Help me figure out an escape plan.
October 4, 2008 8:11 PM   Subscribe

I need to change my life, badly. Please help me figure out how.

For a long time I've felt uncomfortable with my life, for many reasons.

My job doesn't satisfy me, despite being related to something I'm interested in (computer tech). The job has become somewhat of a crutch. I'm not happy with it, but it pays just enough to keep me going and the bills paid. I recently had an annual review which went well enough, but I did not receive the raise I was counting on to keep me wanting to stick around.

I have only a couple of friends in the town where I live, despite many efforts I have made to expand my social circle. I simply don't connect with the people here. I had a relationship that recently ended, which was pretty much my last major social connection. I seem to always feel out of place here. I wonder if I would feel more comfortable somewhere else. I moved here shortly after I got out of high school, which was 12 years ago. I think it's time for a change of scene.

I've been kicking around the idea of quitting my job, packing up, and moving somewhere far away to get a fresh start. But how do I go about doing that? The concept is such a huge change that the more I comprehend the undertaking, the more I feel like I'm shirking back to my comfort zone of my home and steady job.

Here's what I have so far for a plan: I have a lot of crap that I've accumulated over the years. I'm thinking of e-baying most of it off to pay off the credit hole I've dug for myself. Once I have my credit in a managable situation, I want to quit my job. I don't have much in the way of savings, but I have about $6500 in a 401k that I would cash out once I quit my job. Then I want to move. I don't know where I'd want to move to, but ideally I'd like to live in a medium or large sized city with nice culture (a flourishing music scene would be great) and plenty of job opportunities in entry-level IT work.

So I turn to you, hive mind, to help me refine my plan into something I can feel comfortable acting on. Any advice is appreciated. I'd be happy to clarify anything about my situation if that would help. I've spent an hour and a half trying to get down all of what's been on my mind, but I still feel I'm leaving lots out.
posted by Dr-Baa to Human Relations (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Start by cutting down on the stuff, re-evaluate when it's gone. You may find that a large part of the feeling your having is due to a stagnant living space. If not, no harm done, and you'll have a better sense of what your finances (and the economy in general) will allow you to do.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:18 PM on October 4, 2008

Why don't you try to get another job first? I was feeling similarly and I posted my resume to Monster, Dice, et al and ended up getting the move paid for by my new employer + making a positive step towards a fulfilling work life. As a consequence I'm getting rid of all my stuff that I can't fit in my car for the move, so it pushes the simplification angle as well, which I think is generally healthy, whatever you do. I don't know if the move will actually help me or you out in the end, but if you have a month or so to deal with recruiters and travel for some interviews you might be able to get some more support for a big change.
posted by moift at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2008

You've got a good concept, but you're asking for a rather painful failure by packing up and moving without a job right now. Cashing out your 401k isn't a good answer to your need for money to live on in the interim -- you'll have the crap kicked out of that by taxes and it'll go from three months living money to two in a hurry.

Just like you didn't see a raise right now because the economy sucks ass, the economy will STILL suck ass where you're planning to move to and you may not see as much money as you think.

I'd start by sitting down and figuring out a few things. What do you want your job to look like? (i.e. I moved from doing web work into doing systems work because I felt burnt out on the web.) What do you want your hobbies and social life to look like? Where do you want to end up? How are you going to move your stuff there -- or are you going to get rid of most of your stuff before you go? If so, then start that process by listing things on Craigslist and minimizing your personal possessions.

Make your plan, then execute your plan. This is an adult decision, and you'll regret it if you don't treat it like one.
posted by SpecialK at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I'm feeling like you, I find that just taking any steps in the direction of a plan soothes a lot of discomfort just by making me feel proactive. It sounds like selling some of your stuff is the first step in your plan, no matter where you move or what you do. That's great, because it's something you can do even if you change your mind later on.

Start getting rid of your stuff and taking care of your credit situation. While you're doing that, start thinking about the things SpecialK lists. I also think moift gives some great advice about looking for the job first. If you get your finances in order so that you can move, then step two in your plan is to start looking for a new job elsewhere.

I think if you just get started selling your things, with the mindset that it's the first step in a bigger plan that may or may not involve moving (but totally can involve moving), you might feel a lot better. The idea of moving is pretty overwhelming to you right now, and rightly so. Just start on the first step, instead.
posted by adiabat at 8:42 PM on October 4, 2008

This summer I finally embarked on the West Coast exodus that has taken so many of my friends in the past few years. I moved from Lawrence, KS to Eugene, OR, leaving behind a wonderful town that was unfortunately feeling increasingly small and devoid of social opportunities (plus awkward ex encounters) and a job with the state that was eroding my ideology. I sold all of my possessions except for a portion of my wardrobe, books, my computer, some tools, and my bike. The trip out was amazing. Traveling with most of my worldly possessions in the trunk or on the roof and a long-absent friend (+ his girlfriend) as companions, I saw more of the U.S. in two weeks than I did in the past five years. I let them have the tent and slept under the stars whenever we camped. Traveling with no home base and everything you own is a scary and thrilling feeling that I would highly recommend. Although I enjoyed the company, I wish I could repeat the trip solo. Arriving in Eugene, I felt completely zen and prepared for my grad school years. The move has helped me shed habits and thought patterns that have bothered me for a while. Although I would recommend finding something to land on first (good luck, but at least you aren't a houe framer or an underwriter), the fuck-it-I'm-moving-two-thousand-miles-away approach is perfectly legitimate after years of dwindling in the same place. The culture is wrong where you are, and you doubtlessly contribute to your own isolation. Find somewhere where the culture and the job opportunities are right, and keep in mind that the move is an opportunity for you to change your approaches and attitudes. Fresh slate FTW!
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 8:48 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

The timing is not good right now. The job market is getting worse every day. Having a job now is a valuable asset. Insure you have a contract for a new one before leaving the one you have now. You don't want to blow through your 401K months before someone is willing to hire you at the wage you want.
posted by netbros at 8:50 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Good luck with the plan to reboot--it sounds like it might be what you need but don't cash out your 401K. Seriously.
posted by donovan at 8:58 PM on October 4, 2008

I can understand how you’re feeling -- I felt the same way at 24. I packed up my life, sold my belongings, and moved to the other side of the world. I spent a wonderful six years partying, travelling, and building a career that I couldn’t have built so easily back home -- but guess what? I forgot to travel the psycho-geography of my soul.

At 30, I returned home. Only it wasn’t "home" because I hadn’t made it such. I felt just as adrift in an anchorless reality as I had before I left. It was as if someone had moved the furniture around when I was sleeping -- my world as I knew it was familiar, but disconcertingly changed. I had no friends to return to, and no one to validate my "other" life in Europe. I was split down the middle, with one foot on either side of the fault line.

That was two years ago. Since then, I have expended a lot of energy on standing still in order to move forward. I have made a huge effort to reconnect with the day-to-day lives of my parents and siblings, and dug deep in my own heart to determine what will satisfy me, and make my life worth living (as opposed to worth existing).

Returning to an at times excruciating period of forced solitude taught me that I want to love fiercely and unconditionally through life’s ups and downs. I want to have a baby, and build a community around that baby, and I want that baby to wring every last song from my soul. Nothing more profound than that -- but for me to admit such a thing to myself was incredibly profound.

My advice? Don’t pack up your life and run away for years. Put your life on ice for six months or so, and backpack through a country where every day is a struggle for its inhabitants to survive. Think about the moral, philosophical and psychological questions this poses, read books on existential philosophy and psychology, observe a non-Western experience of what it means to be human, and allow yourself the opportunity to explore what being human means to you.
posted by elke at 9:15 PM on October 4, 2008 [6 favorites]

First, you need to book a vacation - nothing extravagant, but somewhere you can just relax and have some solace. Everything you are worrying about, or bored with...try and let it stay at home.

When you get home, start thinking about where you want to go...just sit and write a list of everything you want to consider when choosing a new locale. You said you have thought about things for an hour and half already: write down what your thoughts are. You will probably start to get a clue on where you truly want belong once it's written down and you can refer back to your priorities. After you feel you have laid out your priorities to where you are content, the key is research, research, research...

And you are completely right to stick around at your job until your debt is in check. Also, as others have suggested, do not cash out your 401k!

Good luck!
posted by helios410 at 9:25 PM on October 4, 2008

My New Year's resolution for this year was to get rid of all the junk I've accumulated over the years. I set myself a goal of cleaning out one well-defined area each week: the bottom-half of this closet, the stuff piled up on top of that bookcase. Little by little, I worked my way through all of it.

Keeping my weekly goal small and specific gave me time to reflect on who I was when I acquired this or that item. Cleaning became a meditation on the last several years of my life, who I was then and who I've become.

You likewise might find that putting your plan together will give you an opportunity to discover where you want to go, rather than just go away.
posted by SPrintF at 9:33 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am not Suze Orman, but this jumped out at me, "pay off the credit hole I've dug for myself." You call your stuff "crap," and at a relatively young age you have what you consider a credit hole. Maybe if you make a plan to fix that, and fix it, you'll be in a better place.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:35 PM on October 4, 2008

Cash out your 401k for easy cash? Quit a job without another planned? No real plan other than "move far away?"

Honestly, this is a plan for serious ruin. Take small steps. Sell your stuff and then pay off your debt. Start looking for a new job locally, even if its a lateral move, the change of environment might be good. Once in the new job ask yourself if this is what you needed. If not then honestly assess what you are practically capable of and what you might want to do. Now start planning for this. This probably involves going to school or applying for jobs in whatever new city you think of going to. Of course "grass is greener" fallacy is in play here.

Also ask yourself how long you can live with no medical insurance and how long you think you can wait tables while attempting to get some dream job. Because that's what you'll be doing once you pick up and move without a job waiting for you. The difference between an office IT job and a quick-cash restaurant job is vast. You'll miss your "bad" job after a few shifts. I'll guarantee that.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:18 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you've lived in the same place most of your life, I'd say try something new. People may say that this is running away, but after my two major breakups I had (coincidentally) moved away to another city where I didn't know anyone at all.

I have really enjoyed "starting over," not knowing anyone and meeting all new people. It's also a good opportunity to change aspects of your personality you don't like - and no one will know your past.

It can be a clean slate and can give you a whole new outlook on life. And you'll have the satisfying feeling of being self-reliant.

I would make sure though that you either:

a) have secured a job in the city you want to move to
or b) have enough savings to support yourself for a while and you're confident of getting temporary work in the meantime.

Do some research, make a plan, but I say go for it - it's a great learning experience and a great way to get out of a rut -- provided you've done some research and planning beforehand.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 11:27 PM on October 4, 2008

while i am being captain obvious here, i just want to point this out: it sounds like you have a lot of symptoms of an unhappy life that might be not be improved by where you go. I took the 2900 mile plunge only to realize that while I may have given away or sold nearly everything I owned I never got rid of what was owning me...
I agree with much of what has already been said: why not get rid of the stuff first, pay off your bills and then check your head and your heart? you might find what you were spending more energy on what your life isn't instead of what it is and can become.

Then again you could just move to portland like everyone else...
posted by TomSophieIvy at 11:40 PM on October 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

My advice: have a rummage sale, move into a smaller apt, take a second job, pay off your debt. Put what's left of your stuff in storage and go on a lengthy backpacking trip and see the world for a month--or longer, if possible. When you come back from that, decide on whether to move or stay. You seem to feel that you have no choices, but you have many. What I've outlined is only one.

And leave your 401k alone. I believe you don't have to cash out when you quit that job. But do put it into more conservative investments.

Good luck!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:19 AM on October 5, 2008

It's been proven to me in my experience, if that you NEED to have things, like a place to live and food to eat, don't quit your present job until you have another one lined up.
posted by peewinkle at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2008

I've seen a lot of people plan to try something new "as soon as ___." Sure another, a year later, they still owe $1200 to a credit card and have no savings. And they still haven't started the life they've been dreaming of; they still live in that deadening suburb instead of that interesting city. When do they finally move? As soon as they decide they are going to.

Look, if you got hired for a job in [Seattle], you could just as easily make payments on your credit card from there. You'd sell your stuff as part of packing up to move, except you'd do it ten times faster because then you'd have a deadline.

I propose this order of operations: brainstorm some cities you want to move to. Start monitoring the classifieds there for jobs (Monster or Craigslist or whatever). Update your resume. Start sending off the resume to good jobs that pop up. Meanwhile, start selling your stuff and saving for the move. Put out of your mind the idea of cashing in your 401K.
posted by salvia at 12:06 PM on October 5, 2008

1. pare down your possessions, sell what you can sell, give away what you want to give away, until you are down to what you believe is enough to be living light. ready so that if you need to, you can pack up all the way and move in a week or two's diligent work. use money from selling possessions to pay your debt down.

1a. while you are doing this, look for better jobs, both in your field and in your realms of true interest, at home and abroad. go to interviews. get your resume up to date and spanking sweet.

2. you speak of running FROM in your OP. think about what you want to run TO. ideal jobs, ideal situations - what would you like out of a friend group that you are missing right now? what amenities do you want from a town?

2a. refine items 1 and 1a in light of whatever conclusions you get from 2.

steps 3 on to infinity should proceed naturally from these steps. i just did something similar expecting a cross country move and while i am still in the same metro area i am about a zillion times happier.

good luck!
posted by beefetish at 10:55 AM on October 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your responses. They have been just the right combination of encouragement and caution that I needed.

The number one thing I'm taking away from this: I'm not cashing in the 401k. I guess my plan to do so was out of desperation to get this ball rolling. Thank you for talking some sense into me.

I'm very grateful to those of you who have shared their experiences with similar undertakings. It's nice to have some reassurance that not everyone who does something like this ends up living in a box on the street. In all seriousness, I think that ending up that way is a deep rooted fear of mine, which was enough to scare me away from doing something like this in the past.

A few of you picked up on my wanting to shed possessions as a sign of something deeper. Boy, is it ever. I've realized a pattern in my life that when I feel helpless or out of control, I look to material goods for comfort. Something about playing with a new gadget or whatever seemed to take my mind off of how miserable I was with my life. Forgive the cliché, but it definitely is a vicious circle: I'm sad because I feel stuck in life, so I gather more stuff to help me forget about that sadness, but that in turn keeps me stuck, as I'm not saving my money for greater things/plans.

So after chewing on all the responses here and doing some more pondering, here is my rough draft of my plan, bound to undergo revision:

Step 1) I am working the e-bay machine to sell off a large portion of my pointless possessions. Even if I didn't follow any other steps in this plan (which I plan to), I think lessening the clutter in my life will help me greatly. The funds from this will go to paying my debts off.

Step 2) In lieu of a raise, my employer has offered to reimburse me for college tuition for courses related to my job. I intend to take advantage of this and build up my skill set. This will not only help me find work in other cities, but also assist me if I want to make a lateral move to a new job, as Damn Dirty Ape suggested.

Step 3) Lists, lists lists! I have a few ideas of towns I like to check out living in (is Ann Arbor really overrated? It seems pretty awesome to me when I visit) so I plan to list those off. I'm also going to brainstorm some qualities I would like in a town I move to, and use that as a starting point to investigate cities I might not have thought of. But the most important list I'm going to do is an inventory of what I want out of life, ranging from the relatively small (exercising more) to the large (a new career in a new town, that sort of thing). I am going to keep this list in an openly visible place at home (like on the fridge or something) so that I'm constantly reminded of it, or I can add to it as needed. I think if I can continue to keep myself focused on something greater than the situation I'm currently in, it will help keep me from sinking into my old habits and/or giving up.

So that's where I'm at right now. I'd really appreciate more suggestions or feedback. Again, thank you EVERYONE for your input thus far. I've been able to take something away from everyone's posts (part of the reason I love this place so much). I'd like to list a few lines that really stuck with me and comment on them:

Make your plan, then execute your plan. This is an adult decision, and you'll regret it if you don't treat it like one.
So true, so true. A combination of events in my life made me truly realize that I needed to do something to get out of my rut. But, I'm 30 years old. While that's not really that old, I feel saying "Fuck it all" and giving my boss the finger just isn't an option for me at this stage (although the thought has crossed my mind, more out of desperation than anything else). I don't have a circle of family or friends to fall back on- I'm truly alone in this. That isn't so bad though; I'd prefer to be self-reliant.

You call your stuff "crap," and at a relatively young age you have what you consider a credit hole. Maybe if you make a plan to fix that, and fix it, you'll be in a better place.
Absolutely in agreement here. This has become my first priority.

Fresh slate FTW!
I'm putting this at the top of my "fridge list," in BOLD ALL-CAPS.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:46 AM on October 7, 2008

« Older I want to heat and eat food not emit it.   |   One beet, two beet, canned beet Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.