After a break-up and social ostracization, what should my next steps be?
May 8, 2009 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Break-ups, moving, planning out my future, and everything in between. What do I do now?

I am finding myself in a position of turmoil for a large number of reasons, and I'm trying to figure out what next to do with my life, and how to sort through all of my options.

I'm currently in a dead-end job. It's easy, the pay is low but liveable, it's not what I want to do with the rest of my life. I don't know what I want to do with my life, actually--my attempts at attending school have all failed and I'm feeling pretty directionless. The only think I consider seriously is joining the military but I'm not even ready for that yet. There's issue #1.

Issue #2 is tangentially related to the job. After the break-up of my long-term relationship almost two months ago I've experienced almost total ostracization from all of my friends in the immediate area. Solution is to make new groups of friends, right? But even in the best frame of mind I'm pretty terrible at producing friendships out of thin air, and right now my job's hours don't leave a lot of extra time for socialization and many nights I feel too demoralized about my situation to put a lot of energy into it. All I want to do is spend my time on a hobby of mine that brings me a lot of joy and relief, but unfortunately has a very small community around it that also has gravitated towards the ex.

So due to feel lost career-wise and outcast socially, I feel like there's no future in my current location. I have been thinking about re-establishing myself in a different city where I have other friend groups who would be more amenable to hanging out with me and other communities of people interested in my hobby--right now thinking somewhere in Florida, DC, or Philly. Maybe then getting over the break-up would be easier and I wouldn't feel so crazy and cooped-up right now. And though my background is almost entirely dead-end service jobs, it seems like those are always available anywhere and my references are all pretty stellar so I'm not terribly worried about my job prospects.

However, I love the city I'm currently in, and though my job is dead-end I don't mind the work or co-workers, and really, really hate moving--I moved a lot when I was a kid so it means a lot to me to live in a place that feels like home. Maybe I should take this as a challenge to myself to try to make new friends and develop my ability to socialize. I'm also worried about the change in cost-of-living (my current city has a very low COL), and my ability to support myself given that dead-end service jobs don't tend to pay much. I also don't have a lot of financial resources, so there is not a lot of room for error and city-hopping here.

My lease is up in a couple of weeks, and I feel pressured to decide what to do now--if I decide to stay where I am, I currently have a pretty sweet living situation and wouldn't want to leave.

How should I guide myself? How should I figure out what to do? What should my main steps be? I am feeling overwhelmed with options and could use some guidance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like a good time to choose adventure and go find yourself again, break the routine you're in. I've been in your situation, and am not where I thought I'd be by now, but I'm making the most of it. So be flexible, make the most of what comes your way, and don't be afraid. If you make those leaps that seem hard to do, you'll be very proud of yourself and happy you did it. You can always come back to this city you love, you can always learn to live on less and still make do, and sometimes moving isn't such a big deal.

Regardless if you stay or go, you'll need to get out and find new people to socialize with - so try a different direction with your hobbies or try something totally different for a change. If you choose to stay in this city where you know so many people who you think are against you, I've done that too and I can reassure you -- after you give it some time, it's not a big deal to run into them again. People forget the bulk of this sort of thing and it's nice just to say hi and catch up once in a while. Being confident and friendly to these people when you run into them will get easier as time passes, and some friendships may be rekindled as they're reminded of why they were friends with you in the first place. And there are always more people looking to make friends out there, more people who are into the same hobbies and interests as you. It just sucks because it takes time to find them, and we tend to forget that frequently, real friendships are rarely a sudden thing.

Volunteer work can be a convenient way of getting yourself some different job experience and meeting new people, maybe this could be a good first step for you. Summer's here, there are lots of festivals to volunteer at.
posted by lizbunny at 9:19 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I envy the anonymous.

I lost my wife and job about the same time. Complicates because I have a son. Ex-wife (huge extrovert) zealously went out claiming previously-mutual friends and doing some other stuff that I find just weird (such as laughing at me for being a MeFite for about a decade then becoming one recently because one of our mutual friends was into it. Apparently only lame if I do it. But apparently she now haunts the green, so, HI!)

Attempts at "geographic change" are so, so compelling, especially in huge countries. I haven't given up on it yet, actually. But, see above: son, whom she took with her when she left.

Think it through, then read Updike's anthologized "Deaths of Distant Friends", and, if you're still up for it, flee.
posted by quarantine at 10:00 PM on May 8, 2009

When you're finaly towing that little Uhaul trailor, merging out onto the interstate, and you look out through the windshield, each and every one of those highway divider lines that slides under your car will be another gift that warms your heart.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:45 PM on May 8, 2009 [6 favorites]

Hey, if you love the city you live in and your job, hey, it's not the job of a lifetime but you're not cutting your wrists every day, you like the people you work with..... Those two are pretty heavy. Many people never make it to those. It's very, very important to me that I live here in Austin, I so love this city, and that makes up for other things that are left-handed in my life.

And running to another town to re-build your life? I don't know that you need to rebuild your life. Lots of it is running just fine. Maybe you can find an online community that supports your hobby; while I do live a lot of my life 'through a wire' quite frankly I don't mind that, and maybe if that were to happen you could find others with your interests in your city.

Or: Maybe you can take up flying kites made of imported, woven hair shorn from cows tails. Or take up playing the kazoo, or the trombone. Join a group of people dedicated to drinking different types of teas and discussing the various tastes or whatever. Join a swingers community. Take up canoeing, or hiking. Read some guides to your beloved city that visitors would read online, and do things in your very own town that you've never done, maybe with people you met flying the woven kites.

One of my sisters sent me a card not long after I hauled ass to Houston in the aftermath of a broken marriage, said something to the effect that it's not north or south or east or west but wherever a man faces a fact. Hah! Just googled it, it's Thoreau: "Frontiers are neither East nor West, but wherever a man faces a fact." All these years that's been tumbling around in my head, now I know the exact quote -- cool.

So face the fact that you and her are no more, no need to run from it, face it right where you are. A friend once told me to "grow where you're planted" and I like that, and I try to keep that in my heart, or in my way of life, or something. I like it, for sure. You're planted in this great place. Grow there.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:54 PM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hey, I can appreciate your situation. I've had times when I simply wanted to hit "reset" on my life. Sometimes I did, and more times I didn't.

By and large, I still have the same problems now that I did before I hit the button. Something I've realized after trying to reset is this little over-cliched gem:

True change comes from you.

Moving might favorably alter the superficial details of your life. You might feel better. But ultimately you'd still be left with the same underlying question of what to do with your life.

What made the difference for me was finally acknowledging that I'm responsible for creating my own life. The easy choice isn't always the best one.

The end of the lease is a logical time to move out, but I urge you, go month-to-month for a bit. During that time, think about the things you really like to do. The things that, when you do them, time flies and you lose yourself. When you think you have a sense of what activities those might be, start researching different ways that people do those things for money. Pick one that seems feasible for you to do, and start working towards it. It's not realistic to suggest that you can get a job that 100% aligns with your interests right off the bat. But, having a clear idea of where you want to end up, you can start making small moves.

Imagine if you spent 30 minutes each day doing something you're passionate about. Get involved in groups based around it. If it's a specialized area of knowledge, consider starting a blog. As you invest more time in it, you'll improve your skills and knowledge. As you get better, eventually you'll be good enough at it to have real value to offer others. And value can be converted to money.

If you really truly want to move, go do it. But if it just seems like the best of a set of uninspiring options, I'd recommend taking some time to figure things out.

PS if they all bailed on you after the breakup, fuck 'em. They're not real friends, just your ex's tag-alongs that you can do without.
posted by dualityofmind at 12:06 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

as a person who moved a lot whilst growing up...

Do everything you thought about doing to improve yourself in the last year or so, you know... learn to cook quinoa, be more assertive, get your bike/air conditioner/guitar fixed. Then when you run into your ex SO you're pretty much a whole 'nother person. The months after a breakup are a fertile period for personal growth in my opinion. Don't pass it up.
posted by aqjabib at 12:45 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about you go visit your friends in that other city for a week or so and then decide? You're only 2 months out from the breakup, and that, in my opinion, is too soon to make sober decisions about your life. Take a break, see some friends, do some stuff, and then decide.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:53 AM on May 9, 2009

Don't run from your problems. Wait a year and if you still feel this way, move.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:34 AM on May 9, 2009

What are your long-term goals? How are you planning to get out of dead-end jobs (if indeed you don't like them, and it doesn't sound like you do). Work towards that.
posted by hazyjane at 5:11 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

'No matter where you go, there you are'.

It sounds like moving would be a bit of a risk for you, financially: sure you're a great worker, but it's not a great moment to land in a new city and start job hunting without any financial cushion to rely on.

Also, moving to a new city isn't going to help with the 'feeling lost career-wise', it's just going to improve your social life so that you once again are too comfortable with life to bother working on your career. If you actually intend to find some more fulfilling career, or choose something to do with your life, I would recommend staying where you are in order to keep the motivation to change.
posted by jacalata at 11:45 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

hey man, I just did the big move thing, after a break up, and a bit tired of my current worklife, without work prospects in the new spot, but not scared (like you)...luckily I had some savings to let me take it easy for the last 5 months in my new digs (don't know your status on that)'s what my experience has shown recently...btw, I always REALLY wanted to move here, where I was born...
I've felt really alienated mostly. Making friends hasn't been as easy as I thought, but its coming along, with a lot of the same actions as being suggested above.
I was really bummed at first that all the friends we mutually had or either I intro'd her to or vice versa,had all "sided" with her. But in reality I think it is more just my mind making it up... and if so, I am better for cutting the fat out of my life in terms of those superficial friends.
The biggest realization was that everyone has their own crap going on, and really only a couple close/good friends showed their concern. This leads me to understanding that I am happiest having a fewer, but deeper bonds with my true friends. And meeting new, potentially close friends is a really rewarding experience.
Another point, its taken time and really nothing else for me to get to a point where I can figure out what the F* I want now ...and it feels good.
In retrospect I would say that I probably would have hung tight for a little longer before making all the logistical plans to get out of the current situation, because, like you, mine was pretty cush and I think I could've found some satisfaction through sticking it out and not having all the other distractions that come with a big move (I would emphasize this if you truly don't like moving!). So I second the idea that it would be good to NOT make a quick decision.
Hope this helps. Keep on trucking! There will certainly be uncomfortable moments whether you stay or go, but just push to get through it, giving yourself credit for making the most of the new path you are starting.
When you are feeling down do Like James Brown professes, say to yourself "Damn Right I'm Somebody!"
posted by talljamal at 2:57 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get in school asap. Figure out what you want to do for a career, what you enjoy doing, and get a degree or certificate or whatever in that. This will do many things. 1) Occupy your non-work time so you don't focus so much on your relationship or lost friends. 2) Build your self-worth. Doing what you love will build your "authentic" self and will [I don't know how this happens, it's miraculous but I've seen it happen a million times] start attracting good things and people towards you. Opportunities to grow will start flying your way. Don't ask me why or how this works, but it does. When you start feeding who you "really" are, the universe blesses you. 3) Provide a place for you to meet new people and hopefully make new friends.

Good luck!
posted by GeniPalm at 4:48 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Running away so close to the break-up means she's won.

Imagine meeting her in a few months strolling home from a one-night showing of Les amants du Pont-Neuf, smiling a smile so calm and pure it makes her feel like Paris Hilton's dumber sister.

While she desperately flaunts her new boyfriend Tony at you, being all "he's a dentist" [he's rich], you absent mindedly wish them happiness but must dash. Love to catch up but You're getting your pans seasoned before you try out a new pastry recipe given to you by your friend Claudette who you met at a Nichiren Buddhist temple.

She'll be gutted.

Do that, become a kick-ass Ghandi. I bet his exes were fucking livid.

Seriously, don't sweat it man. "Grow Where your planted". Face forward and watch your future come to you.
posted by fullerine at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to append to my "get out of there comment." I didn't mean run away for life, so much as go somewhere for long enough that all your stuff has perforce been stored, sold, packed -- your bills paid, obligations met. You can always come back, but the feeling that, "I'm a free person," "nothing is trapping me here," it might be refreshing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:18 PM on May 10, 2009

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