Please help me find a purpose in life.
October 16, 2011 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find a purpose in life.

I was a smart girl with so much promise. More than one teacher thought I would be famous by now. Instead, my life has become a waste.

I was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 13, and am currently on SSI after several failed jobs after barely squeaking through college (I chose the wrong major). I've been on a few dates, but have never even had my first kiss, and it looks like that's not going to happen any time soon. I live in a thriving urban coastal area of the US, where a social life pretty much requires that you be employed, and the only romantic/sexual prospects available to me are the dregs of society no one else wants. It's not like I'm 18 and have my whole life ahead of me. I'll be 30 next year, and my college acquaintances all have jobs and fulfilling lives, and I just feel like the world is drifting farther and farther away from me. I'm supposed to be entering the decade of my life where things really start taking off. Instead, I just feel so old.

I know I need to find a job of some kind, one that's stable with health benefits (I haven't been to the dentist in years, I may or may not be diabetic, and if so, that will just add another pile of stress and financial worries to my existence), and I can get experience by volunteering, but the only "safe" jobs out there involve working directly with people, and that's how I kept losing jobs in the first place.

What I really want to do is start my own small business, and I have a few good realistic ideas in mind (making gift baskets, etc.), but I just feel I'm running out of time. I still want to meet guys and go to trendy pubs and get drunk and giggle and even get my heart broken. Every second I focus on career/health/financial issues is another second I'm missing out on so much. Is there any advice you can give me to help me rejoin the world?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Go see a therapist.
posted by TheBones at 4:50 PM on October 16, 2011 [9 favorites]

Every second I focus on career/health/financial issues is another second I'm missing out on so much.

This is not true. "Life" is not something that happens to you only when you have all your shit together. In fact, if you weren't focussing on your career, health and finances, how would that mean you had more experiences of the sort you want? You will meet people in the course of trying to start your businesses. You will meet people at the doctor's office, or even just going to the pharmacy to have your prescriptions filled. If you take a class or something to figure out your finances, you'll meet people there too.

Things happen when you do things. So do them! (And start by seeing a doctor. Untreated diabetes is not something to mess around with.)
posted by lollusc at 4:56 PM on October 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

The fantasy life you are chasing is holding you back from appreciating what you have. Don't worry, that's actually pretty typical of most people about your age.

Face and embrace reality. Throw timelines out the window. Focus only on short-term goals based on what you have right now. Stop comparing yourself to other people -- their circumstances are not your circumstances, you are playing on your own gameboard.

Stop being jealous of other people for what they have. Stop imagining what might've been. Stop basing your idea of success on what other people hoped you'd accomplish. You are what you are what you are, and that is... no, really... OKAY.

If you could look into the future and see that you wouldn't meet your true love until you were 42, wouldn't you still think that was worth waiting for? Would you really wind up being a person worth knowing if all you did until then was wait around and complain and feel bad about yourself?

Act. Every day is an opportunity to do at least one small thing toward conforming your life to your own standards, whether that means working toward a better career, or mental state, or an understanding of the world around you. When you feel stuck, make small changes every day until something changes. And yes, find someone whose job it is to talk about this with you and remind you what the greater work really is.
posted by hermitosis at 5:08 PM on October 16, 2011 [27 favorites]

Dont Panic. Life is meant to be enjoyed :) You are not in as bad of a position as you think. You have a degree. You have goals. Don't put pressure on yourself for being single.

Go out for walks. Go to the beach. Go to art shows. Sit at sidewalk cafes. Join clubs. Volunteer. You know what you like... do some of that. And then stretch your boundaries some. I know social interactions can be hard with Aspergers... but.. I dunno. Find a place where you are comfortable? Animal shelters? kids?

Being emplyed and or adult does NOT mean you have to be a stick in the mud or never go to bars. Its just a different phase than say, getting drunk EVERY night.

humans need: The basics (food, shelter) health: If your body isn't being taken care of, you can't do well in general. and mental: a balance between life and work. Maybe faith, if that's your thing. Love, of self and for others.

I think you'll make it.... if you dont beat yourself up too much :)
posted by Jacen at 5:13 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

What I really want to do is start my own small business, and I have a few good realistic ideas in mind (making gift baskets, etc.), but I just feel I'm running out of time.

I just turned 40 and think I've got plenty of life life, despite having Type II diabetes. Oh to be your age again, what things I could do! In short, 30 isn't that big of deal. There's nothing preventing you from making it the decade you figure some stuff out, get it together in some form and fashion and do your thing.

You need a plan, with regular markers, say every six months. Sit down, plot it out. Where you want to be? How can you get there? Plan it out. That'll give you a direction to go in and a goal to work towards.

Dating? Get on OKCupid or other site. You are not reduced to accepting the dregs of society, you just need to connect with some people who are in roughly the same spot in life.

I was a smart girl with so much promise. More than one teacher thought I would be famous by now.

Yeah that's nice and all, but that involves measuring your life by what others think you should do. Fuck'em, what do you want to do? It's your life, you and only you have to be happy with it.

All those college acquaintances with their jobs and fulfilling lives? Some of them are gonna wake up at 35 or 40 and wonder where the hell they went wrong and then think of you and where you are at that point and be envious.

You're about to turn 30. You've got another 30-40 years of life left. That's a lot of time, so make the most of it and be happy with your path.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:45 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

I know how it feels to spend your teens and twenties believing that you're going to be awesome, only to be ashamed at twenty-eight to go to your ten-year reunion. Totally get that. I'm coming to terms with it, and the best thing I can offer as a suggestion is (and I know it's going to sound lame) Buddhist meditation. Even though I'm not an actual Buddhist, I've learned enough through the little exposure that I've had to feel comfortable where I'm at in life. I would not want to be wealthy or famous if it meant losing the peace of mind that I have now. I can hear music better now. I can focus on the books I read. I actually feel like a real being in the real world, rather than a phantom lost in some remote corner of my head. Check out Jon Kabat-Zinn's stuff on Youtube, and maybe you'll find something there that helps.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:53 PM on October 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

1- Therapist. Really. It's not your fault that you feel the way you do and this person will help you turn it around.

2- Join a club. Really., now. If you're in a thriving, Urban environment you'll be able to find a club for anything. You will feel 900% better and not so alone and capable. You might also meet guys!

3- Internet dating! It's not any worse than sitting at home and beating yourself up, I promise. 30 is not old.

What I'm reading in your post is a really negative outlook coupled with some excuse making. Stop making excuses starting today. You may be sorry about wasting another year, but if you start today, a year from now you won't have to regret anything. Just get started. I think you'll be amazed at how well things come together. (And, really, a therapist can help you with that stuff, too)
posted by GilloD at 6:19 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first call promising... Young writers if they are to mature require a period of between three and seven years in which to live down their promise. Promise is like the mediaeval hangman who after settling the noose, pushed his victim off the platform and jumped on his back, his weight acting a drop while his jockeying arms prevented the unfortunate from loosening the rope. When he judged him dead he dropped to the ground." -- Cyril Connolly

Recognize that the hangman is running (and ruining) your life right now, and resolve to kill him. Envy is just a side effect of your own judgment of yourself. But your judgment is based on received views. It isn't easy to reject those views, because you have to find something to take their place, but that's what ya gotta do. There is no disembodied purpose in life. There's only your own purpose--the purpose you have chosen. Cue the existential angst.
posted by bricoleur at 7:05 PM on October 16, 2011 [12 favorites]

The three things that have helped me the most in my life are these:

1. Walking. Walk everywhere, all the time. Walking is amazing. You're not doing it to get fit, you're doing it because your body is a machine so perfectly calibrated to the act of walking that it almost boggles the mind. Holy shit! I can walk like a madman! I feel like I'm going to go crazy with how good I am at walking! The good things about walking are that you get to see new things, and yes it will help you get fit even if it isn't one of your goals, and it is good for every single part of your body, every organ and fiber. There is literally nothing bad about walking. It is simply one of the most spectacularly amazing things a human being can do. But don't walk with people. Don't join a walking group. You are walking with YOURSELF.

2. Reading. I am blessed in a lot of ways because my parents taught me the value and joy of reading at a very young age. Reading is fucking incredible! Not only have we learned advanced communication, but we don't even need to be in a room with another person for it to happen, we don't even need to hear them or see them! They are communicating with us through a FLAT SURFACE! Millions of years of evolution have brought us to the point where when we're not walking, we can be sitting down and reading, our eyes translating light into information which is then integrated into our bodies. Nothing you EVER read is lost! It's all up in there, making new connections in your brain, giving you new ideas and perspectives on old ideas. Every time I think about reading I feel like I'm going to have a breakdown, it's literally spectacular how good it is! And the best thing about reading? It can be done by YOURSELF.

3. Being with myself. With walking and reading I don't need anybody else. I've got everything required and I am doing two of the most mind-fuckingly fantastical and far-out things the universe has ever seen, and that's even discounting all the jaw-dropping biological processes that are involved in both reading and walking. I mean, I'm the only person that there's any guarantee I am going to have for the rest of my life, and with walking and reading I could be happy even if everybody else was wiped off the face of the planet in the next second. BUT - holy shit, there ARE other people! Magnificent and beautiful and ugly and amazing and fascinating and boring and terrible people, many of them all doing the same things as me, and I've got the walking and the reading in the bag, I can ALWAYS do that, whenever I want, because I'm all I've got until I die, and those are very important tools, they enable me to do ANYTHING AT ALL because EVERYTHING in the world is an extension of our ability to read and walk. If I'm good at those there's NOTHING I can't be good at, should I so desire. And...well, now I kinda feel like WALKING around and meeting new people. We can talk about what we READ. Kick my face off, I don't need anything else at all in the world but this is FUN!
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:05 PM on October 16, 2011 [36 favorites]

While I often have very similar feelings - scary similar feelings - it can also help to tell yourself the stories of your own life. Think about them as stories you would hear other people telling - would you think they were sad, stupid stories told by a failure? Probably you would not. We all have stories to tell, so try to listen to your own.
posted by kavasa at 7:17 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered an enlistment into the United State military? You will find many, many other educated people just likie yourself that fell lost within life itself.
Consider the bonus money; and the revolution from within potential. Not a bad thing IMHO.
posted by buzzman at 8:46 PM on October 16, 2011

FWIW, I believe you.

Start your own small business, you want to do this, so do it. As an Aspie, you are probably methodical, committed, a risk-assessor, and a planner. All good qualities for running a business.

Also commit to at least one social action per week where non-dregs-of-society guys will be at. You can go to a bar and giggle on a Friday night, can't you? Everyone can squeeze that into their busy careers.

Take some acting lessons. There is a school of thought that the therapy for Asperger's is drama training.

There are plenty of life coaches who specialize in ADHD, which I realize isn't identical to Asperger's, but enough of the issues are the same that you could find one who understands you.
posted by tel3path at 9:45 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a smart guy with so much promise. I was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 14. Parents and teachers expected me to get straight As and go to Oxford, Cambridge or the like, especially considering my brothers had both gone to top 10 universities. For many reasons, I didn't; I got poor results at my final school exams, ditched the idea of doing Physics and spent 9 months on the dole before picking up a crappy data entry job. It was another 5 years before my first kiss, etc etc.

9 years later I'm doing a degree in Forensic Computing, have had 2 girlfriends, and I'm quite happy with where I'm at. What changed? Mostly I learned that Asperger's is NOT a barrier in the way that I thought it was. I believed that even if it was more difficult for me to get on with people, I could still do it if I tried hard enough. That worked for the general socialising side; I still have occasional moments when I slip up, but a lot of it's simply practice.

As far as relationships go, your attitude is the only thing that's defeating you. Nobody is ever limited to the 'dregs of society'. I had to learn the hard way (fending off some moderately heavy bouts of depression) that I can still be attractive to people who I would never have believed were 'in my league'. I had to learn to relax and stop putting every action through an analytical wringer, as that was simply turning me into a self-doubting wreck.

Please memail me if you want more detail. I'm happy to talk.
posted by fearnothing at 10:47 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please read this book.. I speak from personal experience. Mostly I hate to "preach" about Buddhism but the basis of this practice is to share the huge amount of benefits/fortune we achieve through practising this Buddhism which is why I am sharing with you. Feel free to ask any questions. Once again I am speaking from personal experience.
posted by pakora1 at 1:26 PM on July 7, 2012

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