Some folks see the world as a stone: concrete daubed in dull monotone.
June 18, 2011 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting frustrated and increasingly upset by others' rose-tinted, idealized notions about youth and the pursuit of happiness (e.g., this very popular sideblogged comment).

I'm college-educated and in my late twenties. My job is demanding, time-consuming, and neither particularly rewarding nor lucrative. I have no real opportunity for advancement. My skill set is fairly specialized, so I'm lucky to have the job I do. I live and work in a suburb of a large city, where rents are expensive (relative to my salary, even with roommates) and entertainment is scant. I'm far enough from the city that a night on the town takes advance preparation. I take evening classes and spend much of my limited free time on homework. The classes don't seem to be adding up to a credential, and I suspect that I'll have to return to school full time to get ahead. My leisure activities are pretty few. They're things that are cheap or free and don't take much time or special supplies: literary reading, music, random websurfing, jogging, biking, etc.

I get the feeling that acquaintances, busybodies, and "people in general" consider this period of my life to be the flowering of my youth, and expect me to have fun, go out, relax, and kick back. I get comments to the effect of "why are you working so hard?" I work hard because that's what I feel I have to do just to stay in place.

But you know? I do want to take language and painting classes. I want to master a musical instrument. I want to go to the theater and the philharmonic. I want to live big. I want to cook using complicated recipes with strange ingredients. I want to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of artisanal beer. I want to have a wide circle of friends to party with. I want to have a fulfilling romantic relationship. I want to run a 5K and go to arthouse cinema to watch foreign films. I want everything listed in this song. I just can't afford to… and don't have the time to… and don't live conveniently close to… and…

Have you had to deal with criticism, explicit or implicit, that you're letting life pass you by? How did you deal with the feelings of shame and anger that come as a result? It's unfortunate enough to lead a drab, unexciting life. It's certainly harder if you keep hearing that you're doing it wrong.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like maybe you need to move. There is more to life than living in expensive areas outside big cities.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:23 PM on June 18, 2011 [11 favorites]

I did have to deal - very infrequently, mind, but also from the constant nagging in the back of my own mind - with this same criticism. I spent my twenties worried that my adult youth was passing me by, that I should be having more fun and dating more and finding some kind of more meaningful continuation of my undergrad years. But. I spent my twenties working my ass off for the only career I have ever really wanted. I was as secure as I could be in the idea that by the time I hit 30 I would know if I had succeeded or failed, I would be more comfortable in my own skin, and that my 30s would be the decade I would enjoy far more than my teens or my twenties.

I am 30 now, so I can't say if my prediction will come true, but I can say this: as I always believed, I am happier than I ever have been. My hard work on my career is paying off, and I am at a point where I am successful now and have very promising prospects (or at least I hope so, and that's what my higher ups seem to think). I am more comfortable in my own skin, and I do have the perspective on my love life that I need (haven't been as successful there as I'd hoped, but there should be good things on the horizon). And above all, though my twenties weren't a rip-roaring good time all the time, and were not filled with journaling and pottery classes and a savings account that could ever have funded a trip beyond my zip code, I know that I made the right life decisions. So I'm absolutely with you - it's beyond frustrating to hear people say you should be living it up and soaking up the sun of youth when you know you need to work your butt off. What's most important is that you know where you are and where you see this track taking you - and if you're happy with that and are willing to accommodate the more immediate sacrifices, then that's all that matters.
posted by AthenaPolias at 6:24 PM on June 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Youth", being wrong, and being right are all relative and highly subjective.

Most of the people I know who criticize me for working hard don't have the wherewithal to live a structured, strong, and demanding professional life, or they're people who didn't find themselves until it was "too late" and now they feel compelled to live through the young people in their life because they're too dissatisfied with their own. I understand where they're coming from; but I also know that their views are their views. If they ring true with you because, yes, in actuality you're rather bitter that certain fun things aren't a part of your life, well, nothing is going to come of being bitter.

I am personally profoundly bitter about having gone to a university that did not afford me the best education despite being $50,000 a year. I have spent a year wallowing in self pity because I am poor, I am lonely, and I do not have the skills I thought I would have after killing myself in an educational environment that ultimately did not live up to any expectations I had. I have a boyfriend I love but can't be with yet because I need to go to grad school for a subject I don't love in order to put myself in a higher earning bracket, but I can't move out of my parent's house to have a real college experience because I can't afford to. I spend an inordinate amount of time just feeling sorry for myself, and as a result, I have lost so much time that I could have spent on so many other things. I watch as friend after friend goes on expensive trips and take classes in amazing things and get jobs at amazing places and I wonder, god, what have I done? I killed myself for years and this is where I am.

But you know what? My journey is my journey. If I have to kill myself a little longer now, maybe my late 20s and early 30s will be my chance to finally enjoy myself without worrying if I can afford gas or food or a place to live. If me working hard makes other people uncomfortable, that's on them, not me. My life is my life. The only thing I am obligated to do is be good to myself, so if I want to take a sick day off of grad school so my boyfriend and I can go see a movie or take a road trip to Canada (even though it's really far away), I've decided I deserve to live my life how I choose now instead of worrying I'm doing it wrong and I am damn well going to enjoy it. I am going to stop being bitter and just wait and see where things take me, previously dull and distressing life be damned.

My advice to you is just to seek balance. Don't think you're limited. Doing so only prevents the universe from giving you what you need. Ask for what you want, and then be an active participant in making it happen. Go to the theater. Study a language online. Gradually develop that encyclopedic knowledge of artisanal beer, and share that knowledge with friends. You can do what you want to do. Perhaps making small adjustments to your life as it is would enable you to gradually add in the things you feel are missing. Add something new each month and remove something old if it's not working when possible.

I promise you'll start to feel like you've come upon a whole new world because of it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:24 PM on June 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

Well, for what it is worth--I think in many ways you are doing it right. I certainly admire your discipline and focus on building skills for the future. Actually, I found your post touching, a bit sobering, a bit sad and yet hopeful. I hope in future years you are doing it "right" by living the life you are working towards. Not at all profound but life is unfair, happiness is not equally distributed, suffering is inexplicable yet, as I now have the "wisdom" of age, I have come to appreciate the balance of karma, the prudence of working and waiting and the reward of the temperate binge. Good Luck. And do run that 5 K and start working on that musical instrument. You have the time.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:27 PM on June 18, 2011

"I'm getting frustrated and increasingly upset by others' rose-tinted, idealized notions about youth and the pursuit of happiness (e.g., this very popular sideblogged comment)."

Eh, I always think AskMe users ought to consider the source of any single comment, before adopting any advice wholesale. A lot of bad advice gets posted here, along with a lot of first rate, "Best of the Web" stuff. There's not a great system of sorting one kind of comment, from the other. But I will observe that, in the U.S., tilapia are used to control vegetation on the output of water treatment plants and commercial power plants, and farther south (in Latin America), are raised for U.S. consumption in factory farms, which may not be a great idea.

That said, this question could be seen as classic chatfilter, but assuming that it isn't removed as such, I suppose the answer is simply to learn to pay a lot less attention to the opinions of others, particularly random Internet sources, and focus a lot more on your own feelings of self-worth and satisfaction. Generally, you're living a good life when you are reasonably happy much of the time, and nobody around you is concerned or unhappy because of your actions or inactions.

"I want to live big."

Sadly, or not, we all live bigger as we get older. Get older, get wiser while doing so, and I think you'll find that "living big," in both the best and worst senses, is inevitable.
posted by paulsc at 6:29 PM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Are you asking us about dealing with comments you get from other people, or are you actually asking us how you can get to a place in life where you can be doing all those things you wish you could do and that other people are encouraging you to do?

If the question is just about the comments, tell people who criticize you to fuck off. They don't know you or your life, and they have no right to criticize. Moreover, other people's pronouncements about how you should be living are almost always bred from their own insecurities and a rose-colored remembrance of their own pasts. They forget that they were broke and exhausted and overwhelmed by sucky jobs and personal problems and all the hassles of life and just remember that they were young and had a shorter to-do list than they have now. So yeah, they can go to hell.

However, it sounds as though your underlying question is really about things you'd like to be doing in your own life, but feel as though you can't do. And other people's judgments are only a problem because they remind you that you're unhappy and feel stuck, and the reminder makes you sad. And because of that, I'd recommend making changes in your life, not because other people tell you to, but because you actually want to.

Given the information you've given us, I'd say you should drop out of grad school. If it's eating up your free time and money and not leading to a credential, quit. That solves several of your problems. Then, start looking for a new job, one that's in a better area with access to stuff to do, and one that you actually like. It may take some time to find this new job, but that's okay. You're young and you have time. But looking for ways to improve your situation will, I believe, make you feel better.
posted by decathecting at 6:34 PM on June 18, 2011 [10 favorites]

I'm not sure why you're using that particular comment to illustrate your question, because to me they're not really talking about the same thing. The comment you linked to is one person saying, 'here is a giant list of idealized "should have" stuff that I did not do in my youth because I was mired down in emotional drama and substance abuse and didn't really treat myself well, and here is how I solved the problem, and here are some ways to convince yourself to break the negative cycle you're in.' It is in response to a person who finds themselves drinking to blackout after a bad breakup rather than spend time alone, and who asked for help with that problem.

Your question seems to be more, "I am young and broke with limited opportunities to do the things I want to do in the town where I live, working in a job I do not like. People often make remarks to me about how I appear to be working myself to death -- possibly because I do not like what I do, where I live, or what my near-term future holds if I do not make changes. How do I make these people leave me alone?"

I think you're feeling shame and anger because you are not happy, but you're trying to convince yourself that you HAVE to be where you are right now and that you have no other options. People around you are sensing your unhappiness and gently trying to point it out to you. And you're feeling shame and anger because, subconciously, you know they have a point.

I think you need to spend some time examining the choices you've made that have led you to this place, and that are keeping you in this place. (By "place" I mean both physical and emotional.) Is there any other reason you live in the town that you do, beyond your job? Why are you doing this particular job, if it's as demanding as you say and also offers virtually no rewards? Is there something else you could be doing? Anything at all? Why have you been taking evening classes that are not leading to a degree? Are these classes in something that pertains to a degree but you're not doing well enough to earn the necessary credits, or are they classes that pertain to things you wish you had more time to enjoy, like languages or arts, and therefore your earned credits aren't really cohesive enough to apply to a degree program?

I know that you posted anonymously so you can't really respond (unless a mod can post an update for you), but really only you need to know the answers. Try to look at your life without the filter of "I must live this way, I have no options", and see if there is anything at all that you can change. Even a tiny change can be a springboard for so much more.

Please feel free to MeMail me if you'd like to talk about any of this. My life is certainly not 10000% perfection at all times, but I've been where you are many times before and I'm sure I will be there again. It's just kind of the way life is.
posted by palomar at 6:54 PM on June 18, 2011 [23 favorites]

You're not doing it wrong. It's okay to work hard. These are your prime earning years and nobody is going to give you a free lunch, so don't feel guilty about working hard. There's not one thing wrong with hard work.

I think the gist of the other comment was that the commenter wished she would have treated herself better, did more things that had meaning, and less of things that made her feel degraded. So, if you're not wearing away your self-worth, don't worry about it and don't be so hard on yourself. I favorited the comment myself because the message is excellent and true and I could relate.

You don't have to do everything at once. Very few people that have full-time jobs are engaging in multiple hobbies. Pick something, dabble, and go dabble in something else when you feel like you have the energy. Or pick one thing and go full-tilt. Or do nothing if it makes you happy. Watch TV at night. There's nothing wrong with that.

Also really question why you want to cook complicated recipes or have a encyclopedic knowledge of artisanal beers. If it's for the cool factor, forget about it. If you're really passionate about it, go for it. It's okay to enjoy the mainstream. It okay to be ordinary.

Everybody is different but I wouldn't worry about having a wide circle of friends. Sure, that can be really nice and you shouldn't stop trying to be kind and friendly to everyone you meet. A lot of friends is a great thing but a few good friends is just as good, if not better.

Make sure you're taking time to enjoy life. Don't feel bad if it's just a movie and dinner with a friend on the weekend. Or bowling, or drinks at your place or at the local pub. Human connection and relationships are very important, so make that a priority instead of worrying about if you're fluent in a foreign language or if you can cook some exotic recipe. I'm not saying to forget about these aspirations but you'll be happier if you remain real and pursue things that truly interest you and not because these things are viewed as lofty goals, or cool, or something an intellectual or "cool" person would do. There is no shame in being you.

I'm 38 years-old and my only regret is that I didn't treat my relationships with more care. That is it. I don't care that I didn't read the 100 best books in the world (there is still time and I'm not going to read them if they don't interest me) or that I didn't learn an instrument. All I regret is that I let some good friendships slip because of my own insecurities, self-absorption, depression, whatever.

You have no reason to feel shame. You are worthy. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 7:02 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

About those rose-colored comments: My twenties sucked. I mean, suck sucked. You don't have enough experience or tenure at anything to gain the confidence of those around you, which undermines your confidence. You're ready to be an adult but you don't have the monetary resources or vast network of folks to take full advantage of it. Add to that trying to sort out who you are, student loans and/or school, the pressure of dating and mating, friendships shifting as everyone finds themselves and "new" themselves...

I hated my 20s so much, but I expected that to be the rest of my life. There's a reason people "blow up" their lives around 30 -- their career, their relationships, move cities, whatever -- in that quarter-life crisis thing.

All I can tell is that the 20s look so much easier and more carefree in hindsight. But I think perhaps it's the same people who say things like, "Oh, to be a kid again" or "youth is wasted on the young." All it means is that they have bad memories.

Potential is only that. Sure, 20s are a time of potential, but it's also a time of choices. You can't do every single thing, pursue every single opportunity and stay sane. And then when you're old -- or at least in your 30s -- you may say, "I could have been a X if only I had ________" or "I had the potential to X" without, of course, remembering all the things you did instead -- sometimes necessary things.

So, don't take away from those comments that you somehow doing your 20s wrong if everything isn't rainbows, sunshine and the world is your oyster feelings.
posted by Gucky at 7:03 PM on June 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

Well the above answers are probably better than mine, but since I'm in a similar place in my life - late 20s and unsatisfied- I'll tell you what I tell myself:
1- You're likely to live into your 80s or even 90s, and there's plenty of time to figure things out.
2- Indecision is usually worse than a bad decision. It's good to keep moving forward.

Make a plan that has tangible goals to get to a better place: set a deadline to find a new living situation, job search for a month to see if you can find something better, sit down and plan out how long it will take to get your degree as a part time student and decide if it's worth it to you.

As for overt criticism, I try to use the Socratic Method to back people into a corner.
posted by anotherkate at 7:11 PM on June 18, 2011

All it means is that they have bad memories.


Remember how high school sucked? Probably.

Remember why it sucked? If you're like me, probably not; you've blocked that out.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:12 PM on June 18, 2011

I agree with you. I can't identify the exact mindset, but it is sort of a prescriptive versus descriptive outlook on life. It is sort of a mindset where you make decisions based on what you (think) you are supposed to do, rather than naturally. Maybe your 18-25 years are for fucking up, but not because That's What They Are For, but because that's when a lot of people make stupid decisions. Or "whelp, I'm 28, time to cut my hair and start a family".

It jumps out at me especially on awful sitcoms, where some kid will say something like "I can't balance a checkbook, I'm just a kid".

Anyway, fuck 'em. The key to life is not looking back at fun and forward to less fun, but getting your work done, and having fun with the rest of the time. Take time to plan, long term and short term. It is much more fun (pure?) to regret a decision you made on your own, rather than feel endless ennui for living a life based on others' regrets and expectations.
posted by gjc at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2011

People live in different ways. One of my closest friends spent her 20's doing the sorts of things you described--traveling non-stop, going out all the time, etc. I took a different path, one very much like yours, that required I spend a lot of time working, little money for playing, etc. At nearly 32 (wow, when did that happen?), I can say that my professional aspirations are panning out. They cost something, definitely. I've made missteps, but then, EVERYBODY does. Everyone has things that they'd do differently. My friend who lived it up? She regrets not getting serious about a career for so long. I regret not traveling to meet her in some of the incredible places she's been. We both have regrets--different regrets--but they eat at us both the same.

People will always give you crap about something because they can and it makes them feel better. Some people find it really difficult to accept that different people need different things, prioritize things differently than they do. Yes, these people are annoying, and in quantity, draining. The only response I've found that works in this sort of situation is something along the lines of "Thanks for being concerned. I'll think about what you said."

Do find something that you enjoy to do: we all need a little joy in our lives. It needn't be expensive or precious. You've listed a few things, but don't sound enthusiastic about them. Find something that you can be enthusiastic about, join a community that shares this joy, and I think your quality of life will improve. Good luck.
posted by smirkette at 7:25 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

>>Have you had to deal with criticism, explicit or implicit, that you're letting life pass you by? How did you deal with the feelings of shame and anger that come as a result?

I still feel it and in no way consider myself a youth. Some of it comes from me when I compare myself to others and what they are achieving. My best successes in dealing with this issue is to remind myself that I am living life by my values which do not rate financial success or social status highly. I've done this often enough now that when those insidious thoughts crop up, and of course they still do (but less since I stopped watching television), that now I go, "oh you (thought) again. But my life is the one I choose, and this thought is not helpful. I've done the thinking on this, I don't need to be reaffirm my choices. I know they are the right ones for me right now, because this is who i want to be."

Some folk use the implied criticism as motivation, but I don't find it so. I tried just to relax into being different.

I used to think that I pissed my youth up against a wall, first by not following a career opportunity that could have had me managing a government department by now (given my career trajectory at age 21), by not managing my finances better (though I've managed well enough), by having babies young and quitting all thoughts of career building until recently (when I find I actually just want a meaningful or fun job, with no desire to climb a ladder). But I did what appealed to me when it did, and even if it's not as exciting or tale-worthy as travelling, climbing mountains, or having a highpowered job, it's been my life, and for the most part (not counting the depression, if you have read my previous posts), it's been deeply satisfying and rewarding.

So, take your own path and just smile at the busybodies. Trust yourself to make decisions in line with what you value and let those angsty thoughts come and go without paying much attention to them. There is no need (in my opinion) to live our lives like we're told to (media, parents, driven friends), but how we want.
posted by b33j at 7:31 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Work smart not hard."

A successful friend from a successful background once told me that, and I've always kept it mind. Not that I haven't worked my share of 60 or 80 hr weeks (Broadcast television and then as a chef - demanding hours for both industries) but I always took big blocks of time off, got easy freelance gigs and coasted when possible or needed.

All I can say is that if you don't like what you are doing, for your own sake, do something else!

Your lifestyle and happiness at any given time are paramount, especially when your goal is undefined or not really worth it, as you seem to be describing.

If you aren't happy then make changes. You can always find a way.

And if you're right where you should be depending on your goals, then go easier on yourself.


I think these comments may be bothering you because you have an idea they could be right. The times I was working my ass off, I also enjoyed it. Aim for that.
posted by jbenben at 7:35 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, there are two different questions here. I'll address them individually:

Question 1: How to deal with judgmental people?

So, you're not living your life like a vodka ad? Good for you. Next time someone who is out of their 20's approaches you and is like "OMG IF I WERE YOUR AGE I'D BE SCALING THE HIMALAYAS WITH AN ENTOURAGE OF HOTTIES AND ALL THE COOLEST SUNGLASSES," you have my full permission nice!

Because, here's the thing. People forget the three-at-a-time mind-numbing jobs they worked when they were in their 20's just to make rent on a shitty apartment in a not-so-nice part of town. They forget being disrespected routinely on no other basis than their age. What they remember is the potential that they had. They remember the dreams that were sure to come true right around the next corner. They remember going to bed and being like "Well, today sucked! But tomorrow will KICK ASS! I don't know why, it JUST WILL!"

That's a hard thing to give up. That sense of boundless potential and choosing your own path out of fifty million seemingly great ones. That sense of "I'm gonna DO something here!" It's what makes people look at you and see a young, healthy, intelligent person, and then they place their dreams into your body, as it were. Have's a hard, hard thing to give up. Because the funny thing about depreciates, as it were.

Question 2: How do you make your life a bit more than SCHOOL SCHOOL WORK SCHOOL WORK WORK SCHOOL? I struggled with this when I was your age (I'm 33 now). It sucked. I mean, it really did. But you know, school ends. And at 33, I'm hardly so decrepit that I can't do endless amounts of things. I'm actually far more athletic now (and better looking, too, hee hee) than I was at 27, by virtue of school having ended and having accumulated so many awesome references from them that finding a decent, 50-ish hour per week job was easy.

In the meantime? OK, so you can't learn a new language and travel the world in order to speak it. But do you really work SO MUCH that you can't learn the fundamentals of guitar or piano in your spare time? Maybe you can't reasonably make individualized picture frames for every one of your neighbors, but surely you can watch a REALLY good movie every now and then? Hell, half the time spent baking is spent sitting about waiting for the timer to go off....sketching is COOL and cheap, good books are free at your library, and the outdoors is always there for anyone anytime for free. I apologize if this sounds facetious, because it is not meant to. I'm just saying, I for one and many, many others spent our "golden years" broke and wondering, too. I read the hell out of everything, often sitting in the only tiny patch of sun that my shitty apartment afforded, I cooked normal cheap things, I learned the fucking harmonica and am actually a decent artist now. Wouldn't trade it for the world!

Except....every so often I wonder what happened to all those BIG dreams I used to have....Ah, well, there are youngsters out there to do far better than I ever even thought I might! All the best to you, sincerely and truly. It gets better.
Except....I do sort of want
posted by deep thought sunstar at 7:59 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you're combining two very separate questions into one.

1) My life sucks.

Answer: Change something in your life.

2) Everyone's telling me being young is awesome - how do I deal with this when it clearly isn't?

Answer: Yeah, I have not found my life thus far to be a bed of roses and very few people would be aware of that looking from the outside in. Superficially I have lived very well but there have been many, many difficulties.

The thing is, there's crappiness that's imposed on you and crappiness you impose on yourself and if you have the ability to change to make your life less crappy, you need to do that.

And one of those things is to care less about what other people think.
posted by mleigh at 8:02 PM on June 18, 2011

Except....I do sort of want

Sorry about that - I thought I had deleted it but nooooooo. Disregard that last line, all.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 8:04 PM on June 18, 2011

The way you describe your life right now:
You have a hard, unrewarding, dead-end job.
You are taking classes that aren't leading anywhere.
You live in an expensive, boring location.
You have few opportunities for fun.

No wonder your feeling like life is passing you by. Taking all that at face value, it sounds like you need to change everything about where you live and what you do.
posted by adamrice at 8:10 PM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

I get the feeling that acquaintances, busybodies, and "people in general" consider this period of my life to be the flowering of my youth, and expect me to have fun, go out, relax, and kick back.

I get the feeling that the person who thinks this is you.

I think you can take it much easier on yourself and get the most out of what you have now. You don't have to have all of those things right away. And there can be little steps that you can take to have some of that right now. Start with the guitar. The easiest instrument out there, in my opinion.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:37 PM on June 18, 2011

If you can't make the guitar work, try the kazoo.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:41 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

The only key I've found in life is enjoying what you have, right now. You are where you need to be. If you can't do that, it won't matter what you're doing or what you (don't) have.
posted by kcm at 8:42 PM on June 18, 2011

All through life, and no matter how much money and time you have, there will be more things that you could possibly do that you won't quite have the money and time for. And you will, provided you have more than one acquaintance who happens to have any interest other than yours, be hearing from people who say you oughta be doing this, that, the other thing.

That's one problem, and the main one that's hitting when these people are getting under your skin. The solution here, which is easier said than done, is to simply start pursuing your OWN interests, not those of others. If you're work-oriented, party people will always tell you you're wasting your time. If you're fitness oriented, the work-oriented people will. And so on. Frankly, most of your leisure activities sound like the things I think are heaven. I can't bike or run any more due to an injury, but I love working out. I also really like listening to and practicing music. Sounds a cliche, but the best things in life really are cheap or free. There are some miserable people in bars and amusement parks and resorts.

The other one, which is trickier, is the question "are you, in fact, wasting your life?"

And there's no simple answer to that one, at any stage of life. Sounds like you're working hard on a degree. Nothing wrong with that temporary sacrifice, but I'm troubled by that statement about "doesn't lead to a credential." Doesn't sound like you're enthralled by the subject. Then why do it? Your late 20s is way too young to feel locked into a career field.

One thing that might be helpful - people get jobs and start careers that are only marginally related to their degrees all the time. Universities are real good at convincing you you need ONE MORE degree or this or that to succeed in whatever narrow field they've got you roped into. Might be time to stick your head up and look around in the wider world to see what other opportunities there are to start making a living and developing a lifestyle and relationships that you really want.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:17 PM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Have you had to deal with criticism, explicit or implicit, that you're letting life pass you by?

I think you missed the point of "Try the Tialapas" comment. It wasn't "kick back and have a good time during your youth." It was "take care of yourself first and invest in yourself while you're young, because it pays off in the long run."
posted by deanc at 9:58 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you had to deal with criticism, explicit or implicit, that you're letting life pass you by? How did you deal with the feelings of shame and anger that come as a result? It's unfortunate enough to lead a drab, unexciting life. It's certainly harder if you keep hearing that you're doing it wrong.

One thing that helped deal with people tsk-tsking decisions I made was to remember that one size does not fit all.

To think that the path for one person should be the same path for another person is ludicrous. Life is not about following popular advice. It's about figuring out what works for you. Sometimes that means hunkering down and achieving long term goals, and other times, checking out other options, and being a free spirit. It also means making your own mistakes, because that will happen too.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:12 PM on June 18, 2011

Late 20s is young? I'm 26 and I basically feel like my life, youth, and creativity are over.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:05 AM on June 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just to completely contradict the answer before me: youth (or at least the creative activities we associate with it) doesn't need to end at 30. I spent my twenties going to grad school, having a baby, buying a house, etc.... Now I'm 33 and I'm finally starting to do all those things you're supposed to do in your twenties. I'm part of a tribal bellydance troupe, finally able to afford the nerdy costumery I've always wanted, refining my storytelling/performance skills, etc.

I'm not saying it doesn't suck that you're not doing those things now, but don't put an artificial expiration date on your window of opportunity. Given the current economy, unemployment rate, etc., I think a lot of people's twenties are more stressful than exciting.
posted by missrachael at 6:10 AM on June 19, 2011

I think you should take heart from the fact that this is what the poster would do -- if they could re-do it all. They didn't actually do any of this cool stuff.

Extremely few people EVER live that kind of life - actually, I don't know anyone who has who isn't independently wealthy. Me, I spent my twenties working really hard for a degree that I'm now struggling to complete, and I have no financial security to show for it. I travelled a tiny bit (I went to Paris once for a week) but only 1/10 as much as I could have because I always put it off because I didn't think I had enough time, and I could always do it "later" only to find out later that I'll really never time or the opportunity that I had when living in the UK. I missed out on going places I dreamed about as a child - like the mountains of Wales - when I was only a short train ride away. I've actually never set foot on a mountain.

My point is that rosy ideas about the possibilities of youth are and have only ever been ideas.

Add to that changing economics which mean that disparity is growing and we will never have the same opportunities as our parents -I think you should respond to anyone telling you to "live it up" with saying "sure, you paying?"
posted by jb at 7:02 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Late 20s is young? I'm 26 and I basically feel like my life, youth, and creativity are over.

Well, late 20s is certainly not old. And if you only socialize with people your own age or younger, it's pretty easy to feel like 30 is a death sentence or whatever. Do you have friends, colleagues, mentors who are older than you, whose lives you admire? If not, get some. They'll help give you the perspective you're missing.

(As someone in their mid-thirties whose life has only gotten more awesome as I've gotten further away from my twenties, I'm kind of thinking your tune will change in a couple of years. 26, really, is like the late stages of adolescence.)
posted by palomar at 7:15 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well the thing is that people talk bollocks.

Especially old gits who have it all and don't appreciate it and want to rub your face in how your youth is wasted on you. Don't listen to old gits. Don't argue with them, just give them a frozen smile and nod and move on.

I would suggest that you examine your beliefs about what you have to do and what you are and are not able to do. If your accommodation costs un bras et une jambe, I assume you have run the numbers about moving further into the city and have concluded it costs too much. Would it be too much disruption to move to a more fun place? Would it be unfeasible to search, say, for opportunities for local fun?

If you are sure your studies are not going to get you anywhere, can you drop them? Or is that not worth it for some reason?

It sounds like you need to change something. If you can't see what to change now, I would suggest you keep your eye on the ball and investigate small opportunities when they arise. This is often how things have improved for me. Maybe you could get a copy of "The Luck Factor" and follow its principles; it certainly can't hurt.
posted by tel3path at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2011

p.s. and the comment in question really isn't relevant to your concerns; rather, it's a list of better things to do than alcohol misuse, which you don't cite as one of your problems. In light of that, I think that taking things a lot less personally would help you, too.
posted by tel3path at 10:05 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Life is filled with short-term investors, who far outnumber the long-term investors. You're hearing comments from the former, who aren't thinking very far ahead -- the latter is probably you.

I went through this in my twenties, too. While all my friends and siblings were having a grand old time, I was working, saving, investing... preparing for a more pleasant life long-term. I got comments about it constantly at the time, because I was "missing out" on so much... but the more everyone aged and settled down, the more those comments turned respectful and even envious.

Life's a marathon for most of us, and while all those sprinting are gasping and trying to find a second wind, you're going to blow right by most of them. The older you get, the more you (and others) will appreciate your approach. So try not to take it personally... it's just a personal philosophy thing.
posted by Pufferish at 11:17 AM on June 19, 2011

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