I have no idea what to do.
September 17, 2008 8:56 PM   Subscribe

The girl I was going to marry has left. My "life plan" for the next 10 years just got erased. Now what?

I consider myself incredibly fortunate, I work from home in Hawaii as a freelance programmer; work is good, I have money, I'm healthy, 26. The woman I was planning to marry is gone, my plan was to move back to CA, buy a house, get married blah blah.. that's all out the window now and I feel just completely unsure of what I should do next at least for the next year or so. I love to travel, I've been all over the world. I've been looking at world trip options but don't have anyone to travel with and right now psychologically I don't think i could do it alone. I've also been looking at working abroad either in IT/technology or in some sort or video journalism. I do travel videos here in Hawaii and else where and am looking for some opportunities. Any one have any ideas? Suggestions? I'm a blank canvas, here's your chance to live vicariously through someone. Also please be a bit specific maybe a website to get me in the right direction would help quite a bit.
posted by Scientifik to Grab Bag (26 answers total)
I'm really sorry, but admire your attitude. What do you mean by "just"? You might want to pause for a wee bit before doing anything radical.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:09 PM on September 17, 2008

I think you need to examine why she left. There are certainly a lot of opportunities for work, certainly you could become a video journalist or take a trip around the world, but if you were certain you would get married at 26 and your partner left, the best thing to do now is to figure out why.
posted by parmanparman at 9:20 PM on September 17, 2008

I'm 55 with three divorces, a bad back, two shoulder operations in the past two years, a busted prostate, and parents in assisted living. Wanna trade?

Seriously, things are great for me too. I live in the beautiful western North Carolina mountains, I am debt free, despite the problems mentioned above I am in great health, I am so fortunate to still have both parents, and I am enjoying single living.

Make the most of what you have, while you have it. You're living in what many would call paradise now. Sounds like you have a great job. No need to change everything at once. Take a few deep breaths and make a gratitude list.
posted by netbros at 9:21 PM on September 17, 2008 [9 favorites]

First off: I feel ya.

I built my life plan around a woman whom I was planning to marry, and went to law school so that I could have some financial stability. Sad to say, that law school ended up being in D.C., while my beloved was in NY, and the distance (plus the strain of my workload) killed things for us. We are still friendly, thank God, and I understood why it was for the best almost immediately, which most likely make my situation a little better than yours. Still, suck to have to so drastically re-work your plan like that, especially while heartbroken.

First and foremost, we don't know how recent this all was. Did this happen today? Last week? Last month? If this travel plan is a knee-jerk reaction it probably won't yeild whatever results you're hoping for, and will cost a bit of change in not doing much. If you're looking for a revelatory vacation, my first thought would be to involve your friends if at all possible. The type of breakup we're describing here can be most damaging to one's confidence and sense of self-worth, in my experience, and going someplace foreign (even if it's in the U.S.) on your own can leave you feeling like you've got no one at all. Your friends will help you piece things back together, and if y'all can go someplace else together, it's even better.

If you're planning to move, than this applies doubly. It's hard to meet new people as an adult, and even harder now that people tend not to make such a point about getting to know their neighbors. A change of locale can be great, but if there's no way for you to be meeting people outside of your workplace (and if you plan to continue to telecommute, not even that) than you'll be stuck trying to meet the locals in your presumably fragile state. This could end badly.

If Malcolm Gladwell's Blink is to be believed, and I myself am a fan of it, then people who've been together for a long while tend to take on mental duties of one another. This is a big part of why breakups can be so traumatizing. You don't want to jump into a foreign situation with only half of your brain working properly. Seriously.

Still, if you're looking to relocate (From Hawaii!) I can tell you how much I love New York, or how good the scene in D.C. is for meeting people, provided that you find a job on the hill (which isn't exaclty a programming industry). But the best answer would come out of what kind of environs you'd like, and then, I guess, setting up a meetup in that area so that you've got some people around you can get along with.

Good luck, seriously. I know how much this sucks.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:26 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not to be a prick, I don't want to talk about her, this isn't a relationship question its a life question. It a whole other issue.
posted by Scientifik at 9:38 PM on September 17, 2008

Going somewhere else or changing jobs won't diminish the loss you feel.

Instead of trying to outrun it, why not give yourself a few weeks or months to simply deal with the loss and rebound. Then you'll be able to make changes in a sane way.

Good luck.
posted by 26.2 at 9:43 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why not find a job somewhere interesting and exotic and move there for awhile? Once you get married, start a family and own property, doing something like this can become very complicated. You are in a position to travel light and have some adventures!
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:46 PM on September 17, 2008

Take the negative and turn it into a positive. I highly recommend listening to the song 'Beautiful Day' by U2. Its about a guy who loses everything in one day. His family, his job etc... but he doesn't let it destroy his outlook on life. I hate to sound cliche but 'you gotta pick youself up, dust yourself off and start all over again'. Good luck brother.
posted by docmccoy at 9:56 PM on September 17, 2008

Another one just came to me. 'Life is what happens while you're making plans' -John Lennon
posted by docmccoy at 9:57 PM on September 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do you like to sail? You could set a goal for yourself to get on one of the America's Cup teams that will be competing next year.
posted by netbros at 10:03 PM on September 17, 2008

Dude, you're so lucky. She could so easily have run off after you were married rather than before, and you have no idea how expensive, time-consuming and painful a divorce is. Plus you didn't even have to pay for a wedding. Just find a new girl, and be careful about it this time. My momma told me, you'd better shop around.
posted by w0mbat at 10:03 PM on September 17, 2008

i'm not sure what you're asking - do you want to recreate the opportunity for yourself to marry and settle down? And advice on how to do that? Or are you looking for ideas of how to entertain yourself with your newly found free-time?

If the former, you're very young, go out and meet people and try again. It happens to most people sooner or later, having start all over (divorces, deaths, all kinds of things happen).
If the latter, how about going back to school, taking classes on the side, maybe a graduate degree or mba? If you go fulltime that might allow you to travel too if you apply outside of hawaii.
posted by jak68 at 10:06 PM on September 17, 2008

Vancouver, London, Sydney, and Wellington (NZ) are big busman's-holiday destinations for Americans working in digital post production/ VFX/ film editing/ what have you.

Assuming you know post workflow and have a few apps under your belt (Maya, FCP, After Effects, Shake, whatever), you might start looking around in the wider industry-- features, TV, or commercials-- and seeing who'll cough up a work visa.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:17 PM on September 17, 2008

Also, as a programmer with video experience, you could probably reasonably become an apprentice technical director, technical assistant, or toolsmith at a post house, writing tools to automate workflow and performing technical tasks for the artists.

You'd have to be pretty motivated, and you might have to start by monitoring renders or logging tapes or something pedestrian, but most good post houses retain and call back hard workers who have clue.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:21 PM on September 17, 2008

Listen to the Magnetic Field's 69 Love Songs, which are all breakup songs.

More seriously, ask why you needed a life plan in the first place. You have a great opportunity to meet and date new women while in your twenties, you have a good career, and live in a beautiful place. I wouldn't run off to join the Foreign Legion. Take dance classes, go to the gym, get involved in some sort of team sports, take up surfing, hiking, etc. If you're interested in politics, start campaigning for something you care about. I got out of a long term relationship in my late twenties and it was the best thing that happened to me.

Expect that the post-breakup blues will last a 2-3 weeks or so for every year you dated seriously -- this is not some personal weakness but just human biology. Also expect that many "couple friends" will become her friends and feel awkward around you, this is just the way it is.
posted by benzenedream at 10:26 PM on September 17, 2008

You want to travel, don't have anyone to go with and don't want to go by yourself?

My dear chap, this is what Kon-Tiki tours and their package-brethren were created for!

While not to everyone's taste, look into the tour thing - you'll get a taste of the country whilst in the company of others in a relatively low-stress environment. Think of it as a travel sampler - a way of getting out and about without the danger of sitting somewhere feeling lonely and sorry for yourself. You'll meet people (which is what is sounds like you need, IMHO). And then, if you find someplace (or someone) that you like, you can ditch the whole tour shebang and venture out by yourself.
posted by ninazer0 at 10:33 PM on September 17, 2008

Your plans aren't gone, just perhaps delayed.
posted by rhizome at 11:03 PM on September 17, 2008

A guy I know had this happen to him. He quit his job with an insurance firm, sold his house and went off to work in bars in Australia for a year, had an absolute whale of a time, lost a ton of weight, came back and spent the remains of his house money on a share in a cafe. Now he runs that, loves his life and feels like he dodged a bullet.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:38 PM on September 17, 2008

I second what @netbros suggested.

Be grateful
posted by lahersedor at 11:55 PM on September 17, 2008

This happened, in a round about way, to me right after university. I'm (foolishly? excessively?) attached to the idea of plans for the future. I daydream them, I sit and meticulously plan them. When they don't happen, I feel varying degrees of crushed about it. In the example of losing the person I thought I'd spend my life with, a line from a poem (name escapes) "heart as heavy as a crushed bird" resonated.

For you, right now, you're dealing with brutal, painful stuff. For me, 9 years ago, it was brutal, painful stuff. I didn't eat for a week. I nearly lost my job. It took over a year to "get over it" but somehow I did, and you will as well.

You said it's not a relationship advice question though, and I that's fine. It seems to me like you want to run away and find something new, but right now, you're damaged, and you'll carry that damage with you whereever you go. You'll see new places, but you'll wonder if it would be better with her there. That's not a way to see a new, wonderful place. It will taint it. And, dude, you're living in Hawaii. I think I can speak for nearly everyone who's been there on a vacation, by saying you're living in paradise.

Or, while it might be painful, and remind you of her whenever you see a place you used to go together, well, reclaim it. Take a couple months to re-establish yourself as a solid, independant person. Like what Navelgazer said, you're not you right now, you're the "I could have been..." that will plague you for awhile. Where you are, you have support, and your own life. Take it back, use what your friends can give you, and get back to being Scientifik, rather than a person attached to someone else.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:41 AM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Something like this happened to me too. Went to law school over other options due to life plans. They didn't pan out. Now I'll be heading to Denver in the summer to go get a job. I've started to cut down on life plans. 6 months out or so is plenty.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:25 AM on September 18, 2008

I'm going to do something personally unusual and recommend that you disregard those who think you need to sit down and figure out what went wrong, delve into your mourning, etc. I don't think you do. You have so much opportunity right now, and it sounds as though you've never been single in your adult life. It is a pretty fantastic way to live, and the more practice you get at it, the more you will enjoy it. It won't go on forever, so these become some very special times that won't come again.

You love to travel, so, travel! You say you won't enjoy doing it alone, but I question you - or challenge you, rather - to try it. Plan a short trip somewhere you've never been - nothing over five or six days. Choose a destination where there's plenty to do - museums, outdoors, busy city streets, music, nightlife. Don't put a big agenda on your trip, just plan to get out of your accommodations every morning and put yourself in new environments.

Traveling alone has become one of my favorite things to do. No matter what's been bothering me on the ground, as soon as that plane takes off and the white-noise hum sets in, it all recedes into the small distance. At 30,000 feet you can comtemplate all sorts of selves and life possibilities; you're not quite so attached to the way things were, and you're able to sit with anticipation. Once on the ground in a brand new place, you will be opening yourself to new experiences, including some of the magic of traveling alone - the unexpected conversations, the ability to do exactly what you want to do at all times and pleasing only yourself, the enjoyment of your own thoughts, the openness people feel when they connect with you as an individual rather than you as half a couple.

One of my good friends is a life coach, and she talked to me once about the terrible fear we feel about and during change. She said that the reason people are often full of fear when experiencing the death of a loved one, loss of a relationship, big move, etc., is just that we don't yet know who we are in that new situation. There is a loss of some identity as well as a loss of something concrete and familiar. It is different to be a single widow than a married woman. It is different to be a New Yorker than an Austinian. But our predictions about how we're going to feel and behave in that new situation are lousy, because we don't yet have any information about who we are and how we act in that new place and status. The only way to learn your new identity is to live it.

Don't worry that you won't get enough self-examining done - it will come in its time. You're 28, jeez, you have a lot of time to spend reflecting on this when you're ready. Give yourself a wedge of time in which you don't make any other major decisions, but just explore, travel, and discover the new person you are.
posted by Miko at 7:53 AM on September 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry. I’ve been through some brutal, unexpected life re-shufflings like that myself. Of course, everyone's pain is different, even if the situations are identical. I don’t know where and how bad it hurts, but you really do have my sympathy.

Fear not, you'll get through it.

My advice? Camping!

Not at a campground. Get the gear for a week long backpacking trip, take the time, and be truly by yourself. After a little while, you'll break through to the other side of being alone. It can be totally terrifying, but if you stick it out, you'll feel wonderful, very proud and will have a renewed sense of – well – everything.

Of course, if you’re one of the people that doesn’t really like nature, do something else.

Nonetheless, this too shall pass.
posted by terpia at 8:46 AM on September 18, 2008

Finish mourning, then take a look around and realize that nobody's ten-year life plan ever goes as planned, that it's just a guideline, and that no matter what might have happened in your relationship you wouldn't have ended up at your goal anyway. Then figure out where you'd like to be next year, and work towards that.
posted by davejay at 10:27 AM on September 18, 2008

Make a documentary about cross-country rail trips. Ride across the country on VIA rail, Amtrak, Renfe, Eurail: you get the picture. It's a great way to see parts of the world you may not have already seen, you'll wind up with a saleable product at the end of it, and it'll give you lots of time to think about what's next.
posted by scrump at 1:42 PM on September 18, 2008

If you're looking seriously at taking rail trips, go for the Trans-Siberian Railroad!

I am in the same place as you: had a partner, was going to get married, had life plans together - and then, out of the blue, she left. My advice is to give yourself at least a little time - say, 1-3 months. Get through the stage where you can't deal with making dinner, where you're utterly confused when you wake up alone, where you feel disoriented and shaken. Get to the point where you start to feel those exciting gleams of how wonderfully free it is to be single. Once those start to become more frequent, you're ready to plan your trip. The things that appeal to you will keep bubbling to the surface. Listen to them. If you want to sell your possessions and travel the world with only a backpack, do that. If you want to start with a long weekend away here and there, do that. If you want to do a working holiday somewhere, as someone suggested upthread, that's a great way to spend a long period of time in a place and feel a little settled while still making a huge break from your previous life.

If you're looking to travel with people but not a huge group, and if you want someone to help you navigate unfamiliar places and languages, maybe consider a small-group trip with a company like Intrepid or GAP Adventures. I did a GAP trip this past summer, and while I usually love to travel alone, it was great for doing what it's supposed to: taking care of all accommodations and long-distance travel, having someone to translate menus and make me try foods I'd never eat otherwise, giving me plenty of free time in every city to see what I wanted to see, offering travel companions when I wanted them, but allowing me to spend whole days alone if that's what I felt like. For me, at least, it was a great balance of structure and freedom.
posted by bassjump at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2008

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