Help me get un-stuck?
May 19, 2010 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I feel stuck. Here's the facts as I understand them (insert usual apology for length of personal issues/relationships-type post and redundancy of "what do I do with my life" question here).

-Mid-30s male. Single, no real dependencies or major obligations.
-Decent career as programmer, but I'm bored and lack passion.
-No savings other than some retirement (401K). About $40k in debt (blech). But mostly low-interest (some of that is CC I'm paying off slower than I should). I'd like my finances to be better but they're not completely awful--I'm on top of things and paying off debt, just slowly. While I used to be less so, at this point I'm generally a pretty responsible guy.
-Broke up with woman after long relationship a few years ago and haven't bothered to try again. Relationships scare me now, since I don't want marriage, kids, etc. and don't know why, and it seems everyone my age does. I do crave contact and, you know, sex, and it's not like I'm super unattractive, but it seems too loaded and difficult to actually try even going on a date (which I haven't done in a year). It's easier to be alone, but I'd be lying if I said I was happy with this, and I've now developed this fear I'll be alone the rest of my life. I also have started feeling misanthropic when I see couples being couple-y or hear people talking about their dating/engagement/wedding/child plans, it makes me want to scream and tell them they are stupid robots. Methinks this may be a wee bit unhealthy.
-I really don't like living in the (northeast U.S.) city I live in. I want to move to another country, preferably somewhere warm, low cost of living, interesting, where English isn't spoken (very much), but where I could maybe find a job regardless. Thailand would be my ideal, for example, or somewhere else in Southeast Asia. I just like that area, been there a few times. Or maybe Latin America. I want to get out and see the world, experience it in a different way.

My current job would be some people's dream job--it would have been mine if you'd asked me a few years ago: part-time, pretty good pay, interesting work which is basically like "think of cool things and do them." Prestigious organization. Lots of autonomy and flexibility, positive co-workers, great really nice boss, good environment and benefits. However, I'm ambivalent about it. BUT, I dread finding another job that is any worse that this, even though I have some itch to do something else that is actually satisfying. I think I've been burnt on tech for years now and haven't addressed it. I'm just not sure what I should be doing, I'm also afraid of losing too much income, and maybe this is the crux of the matter. I can't enjoy this (pretty great) job and I can't move on because of fear. People I tell about my job are always impressed and inside I'm like "whatever..."

I think that the colder climate and lack of friends and lack of love and lack of satisfaction in my work is killing me. I have no real interest in making new friends because I want to leave, and the friends I do have here--while great folks and important to me--are all married, with kids, have bought a house, etc. I have none of these things and for better or for worse no ambition to get any of them. In and of itself this makes me feel kinda like I don't fit in and can't relate, but it's compounded by not having a clue of what I *do* actually want. I have short term goals, like various hobbies, which keep me entertained and busy--it's not like I'm sitting around watching TV all the time--but if you asked me what my passion was and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I would have no idea.

I'm in therapy now and have been for a while. I feel depressed sometimes, fine a lot of the time, but stuck. I read my own question and I think I'm so privileged and whiny, I should shut up. But something needs to change. I don't think depression is my problem but a's been like this for too long. Honestly, a lot of the time I feel useless, like a worthless man-child who has no point to his existence, and I feel dissociated a lot of the time, it's hard to concentrate at work. When I was younger I never felt like I didn't have any ambitions or dreams, but now it seems I don't. I'm not sure when that happened but there it is. The worst, most fucked up thing about all of this is that I think on some level I'm starting to "thrive" on the self-pity...I've started feeling addicted to feeling hopeless and bad about myself. This makes me disgusted and impatient with myself which is not very helpful either!

My question is simple, MeFites: what do I do? Thank you for any help you can provide, it's much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be feasible for you to take a sabbatical/leave of absence, and do volunteer work or learn another language or simply travel at length in another country? You might come out of it with a better idea of what to do next.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:33 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you need to make some more friends. I can't see how moving to a warmer climate where no one speaks your language is going to make you feel more connected to humanity. It seems to me that you are hoping that making drastic changes in the things you feel you can control (your job and location) is going to fix the things you feel you can't control (your fear of relationships and lack of close friends).

There are people in your area that you will be able to relate to, but you're not going to find them in your living room. I really recommend that you find something to do that will bring you into contact with the kind of people you'd like to be friends with, rather than running off to some far-off country where you can easily justify your isolation.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:36 AM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Some questions come immediately to mind:
  1. Is there any reason you couldn't telecommute to your current job, and spend some time checking out various locales with stable internet access for a future home base?
  2. How sure are you that a warm US city wouldn't be a lift?
    • The international angle does complicate matters a smidge.

  3. Have you spoken to anyone about what sounds very much like depression?
    • Perhaps the problem isn't where you are or what you do at all.

posted by willpie at 11:43 AM on May 19, 2010

going somewhere warm and international where people don't speak english may make things worse. you'll feel even more isolated and probably become even more depressed, because you'll feel too "stranger in a strange land" and it'll be hard to make friends.

seconding sabbatical/leave of absense, volunteering, travel, and moving somewhere warm in the US.

also, developing hobbies and taking up activities as a good way to make some new friends who might also be single and have more in common with you than your friends who are in a different place in their lives from you now.
posted by raw sugar at 12:00 PM on May 19, 2010

You need a new therapist.
posted by Lone_Wolf at 12:01 PM on May 19, 2010

I was thinking the same as Lone_Wolf. Maybe a new kind of therapy? Or maybe just a new sense of meaning.

This is one of those situations where your thoughts control your feelings. I read your description of your life and you seem to have many incredible blessings. It's not glass half empty/half full -- yours is pretty much near the top. You do not need to change your life, you need to change your mind about your life.

You're right to think that something is missing. Self-absorption creates anywhere from the ennui like you are experiencing to complete hell on earth. We humans were not created to be self-focused.

That said, not everyone is cut out for marriage. Don't pressure yourself in that direction. Let that happen. But dammit man, get out there! You don't need to quit your job and go volunteer in some new land. You can bloom where you're planted. (Suggest Pema Chodron's great book Start Where You Are.)

If you are outwardly focused, if you devote yourself in pursuit of someone's good other than your own, if you identify with something bigger than your own self, that's where fulfillment lies.

I mean, c'mon. "think of cool things and do them?" How can that not be the best job ever? Well, if the "cool things" are stuff you find cool, that would get old after awhile. But if you could solve a key problem, like providing a cheap solution to a common problem that nobody has yet found profitable enough to solve, or just solve somebody's problem, you could be on your way.

Is this the road to instant happiness? Nope. You will have hits and misses and a whole new set of problems when you start mixing it up with messy humanity. But your failures and successes and frustrations and joys will have meaning and purpose. What more do you need?
posted by cross_impact at 12:36 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honey. You have a great job, a decent income, manageable debt, significant free time... but despite this, you lack social connection and are sad.

Do you think lacking social connection and being sad might be connected? Because honestly, I don't see how they couldn't be. The fact that you are having escapist fantasies about moving some place where you'll be even less connected just underscores this for me.

I think that what needs to change is your social isolation. Having friends is healthy. Dating is healthy. Seeking a mate is healthy. I'm not saying nobody can be happy without one or all of those things, but it's very possible that like the majority of the population, you cannot.

Maybe its about social anxiety, maybe its about rejection or betrayal in your last relationship, maybe it's about lack of self-confidence, maybe its about something else. But whatever it is, if this is not the therapist who can help you work through it, find another one.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:56 PM on May 19, 2010

You're not stuck. You're just having trouble motivating to do the right thing.

And here's the right thing:

1. Make a specific, monthly payment play to pay off your debt, using that salary you're getting from that dream job. Until that debt is paid off, that's your big focus, and everything you do should revolve around it. This should make you appreciate your job more.

2. In order to feel better when stressed out about this debt payment effort, go hang out with people, and don't worry about dating someone. That will actually increase the odds you'll meet someone, but even if it doesn't, that's not what you need or want right now.

3. Once the debt is gone, you're free to quit your job and move anywhere you want to, assuming you can land a job that pays living expenses (much easier with the debt gone!) -- and once you've done that, you need to go make some new friends, and you'll likely meet a few folks you'd like to date.

Go forth, get it done.
posted by davejay at 1:41 PM on May 19, 2010

Can you keep doing this dream job, maybe get another part time job, and pay off your debt pretty quickly? Unlike the folks up thread who rightly point out that going to a strange land is often isolating, I think you should try at least traveling for an extended period.

Pay off those debts, go to far off lands for awhile. Traveling can be a great way to meet new people and get out of a rut. You can live very cheaply overseas traveling. There are plenty of other people out there your age who want similar things, who are already traveling, volunteering, exploring. Maybe you should go out and join them!
posted by ldthomps at 1:45 PM on May 19, 2010

What should you do? I also think a better therapist is in order. How has therapy helped you with the following:
-It sounds like you haven't recovered from breaking up with your ex. Relationships scare you yet you're afraid that you'll be alone for the rest of your life.
-You can't enjoy your job, and you can't move on with your life because of fear.
-You have no clue what you want.
-You may have unaddressed burn-out issues with tech.
-You feel worthless and dissociated.
-You're starting to thrive on your self-pity.

These issues may also follow you if you move elsewhere, then again, the challenges of being in a completely different place where you have to start from square one may actually give you something to do and focus on, and accomplishing those things may help you feel better.

I also have started feeling misanthropic when I see couples being couple-y or hear people talking about their dating/engagement/wedding/child plans, it makes me want to scream and tell them they are stupid robots
I can kind of relate to this, as I really don't see the need for myself to get engaged/married/have kids/buy a house. It's fine if others want to do that. And yes, maybe some of them are stupid robots. But so what. Doesn't mean I have to be. But if I do choose to do those things, it's because I wanted to and it's my choice. The fact that I don't want to? I'm ok with that.

My current job would be some people's dream job
Yeah but what matters is if it isn't your dream job, then it isn't. End of story. Maybe you don't have to know what to do for the rest of your life, job-wise. Maybe you don't even have to figure it out!

I want to move to another country, preferably somewhere warm, low cost of living, interesting, where English isn't spoken (very much), but where I could maybe find a job regardless.
So maybe you should do that. Just figure out all your logistics: visa, passport, job, living situation, expenses, language - and a Plan B if you can't stay there forever. And also consider what others have said here about isolation, etc.
posted by foxjacket at 1:58 PM on May 19, 2010

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