I feel lost and confused in life
August 27, 2010 9:58 PM   Subscribe

How do I get it together?

Let me start off by saying that I have it pretty good in life. I have a job that for the most part I enjoy and I make really good money for someone in their mid 20's.

The downside is that I am not entirely sure with what to do with my life. Recently, I've realized what seem to be my main stressors at the moment, which include an old house that I purchased last year. I'm currently clearing it out in the hopes of selling it so I can start renting again instead of paying a mortgage and living so far from work. I'm fearful though that I won't be able to break even on it by selling it in this market.

I have other issues as well. This past year I've been gradually getting more, shall we say, loose when it comes to the way I am with the women in my life. I didn't do a lot of partying and hooking up in college. In fact, I only had long term relationships while I was in college. Lately, most of the girls are a lot younger than me here, so I end up having physical relationships until I get tired of them. Unfortunately, where I live is almost completely a college town. There are almost 0 girls in my age group here, let alone girls that have to work for a living and aren't caught up in the college lifestyle and attitude.

Let me throw another spice to the mix: I don't like the fact that the money that I make through my job comes from people that don't voluntarily give it (i.e. it is a private company with government entities being the main customers). I'm tried to rationalize it to myself by saying at least I'm not building weapons, but the real nature of how I'm paid is a constant thought in my head. I'm torn because it has been extremely difficult to find a technical job in my field that isn't government funded in this economy. This doesn't make it right in my head, but I keep telling myself that I can learn here and then try to get out on my own by contracting or something. The work is technically challenging and I wouldn't get this experience elsewhere, but not only do I have a moral issue with the money, there is a creeping bureaucracy with the associated management structure that is killing talent, time, and money at an accelerating pace.

I also have been excited a bit recently by wanderlust. Now that I think of it, all the jobs (and even relationships) that I have had for long term ended around the 1.5 year mark (my doing- with the relationships I fell out of love. With the work I simply couldn't stand either pointless, demeaning, or work that I didn't value). I have an itching desire to travel, but sometimes I'm scared that I won't be able to get rid of my house and just tell work to not pay me for a month or so while I disappear and travel.

On a brighter note, I very recently ran into someone here that I think I could really like. I just haven't been able to spend a lot of time with her yet. She did seem to stir a lot of emotions in me though that I haven't been in tune with for a few years (since when I think I was in love last). I'm not sure if things will work out, but because I realized and remembered what things could be, I put an end to a casual relationship that I had been using for physical needs. I feel like I had forgotten what being anxious around a girl was like (as in, I wanted them for something other than sex). I'm hoping that even if things don't work out that I totally stop the casual relationship thing. It ends up with me feeling emotionally vacant.

I apologize for the format and rambling. I don't really have someone to discuss these kinds of things in depth anymore. I moved away from most of my longtime friends in pursuit of work and they either haven'd had time to talk to me or don't desire to any more. That, and my closest friends are workmates right now, and although I can talk to them about some of this, most of them are male, and honestly aren't as good for advice as the female sort when it comes to relationships (at least in my experience).

Any kind of advice you can offer on any of the topics would be appreciated. I am trying to sell all the extra crap I have accumulated over there years in hopes of moving to a rental and away from my house.
posted by aerosun to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not clear what you're asking here.

It sounds like you are facing some of the normal tribulations of mid-20s life, but you are lucky enough to have a good paying job while facing them. It's normal to be ambivalent between security and freedom (travel etc). There's no one right answer, both paths have their risks. The conventional wisdom is: while you're young go travel because it will be harder to later on. On the other hand, having a good paying job is nothing to sneeze at in these economic times. If you feel confident that your resume and contacts can get you another job in six months or whatever, and you have some savings or other form of fallback position, then you can quit and travel.

It also sounds like you're lonely and missing friendship, and unsatisfied with that aspect of where you're living. You know the answer to that is to move, or somehow find friends where you are. Sounds like you already working toward moving; right on. As for the possible new relationship, well, see where it goes. What do you want anybody to tell you here?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:59 PM on August 27, 2010

Unfortunately I think all I can tell you is that people mostly muddle through. It's not like things suddenly snap into place, and you're 100% satisfied with all your plans - you still have to deal with the hassle of cleaning up the place for sale (or selling it dirty and taking the hit from that), and then it quite possibly won't be more than what you paid for it, etc. And it may well be that in a year you look back and say, "wow, I'm so glad I have this newer awesomer contracting job after spending six months selling that house, and that I have the salary from that job to cover the losses" and then you start planning where you're going to go on vacation after your contract ends. But the stressful muddly periods are totally normal too. You can be moving in the right direction but still not be there yet.
posted by Lady Li at 11:26 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your problems seem to be amplified by beanplating them.

Lately, most of the girls are a lot younger than me here, so I end up having physical relationships until I get tired of them.

College girls are adults. If they were five years older would the flings be unproblematic? Then there's no problem that they're college girls, who are fully capable of having flings themselves and handling the consequences.

Put another way, if you're having honest, straightforward flings with them--if they're basically healthy short-term relationships--then the fact that they're college girls is immaterial. If the problem is that they're not healthy relationships, then the problem is the relationships, not the age differential of the participants.

I don't like the fact that the money that I make through my job comes from people that don't voluntarily give it (i.e. it is a private company with government entities being the main customers).

You don't like the fact that tax dollars are the source of your paycheck? Unless you're going to move to a libertarian country, you're never going to escape tax dollars benefiting you directly or indirectly, so it seems a bit morally precious to quit a good job in tough times--or are you going to not call the fire department when your house catches on fire? The government needs software and services too. If you think the dollars aren't well spent, you can do your part to justify the dollars by doing your job well and earning them, rather than slacking along.

I also have been excited a bit recently by wanderlust. Now that I think of it, all the jobs (and even relationships) that I have had for long term ended around the 1.5 year mark (my doing- with the relationships I fell out of love. With the work I simply couldn't stand either pointless, demeaning, or work that I didn't value).

I got a job for a friend at my last employer. He was certainly capable of doing the work well, but his resume showed a decade of 1-2 year jobs, and that nearly derailed the offer because he was demonstrably flaky--my boss said outright "I don't want to hire someone who'll leave in a year, when it takes three months just to get them up to speed".

So first, think about your resume, and avoiding the trap of appearing like a flake. If you like your job, if you have no problem getting up in the morning and spending the day there, then think seriously about putting in a solid stint there to build experience and money. This is especially important in IT.

Second, you can satisfy wanderlust by leaves of absence and building up vacation time--a month off isn't crazy if you handle it right, and have the money to do it right is a big plus, especially with the security of a job to come back to.

You're obviously dissatisfied with your current life, and that's understandable, especially if you've got too much time to think on your hands. What's in your favor is that you recognize that you've got it really good right now, objectively. Turn that prodigious brain of yours to finding answers to these problems that don't involve regrettable long-term consequences.

My take: don't worry about the flings if you're being a good guy about them, ditch the silly tax-money-is-dirty aversion to your job (I suspect you're trying to find an excuse to leave the job), and plan to satisfy the wanderlust with some big trips within the context of keeping your job. Find a serious hobby or two to occupy yourself--I think you're one of those people who need something that they can throw a lot of headspace at, or they go a little crazy.
posted by fatbird at 11:42 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are young.
You live in a big house.
You earn good money in a challenging job.
You get to have physical relationships with college girls, no strings attached.

Sounds like you are living many people's dream life.

(Sorry if this is not really helpful.)
posted by sour cream at 11:56 PM on August 27, 2010

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the complexity and responsibility of modern life (like you seem to be), I remind myself that I am suffering from what can be described as a very fortunate set of problems. Real first world dilemmas.

Exhibit A
Lately, most of the girls are a lot younger than me here, so I end up having physical relationships until I get tired of them.

Exhibit B
I don't like the fact that the money that I make through my job comes from people that don't voluntarily give it

I don't mean to trivialize what is obviously distressing you, but we can agree that these are the sort of problems that an international playboy would complain about, right? Is it possible that all your topics are sort of red-herrings, and what you are really experiencing are spiritual growing pains (or 'cultural' growing pains, if you prefer)?

In my narrow experience, I undergo an emotional- nearly physical- molting just like an insect, every few years. As if I have outgrown my little shell and need to feel raw and out of sorts until the new one is ready. It doesn't ever seem to happen when I would think, i.e. the death of a loved one or any major life changes, but generally manifests a few months or even years later. Without fail, the world makes more sense (relatively) to me again within a few days/weeks of the rawness.

If you're anything like me, you'll look back on this chapter in 5 or 10 years and have mild regret that you were not able to relax and enjoy your life and yourself. If you can figure out a way to do that while still in your mid-20's, you deserve a daytime talk show. Hang in there, it gets easier.

I think.
posted by palacewalls at 12:32 AM on August 28, 2010

Oh, also? I think you should absolutely keep doing what you are doing- getting this shit off your chest. I'm sorry you don't have anyone to discuss your life with, that is no fun. Use whatever outlets you have to keep these feelings from bubbling over, but be careful not to unpack too much of this stuff in the presence of any new friends/acquaintances.

Eat well, sleep well, burn some calories through exercise, and please don't ever use your flings with college girls as a complaint ever again.
posted by palacewalls at 12:41 AM on August 28, 2010

Have you thought of doing some kind of volunteer work in a chronic disease ward (e.g. dialysis, AIDS, etc.)?

I've had the same sort of malaise before -- feeling stuck in a rut even though everything is going well externally. This is not to trivialize your complaints, I think some people are just programmed to seek novelty or their genetic happiness level is lower than others.

Helping other people with problems that definitely aren't in their own heads is a good way to put your own into context.
posted by benzenedream at 2:46 AM on August 28, 2010

Response by poster: Fatbird - you gave me a lot to think about, thank you. As for the girls, what do you mean by healthy relationships? I'm not deliberately mean to them, but it's just physical. Is that really healthy?

As for the jobs, it is in the back of my mind constantly where the money is coming from. There is also a huge amount of waste which is stretching the job out for probably 3-5 times longer than it would be otherwise, while employing a crapload of people who seem to only work to justify their employment. Sometimes I see random people and I think about how they don't care at all for what I'm working on, but they have to pay for it. That bothers me.

You're right about the seeming flaky comment.

I'm trying to start working on a project, but I've started a multitude of projects and never finished them. Recently I spent a lot of money to start working on a huge project that I've been thinking about since I was little, but once I started it, I don't have much desire to continue. To work through it would require me to give up a lot of free time and money for something that seems really luxurious but unnecessary. That, and I don't have anyone to work on it with, so I'm thinking of selling it and working on something that may need some more social interaction, or maybe something I can collaborate on (programming related maybe?, FYI I am a mechanical engineer not a programmer).

Sour Cream - believe it or not that was helpful. It made me think I'm being whiny about this, but I think that's an accurate thought.

Palacewalls - I understand and I think you're reminding me of what got me thinking like that. My dad is having a battle with cancer, and I've been thinking a lot about what he would do different. He spent a great deal of his life just working. It bought him lots of nice things (like a big house him and mom cannot use), but he hardly had time to do anything outside of work. I also witnessed a friend of mine in a horrific accident where I couldn't do anything at all to help him. All of this made me re-evaluate everything.

Benzenedream- That's a good suggestion. I'll see what I can find locally.

Lady Li - Thanks, that gave me some perspective.

LobsterMitten - I think that I just want someone to listen. I do feel really silly having issues like this when there are millions if not billions of others with real problems.
posted by aerosun at 6:49 AM on August 28, 2010

aerosun, I see that you're new around here, so I want to note something about Ask Metafilter. Normally questions posted here have to be more focused - "how can I sell this house faster", that sort of thing. Just posting so that someone will listen is not the way it works here - no big deal, just letting you know about what's normal here. If you need listening on an ongoing basis, this is not the best place to get it. (If you need answers to more-focused questions, this is a great place. If you want sort of community joshing around, the other parts of the site -Metafilter and Metatalk - are good too.)

It's totally understandable that you need someone to talk this over with - it sounds to me, again, like you're lonely in your current situation. I wonder if there's a real-world venue where you could find someone to talk with, maybe a counselor you could see just to talk about your goals, how to think about your path in life, that sort of thing? I've found that to be helpful when I've faced these kinds of uncertainties.

Another thought is to look into, as you say, things that will get you more social contacts - town sports leagues, pub trivia night, board game club, some hobby, volunteering somewhere.

About your specifics:
Don't worry about the "millions of others with real problems" - sure there are many people worse off, but you still have to make decisions in your own life and decisions can be tough even if both outcomes are good. Don't beat yourself up over that. Appreciate your good luck in having a good job etc, yes, but don't get to thinking "I should never feel dissatisfied since I have it so good, but I do feel dissatisfied so I must be a bad person". That doesn't help anything.

And don't beat yourself up over not "having it together" - because the mid-20s are often an unsettled time (for people in your social class in the west), and even when you are older and more settled, you'll still feel the discomfort of having to decide between eg saving a little more vs pursuing a risky dream.

About the relationships with college students: I think fatbird means, as long as you're honest with them and considerate (i.e., respecting their boundaries about sex etc, not pushing them around with your status as "the older guy", not misleading them into thinking it's a longer-term thing, not making them feel like they are worthless because they're "just college girls") then it's ok. It sounds like you're finding it to be unsatisfying, and that's something useful to learn about yourself and what you want from a relationship. It's ok to try things out and find that it's not your thing.

About the taxpayer money: As fatbird says, probably this is one to set aside if you can. Tax money pays for a lot of things, some that are obviously necessary and some that not every taxpayer would agree to (some would object to military spending, some to welfare, some to scientific research funding, etc). Taxpayers have an opportunity to influence how those dollars are spent, by sending their elected reps to Washington. Another way of thinking of it - surely there are taxpayers who would support it, maybe you can think of your project as being supported only by those people's taxes (whereas the military is supported by the taxes of people who want a big military, etc). If you yourself think the work is morally wrong, or that there is serious corruption in your office, then that's a reason to quit or blow the whistle -- but just hypothetical concern over whether there's somebody who would disapprove of the work? It sounds like a made-up reason to worry.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2010

As for the girls, what do you mean by healthy relationships? I'm not deliberately mean to them, but it's just physical. Is that really healthy?

"Healthy" means you're being honest with them. When you're seeing them, is it clear that it's just casual? Or do they think you're both falling in love with each other, but at some point you get bored and drop them? If you're misleading them, then there's a relationship problem. If you're just hanging out and rubbing one out a lot, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone has the same expectations.

Sometimes I see random people and I think about how they don't care at all for what I'm working on, but they have to pay for it. That bothers me.

I understand government contractors are perceived to be especially wasteful, but this is really true in some degree at every employer--some people don't seem to justify their salary, the project seems too expensive because your team or company is wasteful. Some of that may be due to you not fully understanding the complete cost structure. But the point is that you're not likely to escape that by switching jobs, and as a leaf on the tree, you have little power to address it--that'll come later in your career.

I've started a multitude of projects and never finished them.

I've been the same way, and it bothers me too. I cured myself somewhat by throwing out unfinished work, which was painful, but gave me something painful to remember the next time I was considering starting something--"Am I going to be tossing this in the trash in six months?" I also started doing smaller projects solely to finish them, to cultivate that sense of seeing something through and being done with it. I also started going back to certain things and cleaning them up, just to finish them.

I am a programmer, and every programmer prefers starting clean sheet rather than maintaining or improving old, ugly code. Again, I cultivated a sense of "go back and finish" by deliberately not starting over, by diving in and untangling and making sense of existing code and straightening it up.

This is just a useful habit in general to develop--seeing things through--so it's worth working on it a bit and figuring out what you need to do to develop it. Especially if you become a self-employed consultant, where your livelihood is directly dependent upon actually delivering something.
posted by fatbird at 9:27 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey, some people aren't going to be satisfied with short-term relationships built on sex, and if you're one of them, it's okay to stop. There are lots of other ways of living, and most of them are pretty easy lifestyles to access for a person with your advantages. I think that's true for a lot of your questions - what is important to you? What do you want to be doing? Are you on a path to doing it? I find that it makes me feel a lot better when I know where I'm heading.

So: pick some nice, juicy goals. In one year you'll go to France, in four years the house will be on the market for $X plus what you've spent, in three years you will put your resume out for better, non-government-related jobs, etc. Then you can evaluate yourself in terms of your progress rather than wallow in nebulous angst. I also find that church helps, but YMMV, of course.
posted by SMPA at 3:01 PM on August 28, 2010

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