and investing time into finding new more novel ones, as a lot of the advice above suggests, could be the fix you need. A boring but well paying job and the stability that provides in a place you're comfortable and familiar with can be a great thing and should not be tossed away lightly for adventure. Life and routine will get boring anywhere. Boring can be good, in moderation.

But that's not to say you shouldn't eventually upend your current life and start over somewhere else, either. Just give it some time and really listen to how you're feeling. Don't just waive it off and think about how you should be happy if you're not. Something is off and it's important to figure out what.

And since you've asked for the ways other people have dealt with this sense of malaise, I'm dealing with it now by completely upending my life and leaving a pretty good job in a relatively interesting field in a city I like that has become extremely routine and boring after 2 years. Around this time last year I thought, "If I can't see any way out of this rut in Current City or Current Job in the next year, I'm leaving both." I explored different positions I could take within my current workplace. I looked into new hobbies and ways to break out of old social routines. I thought about completely new jobs. And after plenty of hand wringing and "but what if"s, I decided this feeling is definitely here to stay as long as I remain here to stay and it's better to take the risk now rather than later.
posted by AtoBtoA at 7:21 PM on May 27


For me and my partner, we changed from a single location sticks and bricks house to a motorhome, and travel the country, so that we always have something new to experience. We still have the mundane in and outs of life and work, but the change in perspective keeps us motivated. Doesn't work for everyone, but it does for us.
posted by Vaike at 7:46 PM on May 27


On my phone right now, but look up David Foster Wallace's speech "This is Water." (Oh heck, it's worth the trouble):

http://youtu.be/8CrOL-ydFMI
posted by jessca84 at 9:39 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I used to hang out with anarchist kids and listen to punk music about how much this kind of life sucks.

start a band that plays punk music that says that. I'm not kidding.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:20 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I feel this way all the time. If I move to "something else" It's only a matter of time before I start feeling that way again. It's just part of the human condition and experience, I think. I think we get in our heads at some part of our youth that being a grownup is supposed to be a certain way and that we are going to be happy and content. I think that it's a big farce. Life is a non stop struggle of making decisions and living with them.

Now for the GOOD news.. We don't have a ton of control over the things that happen to us at the end of the day but we can cultivate a productive and skillful way of dealing with it and finding that ease with life, and I think it starts with meditation. For me, at least, through meditation I find a way to slow down the mind and examine emotions and feelings as they arise, looking at them and realizing that all things, whether they are positive or negative are completely temporary. That frustrating moment in traffic or that long wait in the grocery line is just a moment that passes. And by that practice of seeing emotions as passing clouds, over time, you can cultivate a more peaceful life with a feeling of ease. Even 2 minutes a day.

Check out a book called Peace is Every Step. It helped me a lot.
posted by dep at 4:05 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Some really great bits in here. Glad to see many others share this feeling.

I think my main issue with other people's lifestyles, when it does get to me, is when they become wasteful. I see gridlock traffic and feel awful about the amount of pollution we're creating, the limited resources we're using up, the demise of our society because no one seems to care. Guess a solution to this stress could be to volunteer at a recycling center or something :)

I love DFW. "This is Water" has definitely helped me a lot in the past. My only issue with that attitude is that it doesn't push for change. Maybe the cashier is just having a bad day and you shouldn't be upset with her, but maybe she's getting paid minimum wage for a lot of work and that's the thing that needs to change. I know. I need to get off my ass and start doing something about what I complain about.

Thanks y'all.
posted by monologish at 7:21 AM on May 28


Maybe the cashier is just having a bad day and you shouldn't be upset with her, but maybe she's getting paid minimum wage for a lot of work and that's the thing that needs to change.

Just a piece of advice from my now 35 year old self to my 25 year old self that I'll share with you. Focusing on the part before the comma above...treating people kindly regardless, can be a small daily victory. Focusing on the second part, day in, day out, all the time, feeling frustrated due to lack of change...that can be wearing, especially as you get older. At least for me.

I get what you said about traffic. I agree. This is why not having a commute has made my life better (and a lot of other people's lives as evidenced by all the walk/bike to work people who chimed in).

I'm not saying don't work for equal pay or increasing minimum wage...just don't let the fight be your entire life and existence to the exclusion of everything else. Don't let it color your interactions with everyone ALL THE TIME because it make things very dark. My friends used to call me the "anti-everything girl" because I was always about the fight ALL THE TIME. Maybe you're not...I'm just saying this based on my own experience as a cautionary tale because of that one sentence and seeing my younger self's thought process right there in green and white.

Best of luck to you! You sound like a caring and thoughtful person and I'm sure you'll find your way.
posted by sio42 at 9:22 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


I don't feel this way because I am constantly working towards something and getting through college... But I can relate to that in a way. Even if everything is empirically fine, not everybody likes repetition.

So I think if I were you I would actively look for things I wanted to do or learn or visit, or take on projects. Secondary school for me was happy but repetitive, so I was always taking on personal projects and building stuff.

It's true that you have a lot to be content about, but it's also true that you could be doing something super creative and stimulating and fun... There's nothing stopping you! So I don't know what you're into, but if there's a magazine you want to write for, or a music period you want to become really into, or if you want to discover your inner spiritual self, or if you want to act in a theatre production, or learn to become awesome at make up.. If any of these things interest you, then maybe you should take them on!

Basically, I think that if you don't like routines, that's okay. Break out of them and keep trying new things! Why not?
posted by dinosaurprincess at 2:14 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


If you find the world politically irritating and want to change it for the better, throw yourself into some kind of political cause. That can give one a sense of purpose, and from what you've written (anarchist past, progressive politically) it might just suit you. A Marxist might diagnose you with a chronic case of alienation.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:38 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Work backwards. Don't think about the future and the blindingly many choices you could make, and the uncertainty that some of them (which?) may set you on a happier path. Think instead of when you're on your deathbed, and imagine yourself looking back to say "I did [this]," and "[That] was meaningful to me," and so on. What's the precursor to your [this] and [that]? Walk it backwards to your life today, see what connections you have to make.

The more engaged you are in your own vision, the less that seeing toddlers with iPads or other superfluous things will matter for your mood.

Basically, what Metroid Baby said, but on a grander scale.
posted by psoas at 8:03 AM on May 29


So, one of the reasons I recommend Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong for anxiety all the time is because it gets at this question.

Unlike Feeling Good, TMGTHW is about cultivating what you want to pursue in your life and choosing to risk some anxiety in order to pursue those values. It's not about masking your true feelings, it's about celebrating them. What are your values? How are you going after them?

For example, I value life long learning. I hate feeling like I don't know what I'm doing. I constantly choose to do things I don't know how to do yet, because I'm pursuing my value of learning. This perspective changes my anxiety considerably. It's still uncomfortable, but it has purpose.

It's helped me identify lots of little ways I can make my little life feel more suited to me.
posted by heatherann at 5:45 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


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