How do you pretend to ask happy around others when do you aren't?
March 21, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

How do I "fake it until I make it"? Am in crappy job situation and it's depressing me. I want to have friends and male companionship, so I have to show a different face to the world.

Like many others, I am slightly depressed as I'm 24, stuck in a low-paying job with no future (newspaper business) and still lives with her parents since mentioned job doesn't pay enough for me to live alone.
Of course, I'd like to get more friends and a boyfriend someday, but nobody wants to be with an unhappy person. I also avoid going out sometimes since I don't want to be that person.
How do I pretend to act more happy in public and private situations and also how to cope in a situation I'm not happy with but can't really help. (Only got a couple job leads, won't quit a job with benefits in this economy).
I'm in OH, so I doubt the situation will improve much. Though of moving, but other parts of the country aren't that great either right now. Am also afraid I'd move somewhere, just to get laid off after 6 mos. or something.
Not looking at counseling since I think it is caused from my situation and it's expensive. I want more of "acting" methods and things to talk about that are non-depressing.
posted by greatalleycat to Human Relations (33 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any hobbies? Even stuff that you do at home, like craft stuff, you need to go to a craft supply place to get more stuff, and be social there. Since you are already doing something that you enjoy in the off-work time, you'll unlikely to be so perceivably unhappy. Book clubs, knitting circles might work here as well. Is it warm enough to start going to a park? Maybe walking, running in the park might work. Basic idea -start doing something on your own that will bring you in contact with others. When you are focused on another activity, you won't be thinking of the bad things going on in your life.
posted by kellyblah at 9:27 AM on March 21, 2009

If it's any consolation, your career will change multiple times during the course of your working life. You're just starting out, so things will get better.

More immediately, you say you want to cheer up in order to make and keep friends. This is good, because at least you recognize what you need to do.

At 27 I had a job I hated showing up to every day, but I couldn't really change it. I was living overseas in a small town, and had signed a contract. Changing jobs would have basically meant changing my entire life.

I started to exercise. That helped. I also developed a hobby. The hobby unlocked other interests, and other opportunities for personal growth, and I became more engaged with the world around me. I didn't have to focus on work so much.

Suddenly, I wasn't angry or unhappy any more.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 AM on March 21, 2009

Kellyblah has a great idea. Crafts are great ways to have personally fulfilling activities (when you finish something, you get a sense of satisfaction and completion), and you can socialize with others in clubs. Granted, most crafts (particularly the yarn-based ones) and the clubs that go with them are women-dominated, so they're maybe not the best way to meet guys. But, you can have more than one hobby.
I know weather in Ohio isn't ideal for outdoor activities all the time, but some kind of hiking, rock climbing, or running club could be good. You can get exercise, which usually helps improve the mood, and you can meet people--male and female. Yoga is also good. It's pretty relaxing, but you definitely feel better physically and mentally with it. Just in general, I would recommend that you get some exercise if you aren't already. Those I know who have been down have noticed marked improvement in their mood after starting some form of exercise (jogging, yoga, getting some hand barbells and doing light lifting, etc.).
Good luck!
posted by fructose at 9:36 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was thinking about buying a nice bike to ride on trails and in the neighborhood, I guess I could do it soon as the weather is finally getting a little warmer.
posted by greatalleycat at 9:39 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since you probably don't want to be living with your parents, but can't afford to live alone, you could possibly kill more than two birds with one stone by carefully seeking out a "roommate wanted" scenario. When I was in my 20's and working in restaurants, the only way any of us got by was to coop on the housing thing, which led to some good friendships in a few cases. Of course there were crackpots and slobs along the way that made it miserable at times, but I think if you're not in a hurry, and take the time to make sure the situation's right for you -- I.E. move into the spare room of a relatively compatible human being's home, you'll find yourself out in the world a bit more, and out from under that specter of "still living with mom and dad" that's probably at the root of some of your depression.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:40 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Remember that going out and doing things can be enjoyable in itself - if you let it. Find some things to do that you might enjoy, irrespective of your personal situation, and go and do them. Make sure not to let the little voice in your head tell you that you aren't allowed to enjoy anything because you're MISERABLE DARN IT.

Also seconding exercise.
posted by emilyw at 9:42 AM on March 21, 2009

Smiling (even if it feels forced, at first) seems to feed back my psyche and lift my spirits, even if nothing external seems to "justify" it. Try making a smile
- before you answer the phone (the smile will come through in your voice),
- before you make eye contact with someone approaching you,
- whenever you catch yourself moving into self judgement,
- anytime, 'just because' (this time it's for you!).

Reply to "How are you?" with, "Terrific, thanks for asking!" or a variant that feels more natural to you, but *not* "Oh, okay, I guess...", or anything that affirms that you're down in the dumps and would drag down the conversation before it could even get going. And be prepared to answer the inevitable inquiry with something you're grateful for. No one can resist asking about why someone feels so terrific today when ... and this is the biggest secret of all... they themselves probably don't, either!.

Our mind seems not to tolerate the disonance between having inward low feelings and an outward smile, and fixes it by lifting the feelings (since it can't "fix" the concious smile).
posted by TruncatedTiller at 9:49 AM on March 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm 24, stuck in a low-paying job with no future (newspaper business) and still lives with her parents since mentioned job doesn't pay enough for me to live alone.

Get out. Seriously. Go somewhere else. Go do something else. The newspaper business is going nowhere. You're not making any money. You're still living with the 'rents. You admit all of that and still you want tips on "faking" it.

There's nothing to fake. You're at the bottom. Congrats. Provided you don't start up a smack habit, every step you could take in any direction is a step up.

I always recommend young people sign onto to something that's bigger than themselves with a fixed end date. First, the jobs are there. Second, it will give you the opportunity to orient yourself. Third, it ends before you're too old to do something else.

* A friend of mine stood up one day and joined the Peace Corps. Six months later she was teaching kids in Namibia about HIV/AIDS.
* Go join the Air Force. Free technical training and "lite" military lifestyle.
* Go join the Coast Guard. Go rescue people for a living.
* Go shovel shit at a zoo or an aquarium -- here's one in Ohio.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:57 AM on March 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I live in Ohio, I have a tenuous grip on a job with no future, and I love everything about my life. You're very right that the attitude you bring into life makes a huge difference. It's not about putting on a false facade of glee to mask your crumbling inner life; it's about making a conscious decision to be happy, and following through on it. As uncontrollable as depression can seem, you make the decision to be unhappy, and you have the strength to choose happiness!

A long and a short article by Gala Darling on how to "conscious of your behaviour, & self-correct when you see yourself acting in a way you don’t like," and finding happiness.

Learn to love exactly who you are. Hating yourself and your situation is a waste of time and energy; it brings about no change, and it's a conscious choice on your part to waste your life away obsessing over flaws that, frankly, no one else cares about or takes notice of. You are GreatAlleyCat. GreatAlleyCat is a damn good thing to be, and you need to be the best goddamn GreatAlleyCat you possibly can.

Put a little more effort into getting ready for the day, wear a color that makes you smile, do your hair in a way no one's ever seen you wear it before, try a new perfume that makes you feel exotic and attractive. Put a wee copy of your favorite childhood book in your purse.

If you have hobbies and talents like playing an instrument or painting or raising chickens, put time into them and share them with people. Play an open mic night, collaborate on a public mural, have friends over for omelets.

GET OUT OF YOUR HOUSE MORE OFTEN. I kind of get the vibe you're living in the sticks (correct me if I'm wrong); no matter how small your town is, I can bet you haven't explored every inch of it, and I bet there's things you're missing out on. If you're ever in Columbus, shit, I'll take you out. The more you're around people, the easier it will be to show them your good side and not the pillow-imprint-face puffy-eyed sweatpants-wearing self-pitying sad sack we all sometimes let ourselves become.

Cherish the act of taking yourself to the movies on your day off; smuggle in gummi bears, splurge on super buttery popcorn, laugh too loud during the good bits, bite your nails during the scary bits. Take yourself on a date.

Walk around town with a camera taking photos of things that make you appreciate exactly where you are. If you lived somewhere else, or were someone different, you would never see that sunset the exact same way. If you see anyone friendly-looking, smile and take their picture. Make a collage on your wall of strangers smiling at you.

Go to the bars. No, not to drink away your troubles, just to have humans around you. I've found if I bring a book or a sketchbook to a bar I'm less bored and nervous being there alone; I'm not staring at a muted TV and fending off drunk horndogs, I don't look desperate or bored, I look like some mixture of pretentious and cool, the kind of girl who gets beer stains on Notes from The Underground.* Don't worry about being "that person." You're not ruining anyone's night, you're minding your own business. Maybe you might even be having a little fun. Be confident, don't worry about what other people are thinking about you, because I promise that they're either NOT, or it's a lot more positive than you'd believe. If you have to fake confidence, aim for an air of casual indifference.

I was strolling through Bar of Modern Art the other night, a little anxious and butterfly-tummied around being around so many people because I was, let us say, not sober, and not drunk. I was striding along, my head up, not making eye contact, pretending like I owned the place despite the fact I wasn't sure if I belonged there, and I overheard someone say "That girl acts like there's no one else in the room." Now, I'm not trying to teach you how to act like you're cooler than everyone else (HIPSTER 1O1!!!). I'm trying to show you a way to come across as cool, collected, and content in public, since right now you're probably not up for trading high-fives with strangers and squealing giddily with your girlfriends.

*NO DOSTOYEVSKY IF YOU'RE WORKING ON BEING HAPPY. Ntozake Shange always makes me happy.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:58 AM on March 21, 2009 [23 favorites]

I live in the suburban Cleveland area, if that helps.
posted by greatalleycat at 10:04 AM on March 21, 2009

People have a tendency to live inside their heads if they don't watch out for it, and that's a really deep and lonely place. Depression is the Great Thief. It steals your life from you. It can turn things that *can* be overcome into giant clusterf*cks of despair. Stop and recognize that for just a minute.

I treat my depression very aggressively, it is the Enemy in my head and I squash it with extreme prejudice. I could never afford therapy either, but I am lucky to be in the mental health field, giving me some tools in my toolbox. I would never allow someone to come into my house and steal from me, but I would let depression steal my every little joy in life. That thought just motivated me somehow. It pissed me off.

You have a crappy job and live with your parents, no boyfriend in sight. Okay, that's was yesterday, the old you. Tomorrow you hasn't been determined yet. You get to do that.

Tomorrow is a whole new different day. You could potentially get a second job, make some money, move out when you've saved enough, meet your future boyfriend at work, make new friends, etc, etc. The future is literally wide open, for you in your twenties, for me in my 30's and people in their 80's are falling in love or bungee jumping right now.

NEVER count yourself out. If you don't stick up for yourself, who will?

Yesterday sucked, today I'll make it better.
Last year sucked for me, this year will be different and better.
I'm frigging awesome and this shit is temporary.

Brainwash yourself.

That *is* fake-it-till-ya-make it.

I hope this was helpful. I've been through a lot of Very Bad Shit in my life, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let anything steal the rest of my life and my happiness from me.

Good luck, GreatAlleycat, you can do it, I have faith in you.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2009 [26 favorites]

I'm in a similar place as you: 23, living at home, and feeling shitty about it. I'm pretty sure that the solution to my problem is moving out of here, and I'm working on it. I think you'll find once you do, that you didn't realize what you were missing.

You can try to fake it, you can work on taking care of yourself and your mood better, but I'm fairly certain that when you're not happy in a situation like this, it's not seratonin that's the problem, it's the situation. You need to change your situation. Whether it's finding a new job or moving out of your parents' house, the work you put in to do either of those things will be well worth it.

But perhaps, in your more private moments, you ask yourself, why am I a sadsack? Why can't I be more like the others? Why can't I take this situation that I find full of lemons and turn that into lemonade? Why can't I just deal? It's a lot more common than you think. Everyone has their problems and anxieties, and most people manage to plaster a half-hearted smile over it and move on. Try it right now. Just smile. Even if it's a fake, stupid smile for no one. Go ahead, I'll wait. ... Felt good, yeah? Maybe just a little bit? Well, it's like that when you're talking to other people, too. It's like what someone above was saying about saying that you're terrific. Your self-talk and your actions have an effect on your mood, not just the other way around.

So here's the plan:

1) Work to change your situation
2) Use the knowledge that you're on your way to a better life to anchor you and help you gather the strength to "fake it" by acting maybe 10% happier or more energetic in social situations.
3) Enjoy the feeling of acting happier, even if it's an act.

When you smile, even if you're not completely happy with yourself or your life, it's not fake. It's a smile.
posted by malapropist at 10:31 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some great advice here. I was approximately in your shoes when I was 23 (living at home, working a crappy job, generally waiting for my life to restart), so I get where you're coming from.

I agree that you should get some roommates and get out of your parents' house. I know how being at home can be a bit of a safe cocoon after you've graduated from college, but it can also be stifling and mess with your sense of self-worth. When you're in your twenties, I think it's really important to learn how to live away from your parents. It's important to have those experiences of saying oh-shit-it's-three-days-till-payday-and-I-have-$2-better-learn-how-to-budget, of learning how to deal with roommates and landlords, and then the fun stuff, like when your new roommate you barely know brings home three friends to watch Lost, and you were just about to start cooking dinner, so they join you and the five of you end up hanging out way too late on a work night, and hey, your roommate's friend is pretty cute, huh?

I assume you probably make about $24,000, give or take. You'll definitely still struggle to make ends meet on that salary, even with roommates, but that's ok. I'm of the old-fashioned belief that self-worth comes from giving yourself challenges and meeting them, rather than staying comfortable but vaguely unsatisfied.

Also, you work for newspapers: are you a writer? Then work on your writing. Get yourself involved with some online stuff, or maybe pick up some freelance writing gigs in your free time. Knowing that you have a way to work and support yourself even if you lose your job is also very empowering.

Also, know that you're not alone in this. I don't have a single friend who didn't go through some sort of funk in their twenties. It's part of growing up. Good luck!
posted by lunasol at 10:46 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation, except I'm living in the ghetto of a big city. Hah!

Anyway, like others have mentioned, I find that getting out of the house is good. If you stay at home, it sort of reinforces that "I'm stuck at home with my parents" mentality that sucks the energy out of you. Even going out alone is fine, just getting away from home will lessen those thoughts.

For positive thinking, I believe it's something that has to work from the inside-out. You can "pretend" as much as you want, but there's going to be a lot of subtle cues that will show that you are just doing what you are doing, which is pretending. Instead of focusing on pretending, focus on changing. Something to keep in mind is that it's really hard to make any changes with a negative mentality. In just your writing I can notice hints of self-defeat. If you REALLY want change, you're going to have to work at it, and realize what kind of thinking is inhibiting you from doing anything. You sort of have to overcome your own mind... with your own mind! Pretty deep stuff!!! It's tough and it's supposed to be tough! If it was easy, you probably wouldn't be posting here!

I would also look into moving out somewhere and getting a roommate. I would totally do that if I had a full-time job. Beats the hell out of staying at home, especially if your parents drive you crazy. Before looking at any classifieds, try asking anybody you know if they're willing to share an apartment or if they know anybody that would be willing to. If you have any friends in a similar situation as yourself you can convince them that this would be a good move for both of you.
posted by NeoLeo at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2009

Oh yeah forgot one thing, something that lunasol touched upon a bit -- comfort isn't always a good thing! Being uncomfortable definitely feels uncomfortable (umm... that looks really stupid but I think you can get what I'm saying) but it can lead to change and good things. Whereas being comfortable usually leads to nothing new.

Good lord. Always so easy to say but so hard to do. But like I said, it's supposed to be hard and uncomfortable until you learn how to make it easier.
posted by NeoLeo at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2009

Tagging on to Cool Papa Bell's advice, AmeriCorps has some really meaningful jobs with pretty good health benefits (the catch is with pre-existing conditions, the co-pays are super low tho). They will even help with relocation and sometimes with housing. Most AmeriCorps opportunities have no age limit. The living stipend for AmeriCorps is set a little above the poverty level, but if you have a shit-paying job right now, you're probably better able to budget than most of my peers who managed to eek along were. It's no panacea, and you want to be interviewing the program you apply for as closely as they're interviewing you, but AmeriCorps is set to explode right now so there will be lots of opportunities to choose from. You can do AmeriCorps for up to three years, so, fingers crossed, that should get us into a better economy. At the very least, you'll have more marketable skills at the end if you set out with that goal. I was a recruiter, so MeMail me if you want some extra advice.

Some more general advice: You don't talk yourself out of depression, you DO yourself out of it. Faking it ==> ignoring the doubts in your head and taking action.
posted by Skwirl at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2009

Taking the easy path, staying at home all the time, and not rocking the boat are the things that keep you in a rut. I think part of your brain is wrestling with the idea that a rut is not beneficial to your career and social life. Living with your parents is probably the biggest problem, because living in that house is an envelope that limits all aspects of your life.

I think the biggest thing you can do is think carefully about what kind of life you want to have when you're 40, what you want to be doing, etc, and faithfully do all those things that will get you there. Don't be scared to make massive changes. Even if you don't make it, all the things that you do and the people that you meet will change your life greatly.
posted by crapmatic at 11:30 AM on March 21, 2009

Get a bike, as you suggested, and then check out local cycling clubs that emphasize fun, not racing. The Cleveland Touring Club looks interesting. That's a good way to cheer up your mood and meet people, and it's easy to talk to someone interesting because you have something in common already.

If you don't have a lot to spend on a bike, I'd recommend buying a good used bike from a shop or a cooperative like this one. You'll get a much better machine than a department-store bike or a bottom-of-the-line bike shop bike, for not much more money and maybe less.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2009

P.S. I'm not in Cleveland so my suggestions are based on Google and common sense. I'm sure there are other clubs and co-ops out there.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:36 AM on March 21, 2009

This advice might not work for you, but I took it several times during my 19-25 year old years, and it always did me right:

Move out of the suburbs and out of your parents house. You'll find something you can afford even if it means living in a storage unit with 8 vegan punks sleeping on bunk beds.
posted by salvia at 11:37 AM on March 21, 2009

I'm also a fan of the sink-or-swim method of income generation. If you have a rent to pay, your career will, if not take off, at least include more income.
posted by salvia at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2009

I found that taking up kendo helped me a lot when I wanted to meet some new people and get out of a depressive period. I have friends who've had similar experiences taking up a new hobby or sport that they were interested in. I'd say rather than trying to "fake it" you might want to consider finding some genuine outside interest that has other people attached to it to try to build a friend group. Clearly by itself this in unlikely to dramatically alter your life, but it seems clear that you've made your decision about those more major issues. Also while I hate exercise more than any sane mortal I have to admit that having regular exercise does help improve both my sleep and my mood.
posted by frieze at 2:05 PM on March 21, 2009

I would advise focusing on the positive things in your life:

You have a job
You have a home (parents' place, but still a roof over your head)
You have your health (my presumption)
You have family to support you emotionally (again, my presumption)

So things don't seem that bad from that perspective, right?

As far as changing your situation, set a goal for this year: to find a place to live, some place you can call your own. The mere act of finding an apt will really pay off in the "yes I can" mentality, instead of your feeling like you are in stasis.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2009

Go watch Muriel's Wedding. She was living with the 'rents with no life, and one day she up and changed cities and moved in with a friend. They had a tiny flat and no furniture, but her life was 100 times better because she was living.
posted by b33j at 3:49 PM on March 21, 2009

I would suggest volunteering. It's a great way to get out of your own head and to meet nice people. Also, helping other people will help you feel less sorry for yourself. Try habitat for humanity or look at craigslist for local volunteer opportunities.
posted by bananafish at 3:53 PM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I want more of "acting" methods and things to talk about that are non-depressing.

Try Toastmasters. It's a nationwide public speaking club of supportive people who are there because they're working to improve themselves as well.

Toastmasters could get you out circulating with people you wouldn't normally circulate with and give you a boost of confidence. Toastmasters knocks out two birds with one stone. It could help your on-the-job confidence and also help your private life confidence. Toastmasters is generally very affordable for the benefits you receive. They might be likely to help give you personal advice on how to appear in public while remaining authentic to yourself. A lot of people are terrified of public speaking. Nothing bonds people together like facing a common fear. Check out Toastmasters, seriously.

In regards to things to talk about that are non-depressing, you can always focus on the other person. It's a quirk of human nature that most people's favorite subject to talk about is themselves. By acting in ways that show you have an active interest in other people, you might really develop an active interest in other people. Establishing an active interest with other people is likely to eventually benefit you in reciprocated interest and could help remove some of the isolation that you might be feeling and experiencing. For good tips on how to do this, I recommend checking out Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People from the library.
posted by SocialArgonaut at 5:19 PM on March 21, 2009

For more perspectives, you might also benefit from reading some of the answers to this question. It's not your situation, but it might give you additional perspective.
posted by SocialArgonaut at 5:24 PM on March 21, 2009

i started volunteering at the library recently. just a couple hours a week, after work, shelving books or whatever needs to be done. it gets me off the couch and out in the evenings, moving around, feeling productive, talking to people (even if it's mostly just the librarians).

a second job would do this too, i suppose, plus you'd be making money. but you could start with volunteering if jobs are hard to find. it's not a long term solution to your problems but it might cheer you up a bit.
posted by beandip at 6:05 PM on March 21, 2009

PS: Low paying jobs = housing vouchers. In Grand Rapids, MI, there were some really bitchin' live/work art studios that my husband and I desperately wanted to move into, but couldn't because they were income limited and we were just barely over the limit.
posted by santojulieta at 6:06 PM on March 21, 2009

I've been where you are for the past five months. But I have been mostly happy where your situation is getting you down. I'm a bit older than you, and I'm living with my parents, and haven't had a job - I've been doing manual labouring for my dad all this time. I don't have a boyfriend, and a good proportion of my friends live on the other side of the world, and those that are here are mostly married or seriously partenered up, so they're not so good at being proactive on the social front. It's not a recipe for joy.

I think two things have been keeping me happy all this time:

1. I've been pretty conscious of how easy it is to live for the future, and I've been trying hard not to fall into that trap. It's so easy to think 'oh, when this changes I'll be happy, if I had a better job I'd be happy, if I had a boyfriend I'd be happy'. I think this is not a good way to think, because things can *always* be better. You can end up in a cycle of nothing ever being good enough. I've been unhappy in far better situations than I am in now, so I really believe that things are what you make of them. I spent last year living the dream in Paris, and it totally, totally sucked. So perhaps that's been helpful in giving me some perspective. I try hard to focus on the things that are making me happy. Like, there is sun here!

2. It's easy to stack up your life like a game of jenga where all the things that are making you unhappy are tied to one central aspect that you can't do much about. It seems like you're doing this. It's all about how your job sucks. You can't move out becuase your job sucks. You can't make new friends because you live with your parents. Once it's all stacked like this, everything sucks, and well, then you're depressed. I think it's much better to compartmentalise things and try and make sure that you're moving forward with at least one aspect. Living with your parents does give you some advantages - more disposable income, more free time etc. Take advantage of these to do something that does make you feel a little fulfilled personally. Ie: Get a hobby, or two. And, do what you can about the aspects that you're not happy with, so at least you don't feel like you're stuck with them forever, just for now.

In my case, I've been staving off being depressed about my situation for the past five months. Things are changing for me this week! I've just got a new job, and I'm moving out, into a sharehouse with some friends. It's not the world's best job, and I will be living on a tight budget, but it's a big step forward. So there is hope for you too!

Re. living with your parents. Do you hate living with them in and of itself, or do you hate the stigma that you feel is attached to it at this age? I have been remembering that I really like my parents and that once I move out this time I probably won't be going back, so I'm trying to cherish this time with them. That gets me past the fact that sometimes they drive me nuts. I have also realised that most people I know who've moved out have done so for practical reasons - because they needed to live far away for job or study, or because they have bad relationships with their families. Having a positive enough relationship with your parents that it's *ok* to live with them at this age actually means that you have something quite rare and special that other people envy. Sure, living with your parents, even if you like them, can be a bit stifling, but it's not forever.

If on the other hand, you it's really that you hate being there, well, move out. If you have a full time job, you can afford to move out, even if you will be scrimping. Decide whether you'd prefer to live in relative luxury with your parents, or relative poverty elsewhere, and then recognise that it's a choice that you've made and make the most of it. I can barely afford to move out, but a great situation with friends of friends has come up, so I am taking the attitude that people are great survivors once in a difficult position. You will find a way to make it work, even if you have to take a crappy weekend job. Plus, moving out with other people will automatically increase your social circle. If you decide you want to move out, friends of friends is good. Start a 'find greatalleycat a new home' group on facebook and invite all your friends.

Job sux. Ok, I don't think you should quit in this economy either, but you can actively look for a new job. It might take ages, and will be a horribly demoralising, but at least you will not feel so stuck, you will just feel like you're in the process.

The other stuff. Well, it's easy when you're feeling down to see the bad stuff about everything. Be really conscious of trying to see the good in everything. It might be an effort but just keep reminding yourself. When someone asks you to go and do something, just say yes and see what happens, instead of finding reasons why you can't/don't want to. Be proactive about asking friends to do things - it's easy to be depressed that you've got nothing to do and your friends don't love you, but if you haven't asked them to do anything either, then you're just as bad as them! (Nb. sometimes people need advance notice). Think about volunteer stuff that you've been wanting to do and do it. Basically just tell the little voice in your head that says 'but...' to shut the hell up!

Wow, this has turned into a mega mega reply. I guess I've just been thinking about all of this a lot myself lately. I hope it's not coming off as too harsh - I really think you can be looking at and dealing with this all in more positive ways, and I think that's what your question is asking for. I think you'll be ok, just do your best to a. look on the bright side b. start slowing trying to change the things that are not so bright, and c. get more stuff to do in the meantime.
posted by Emilyisnow at 6:50 PM on March 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Great responses, guys! They are getting me thinking, for sure. I am trying to get some new skills, such as improving photography skills and started a Twitter page (lots of fun). I figure it will take awhile to get a new job, so I'd have the time to try these suggestions.

My relationship with my parents is ok, living at home came in handy last year when my dad got sick and I could help mom out. I didn't mind the living situation too much until recently, when job things started going south. I think my main frustration is that I want to "grow up" and be a "real" adult and I'm not there yet. Also, I am unsure of what to do with my career, so that's a little scary too. But that is possibly another askmefi question .
posted by greatalleycat at 7:08 PM on March 21, 2009

Hello again. I popped back to see how things were going here, and I've had a few more thoughts on this - as I mentioned, it's something that's been on my mind a lot as well. Sorry to bombard you with info, but seeing as you found my answer helpful, I thought I'd chime in with a little(!) more.

It seems to me that it's really easy (and common) to fall into this trap of not wanting to rock the boat, especially when your life is more or less ok. It really sounds like where you are at. Your situation is not that bad, you have a job, you get along ok with your parents, but you feel dissatisfied, possibly because the situation isn't perfect, and possibly because there's a lot of (stupid) pressure about where you 'should' be at in your life.

So basically you can go one of two ways. You can recognise that, no, your life isn't perfect, but that at the moment you'd prefer to take the cushy, safe option. And maybe that's a good choice! Don't beat yourself up about it if that's really where you're at, and this is where the 'looking on the bright side' stuff will help. Or, you can decide that, no, this really isn't what you want, and you can start shaking things up, and dropping yourself in the deep end. Which may well be terrifying but could yield good results. You get to pick, but recognising that it is a choice might make you feel less stuck. I also think that making choices rather than getting buffeted around by life is really what being a 'real' adult is about - not about where you live or what you do.

On a more practical short-term note, I find looking at everything in a very tongue-in-cheek way, and cracking jokes about things, to be helpful, (and easier than just being plain happy) especially when talking to other people about how life is going. If life is 98% blergh and 2% good, talk about the good bit. People generally won't judge you as much as you judge yourself, and won't consider your life inadequate unless you give them the impression that that's how you feel. When people ask what I do, I generally say 'Oh, I'm working for my dad at the moment, whilst I'm looking for a job. It sucks a bit, but hopefully I'll find something great soon! And in the meantime, sometimes I get to drive the forklift!'. This is also where it helps to have some hobby that you're doing, so you can say 'oh, work sucks, but I'm really into xyz at the moment and that's going really well! It's great to have so much time to devote to it!'.

Another trap to fall into is to wait for the perfect time for something. I don't think things really work like that, but it sure is easy to think 'I won't bother being social, because nobody will be interested in me while I'm a bit down' or 'I won't bother starting this activity since I might move in 6 months for a new job and I don't want to commit to a timeframe I can't guarantee'. It's better to start doing stuff, see what happens, and if things change in time, well, they change, than it is to wait around and find that six months passes and you could've done that cool thing after all. And if you try something and it doesn't work out, so what? Plus, if you get yourself out there, cool opportunities that change your life are more likely to come up. To some degree you have to just play the numbers game and put yourself out there if you want things to be different.

Oh, and surrounding yourself with optimistic people is a good idea too.

Right, so this turned into more extended dribble. I hope I'm not repeating myself too much or projecting... Good luck with it all!
posted by Emilyisnow at 12:38 AM on March 22, 2009

I can't help with the other stuff, but sure as shit I know one thing: get out of newspapers now, while you are young enough to do something else. I and my colleagues are truly trapped: you can still avoid that fate.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:17 AM on March 22, 2009

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