How can I get through this "recent graduate, broken relationship, doubtful future" slump?
June 7, 2010 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Just graduated college and feeling very sad. Struggling with a major relationship change, doubts about graduate school in the humanities, and overall discouragement. Thoughts on feeling better in hard times of change, or even just what you've learned when you were 20-something that helped you get through it.

I am a 22 year old woman who just graduated college. For a long time, I planned to take a year off and then apply to PhD programs in Literature. However, as my senior year went on I read negative things about the job market for PhDs in the humanities and saw some very qualified folks fail to find even adjunct work. I have already committed to the application process by signing onto a program that waives fees and helps you through it. It's too late to back out and I'd be stupid to pass up the opportunity to apply for free to all my top picks, but lately I feel unsure that I even want to go if I am accepted. I have awesome grades and love literature more than anything, but I also want to make a viable choice about my life's work.

To make matters more complicated, I am in a relationship that hit the rocks after being happy for about 2 years. We're currently spending some time apart and it's been really hard. It's pretty natural stuff--we are both undergoing major life transitions and feeling lost, him even moreso than me. The uncertainty of whether we'll work it out or go our separate ways is hard to bear. The love and stability my SO brought to my life admittedly helped me deal with other areas of uncertainty. Now I feel adrift despite being a tough and independent type of woman, which in turn makes me feel guilty, like my whole life philosophy is a sham. In my head I know I am strong and will be OK no matter what happens, and that time will heal and reveal all, but I feel like I'm a little 16 year old girl again losing my first love. I just want to cry all day. Yikes.

I'm also woefully under-employed while I finish my last class this summer. My job pays very little and has a nasty commute attached to it but I need the flexibility (it is on campus) to finish my courses. It involves a lot of inside alone time and that has been making my emotional slump worse. I find myself going out to my car to cry during my lunch break. I want to find better paying work after my course is done, but where to begin? I applied to approx 15 jobs at the end of the year with not so much as an interview and decided to give it a rest until the end of my class.

All this to say, I just need some guidance from the "older and wiser" set. How did you make it through times like this in your life? How can I help myself feel better day to day? Any books that changed your life? (I am a prolific reader) I am recognizing that this is that time in my life where I'm figuring out who I am and what I want, and I know it's not any one of these things causing my misery but just the overall terror of change and growing up. Offer me some lifelines for an emotionally difficult time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
It's going to get better. Seriously, it's going to get better. It is, however, going to take some time.

Please do not feel guilty for feeling adrift if a major relationship is having difficulties--being sad about potentially losing someone you love does not make you weak, it makes you normal. Part of the reason breakups (although I'm not saying that you're breaking up) are hard is because not only are you losing the specific person you're connected to, you're losing their direct, daily influence in your life. Shifting gears is hard. It's okay to be sad about this. You are still tough and independent.

Re: the job. Applying to 15 jobs is actually just a drop in the bucket. A wise woman once told me to expect a 1% response rate when you're looking for work and when I was fresh out of college, that was about right. I apologize for making things sound so terribly daunting but the more jobs you apply for, the more likely it is that you'll land one; you may need to broaden your criteria. And don't take it personally if you don't get called for a job that seems perfect for you--all kinds of things happen behind the scenes when people are hiring, none of them your doing.

As for growing up...I always say that I really want to go back to my high-pressure Catholic high school and tell the students there that they really don't have to have everything figured out by the end of high school or the end of college. Truly. If I've learned anything since I finished college, it's that no experience is wasted experience. You may end up at a job you don't like, but it might teach you about the kind of boss you don't want to be. You might end up learning about a field that you had no idea fascinated you. You might learn that you hate working as part of a team. You'd be amazed at what being an audio engineer taught me about behavioral science.

Can you try to find something to do every day that you look forward to? Even something small can make things bearable for a little while. My two biggest post-breakup vices were record stores and reading far, far too much.

Things will get better. All the best of luck to you.
posted by corey flood at 6:11 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Well I am older and somewhat wiser than when I was in my 20s. Your situation is completely normal but no less depressing when you are going through it. A few things I learned:
--each boyfriend/romantic relationship was better than the previous one (even though it hurt like hell when I broke up with each guy and thought I would die without them). When I found my husband (of 25 years) I look back and am SO THANKFUL that I just grit my teeth and moved forward instead of looking back at the loss of previous relationships.
--I went to college for a few years and then got out there and worked. I had great jobs and crappy jobs and then decided to open my own business and I have been self employed for nearly 20 years. I wasn't one of those people who knew what I wanted to do with my life so I just took every interesting/fun/educational opportunity that came my way and things have worked out extremely well.
Grandma taught me that your attitude will make more of a difference in your life than all of the degrees in the world. She was relentlessly positive, and also said that when I am thinking about having a pity party, I need to go and volunteer or bring flowers to an elderly neighbor, or do something that makes me quit thinking about myself and start thinking about others.
Anyway, that may or may not help but I wish you luck on your journey!
posted by MsKim at 6:13 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

I went through a funk after undergrad ended. The bad news is that it lasted for a few years, roughly until I got a steady job (where I still am, incidentally). The good news is that it did end. It happens to a lot of people. I think it's most dramatic in people who put a lot of pressure on themselves. I was planning on taking time off then going to grad school and getting a PhD too. Now I'm in grad school part time. I haven't ruled out going for a PhD but it's not something I'm planning to do right now.

I'm not going to tell you whether you should work on getting into PhD programs or not. I can tell you that I am choosing not to go that route right now because I'm not sure that it will be worthwhile for me in the long term. You say you have awesome grades. That's super but grade inflation is a well-documented phenomenon. Loving your field is important but it's not enough to get you through a PhD program. I think that's the minimum. Plus you don't seem to know what you're going to do with a PhD if you don't get a position in academia which is a very big possibility.

I'm a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to this bit of advice but don't wait to look for new jobs. Have you looked into temp work? Paid internships?

One book I got when I was trying to figure this stuff out was "How I Survived When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me." It offers some good coping strategies to deal with the stress.
posted by kat518 at 6:16 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been in your shoes—the academic ones, anyway.

If you're unsure about whether you want to do postgraduate study, and you're in the emotional state you say you are, you should reconsider postgraduate study—at least for now.

I entered a PhD course when I was 23 because I got good marks, I was offered a generous Commonwealth Government stipend, and because I couldn't think of anything better to do. It was the wrong decision. Despite a supportive family and a great relationship that damn course nearly broke me. What I learned as a 23 year old was that postgraduate study really isn't for everybody, and just enjoying studying history (as I did) and being good at it (as I was) isn't enough: more likely, it'll do the same for you and literature as it did for me and history—turn it into a frustrating, futile chore. It's certainly no guarantee of work, if that's what you're worried about.

You don't have to make long-term decisions about your life's work right now. Really, you don't. You're going to be OK—you have far, far more options than you think you do—you can do precisely whatever you want.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:17 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of pain that comes when you feel like you aren't in control of things. Your life seems pretty darn hectic and uncertain right now. To combat feelings like this, I usually try to plan some extra activity or go out and meet people. Throw in some awesome adventures basically.
posted by lakerk at 6:23 PM on June 7, 2010

It involves a lot of inside alone time and that has been making my emotional slump worse.

If prolonged isolation bothers you, for god's sake don't do a humanities PhD! Get out and about and amongst people if you can. That's what helped me at a similar time - looking outwards rather than inwards. Good luck to you my friend. Remember, change is the only constant!
posted by Weng at 6:24 PM on June 7, 2010

I remember being in your place. What I did not know was that I was commencing my life with clinical depression at the same time. You may want to check yourself out to make sure that's not the case, although from what you say there is no reason to think that should be the case.

There were a lot of things I wish I'd done differently, but the main thing I would tell you is this: do not do something that you think will make you safe. Is it a good idea to get a PhD in your field at this time? I don't know; I doubt it, but is it worth it to you? Then do it. Don't go to law school. Don't give up. Don't be sensible. Dare.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:26 PM on June 7, 2010

I went through something similar when I graduated from college. I loved college and then all of a sudden (or so it seems) I was out in the "real" world. It was a shock to the system to say the least. Part of what helped me through was knowing that I was moving back to the city where I went to college and would be attending law school. I also took a year off in between college and law school and I was more than ready to go when the year was up. Just being back in the city made things much more bearable.

It does get better - you adjust to the new normal. Unfortunately, like most major life changing events, it takes time.
posted by Leezie at 6:26 PM on June 7, 2010

Just want you to know that you are NOT losing it -- the distress you are going through is absolutely normal for the situation you're in, which, objectively, sucks.

Graduating from college into a crappy job market (1992) was one of the most traumatic things I ever went through. It's not unusual or a sign of weakness to feel unmoored -- your life has been structured according to the academic calendar for decades, and now it won't be anymore. It's also not unusual for the kind of stress this causes to be murder on your closest relationships. You don't say if your SO is another student, but if so, then you can be sure the SO is experiencing similar difficulties.

When I got out of college, I didn't expect a high-paying job to be available. One way I dealt was by looking for jobs that were involved with food so I'd never be hungry, and would have lots of people around me in a similar boat. Also lived in a relatively inexpensive place, sometimes with roommates, sometimes not.

Enjoy your new freedom. Really. After being in school for so long it's nice to just pick up anything you feel like doing, even if you are living in the inevitable postgraduate poverty. After I finished school, I joined groups (read: church-ish things) that met regularly so I wouldn't miss regular contact with people beyond my everyday work/home routine. I also was able to spend a lot more time by myself, which I found absolutely rejuvenating. YMMV on that one. I figured out what I liked, did a lot of reading, anything I wanted, trashy novels, philosophy, magazines, comics. Libraries are good for this. I cooked for myself. It took me a couple of years to figure out what I really cared about and what my priorities were, and after trying a lot of things that I thought were interesting, and FAILING, I finally figured out what I was good at (which was somewhat different from what I was interested in. But such is life.)

Metatalk just had a thread on books in the "MeFi Canon," many of which are seriously life-changing. One of them, the David Burns book "Feeling Good," is the CBT go-to book, and is very good at reminding you that whatever is going on in the moment is probably not nearly as bad as you are worrying that it is. It teaches you to logic yourself out of a funk or panic, and surprisingly, it works.

Be careful about racking up new debt. I don't know if you're on the hook to pay back loans after graduating, because one reason a lot of people go to grad school is to push back the time their loans come due. If you have the option not to go to grad school, and don't want to, then don't do it. Even if you have a fellowship and a full ride, if you don't want to do it, don't. You can always read literature and find people who want to talk about it. Whether that's a viable career to pursue these days, I can't really say.
posted by mneekadon at 6:36 PM on June 7, 2010

You're facing a time of change and uncertainty. Complicated feelings, and learning how to deal with them, are part of the landscape. You have my sympathies.

Take comfort in the knowledge that you are growing again. Much like puberty, it is hard to envision the future you, but you just might like it. Be patient with yourself.
posted by Ys at 6:43 PM on June 7, 2010

What your facing is the story of your life, and this is but one chapter. Embrace it as such.

When I was 22, I watched my girlfriend walk from my porch to her car in the rain. She waved goodbye. I knew this was the last time I would see her. She was graduating and moving on. I am not sure if it was the rain, or what, but in that moment I realized that this was my life as it was going to be. Not someone else's. This was my story and this was the ending of one of its chapters. As sad as I was, I found a certain solace in it. I then realized that I was going to have many, many more chapters. Some good. Some bad. And that realization has helped me get through the bad.

Embrace your story.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:18 PM on June 7, 2010 [8 favorites]

For me, two things helped a lot: having structured days (i.e. make sure I had at least one job even if it wasn't even remotely my dream job or a career or something, and then having a routine for my down time), and making "life decisions" with a time limit on them. So, for instance, I decided to get out of my PhD program in Lit Studies and into a degree in Library Science because I knew that at least for the next 4-5 years, being a librarian would be a decently good thing for me to do. I'm prone to "BUT HOW WILL I KNOW IF I'LL BE HAPPY DOING THIS IN 30 YEARS" angst, so setting a pretty short time limit was key for me, and 4-5 years was the length of college plus a little, and I knew I'd gotten through college even though that scared me, so I figured I could do something else scary but potentially good for the same length of time.

I just watched my baby brother go through EXACTLY what you're talking about (seriously, if you hadn't said you're a girl, I might have thought he had written this), and he's pulling out of it right now. He took a year off after graduating, too, and spent most of it in a pretty deep funk. But all of a sudden, life is easier for him. He's not so sad or adrift. And for him it was a similar shift in focus that seemed to help -- away from "what will I do for the REST OF MY LIFE" and more "what will I do for the next few months while I sort things out."

I know that knowing things will get better (even if it takes a while) doesn't make things better now. I wish I had some magic pill to give out that would fix it all (heck, I need that for ME). Hang in there, and concentrate on figuring things out day by day and on doing something you like (or remember having liked in the past) as often as you can.
posted by lris at 7:31 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are so smart to be wary of the PhD programs and the job opportunities at the end of it. As someone who's doing a PhD in English, I advise everyone who asks not to get a PhD. Get an MA if you really love it, but don't do the full PhD. The prospects at the end of it are so, so bleak and most people (hi!) don't realize just how bleak until they're in too deep.

In my head I know I am strong and will be OK no matter what happens, and that time will heal and reveal all

You already know this; you just have to believe it. And it is only time that will get you there (so cliche but so true). You're going to be just fine. Best of luck.
posted by pised at 7:42 PM on June 7, 2010

I graduated a year ago having absolutely no idea what I was going to do with myself. I worked a boring office job for my dad for a while, then moved across the country and was jobless for a while, then worked for free for a start-up for a while, then worked a decent corporate-ish job for a while, and now I'm going back to the start-up for more pay and a way cooler job than the corporate one.

Post grad life can be great. There are new challenges, new pleasures (Sundays are SO different without homework. Seriously, Sunday Morning, where have you been my entire life?), and just so much cool new stuff to do post college. In the long term, the things you're struggling with now are great learning experiences preparing you for the rest of your life, and in the long, long term, we're all dead, so it doesn't matter anyway.

Congrats on graduating, and good luck on the next step(s) in the rest of your life.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:47 PM on June 7, 2010

Don't hesitate to see a counselor or therapist. Since you're still a student, your campus should have them available to you. This will help you verbalize your feelings about what you're going through, understand them, and get some feedback or guidance about dealing with them. If the sadness and crying last more than a couple weeks, it would be worth getting a prescription for an anti-depressant. (It's amazing how a life crisis can throw the brain chemistry out of whack.) Remember that this too shall pass, and you have many years of life ahead of you — many of which will turn out to be better than this one. Best wishes.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:50 PM on June 7, 2010

I'm not that much older and definitely not wise, but this quote always gets me back in sync: "The limit to what you can accept is the boundary to your freedom" - if you can accept the situation "as is", with all its suckyness, and accept how you're feeling, then you are free to make the best of it and keep growing. And you will :)
posted by Chrysalis at 7:52 PM on June 7, 2010

I just want to point out that this: "It's too late to back out and I'd be stupid to pass up the opportunity to apply for free to all my top picks" is wrong, or at least might be wrong. First of all, you can always back out of anything; it's just that there's often a cost to doing so . Recognize that going through with applying is a decision; you are choosing to do it rather than accepting the costs of backing out.

And would you really be stupid to pass up the opportunity? Maybe academia is the wrong choice for you and you would in fact be wise to pass up the opportunity before you get any further invested in the process. What happens after you apply, and you get accepted at a good school with a full ride, and you don't have any other options (e.g. jobs) lined up? Once the acceptance is in hand it will get a whole lot harder to say no. You're doing well to think seriously about this now.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:01 PM on June 7, 2010

Oh and one more thing. "Where to begin" re: jobs is your network. Co-workers, friends, classmates, relatives; put the word out that you're looking. Folk wisdom says a large majority of jobs are filled through networking (like 60 to 80%); many of these are informal or unadvertised, i.e. you can't even "apply" for them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:05 PM on June 7, 2010

I'm older but I won't say that I'm wiser but the thing that I've found out is that something always happens. Sounds stupid and trite but situations are always changing. Both the good and the bad will change so don't be too surprised when they do.

Books that have helped me personally in some rough patches.
Status Anxiety- Alain de Botton
Going to pieces without falling appart- Mark Epstine
Straw Dogs- John Gray
A fools progress- Edward Abbey
The Prophet- Kahlil Gibran
posted by jade east at 8:25 PM on June 7, 2010

The one thing I can suggest is to take care of yourself. Give yourself the permission and the time to figure out what it's going to take for you to have the internal strength to do whatever it is you ultimately do. Soul yoga, if you will.

I know this is cliche, but I do believe it's true: life is a journey, not a destination. Cultivating the strength to have the most fun on that journey is the best way, I think, of expending one's energy.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:28 PM on June 7, 2010

Not to toot my own horn, but:

I asked this question nearly 4 years ago! Here is what I would tell myself:

You can do it. Go travel. Go teach English somewhere. Go WOOOF. Do something dumb.

I eventually got around to doing it, I just wish I'd done it sooner. Learn to play guitar. Get an expensive camera. Teach yourself something.

Don't get caught up in self-pity or drugs or girls or whatever you're using as an excuse to be a major bummer. You're better than that! The trick is proving it to yourself.
posted by GilloD at 8:59 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

It might get better. It might get worse first. These things are cyclical; I'm in your exact situation right now, heartbroken, graduating, staring at an uncertain future, except I'm 10 years older. It helps me to think of my life as a longer narrative arc. Shitty bits like right now, I just want to skip through so I can get to the part where my life is together again, but that's not how it works. Now is the character building part, the next chapter will start soon enough. There's nothing you can DO, really, that's why it's so hard to sit through it. You just have to trust that it's getting somewhere.

You don't have to rush into a PhD if you're not sure, but I wouldn't NOT do it just because you're afraid you won't find work in your field. Although you're often told that whatever you do in school will define your future, that's not exactly true. The path isn't that straight, for most people it never goes grad school> job in your field, but that doesn't mean the grad experience is worthless. If you like literature, go for it, jobs have a way of sorting themselves out. Especially if you're savvy and jump on all those RA/TA/academic type work things, they are awesome networking opportunities and the pay is ridiculously high for the amount of work you really do.

At the same time, don't discount "underemployment" in the real world. That's part of the deal, especially at your age, and working while you're in school keeps you grounded and gives you a leg up over the sheltered ivory tower types. The pointless office work I did when I was 22 has opened all kinds of doors for academic work, and I'm relying on it now to find a career I'll love. I hated it at the time, but the experience has made itself relevant in ways I never expected.
posted by Freyja at 9:22 PM on June 7, 2010

I learned at your age in a similar situation that, no matter how shitty life seemed with the possibility of my love and stability going away, I would triumph in ways and leaps and bounds that would make me ashamed of the despair and the hold it had over me then.

The college debt got paid. I was 31, but what seemed like forever is now a blur. I got raises. Things got better.

Figuring out how to survive without guarantee of outside rescue - i.e., growing up - is liberating. Without a plan, you can do anything.


For the immediate time, finish your coursework. When you have free time, set your alarm, get up, brush your teeth, dress yourself and put on makeup; now leave the house and do one errand, like buy stamps or dry cleaning; then go home and apply for jobs until your fucking vision BLURS.

Like, 50 or so in a day. Drink a crapload of caffeine and treat it like a final exam, if that helps.

Take a break. Repeat. Get ecstatic when things start to click because you refused to give up on yourself before your life was even 1/3 of its way through.

Remember this time and how you thought you'd never get past it when you finally do. Each heartbreak, layoff, identity crisis and milestone gets easier as you learn how to cope with your life and choices.

It's going to be so wonderful one day - even more so because you will remember how scared and unhappy you were/are now.

This is not an affirmation; it's just the fact that when you get older your coping mechanisms are well-tested and knowing what has hurt you helps you find what really makes you happy.

I hope this helps. Hugs.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:46 PM on June 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

I've suggested this elsewhere on mefi, and more articulately, but: you're at an amazing point in your life, and even though you feel directionless and depressed, you also have incredible opportunities in front of you. I don't mean grad school, or "success" in any conventional way; rather, now's your chance (I should say: now's one of many chances) to spend a few years adventuring and exploring and volunteering and traveling, having the kind of life experiences you may not have been able to have in college. So the job market's bad? Get a shitty cafe job if necessary, and spend time volunteering with an interesting organization that excites you, and that you can learn things from. In the meanwhile, apply for amazing opportunities. If you're academically solid, apply for a Fulbright Fellowship, or Princeton In Asia, or one of the many highly competitive fellowships that involve jumping through a lot of hoops but in the end earning adventure & autonomy & economic stability all in once. Beyond the strictly academic (though I think they count nonetheless), the most interesting possibilities I've been obsessing over lately have been the Darmasiswa arts and culture fellowship in Indonesia, and the Chinese Scholarship Council's scholarship programs (possibly now administered by the Confucius Institute), as well as New Zealand's working holiday visa program for Americans under 30. You might also consider the JET Program, though Japan can be an isolating place. But more importantly, check out the books "Alternatives to the Peace Corps" and "The Backdoor Guide to Short Term Job Adventures."

That said, the most wonderful thing about a PhD is that it's 5+ years of time devoted to something you love studying. Most people in academia intend to spend their lives there, teaching and publishing and researching. But it's not a requirement, and if you're fully funded with TAships and grants, there's nothing preventing you from treating a PhD as a few years of intellectually rigorous exploration, then going on to do whatever the hell piques your interest afterward. Still, the level of commitment to the academic world demanded by a PhD can make academia the axis on which your psychological economy turns. (That's why I always advocate setting a president for travel and adventure now, before you've committed yourself more fully to something that can preclude those things.)

Gosh, I'm long-winded! Sorry!
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:06 PM on June 7, 2010 [8 favorites]

Get plenty of sleep. Get exercise. Meditate. Take care of you on the neurological level first.

For some perspective, keep doing what you are doing. Seek people who have been through what you're going through. Listen to them and you are helping them as much as yourself. Realize that all of this will make you a similar resource for young people once you get through it.

Write. Or Draw. Or express yourself in whatever creative way you can. You don't have to show anybody. I can just be for you.

A really good book is Pema Chodron's Start Where You Are. Your type of angst was invented and conquered long ago. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending) the answer is that the only way out is through. But it can also be your pathway to deep compassion and peace. No, really.
posted by cross_impact at 6:24 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dramatically wallow in bad emotions instead of shaming yourself for having them.

You are blessed, not cursed, to be applying to so many schools for free. Now you may consider applying to schools as an interesting hobby.

You are also lonely. More positive interactions with people! You don't have to "make friends" with anyone. Just try to say "hi, how are you" to a few more people every day. Become a regular at a gas station or at starbucks or something and say hi every time you come in.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:03 AM on June 8, 2010

So I graduated nearly 2 years ago (whoa) and felt the sting of the recession my first day out. I lost my job offer (on Christmas eve) because the magazine I was going to work for went under. But, I bucked up and got the hell out of Dodge.

My girlfriend and I went to China for 4 months. We volunteered at an environmental non-profit, and travelled. It cost less to live there than the US, and we had the time of our lives. We came back recharged. And when we did finally land stateside in the U.S. we decided to look into Americorps.

I think when I was still an undergrad Americorps seemed like an underpaid joke. But that was when everybody was landing +45k jobs. Now I realize how short-sighted I was, because I now believe that joining Americorps is a wonderful and viable option post-graduation. Obviously, the pay isn't great. But that's not the point. It is secure. It is legitimate job experience often times with an entrance into a proper paying job at the end of the year. The benefits are fairly competitive: quality healthcare with no copay (this may differ amongst the various Americorps agencies), relocation reimbursement, housing stipend, etc... But the biggest one is realizing that you are doing work that has an impact on a community that needs it. OH! And there is the education award at the end (that makes up, mostly, for the low pay). For a year, you get a $4,700-5,300 award that can be used to pay back existing loans or be put towards future schooling (that, or $1,500).

While the job isn't always peaches and cream, and while some days I want to pull my hair out because of mind-bending bureaucracy, most days I leave with a smile on my face. My agency (and most others I have heard of are like this) doesn't treat me like chattle like other jobs I have held, and so there is a sense of independence and liberty that is really satisfying.

Finally, it's only a year. But it is a year I used to answer a lot of those nagging questions post-graduation, and one where I learned how to live like a proper adult (on a budget!). Though I don't think I will be pursuing a career in the field I am currently working in, the skills I developed there will no doubt be important in landing future jobs. Not to mention the fact that I don't have a gaping hole on my resume, have developed a network of people who can write recommendations and help me land on my feet, and have fostered relationships with people who will more than likely become friends for life.

Hope this helps, and if you have any other question regarding Americorps just memail me!
posted by ghostpony at 8:54 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I will echo the others in saying, this will get better. The blessing of being old is the knowledge that everything gets better eventually. But yes it sucks now.

You need to not be afraid to make mistakes, or get upset, or fail. This is the time when if you fail, you will bounce back quickly and easily. This is also a great time to learn and study. I wish I had gotten a graduate degree after my undergrad. (I got a MBA later, but it wasn't the same thing as continuing to study.) I like the idea of treating the fact that you can apply to as many schools as you want as some kind of game. On the other hand, everyone is going to grad school now because of the economy and maybe you are better off waiting.

In my head I know I am strong and will be OK no matter what happens, and that time will heal and reveal all, but I feel like I'm a little 16 year old girl again losing my first love. I just want to cry all day. Yikes.

This is actually completely normal, and the fact that you recognize the contradictions is a great sign of maturity. Let yourself feel. It's actually helpful. I know that going out to your car to cry on lunch breaks may seem terrible, but you're letting it out and not bottling it up.

15 jobs is nothing, but you know that. You decided to wait and not give yourself the stress of an active job hunt. Get through school. You can do this.

In terms of books, Pema Chodron is helpful, and I also found Thich Nhat Hanh's books comforting in a simple, non-condescending, non-religious way. (They are also small and easily carried.) And Barbara Sher's Wishcraft has all sorts of things that will be relevant, and she's also no-nonsense and no-woo-woo.

Things that helped me: I always wanted to travel to India, so one day I bought the Lonely Planet guide to India and some maps and I started to read and plan a trip I had absolutely no actual plans to take. I read, I researched, I watched documentaries, it gave me something new and interesting to focus on, it was enjoyable, it took me out of myself, it was a project that benefited *me* (and you could use a little focusing on you). Is there something like that you can 'assign' yourself? That would help with the down time at work, too.

Hang in there. Memail if you just want to vent to an old lady.
posted by micawber at 9:39 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The link is broken at the moment, but you should really read this ("Just don't go").
posted by rr at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dear twenty-two year old self:
1. I know you don't have a lot of money, but try to travel more. You'll never have this much free time again.
2. I know you are worried about ending up all alone, but you are really much too young to be thinking about marriage. Someday you will meet a wonderful man, but for now you should just try to have fun dating casually. Who the hell is ready for a long term relationship at 22? Maybe someone who is super mature, but not you.

3. Please, please, please stop stressing so much about the future. Everything will work out in the end. For now you should find a job you think will be fun and interesting. Grad school can wait.
4. Your twenties can be super lonely. Why? Well years 0-18 you had your parents. Years 18-22 you lived in a dorm with a gazillion friends. When you are thirty you'll move in with a man you love very much, but until then you'll be living alone. But the good news is there's a lot you can do to avoid loneliness: join a meet up group or a hiking group or a wine club or book club get the idea
5. Money is going to be tight for awhile. You just have to accept that. Try to avoid spending too much and running up credit card debt. Live as cheaply as you can (think discount movies, libraries, public transportation). You'll thank yourself when your friends have tens of thousands in debt.
6. Volunteer. It will make you feel better and less sorry for yourself.
7. Think very seriously about getting a job abroad. It may be the only chance you have to ever live abroad.
8. That guy you are dating is totally wrong for you and you know it. Dumb him now.
That's what I would tell myself if I could go back in time thirteen years. Ymmv
posted by bananafish at 7:34 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

« Older Just your friendly mind-altering parasite...   |   What is a backside-illuminated sensor? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.