How to get out of the dead end?
June 17, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe

It's another "I don't know what to do with myself" question. I feel completely at a dead end.

I'm female, late 40s, divorced twice, no children. I feel like I've come to the end of anything interesting in life and need to make some serious kind of change before I go bonkers. I work in a small town (<20,000) in a small state in the U.S. I think I want to leave but feel like I haven't any place to go or any means to get there. Here are some lists:

My job:
1. I used to like my job, but over the last few years enough has changed, including having my salary cut, to make me really not want to be here any more. As in crying at my desk some days.
2. My job isn't especially well-paid, but it's pretty good for where I am. Basically, for my field, for this area, I've got "the good job."
3. My job is editorial work, but it's very very specialized, and I've been here so long that it's not easy to transfer my skills to another job -- I have been looking at job ads for years to learn this. I'm kind of like a dinosaur. Therefore, a job change will almost certainly involve a massive salary cut, and I am barely getting by now, in a cheap place to live.

My personal life:
1. I haven't been in a relationship that lasted longer than about a month for years. Most relationships never get off the ground at all; usually I'm interested, but he's not.
2. If you play that game of checking my previous questions, you'll find I have herpes, which doesn't help.
3. And now I can see in the mirror that I'm losing my looks.
4. I have no local friends at all, and don't seem to be able to make any. There aren't any groups around here, and no MeFi meetups. The only close friends I have live a long way away, as do my relatives. So I'm lonely pretty much all the time.

Things that make it hard to just up and leave:
1. I only have about $1,000 in savings.
2. I own a house that would probably require some updating to sell, which I can't really afford, and I don't know if it would get enough to pay back the home loan plus a few thousand in a home equity line of credit. Renting it out is a possibility, but the rental market is very low and I'm not sure I could rent it out for enough, especially if I've got to pay a property manager.
3. See above about my job skills -- even if I go to an area with more jobs, I will have a tough time finding something that makes a living wage, and where and how do I live while I'm looking for a job?
4. My very elderly cat, who needs a lot of care. This is a minor difficulty I admit, but it's still a factor.

Every time I think about all this, I really feel trapped. I guess my questions are: What haven't I thought of? Am I right about these assumptions? How can I get out of what feels more and more like a sludgy mess?
posted by IKnittedThisSockPuppetMyself to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You have to change this downward trajectory somehow, but start with something small and manageable. I think your first step needs to be exploring new skills and/or ideas in a way that uses your existing skills, builds your confidence, and connects you with others who share your interest. Do some new thing that feels manageable.

Perhaps find a one-month certificate program at a grad school in a nearby big city, then take a leave of absence to do it? That would give you new skills and contacts, which could perhaps turn into consulting work or a new job. Even an online course with a one weekend in-person retreat might introduce you to new people and new ideas, getting the juices flowing. Even starting a blog might help (? IANAB).
posted by salvia at 12:48 PM on June 17, 2011

It's hard to say with authority that you're wrong about many of your assumptions, since you're not giving much background info on any of them, but my guess is that you are at least blowing many of these challenges out of proportion. I don't get the impression that you're in problem-solving mode; you're in woe-is-me-I-am-helpless mode. My 2 suggestions:

1) Pick one problem and attack it vigorously. Set the rest aside for a while.
2) See a therapist.
posted by jon1270 at 12:50 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I own a house that would probably require some updating to sell, which I can't really
afford, and I don't know if it would get enough to pay back the home loan plus a few thousand in a home equity line of credit.

Could you rent for what you pay in mortgage (or preferably less)? If so, it seems like the first step is to talk to a realtor to get a sense of whether you could sell the house at a price that would let you pay off the debt. Then you'd be free to move, which it sounds like may be key for you finding a new job. There are more opportunities if you're willing to move.
posted by Jahaza at 1:00 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't need a therapist, you need more than $1,000 in savings. Right now, you could be one bad vet bill away from complete disaster.

Build up your cushion before you make any decisions. Take in a roommate. Take on a second job. Sell some stuff. You can sell your house without making any kind of upgrades with an "as is" sale (granted, even with the fixes, you may have difficulties, but don't rule it out because you can't do the fixes). How much could you clear if you sold at a reasonable price? At a below-market, worst-case scenario price?

Do everything you can to sock a little more away, and back-burner everything else for the meantime. Reassess later. I feel for you, and wish you luck.
posted by sageleaf at 1:04 PM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

it's not easy to transfer my skills to another job -- I have been looking at job ads for years to learn this.

Are you sure about this? This things HR puts in wanted adds are often a wish list as much as they are requirements. I've been called for interviews for jobs where I didn't have any of the "required skills" listed in the ad.

Why not try talking to a recruitment agency to get a better idea of how in demand your skills are, or just taking a flyer and sending in an application to a job that looks fun but you don't think you're qualified for?

Don't take yourself out of the running for a job you want by not even applying.
posted by auto-correct at 1:07 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I read your post, I see a lot of speculation about things - for example,
"I have been looking at job ads for years to learn this"
"I don't know if it would get enough to pay back the home loan"
"I'm not sure I could rent it out for enough"
This all might be true, but it seems like you don't know for sure. Have you been applying to other jobs? Have you applied to jobs outside your state, maybe even outside of your country? You could meet with a realtor to assess your house value, see what they think you could get - either for renting, or to sell. Depending on what needs fixing up, you could take that on as a project for the next 6 months, with an aim to sell/rent.

In short, I think you should start being very active in figuring out what your options are - you might be surprised. To me, you sound like you might be in a great position to move - no ties to the area, an asset behind you, specialised skills that I am sure are needed somewhere else in the world.... where do you want to go?
posted by unlaced at 1:12 PM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

some ideas:
look at the possibility of taking in a roommate who you could board for free/cheap in exchange for projects to fix up your house.

take a second job that you think would be fun - if even the pay sucks - it's still fun and you'd be meeting people etc. (bartender? bowling alley? concert venue?)

START a group (or whatever) focusing on things YOU like.

if you can get therapy through your work benefits, go for it - if not, start walking 45 mins every single day in different areas of your town.

I get the impression that you need a creative outlet - start taking pictures, writing, blogging - whatever.

liquidate and move to where your relatives are...
posted by mrmarley at 1:18 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Career Tools.

They've got tons of useful tips for managing one's career. On the topic of skills transferability, they've said that if you've got at least 75% of the skills listed on a job posting, you should try applying for it. This has personally helped me get over the mental hurdle of not finding another job that I'm perfectly suited to on paper. There are many other gems of career knowledge in their podcasts, many of which will still be useful once you figure this situation out (which you will.)

Good luck.
posted by Homo economicus at 1:43 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

What you may want to do first is build up some energy. Two good ways to do that: (1) some sort of exercise. if you feel better physically, you'll feel better mentally. (2) Get involved in something. If you have some crazy-ass interest that you never really did anything with (RC boating) start doing it now. Even better, do something for the common good. Habitat for Humanities, the Red Cross, some local library reading program, or anything else that you think you can do for someone else. It seems like you have spare time, and its a great way to recharge yourself (and maybe meet people). Once you get energized, the issues your facing may look a little more solvable.
posted by rtimmel at 1:45 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of good ideas already mentioned - I'd definitely focus on getting more money socked away, since it opens your options in a bunch of ways. Also maybe think if there are any tasks around the house you can do to fix it up. You learn a new skill (which, while not specifically job-oriented can still build confidence and potentially be interview fodder) and you improve the resale value of your home in preparation for moving to a place with more options.
posted by brilliantine at 3:34 PM on June 17, 2011

Agreed that it sounds like you have already decided how little of a chance you have. That's not the way to go about it. Decide/discover/fantasize about what you really want and work from there. Once you have a bit of clarity for what you want, your information will sort itself around that.

Everything you mentioned is solvable, but you need to know what direction it needs to be solved in.

My SO and I are both in your age group and are just about to take on a huge life transformation. We are going to start traveling the country in an rv or bus. We have seemingly huge challenges to work out. He was laid off, I weld stuff for a living and you can't do that in Yosemite, we have two dogs, one who is an elderly rescue and can't walk a foot without pooping, we have a fixer upper house, a studio, tenants. The list goes on and on. The point that I want to make, though, is that all these things are slowly falling into place because we decided what our end goal was to be.

Once we started talking about what we wanted, then our needs came up. But we could see them in proper context. You need to take some time to find out what you 'do' want, as opposed to what you 'don't' want. Then that gives you the ability solve those issues that are in the way of the end result.
posted by Vaike at 5:05 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

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