Life Decision IV: A New Direction
May 1, 2009 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Some direction would be nice.

I am an English major in my mid-20s.

I edit and write in my current job, but not on anything that is personally satisfying in any way.

I am technically inclined. I can put up a website, run linux, and set up a CMS and server. I can HTML and tweak simple PHP. I suspect I could run the network of the small business I work at better than our current IT guy. But I can't code a thing and I don't have any certifications.

I want a change. I am dissatisfied with most things in my life. When I watched Tokyo Story last night and one character said to another, "Isn't life disappointing?" I nodded and agreed with the other character's answer of yes, it is.

Those are my skills, what little they are, and my ennui. Tell me what I can do with the one to overcome the other. Find me a job, and by extension a life, where I'm not stuck in front of a computer screen all day, and where I'm also not a salesman.

I am in America, and physically close enough to the capitol to work in DC. I'm young and stupid. I would not mind at all moving elsewhere, including becoming an expat and working in some strange corner of the world.

I would consider going back to school for a year or two. I have had sufficient exposure to skilled manual labor jobs, and how they operate in the US, to not want to train to become something like a welder or construction worker.

Come at this from any angle you want. I don't have an answer inside me. But I'll recognize an idea that's compatible with what I do have inside me when I hear it.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Take a year and teach English. Decide where you'll go by... language spoken (any you know or wouldn't mind learning), $ factors as some will need more investment on your part than others, or geographical factors like other hobbies or what type of weather you like.

This wouldn't have to be a lifelong change, but something to inspire you, perhaps show you other perspectives, things or people that will push you along the way to finding life more fulfilling.
posted by nzydarkxj at 6:52 PM on May 1, 2009

American librarians might disagree with me but...librarianship. If you're prepared to do some tech, you could become a systems librarian in an academic library. A systems librarian is the person who manages the computers in a library, as well as things like the catalogue and the website. Generally that means not doing it yourself, but managing the people who do it. You could go to library school and focus on computer-related courses and management. The management part is crucial. Good systems librarians are few and far between.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:01 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Some direction in your post would be nice, too, so we know what it's about before clicking for more inside.

Why don't you go teach English on Korea or Japan or somewhere? It doesn't pay great but you won't go broke and you could love it.

On preview: What nzydarkxj said.
posted by Happydaz at 7:02 PM on May 1, 2009

Wait, you want to be an IT person and not spend all your time in front of a computer screen all day?

What I've got so far: smart and technically inclined, can write well, near DC, doesn't want to spend life in front of a computer screen. I start thinking about politics and issue-oriented advocacy. (That is somewhat like being a sales person, though, in that making friends and being able to relate to people is really important.) You could work for, say, the Environmental Working Group -- last I heard, all they hire are scientists, database people, and web designers / communications people.
posted by salvia at 7:03 PM on May 1, 2009

I know a number of people who have had great experiences teaching English in Japan through the JET program. Fluency in Japanese is not required, and the short (two year?) commitment seems to be perfect for people trying to suss out a new direction in life who also want an immediate change of scenery.

A friend who was assigned to a small village went on a pilgrimage to a series of Budhist and Shinto shrines. The pictures she took and her descriptions are amazing. A former rugby teammate (enormous hulking guy) was sitting in a public bath in Tokyo one day when several tattoo covered Yakuza came in and made it clear via direct stares that it was time for him to leave. His other Tokyo vignettes are equally interesting. I have yet to hear a boring story out of Japan.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 7:08 PM on May 1, 2009

I love reading and writing but my job is coding. You may look into doing that, too, but be aware that you may find that equally dissatisfying.

I was really sick of what I was doing, and, to a certain extant, still am. And it is still my job. But last year I decided to start reading books like they were going out of style ( and, in fact, it seems they are. but that is another point...)

I found a lot of comfort in the sense of pointlessness and unfulfillment I've found in my work, just in reading books that approach this subject. I don't have any recommendations, nor would I give any, but I will say that there are many books and authors that address this ennui or pointlessness in a way that I find accessible, or that I can relate to. And that has helped me.
posted by localhuman at 7:09 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

What do you do outside of work? You didn't mention anything about friends or extracurricular activities, so I'm assuming that your work is so dissatisfying that all areas of your life are affected or that work just encompasses too much of your life. How many hours do you work a week? Do you have personal time for yourself? Likable friends to hang out with? Is work all you do?
It sounds like work sucks, but you may be placing all the blame on it unnecessarily. If you find yourself staying at home whenever you're off from work then that could be why you're so unsatisfied with life. You need to get out more. Getting a new job or moving to a new location may temporarily solve the problem, but you'll always come back to this same point if you always stay at home.
Join an organization, take some dance or martial art classes, get involved with your community!
posted by nikkorizz at 8:15 PM on May 1, 2009

Learn python, it is really easy.. you'll be able to code in no time.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:34 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Find me a job, and by extension a life...
Find yourself a life, and by extension job/s to fit it.

Well it worked for me. As a teenager I decided to live an interesting life. Thirty years on I know I've succeeded. It's been fascinating and full of experiences - sometimes gained through my many jobs - nurse, tv producer, jeweller, greengrocer, publisher, environmental activist, librarian to name only a few - and through other life experiences I've pursued - extensive travel, study and training, lifestyle experiments...

So my advice is to think broadly about what kind of life you want to lead, rather than just what you want to do.
posted by Kerasia at 9:18 PM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've just read a book called Wishcraft that has this interesting exercise: write down your ideal life, and keep on writing. Describe everything in present tense, as if you are recording it from the vantage point of your ideal life ("I wake up to the sun and palm trees outside my window, grab some coffee, and go to sit down at my computer which overlooks Honolulu, and I write for 5 hours.") This may help you figure out what you're passionate about--my mind certainly conjured up something I hadn't thought I ever really wanted to do, but there it was, part of my ideal life.
posted by Dukat at 1:43 AM on May 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Go join the Coast Guard as an officer. Go clean up oil spills and rescue people for a living.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:39 AM on May 2, 2009

I know I'm suggesting this because I'm about to start myself, but I would suggest teaching High School English. I've recently started Substitute Teaching and it's a great way to find out if you're cut out for it (and it pays pretty well). No computers, and you can totally incorporate tech into your teaching.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2009

My ideas for you all involve moving. I think more people should move. I think that if you are in your 20s and have no dependents and want to move, you should definitely move. It's really a lot easier than it might look.

~ Move to an area in the US that you've always wanted to live in. Do you want to live in Manhattan? San Francisco? Ashville? Miami Beach? Think of your dream location to live in and then go there. You'll probably want to check out hostels (and the communities that come with them), office temp work through agencies, craigslist for apartments, etc. It will take a little bit of work, but it's totally doable. If you've always wanted to live in Manhattan (for example) but haven't because it seems impossible, do it anyway. There are tons of people your age with not much income who are living in Manhattan and making it work.

~ Be an English teacher overseas. The money in Korea and Japan is actually quite good. But you don't need to make that much money necessarily. There are English teachers in almost every country, usually making plenty to live on. Pick a place that really appeals to you. Nicaragua, Thailand, Poland. Look through Dave's ESL Cafe and Transitions Abroad for more information about the region you're interested in so that you can find out what you'll need to do to go there.

~ Move to Australia or New Zealand for a year. Both countries offer a one year work visa (the NZ visa is extendable) for US citizens under 31 years of age. For Australia you apply online through their website and for New Zealand you'll need to go through an agency like Bunac.

If you've never moved very far from home, this may seem somewhat daunting. But it's actually not that difficult, especially if you do a lot of research and make sure you have the paperwork/finances to really make it work.

On to money - you really don't need much money to make this happen. See if you can save $5000. That's the most you should really need, for airfare and "getting started" expenses.

If saving $5000 sounds like a huge deal, I will recommend a couple of books to help change your perspective: Your Money or Your Life (Dominguez & Robin) and Vagabonding (Potts). The main idea is this: material things are a sort of prison you build for yourself. Buying a new car requires making payments on that car and paying money to maintain the car. Buying a plasma TV or 50 pairs of shoes requires that you pay money to have a space to store all of these items. By using your money to buy things, you are ensuring that you will have to make more money to care for and maintain these things. However, if you save that money, live simply, and buy only what you need, you will not have many material things to take care of but will instead have plenty of money in the bank to buy your freedom. Money in the bank is freedom. Things are a prison. If you have money and not many things, you are free to do whatever and go wherever you want. With $5000 you can easily move somewhere else, even another country, and make a new start. With $15000 you can easily take six months off and go traveling without working. What's more, if you have concrete, definite goals in life, you won't even miss spending the money. If you know that every dollar you save, you are one dollar closer to moving to New Zealand, it becomes a lot easier to save that dollar and not buy that new pair of pants that you don't really even need.

You don't have to define your life by your job. Think about the kind of life you want, and then find work to support your life. I've been out of school and working for a few years now and every job I've had has been a means to an end: earn enough money to buy this plane ticket, earn enough money to move to this country, earn enough money to support yourself living in xyz strange land, never just work for works' sake because I feel like I should be working. In the process I've worked some very interesting jobs doing things I'd never thought about and I now have a fairly good idea of the type of work that interests me. Plus, I've lived in a number of different countries and have a wide range of experiences that make the last few years of my life feel quite rich.

So, in a nutshell:
~ Your job doesn't have to define your life.
~ Use money wisely to further your goals.
~ Move somewhere really exciting!
posted by mosessis at 5:34 AM on May 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

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