I am feeling very unsettled. What should I do?
November 12, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I am feeling very unsettled. What should I do?

First off, I should let you know where I am in life. Here is a little backstory.

I am 25 years old (to be 26 in a few months) and live a very comfortable life. I have an awesome, salaried, creative job, live in a fantastic apartment by myself, have amazing friends and an awesome girlfriend. Everything on paper says that I should feel very accomplished, which I do, but I also feel extremely unsettled and restless.

I have always felt restless and thought it would be something that passed with time, but it has become unbearable at this point.

I want to move and start completely fresh. A different job, a new city, new friends, etc.

If I take a step back, this sounds extremely selfish and sounds ridiculous. Why start fresh when I have an awesome job, friends and a girlfriend?

I don't want my girlfriend to move with me (and I know she wouldn't leave anyways), so if I do move, we would have to break up. This doesn't sit well with me. She is awesome and I think I am bit old to be making a decision like this.

So, let me ask you, what would you do in my situation? Does the unrest pass at a certain age? Will I regret it if I don't drop everything and go on an adventure? Will I regret it if I do drop everything I have and go on an adventure?
posted by *lostatsea* to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What are you doing that is creative? Are you engaging your brain in anything, big or small? What about your passions? Do you have any hobbies? It's really nice to have some daily tension in life, so that you're continually striving for something that is yours. Something to own and master. Even if that something is as simple as a bookshelf organized by color.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:02 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

By creative, having a creative job doesn't count per se, because that is your brain borrowed for somebody else's purpose.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:03 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree with the above, you need some challenges. Take up an instrument you've never played, get yourself in shape for a marathon, do some volunteer work. Adventures can be found anywhere, even in your own backyard.

You may also have a mild case of depression, so consider meeting with a therapist.
posted by mareli at 11:10 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I currently hold a job designing for other clients. This may something to do with it, I would love to work on a product somewhere.

I should clarify another part of how I am feeling as well. I absolutely love what I do and think I am very good at it. In my current city, I have reached the top of where I can go in my current city. I think that is another part of the itch, I would love to move out to a better job at some point too. But I know I would have to leave everything to do that.
posted by *lostatsea* at 11:10 AM on November 12, 2012

So, figure out something to do in your free time that's either just for you, or that will make you smarter/better/cooler/more interesting--learn a language, a new skill, join a sports team, make a movie, learn to sing or play an instrument, learn to cook, and so on. Or make do something that makes you some extra money, so you can travel to some place that you might want to move to.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:15 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

My sister and her husband are about to be 30 in a few months, and are planning to quit their jobs and move to another country for fun. Why not start fresh? You can stay in touch with your friends. Why is it selfish? You don't want your girlfriend to move with you, so the only selfish thing I can see is that you're going to continue dating her if you don't move, even though you don't appear to see her as a long-term option anyway (unless she knows that and is ok with it).

Further, you say that you'll eventually have to move if you want to advance professionally. If that's the case, you're either saying that you never want to advance, or you're just putting off the move (and breakup). It's far easier to move now at 25, which is still very young, than it will be at 30 when you have built up even more inertia and posessions and friendships and time with your girlfriend.
posted by jacalata at 11:16 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Over the years, I've heard a lot more "man, I should've done that crazy-ass thing that probably wouldn't have panned out" than "doing that crazy-ass thing that didn't pan out was a huge regret." Hell, I did a crazy-ass thing that didn't pan out and while I can't say for sure I would or wouldn't try to dissuade Young Griph from making that decision, I most certainly do not regret doing it.

And if you think you're too old to do this at 25, how hard do you think it'll be when you're 40 and the feeling still hasn't gone away?
posted by griphus at 11:17 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you ever heard of "pulling a geographic"? I've known a few people who would uproot and do a cross-country move from time to time, out of a sort of general feeling of malaise. But they never were particularly more content in whatever new place.

Whatever the problem is, I don't think ditching everything good that's going on now in your life is going to fix it. What about taking some time off work and traveling somewhere exotic for a few weeks? Sit on a mountain in Tibet or somewhere and think through things. Then you can have a healthy change of pace without abandoning your life.

To some extent, a fleeting, here-and-then-gone-again feeling of angst from time to time is just part of being a human being. It doesn't matter so much where you are.
posted by mermily at 11:22 AM on November 12, 2012 [9 favorites]

Sounds like a quarter life crisis! And I agree with everyone, 25 is a good age to do something different. The later you wait, the unhappier you'll be. Whatever it is you want to do, your girlfriend will understand. You'd probably have to give her the 'it's not you, it's me' line but at least when you say it, it really is you. Good luck!
posted by brokenwitch at 11:27 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recognize why people don't want to jump to this too fast, but I genuinely would consider therapy or even medicine. If your life is great but you're still feeling unhappy to the point of it being "unbearable", something is probably wrong. It might be the job, it might be the girlfriend, it might be that you're not actually ready to feel happy. My psychiatrist once told me, as we agreed to up my meds, "Don't quit your job until you stop crying all the time.". This might be a similar situation.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:29 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're 25...that's a perfect age to try something new! Honestly, the worst that can happen is that you'll realize you like where you were and you move back.

Don't wait until you have a mortgage, children, and lots of other obligations you'd have to deal with before doing this. Your 20s should be about exploring as much as you can.
posted by xingcat at 11:30 AM on November 12, 2012

Response by poster: Looks like I am getting some mixed answers to this. Some are saying to go for it and not look back, others are saying to try something different where I am at. Has anyone ever done anything like this and feel regrets? Or, has anyone ever not done this and feel regrets for not trying it when they could have?

I am not at a place where I want to settle down yet. I don't want to settle into a job, relationship, etc. I think there is a point where I will, but I feel like I need to get this out of the way first. I know that means starting over on tons of different levels. But I can't get this feeling to go away.

I have tried something like this before, and realized that the grass is not greener on the other side. So I would not make the decision out of naivety. A few years ago I broke up with my girlfriend and started a new job. I don't regret it, I am completely different now because I did that.

I guess my fear this time around is that I will realize what I did have and actually regret changing things. This would be a bigger change than before. But I am the type of person who loves taking chances.
posted by *lostatsea* at 11:56 AM on November 12, 2012

I don't want my girlfriend to move with me (and I know she wouldn't leave anyways), so if I do move, we would have to break up.

If you only want to date her while you're living in your current city, and don't want her to come with you on this new adventure, and you don't want to settle into a relationship in general, then why are you worried about having to break up with her when you move? Obviously, it sucks to have to break up with someone, but you don't seem that attached to her (given that you don't want her to come with, in an ideal scenario, correct?) and if she's as awesome as you say, she'll land on her feet.

You can always try something new in your current town and see if that helps, and THEN move if it doesn't. It's not an either/or. But 25 is NOT too old for this kind of thing. You're not married, you have no kids, you are VERY young still. 25 is in fact the perfect age for this kind of thing.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:07 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are getting mixed answers, because you are giving mixed messages.

I suggest make the move now, and let your GF off the hook.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:19 PM on November 12, 2012

Response by poster: @Kruger5 What mixed answers do you feel I am giving? Anything I am not making clear?
posted by *lostatsea* at 12:26 PM on November 12, 2012

Here's a piece of advice that I've found helpful in this type of situation, open to your own interpretation:

You can run away if you want, but you need to have something to run towards.
posted by dogwalker at 12:32 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did something similar when I was your age.

It basically came down to me asking myself "If I don't do this now, will I spend the rest of my life wondering what would have happened if I'd just gone ahead and done it?" The answer was overwhelmingly "Yes, I will always wonder." So I did it. No regrets.
posted by erst at 12:32 PM on November 12, 2012

Yeah, it sounds like you need a jolt of energy. Ideas:

Arrange six weeks off of work and go WWOOFing in South America or Asia.
Quit your job and spend 6 months traveling abroad or teaching English abroad.
Move to a new apartment in a different neighborhood, or in the same neighborhood with new roommates.
Go shopping and get an almost entirely new wardrobe.
Get a dog.
Take tennis lessons or rock climbing classes or join a cycling team or some other new hobby.
Rearrange all your furniture and buy all new wall art.
Buy a great cookbook and cook one or two recipes a week all the way through.
Tell your girlfriend you are feeling restless and want to make an effort to mix it up - sexually, going on exciting dates, role playing, etc.
Make new friends - start making "dates" with new guy friends to watch the game or have a beer.
Host dinner parties and invite 5 people to each bring a plus one that none of the others know.
Apply to grad school.
Get involved with a non-profit you care about - get on the board of something.
Get a tattoo.
Get a totally new haircut. Shave your head.
Learn to salsa dance. really really well.

Or, to hell with it, just move.
posted by amaire at 12:42 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I did it at 31 years old, and regret not having done it sooner!

I'm currently considering another big leap, and have been for some time. I feel like mr. Jbenben and I are living in our current country/city almost as a "default" choice, and part of me longs to live internationally, again.

That said, I haven't internationally traveled in ages, so maybe a few adventures are in order - both for us and for you?

Maybe you can fly to the new city you are considering to check it out? And line up a few informational interviews in your industry while you are there visiting??

At 25 years of age, I say go for it!
posted by jbenben at 12:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am not at a place where I want to settle down yet. I don't want to settle into a job, relationship, etc.

You are at that place though. You have arrived at that place without having done the adventurous/memory-making/scrapbook-filling/storytelling events that you think should precede settling down. So that's why you feel uneasy, because you think these things happen in a certain order (and they do tend to for a lot of people, so you're not wrong to think that) and you're settling down out of order.

But the thing is, you don't have to do things in order. You can even do them in tandem. You can do amazing, exciting things with your girlfriend. You can do amazing, exciting things in your city. You can go skydiving or explore your city with a camera or train for a century ride or go wwoofing or pretty much anything you can think of, in your city or on a roadtrip, with or without your current friends & girlfriend, on extended leave from work without quitting, etc. You can live the comfortable life you've made for yourself while also feeding your (very reasonable and not selfish at all) need for adventure. Be creative and you really can have it all.

I want to move and start completely fresh. A different job, a new city, new friends, etc.

Under different circumstances this would be a great idea. Like if you were saying "I always wanted to teach English in the Peace Corps in Cameroon before settling down" or "I wanted to hike the AT before doing the office thing" but you're not saying there's anything specific you're driven to do. You just want to reject your current situation and seek its opposite. Don't walk away from what you have unless there's something you're actually walking toward.
posted by headnsouth at 12:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

To me, there is a difference between having two choices like:

1. stay in my awesome, comfortable life
2. take steps towards an identified goal that appears to be awesome


1. stay in my awesome, comfortable life
2. leave and do something different

The first outcomes of the first two choices seem to be more likely to be successful (either one) whereas with the second dichotomy the vague "do something different" may not work out and I can't help but wonder if whatever is causing your malise to just follow you to the new place. Kind of like people that jump from relationship to relationship with the same unhealthy dynamic without realising the problem is actually them, not always the other person.

So, I don't think this is necessarily a bad idea; maybe it needs to be fleshed out a little more (where to go? are the demographics good for meeting new people or is everyone over fifty and married? how is the weather? what are job prospects like? etc...)

Also, if you have never experienced unemployment as an adult do not discount exactly how much it really, really sucks. I know quite a few people that had a relatively brief period of unemployment early in their careers and they never did seem to get their feet back under them - I think employers tended to blame them for their unemployment (even if it had happened years before). It is much easier to obtain work while still employed. An awesome, well-paying job is not something to walk away from lightly.
posted by saucysault at 12:52 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you're young and you have very little to lose by completely uprooting, but it's important to know how to change your life without changing your surroundings. There will come a time when you can't easily move and start over, and the familiar restlessness will come knocking again, and you'll have to learn to satisfy it while staying put. Getting out of a rut by physically moving away from it is the kind of thing that's great to do once or twice, but if it's the only way out that you know, you'll end up being dissatisfied everywhere you go.

Sometimes when I daydream about uprooting and changing everything, it helps me to see the daydream through to the very last detail: in my new life in Some Other City, I'll suddenly have a spotless house and a Mid-Atlantic accent and really enjoy throwing dinner parties. And it's not the new location I want, it's that idealized version of me - which wouldn't ever materialize on its own. It's just as easy/difficult to become a New Me here as it would be there. When you think about uprooting, are you the exact same warts-and-all person in your fantasies, or does something about you magically change in the new environment? That might give you a clue.

It might also help you to think about whether there's anything specific you want to change or improve or accomplish. You have an awesome creative job, but does it really hit the spot? Is there a "when I grow up" dream from your childhood that you never got around to doing, and can you do it now? It's human nature to always want something to work towards; it could be that you're feeling restless because you've made all the progress you can for the time being, in which case you'd do well to figure out what your next goal will be.

Should you move? I don't think there's a definite yes or no answer here, which is why you won't get a consensus from us. I've had friends your age who've wanted to move, and talked about it in an escapist "we'll live under the sea!" way that made me think it wasn't such a good idea, and I've had friends your age who I thought really, really needed a change of locale to shake them out of their inertia. To me, it often seems like the people who are least likely to move are the ones who would benefit from it the most. Take from that what you will.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:06 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am not at a place where I want to settle down yet. I don't want to settle into a job, relationship, etc. I think there is a point where I will, but I feel like I need to get this out of the way first. I know that means starting over on tons of different levels. But I can't get this feeling to go away.

So apply for jobs with upward movement in NY, LA, etc. I have no idea why you think this is a feeling that should go away or that you should avoid; this is what your 20's is for. You have no major ties and no reason not to go do what you want to do. So go do that? Genuinely not seeing the problem here.

When I was 20-something I left my boyfriend, my parents, my city and all of my friends and moved to London. It was an adventure, and I have zero regrets. (And hey, if you do have regrets... move back. It needn't be forever.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:22 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I made similar moves about 5 or 6 times between the ages of 22 and 34 and spent a lot of off time between jobs just traveling. Most of the moves/ travels I am glad I did, a couple I kind of regret. Not the moving itself but that I didn't pick a better place or that I took a job that worked out poorly when I could have made a better choice. Sometimes I regret not leaving sooner or staying longer or getting more involved in something when I had the chance. Most of my regrets are just that I haven't stayed in touch with more of the awesome people I met moving around. But that was harder before everyone got reliable email and Facebook.

Would I do it all again? Absolutely. I have itchy feet, I always did. I would regret it horribly had I spent my entire life in one place, working a 9-5 job and not seen more of the world. A LOT of my friends are the same way and we're not all depressed or running away from life. Just the opposite in fact, I think we would see moving around and exploring new options as seizing life. If you have the urge, go now and do it while you have no ties. It's not a pathology and you're not necessarily running away from anything. Some people are happy to spend their entire life in one town and some live on sailboats moving on every couple of weeks. They're both totally fine options as long as it makes you happy.

And it's great for your career, nothing like being a new face in the pond to get some good opportunities.
posted by fshgrl at 1:24 PM on November 12, 2012

I'm 25 too, and my life sounds a lot like yours--fantastic girlfriend, cool job that I like, friends, etc. About twice a year I get absolutely fed up with everything, so I spin the globe (figuratively) and take off for a week or two. I'm always super happy to return to my awesome life after the fact.

I facilitate this by living in a cheap apartment and prioritizing discretionary income for travel. As far as I'm concerned, it's basically the whole point of being young and relatively unattached with a well paying job. If travel isn't what does it for you, figure out what does and make that an even higher priority than your job. But if you're not sure, a trip to someplace random is always a good place to start.

So I guess I'm suggesting something more than subjecting yourself to the day to day drudgery but not quite throwing away a life that seems pretty sweet for no particular reason. Your life is awesome and you have the means to make it even more so. YOLO, as the kids say.
posted by justjess at 1:41 PM on November 12, 2012

I guess my fear this time around is that I will realize what I did have and actually regret changing things. This would be a bigger change than before. But I am the type of person who loves taking chances.

I just left a good job in a city I like where I was starting to finally feel settled in after being there for two years to move abroad for graduate school (I'm 28). I've been here about two months and I can say with certainty that so far, I am not happier than I was about two and a half months ago. I'm actually experiencing way more social anxiety, am totally stressed out about work, and am missing the things that made my life kind of awesome during the six months prior to moving here.

However, I in no way regret moving here. I have started over in new cities and even countries enough times at this point that I am well aware that moving someplace new or making a big change in your life does not mean you will be happier. Happiness in any given situation is something that you have to work for and that often takes some time. I keep catching myself lately thinking nostalgically about home, but then I remind myself that if I hadn't moved here, I would probably be back home thinking about how boring my life is.

So in short, I agree with those who say that if you are feeling unsettled and like you still need some adventure in your life, don't worry over much about leaving a comfortable situation. A comfortable situation is something that you can always find again later (even if that might take some time as well once you decide that is what you want). If you have the means and the desire to pick up and have an adventure, go for it.
posted by Rinoia at 1:56 PM on November 12, 2012

Maybe you could enjoy some small rebellions? Since you worry a big move is "extremely selfish" more than wondering if it would help you, I'll guess that you might tend toward a people-pleasing personality. Try doing what you want, and choose to be around people who are happy when you do that. It's probably easiest to make this transition a little at a time, instead of with a big move.
posted by sninctown at 5:48 PM on November 12, 2012

I did this - I left a so-so relationship to join the Peace Corps and move halfway across the world. Not a single regret - I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I did this a second time a couple of years back - I moved halfway across America. It didn't work out as well as the first, but I still don't regret it. Seeing more of the world is almost always a good thing.
posted by zug at 6:22 PM on November 12, 2012

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