How to stop negative feeling regarding life status
April 20, 2012 7:20 AM   Subscribe

How to feel less isolated and being single, over 30 and female and an individual that doesn't fit the norm?

Hello all!

I'm at a bit of a crossroads in my life and would like some advice from you :-)

I have moved back home to my parents after quitting a job I was in for five years due to being bullied out of it (my face didn't fit and the company was privatised, not really any fault of my own). Although I am now doing something I really believe in (my own business), the location is very rural and as I work from home this is causing me to become very lonely :-(

3 years ago (age 29) I left a 9 year relationship due to my ex wanting to become a full time drug dealer. After leaving that relationship all our mutual friends sided with my ex as a) I left him and b) he was a dealer they wanted to keep in contact with. I have to say the last 3 years have been the hardest of my life and my confidence has been truly knocked due to the job loss, loss of friendships, moving to a rural location and my other friends starting to settle down. I feel like I don't really fit anywhere or have anyone to share my life with. I'm not really ready to settle down and I'm finding the fun has gone from many of my friends lives due to their changing circumstances (which I am really happy about, I want my friends to be happy!).

It's come to the point where I feel uncomfortable talking to my friends when I rarely see them as I don't have anything to add to the conversation and tend to sit in silence a lot of the time. I am making an effort to meet new people but I have barely any money as my business (photographer) has yet to pay me enough to live on. I feel very guilty about living at home age 32 and feel don't really have a lot going for me. It's getting very difficult not to compare myself to others and this is making my feel depressed and lacking in self worth.

I know I have a lot to offer but maybe I'm running with the wrong crowd? I am very lucky to be granted a 'do over' with my life but I feel my age and interests (I'm an electronic music photographer) means I will be quite lonely in the future through travelling the road less travelled?

I would love to meet someone new but I am getting an awful lot of pressure from my friends to 'join their club'. I know they just want me to be happy but I think just having like minded people around would make me happy. I don't want to rush into a relationship for the sake of peer pressure but they are pushing the internet dating onto me and it seems pretty forced. I do feel like a carton of milk sometimes! As far as children go, one would be nice but I'm not massively bothered about it due to my lifestyle..

Any thoughts?...I don't want to come across as a Debbie Downer but I am starting to internalise these events that have brought me to this place as something that is wrong with me...although I know this is not the case at all! Any tips from people that have been through similar, I want to nip these feelings in the bud as they are starting to effect me in a negative way...which is not good!

Thanks in advance to you all!
posted by Soundgirl to Human Relations (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I was your age when life suddenly plonked me in the middle of a new continent, alone and having to rebuild from scratch. What you're dealing with, as I discovered, is the accumulated stress of all the changes in your life. There is a metric of points per life change - breakup or divorce, job loss, home change, etc etc that I found when I was in this situation and I would laugh to my friends (online) that if I totted up the total stress points of everything that I changed in this short period of time, I should be dead by now.

That helped put it in perspective for me, and while the road ahead was not easy (and I had gum infections, odd fevers and bouts of crying and all that comes along with the body adjusting slowly to the speed with which the mind has changed every single familiar thing in one's daily life), I was able to understand that it was all these changes and this stress that was making me feel this way and that helped me be much more gentle with myself and understanding of my sudden (and uncharacteristic) fragility.

For me, the internet helped. It gave me a community (I used Craiglist's open forum for meetups and socializing) it gave me an outlet (I started writing) and a sense of continuity (as I picked up the threads of friendships I did want to keep). I joined pub quizzes and met people I would have never come across in daily life.

What I'm saying is... go slow and be gentle on yourself but now start finding things to participate in (even as a newcomer) in your new area - voluntary, entertainment, or some other activities that gets you out of your house and your head as time and changes heal your heart.

Best of luck.
posted by infini at 7:33 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I kind of went through similar when I turned 30. In the span of 2-4 months I ended a LTR of 5 years where we lived together, moved, bought a house, was forced out a job due to politics that had nothing to do with me, started a new job and pretty much had to start all of my friendships from scratch due to said break-up. It was overwhelming. What helped me was to break the situation down - I think you need to look at things in chunks.

Chunks that I can idenitfy from your post:

Chunk 1: Living situation
Chunk 2: Job situation
Chunk 3: Friend situation
Chunk 4: Relationahip situation

Ok, so I would start with Chunk #1. Do you reaaaaally want to be living at home with your parents? I'd tackle this one first by saving money as best as you can and to take on extra work if possible to get yourself your beloved freedom back. This directly feeds into Chunk #2. You're starting your own business which is AWESOME! However, this is going to take a lot of work and obviously means sacrifices such as living at home. Really, your focus should be your business and growing that business because it's means for survival.

Chunk 3 is a tricky one. As adults, I think naturally we tend to drift apart from friendships that we may have maintained in another space and time, but as we grow and our relationships grow, we may not necessarily continue with that same friendship compatability. This is perfectly fine and ok. This just means that you need to make some new friends. What I see as an easy way to address Chunk 3 is to join a group of people who share a common interest. You obviously love photography (as evidenced by Chunk 2), so why not join a photography club? No photo clubs around? What about looking into some gigs with local newspapers, magazines, hell - even wedding photo companies, etc.? It could be a great way to meet new people, enjoy what you love and also build your portfolio. Chunk 4 will come along when the other Chunks are in sync. This is something I realized myself. You need to make yourself happy through Chunks 1-3 before Chunk 4 can begin to materialize.

Datapoint: When I had my big life do-over opportunity, I got on top of Chunk 1 and threw myself into Chunk 2. When those were under control, I joined a local sports club to address my Chunk 3 and Chunk 4 came along shortly after.

This is an opportunity, so leverage it.
posted by floweredfish at 7:44 AM on April 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

Since you seem to be pretty passionate and excited about your business, even though everything else in your life right now is leaving you disappointed, maybe you could focus on trying to create a social life that complements your professional life. I know that living in a rural area your options are probably limited, but have you tried seeking out photography or music meetups? What about classes or professional development seminars for small business owners? Is there a larger town within a reasonable traveling distance that you could get to now and again for events like these?

It sounds to me that at this point, anything that gets you out of the house and talking to new people is good. And if you do something related to your work, as a bonus, you won't be stuck with that feeling of having nothing to talk about.
posted by BlueJae at 8:12 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd think you'd have a better chance of personal and professional success in a less isolated area. I understand funds are tight, but if you can find any way to scrape some $$ together, target a place you'd like to live and check it out. I don't know much about the world of electronic music photography, but surely a larger city would have more opportunities for any photographer. You said that you don't see these "friends" very often--maybe starting over in a new place without past baggage might make you happier and more productive. Do you know anyone who might be able to help you relocate?
posted by Ideefixe at 8:35 AM on April 20, 2012

I give you a lot of credit for continuing in an arts-related career that you like: a lot of people would have caved and gone for a more secure but soul-sucking option. (Same thing on the dating/marriage scene, too). I don't have any more to contribute in terms of answers since the comments above are all very good, but wanted to stop in to give you some props. I think you should give yourself some credit too, but easier said than done on that front.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:44 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you are uncomfortable with online dating that's fine, but if you give it a chance you might meet some nice people. Casual dating can be fun, and it gets you out of the house. You're never obligated, obviously, to meet someone or continue to meet someone you don't like.
posted by Glinn at 8:53 AM on April 20, 2012

Yay for you! You are rebuilding your life into something excellent for yourself. This is bound to be a little lonelier than the familiar path your married with kids friends are on, but only until you find the people who are on your path with you.

Stay focused on YOUR goals and work towards them. Connect with people online who are interested in similar things and find ways to connect with them in real life.

32 is not too old to find new friends or build a new career and the mommy-track is rarely compatible with building a business. Which isn't to say that moms hate entrepreneurs, just that they likely want you to be happy the way they are... And that doesn't have to be right for you.

Living at home for awhile is also nothing to be ashamed of - our economy has definitely made financial independence harder to achieve. PLUS you're there because you made a choice to get out of bad situation with your ex and that's just smart.

Trust your gut.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:54 AM on April 20, 2012

I sent you a memail--
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2012

I agree with Ideefixe. You should move to a larger city where you are not isolated and can meet people with similar interests. I love electronic music as well and was raised in a very rural area. I'm currently finishing up graduate school, and plan on moving to a much larger city this summer.

I can't imagine your business doing well in a rural location. I really think you will need a second job in order to provide yourself with some stability. Of course, I'm from the U.S. where electronic music is not very popular, but if you are in Europe things may be different. Living with your parents is not a good situation. It gives others the impression that you are a liability.

On the positive side of things, you have an opportunity to meet much better friends. Consider joining social groups that you share an interest with. If you live in a rural area where such social groups do not exist, I think you will have to move at some point. Note that it is a lot harder at your age to meet people in a rural area because people tend to marry and have children and a younger age. If you move to an urban area, there are lots of singles in the 25-35 range.

Here is your plan of action:

1. Get more income
2. Develop a plan to move to a larger city where there is a good EDM scene where you can pursue your interest
3. Save money, visit different cities, inquire about the vibe of the EDM scene
4. Execute the move
5. Join groups -- preferably in person -- that share your interests
6. Meet people, make sure they are good people, hang out?
7. Social life!!!
posted by Jurbano at 9:03 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm in a somewhat similar situation myself: 38, single as of last year after a long term relationship, a stay at home freelance illustrator, with very few local friends (most are either married and busy with children, or have simply moved away over the years during which I was in the LTR).
Although I cannot offer any immediate solution, I have come to the conclusion that it may help me to seek a little part time work to simply put a spoke in the wheel of isolation, to mix things up a bit, take a few risks. I find that many people who share exactly the same interests as me do not necessarily make the best friends: a dilemma which has puzzled me for most of my life. For example, joining local groups which involve my creative interests didn't really work for me and felt somewhat contrived, to tell the truth. I am a great believer though that friendships can be formed in the strangest of situations, and simply remaining open, or 'putting yourself out there' can open doors that we would never have considered going through had we kept our focus within a narrow sphere.

One idea might be to progress with any friendships made online (I work mostly via the web, from home), perhaps organizing meetups with people who you feel an affinity with. I haven't actually done this myself, but there are a couple of people online who have been pretty decent friends over the years and I really ought to make more effort!

Most importantly though, please don't allow the concept of a romantic relationship become your primary focus just yet. I have no idea why people seem to 'pity' us single thirty somethings to the extent where they are constantly urging us to consider dalliances with pretty much anyone rather than remain untethered. You don't have to prescribe to this mindset, and I get the feeling from your post that you might be at odds with it anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, or your creative/life choices - if anything this adds an extra dimension to your personality, it tells me that you have integrity and talent and that you are not afraid to buck the usual trend (mortgage/marriage/kids by 30). You are simply on a different timeline to these people, which is common for those of us who follow a creative/independent path, and I often think that they simply don't know what to do with us! Perhaps they perceive us to be a little too free-floating, adrift in a sea of potential that most folks often equate with teens or graduates, not thirtysomethings. It's tricky, but try not to internalize this as a negative: it is merely a pattern that you haven't conformed to. It is so important to remember that how you perceive yourself (internally) will affect the decisions you make, what you will settle for, and how you allow other people to behave towards you. If you are happily single, your friends ought not to try fixing what isn't broken.

Start, at least, with your mindset. You are not difficult or unusual, but you are most certainly a still-very-young successful creative with a long time ahead of you to worry about true love. Make some small resolutions to try out new things, take a few risks that may open new doors, but above all remain true to your vision and self fulfillment, let the people around you know that you are OK!
posted by noella at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think it makes a lot of sense that you want to make more friends who are single and in the arts scene and focused on their jobs rather than starting a family to complement your current friend group of married folks with new families who work in non-arts fields.

Agreeing with everyone who says that this is going to be super hard living in a rural area. If I had moved back in with my dad when I was 32, I would have had a ready-made social circle--about half of my friends from childhood would have been married with a bunch of kids, and still been living in the same town and teaching in the local high school or working at the local health clinic or as police officers, firefighters, etc. (Which is totally awesome, and I can't wait to see them all at my high school reunion in October, and I love seeing photos of their kids on Facebook and so forth!)

But I know that I wouldn't have been able to reconstruct the social circle I have here in the city, especially my circles of fellow writers and of visual artists and dancers and musicians and actors and chefs and bartenders, because people who do those jobs don't live in my home town. They can't, because there's no place for them to work.

So. Until you're in a financial position where you can move back to a city where there are lots of other people in the music scene and the arts scene and lots of other single people and lots of other people who don't have young kids--in other words, a pool of people who share the interests you have right now--you're going to have to enjoy the time with your high school friends from where they are, and find ways to meet people who are where you are. Maybe events in the largest big city? Maybe saving up so that you can go to music festivals or photography conferences? Taking a week-long photography class at a college or university?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2012

Also agree that online dating isn't really going to answer this issue, because either you'll meet someone who has the interests and focus you'd like to be having--and that person is going to be living in a city far away--or you'll meet someone who lives in the next town over and who is the assistant principal at the junior high or whatever, and my guess is that you and they aren't going to mesh in terms of near-term and long-term goals.

If I were in your position, I would say to friends who are all "Oh, you should be dating" something like "I'm still getting over the horrible breakup with [Ex] and I'm really focusing on building my business right now. When I'm ready to date again, I'll let you know and we can brainstorm some ideas."

Then I would have delightful flings with random cool people I met at music festivals or photography conferences.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:31 AM on April 20, 2012

Hi Everybody :-)

I have to say there are some really good suggestions here and I greatly appreciate everybody taking their time to help me out of this predicament...

I'm actually in the UK so I do have the advantage that the scene I like is quite popular :-) I think the next move will be to London (I have done voluntary work in a nightclub for the past 5 years, so have some kind of head start on the job front). You are right that I need to move to a city and I think I also need extra work to supplement my income from the photography..My previous job was quite 'safe' but not as much as I thought with the end outcome! I'm not really sure what I'd do as a second income..I was quite burnt from the previous job on that front..

What's great is that all of you have broken it down into chunks and that really helps, it was so overwhelming before :-(

I think my main problem is just chronic lack of confidence and self esteem from what has gone before...It's nice to know that feeling like this is normal in the situation I'm in, it makes me feel less alone...

Thank you!!
posted by Soundgirl at 10:13 AM on April 20, 2012

One thing that may help in the short term is to volunteer. It doesn't need to be with an organization, it can be with those old friends or even friends of your parents'. Somebody needs help painting a new baby room or clearing out their old kids' rooms? Offer to help. You may expand your social circle to people at different stages, and it gives you something to do so that you don't feel awkward as you try to "socialize".

Caveat: only do this when you actually want to, and feel free to refuse if people keep inviting you Only to their barn-raising/quilting bee/painting party. But short term socializing in a helpful way can help feel connected and build goodwill.
posted by ldthomps at 10:16 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are right that I need to move to a city and I think I also need extra work to supplement my income from the photography..My previous job was quite 'safe' but not as much as I thought with the end outcome! I'm not really sure what I'd do as a second income..I was quite burnt from the previous job on that front..

I'm not a photographer but would it be possible for you to do wedding photography on the side? That can pay pretty well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:16 AM on April 20, 2012

Soundgirl, in London, it seems, there's an emerging demographic of what large companies who like these kind of labels call "Slash/Slash" - if you memail an email address, I'll email you a largeish PDF file that describes this demographic and where they tend to hang out and what they do etc. It may just offer some ideas...

"Slash/Slash" comes from people being creative in a variety of fields i.e Hi, I'm soundgirl, I'm a photographer/nightclub volunteer etc etc
posted by infini at 10:31 AM on April 20, 2012

Seconding other photography gigs--baby photos, if all your chums have offspring? Do you have a website that displays your work?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2012

My website is here...I have done a few family shoots, but it's not something I'm familiar with but I do aim to change that :-)

posted by Soundgirl at 10:53 AM on April 20, 2012

I can't link me if you want to look...
posted by Soundgirl at 10:53 AM on April 20, 2012

You can usually link to your website in your profile, if that would help.
posted by ldthomps at 11:26 AM on April 20, 2012

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