Those better NOT have been the best years of my life!
October 10, 2011 4:30 PM   Subscribe

A year after college, I finally have a job and a place to live. And, oh god, now what do I do?!

First off, I know I'm lucky, and if I died today I'd still have had a good life compared to a whole lot of people...

But, oh man. So, yeah, after a year spent frantically looking for work in three different cities I finally, actually have A Job and An Apartment. I was so singularly focused on finding those things that I wasn't actually looking past them at all, and now that I have them, well, I don't know who the hell I am or what the rest of my life is going to look like and I'm terrified.

In college, it was very easy for me to express 'who I was'- I was doing A and B majors which were cool and interesting to other people, I was in C and D clubs that attracted lots of likeminded people for me to be friends with, I had some interesting side hobbies and lived in a party house and was just generally busy doing interesting things. Too busy to REALLY worry about life after college.

Now... so, with the way things are now, I got a job which doesn't really have much to do with my majors or my interests. It's an office admin job, basically. I've had it about six weeks now. I actually enjoy it in some ways, and my boss and coworkers are nice, but it's nothing I want to make a career out of. Meanwhile, in my frantic multi-city search for this (or any) job, I have let most of my old hobbies fall by the wayside. I don't follow blogs about my old majors, I don't make arts and crafts like I used to. I don't really do anything. I haven't even unpacked any of the stuff in my new apartment yet and I've been there a week. I basically come home and fuck around online and go to bed. I have a few friends here in my new city but they're 'hang-out' friends, not like the close friends I used to have in school.

Fuck, what if this is the rest of my life? What If I only THOUGHT I was an interesting person with a bright future? What if my good performance in school didn't actually mean anything and I spend the rest of forever languishing in a crap job and watching TV like my parents did? I don't know what to do. I don't know how to restart my life and make it mean something, I don't know how to make friends, I don't know how to build a career in the utter shambles of this economy when I don't even really know what I'm interested in doing... I think the job search was just a distraction from how totally fucking lost I am, post-college. I'm almost 24, shouldn't I have some sort of direction by now? So many of my friends are teachers and musicians and junior ad execs and just generally People With Paths And Futures and I got nothin. People ask me what I want to do and I'm so ashamed that I have no answer; people ask me what I do for fun and I have to tell them what I USED to do because I haven't done shit lately. Do uninteresting, uninspiring, dull as dirt 24-year-olds ever become anything but older boring people? God damn. I even know I'm a horrible stereotype but I don't know how to fix it.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
What's your question? How do I live my life? How did you get by in college? What do you like to do? Did you go out and party every weekend? Go out and do the same. Were you involved in any clubs? If so, look in your local newspaper for the same types of clubs, or for a meetup.

You don't say where you are or what you like to do for fun, so that would help.

Also, if this is such a big deal, you should probably go see a therapist.
posted by TheBones at 4:35 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Slow down! I was this lost at 24. Now my life is so amazing I worry I might be peaking early. Slow way way way down. Give yourself permission to not have your shit together for at LEAST another year. Everything you're feeling is normal and common and OK.
posted by prefpara at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2011

There's not much of a question here. This is a monologue for a therapist.

If your question is, "How should I define myself?" there are lots of options: work, family, hobbies. Stick with old hobbies or get new ones. Force yourself out of the house if you need to.

If your question is, "How do I make close friends?" you just need to hang out more with, and confide in, your "hang-out" friends.

If you're not feeling motivated, fake it, and the motivation will come. If it doesn't... therapy. It sounds like you're depressed. If you're one of those lucky people who can break yourself out of depression without help, do it. If not, get help.
posted by supercres at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your base is now established. Income + housing security = Endless Possibilities

If you're not doing something you LOVE for work, make time and/or save money so that you can do what you LOVE on your own time. It's ok that you're taking some downtime after your successful job and housing search. Don't let the lull discourage you, just use it as an opportunity to start fresh.

Don't know what you love to do yet? Make a bucket list and get started crossing things off. Go to a MeFi meetup (call one yourself if there isn't one already coming up in your area). Sign up for a CC course in something you didn't get to take back in college. Learn a skill, then learn another one. You've accomplished your goals for now, so basically what you need is to establish some new ones. This time they can be fun ones. =)
posted by carsonb at 4:41 PM on October 10, 2011

First of all, you're doing very well--congratulations on finding a job and an apartment!--and this is totally normal.

You do not have to do everything *right* now. Take your time. Unpack as slowly as you like...heck, I have friends who moved into their flats, and then years later, they moved to new places with boxes *still* unpacked.

In my experience it takes about a year to two years to really feel at home and develop the kind of network that you were used to.

Although I would not want to be in my 20s again for anything, this is exactly what your 20s are about. Figuring out what you want to do, figuring out yourself.

Your hobbies and passions will be different. They will evolve. YOU will be different and evolve.

Before you know it, the future will be here, and you'll marvel at how you got there. All the times you thought you were making the wrong decision, or doing something wrong, they will add to the person that you will become.
posted by so much modern time at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2011

First of all, chill out.

So now, remember all those hobbies and interests you had before? Go do some of them. Or go do some new thing, whatever. Those "hang out" friends? Go hang out with them. Invite them over to your apartment so you'll have motivation to unpack. Heck, invite them over to help you unpack and drink beer. People don't become close friends over night.

Live your new adult life a little bit, try new things and find of what you like doing. You're young, you probably have a little bit of money and some time to spend on enjoying your hobbies. Do stuff, don't worry about knowing who you are yet.
posted by ghharr at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2011

People ask me what I want to do and I'm so ashamed that I have no answer; people ask me what I do for fun and I have to tell them what I USED to do because I haven't done shit lately.

So, you haven't done anything lately and you don't know 'who you are'. If you're really just having trouble getting motivated to do stuff, think of it as a 'so I can tell people I did x'. Pretend it's Monday next week and I ask you what you've been up to. What do you wish you could say? Went skydiving? Knitted a blanket? Built a treehouse? Ok, maybe you can't do any of that this week. But you could google up a pattern to knit from, and in the process find two old blogs about knitting that you used to read, and maybe find out where in your new city you can buy yarn from. Now your answer is 'I'm thinking of knitting a blanket, so I've been trying to find knitting supplies around here and found Shop and Pattern'. Hey, now you sound like someone who knits!

This sounds kind of crazy/pointless, but it's a genre of 'fake it til you make it'.

I'm almost 24, shouldn't I have some sort of direction by now?
Nope, not necessarily.
posted by jacalata at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2011

I too am almost 24. This is what I would do in your situation:

1) Unpack your boxes. Now, if you're anything like me, the problem with this step is that unpacking is boring and the internet is more interesting, so I'd recommend blasting some upbeat music on speakers and rewarding yourself with a cookie after each box. (If you don't have speakers, earphones and a mp3 player will do.)

2) Start making stuff to decorate the new apartment. This will make it feel more like home, and as a bonus, it gets you back into arts and crafts. Pick up the blogs you've let fall to the wayside for inspiration.

3) Invite hang-out friends over for a housewarming party. Provide alcohol.

No, it won't solve your I Feel Directionless problem, but you will feel better and have an awesome apartment.
posted by Xany at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2011

Sweet Jebus, you can give yourself permission to slow down a bit. You have accomplished two BIG goals and are now able to be stable enough to figure out the rest. You know about the hierarchy of needs, right? Now that you have some money coming in, food on the table, and shelter, you have time to think about your less-extreme needs--finding a way to feel satisfied with the work you do, finding creative outlets (both in and outside of work), working on a personal project or goal.

You've been at your job a total of 6 weeks, right? For me, the first 3 weeks of a job are a combination of ignorant bliss and oh-my-gosh-I-don't-know-anything freak outs. Your brain has used these six weeks to adjust to a new routine, new people, new space, new learning. After those initial 3 weeks, the ignorant bliss ends and it's just OHMYGOSHIHAVETODOTHISLIKETHISFOREVERHOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW???? Maybe you are there now.

To get my creative mojo back, I like to work on a small project that has immediate results. Make a card and write a note in it to a friend. Make an origami character. Start small. Get inspiration from that.

Find ways to consciously relax outside of work. Take a bath, go for a long easy walk or bike ride, pet a dog.

Pick ONE thing to start with based on a personal goal you have. Want to get in shape? Try Couch2-5K. Want to be more creative? There's some 365 daily project journals out there with mini exercises. Want to meet people? Volunteer, go to shows, whatever.

And finally, exercise. It will help you think clearer, relax, be present, and you might just find inspiration through the endorphins. And message me if you want a metafilter penpal (virtual or physical) to send notes or comics or whatevers to.

There was advice on here once that I took to heart when I read it, but I can't credit the author: There are lots of people who go to their jobs and go home after work and watch TV all night. Don't be one of those people. (But start slowly, if that's where you are starting from.)
posted by shortyJBot at 4:48 PM on October 10, 2011

anonymous posted">> What If I only THOUGHT I was an interesting person with a bright future?

Welcome to the grid, program. No one is going to give you that. Learn where you can be useful and pay attention to what makes you feel alive. Otherwise, you're going to have to stumble around a bit to find where your feet are. Make sure you keep trying new things and try to see yourself as objectively as possible. Good luck.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:04 PM on October 10, 2011

This is from Richard Russo's (Pulitzer prize winning novelist) commencement speech to the Colby class of 2004:

"The question then is this: How does a person keep from living the wrong life? Well, here are Russo's Rules For A Good Life. Notice that I don't say "for a happy life." One of the reasons the novelist Graham Greene despised Americans was that phrase "the pursuit of happiness," which we hold so dear and which ensured, to his way of thinking, we'd always be an infantile nation. Better to live a good life, he believed, than a happy one. Happily, the two may not always be mutually exclusive. Keep in mind that Russo's Rules for a Good Life are specifically designed to be jettisoned without regret when they don't work. They've worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

Rule # 1: Search out the kind of work that you would gladly do for free and then get somebody to pay you for it. Don't expect this to happen overnight. It took me nearly twenty years to get people to pay me a living wage for my writing, which makes me, even at this juncture, one of the fortunate few. Your work should be something that satisfies, excites and rewards you, something that gives your life meaning and direction, that stays fresh and new and challenging, a task you'll never quite master, that will never be completed. It should be the kind of work that constantly humbles you, that never allows you to become smug—in short, work that sustains you instead of just paying your bills. While you search for this work, you'll need a job. For me that job was teaching, and it's a fine thing to be good at your job, as long as you don't confuse it with your work, which it's hard not to do."

You see? You are confusing your work with your job.

You found a job to pay your bills and that's great. But now you need to find your work. Figure out what type of work that satisfies you, that gives your life meaning and direction, and excites and rewards you. Then do that in your free time. My guess is that if you do that, you will find friends and meaning and love along the way.
posted by bananafish at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

In the short term: breathe. Don't worry that you're not unpacked. (I moved into my apartment in August, and I'm not 100% unpacked--it's normal for that to be a slow process.)

Feeling lonely? Go to a metafilter meetup. You don't have to wait for someone else to call one: just throw it up on IRL. I highly recommend them for meeting new and interesting people.

Take a class in some sort of arts and crafts. It'll kickstart your creative juices.

(Memail me if you live in New York--I'm out of work right now, and would be happy to come over, socialize, and help you unpack a little.)
posted by ocherdraco at 5:10 PM on October 10, 2011

"People ask me what I want to do and I'm so ashamed that I have no answer; people ask me what I do for fun and I have to tell them what I USED to do because I haven't done shit lately."

Maybe that's because you were frantically looking for work and stressed about lack of job and housing?

So now that those things are together, relax, and redevelop some interests. Give yourself a year to settle in and then reevaluate. Hopefully at the end of that time you'll have a better idea of what you love to do in your free time, what is important to you in terms of values, and then you can figure out which bits of those things your job is not fulfilling, and work on either transitioning to a new job, incorporating new stuff into your current one, or doing the important stuff on the side, funded by your income.
posted by lollusc at 7:35 PM on October 10, 2011

Good performance is school doesn't mean shit. You're not your GPA, your resume, or your parents. (And show some respect!)
So try some stuff on for size--decorate your place. Look around for something to learn or join--Thai cooking, contra dancing, juggling, theater, whatever. You're not going to be graded. it's not going on your permanent recoord. Do something that you're not good at--tap dancing, close-part harmony singing, oil painting.
You have a job, a place to live and free time. You will never be this free again. Who cares if you don't have a nice label?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:01 PM on October 10, 2011

There's not much of a question here. This is a monologue for a therapist.

I poured out the same thoughts to my therapist, and I'm in basically the same situation.

she said "would did you want to be doing at this stage in your life?"

"hanging out, going to gigs, seeing my friends, bit of videogames"

"what are you doing with your free time?"


So enjoy it. Find good people, and do what makes you happy with those good people. See bands or go to LAN parties or play D&D.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:03 PM on October 10, 2011

Set up a weekly budget. Throw some to savings if manageable.

Have a good chunk of your budget as 'play money'. And use it for experiences. Hobbies, gigs, classes, getting someone to help unpack your room if you haven't done it in two three months...

Also, nesting happens when you have the opportunity to have people over who will *see* your nest. So have some fun, and the other will probably work out for you.

(And no, I have no idea what I'm doing either. Argh!)
posted by Elysum at 1:06 AM on October 11, 2011

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