I don't have a job or a boyfriend
February 27, 2014 3:27 AM   Subscribe

I am in my 30s and failing at life. Details inside.

I used to derive a lot of identity and happiness from my job. It was always on yearly contract renewal basis but after so many years I took it for granted. Few months back I found out that my contract won't be renewed and I will be unemployed in few months time.

At first, I thought that landing a new good position would be easy but I soon found that it is not the case. I have been looking for a job for 3 months now (a career job rather than just anything) and failed to find it. Financially, I can make do with some casual non-career work so it's more the sense of failure than anything.

Also, after my last LTR ended 2 years ago, I casually dated but haven't met anyone I clicked with. I am starting to feel really lonely but at the same time burnt out from so many dates that went nowhere.

I feel like 2 measures of life success are career and love life and I am failing on both counts. I am starting to avoid my friends because each time I see them I get questions like : "Found a job yet? What's new on the man front?". Those questions ruin the whole outing for me.

How do I deal with the questions short of avoiding my friends? And more importantly how to deal with this overwhelming sense that my life is going nowhere?
posted by sabina_r to Human Relations (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You could complain. Seriously, listening to you crab about the bad stuff is part of what friends are for. Don't become a big whiny mess who is never any fun to be around, but if you're going through a rough time you have every right to talk it out with your friends. Maybe they'll have some good advice.

Are you working on your problems? Are you making an honest effort? If so, then stop kicking your own butt for not being where you want to be in life. The more you kick your own butt, the more bruised up your butt gets and the harder it will be to get stuff done. Just keep working on figuring out your career and love life, and give yourself credit for perseverance.

Also: 30 is a lot younger than it feels.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:47 AM on February 27, 2014 [17 favorites]

Maybe you need to share your feelings about all this with your friends. Are you putting on a brave face to the extent that they think they can address these issues lightly, without upsetting you? Perhaps it would help to let your friends know that you've been feeling a lot of pressure (from yourself as much as other people) about these two things.

Don't avoid your friends. Friendships should provide a source of comfort and a feeling of success too. Friends (and family) are your support network. They should be there for you at times like this. Take advantage of this.

Also, buying into the popular notion that life is a set of upward steps towards some ultimate level of fulfillment is a good way to set yourself up for disappointment. You are not a failure. But you do sound like someone who puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on themself and maybe attributes too much of their sense of self-worth to notions of career and love-life.

(on preview, Ursula beat me to a lot of this stuff while I was farting about changing words)
posted by pipeski at 3:50 AM on February 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

yea, I can totally relate, right around when I was your age I was single for a few years, and the job I was really attached to was dissolving around me. Every time I talked to my mom, she'd ask "how's your lovelife?" and it would totally bum me out. Finally I told her that the question was making me sad, and I promised to tell her as soon as there was any news. I'm sure you can give your friends the same speech - they are asking because they care about you, and they want to hear good news, without thinking how you feel about not having any to give. It is extra important to keep in touch with friends at a time like this, for support, as well as for the possible career and romantic contacts. They will understand, you just have to tell them how you're feeling.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:56 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is no such thing as failing at life. If you're alive, you've won. Screw what your friends think.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:05 AM on February 27, 2014 [21 favorites]

Just going to link you to a gem of a comment by pretentious illiterate. The details of that OP are not exactly the same as yours, but I think/hope you'll find PI's words helpful and heartening all the same. I know I do!

You may not have achieved the perfect life you dreamed of when you were seven, or twenty-one, but you made the best decisions you could given the options that were offered you [...] That has to be enough, because what else is there? We're all there with you, muddling through it together.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:12 AM on February 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you have a lot of time on your hands. AWESOME.

When you were working, or in your last relationship, did your mind ever drift and think, "Blarg this is kinda lame. I wish I could __________ if it weren't for work / boyfriend." Go do that thing!

Review this question. There was another the other day about dealing with regrets from your 20s. Seriously, our 30s are apparently about doing all the things we were too chickenshit to do in our 20s. If not now, when?

Find new hobbies and new ways to identify yourself with yourself. Our lives may not always be on the trajectory we though (career, relationships), but what's so amazing is that we're still on a trajectory towards death (bear with me here), but we are in full control of how high we can arc.

If you start pursuing your random interests, soon your friends won't be asking about jobs or men, they'll be asking about what neat thing you're doing next. And bonus!! These things can lead to networking and meeting the tall dark and handsomes over common interests.
posted by mibo at 4:16 AM on February 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I feel like 2 measures of life success are career and love life and I am failing on both counts.

I hear you. We are socialized to believe those things. A lot of the stories we see and hear are about people finding meaning in their work and their love life. But what if those stories aren't always true or don't tell the whole story.

You cannot find career success alone. That kind of success requires other people, to support your work or at a minimum to buy what you are selling. And you obviously can't find romantic success alone either. You need the right person -- and to find the right person, you probably need a population or a community.

Defining your life success in these ways means you can never be entirely in control of your own life success. It will always depend in part on other people. And you can't control other people; you can only control yourself, and that only within limits. So if this is how you define life success, it's important to understand as well where responsibility lies. It does not, on this definition, lie entirely with you because some of it is a matter of things you can't control.

So, if this is the definition of life success that you wish to hold on to, then I think you must be kind and graceful with yourself, because you might do everything within your power and still not have life success as you have defined it. Other people might not do their part, and that will be out of your control and not your responsibility even if you feel they are obligated to do their part.

And if you wish to change your definition of life success, you can do that as well, to a definition that is within your own ability to control and accomplish. This kind of success might be something that feels much smaller and more personal -- it might even feel insignificant at first. That's fine. That is just you recognizing that your power, which is considerable when you think about it, really stops with you.
posted by gauche at 4:55 AM on February 27, 2014 [13 favorites]

I know it can be discouraging when your friends ask these questions; I have been in your shoes and in the shoes of the insensitive friends asking the questions. Echoing what others have said to share what is going on with your friends. Who knows, they may know a another acquaintance whose company is looking for someone with you skills.

Also, would it help to prepare yourself to have answers to these questions before meeting with people? (they are common things that people will tend to ask about in general, even if you find a specific hobby or something some folks will definitely ask about these things at some point!)

Friend: "Found a job yet?" You: "Not yet, I just had a phone screen interview that seems promising. I should hear more by the end of the month" OR "No, today I had an interview but they were looking for someone to do ABC and I am looking for and XYZ position. What's going on with you job?"

New Acquaintance: "What do you do for work?" You: "I've been doing XYZ for the past few years. My contract is ending in a few months, and I'm looking to move into ABC. How about you?"

It seems like you are fearing (understandably!) going out and talking with friends but they are your friends because they care about you and want to support you in what you are going through in your life. Ironically going out with your friends could lead to meeting more acquaintances could potentially help find a job and a boyfriend!
posted by seesom at 5:02 AM on February 27, 2014

I just want to chime in to amplify the "30 is a lot younger than it may feel" sentiment. You are so young. Take your time and try not to get discouraged.
posted by norm at 5:40 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're not failing at life. Stop measuring yourself by what other think.

First, on the job front. Keep plugging away. Get out there and network. At your old position did you work on specific projects for specific customers? Go to their websites and see if they're hiring. Be sure to highlight the work you've done for them on your resume.

I hate to be a cliche, but it's a numbers game, the more you apply for, the more of a chance you'll be hired. Can you go to a project placement firm like Aerotek for more long term contract work until you find a great career possibility?

I like LinkedIn, I got my last two jobs there. So look there. Simply Hired is pretty good for gathering all the jobs up in one place, it's not perfect, but it is comprehensive.

As for dating. Yeah, put that on the back burner. Invest more time in social outings with your friends. Casually let them know that you're interested in being fixed up, but don't focus on it. The busier you are, the more you have going on, the better your chances of meeting and connecting with folks who could turn into boyfriends.

If some development in the skill area would help you add more to beef up your resume, do that. I always tell folks, "you'll never starve if you're good at Excel." Besides, you'll have a class to go to and people to meet while you're there.

Sometimes we have troughs in our lives. We get blue about it, and feel out of sorts. Acknowledge that this is one of those times. It's temporary. Soon enough, you'll have secured a new job, you'll have some intersting dudes in your life and you have friends who want nothing but the best for you.

Hang in there. I promise, you'll find a job and you'll get a boyfriend. It may not be instantaneous, but you're going to be all right no matter what.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:07 AM on February 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

When career or hobby defines a person, and then the career or hobby is no longer there, it just means the person has to shed the skin, right? Sounds like you're in that uncomfortable transitional phase of shedding old skin, but you'll find your new skin, again and again, and the experiences you've had (past jobs, identities) give you character.

It might just happen that you'll meet your partner once you start doing your next big thing. Once you even begin to start seeing what your next "identity" will be, you'll connect with someone who'll see you as sabina_r who does this cool thing and used to do that cool thing, and you'll be on a higher level at that point.

Anyway, I've been there, and I'll be there again, and it can be exciting. You'll get past this.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 6:20 AM on February 27, 2014

The thing is, for as long as you decide to not give in to torpor each day brings new potential. Yesterday does not determine tomorrow. Amazing things happen to people all the time so why not you?

Keep applying for jobs and yourself open to connections with people.

In the inimitable words of someone who's probably not a role model but by god she never gave in - tomorrow is another day.
posted by h00py at 7:07 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've gotten all my best jobs through friends. Maybe you could consider asking them for help and introductions? It would make your conversations with them more positive and forward-looking.

I suppose the parallel would be to ask them to set you up with someone, but that's less effective in my experience. You can't rush dating, but you can expose yourself to as many people as possible. Make a profile on OKCupid, if you haven't already, and set a reasonable goal - a first date every week or every two weeks. Be ruthless second dates - you have to really want to see them again. And then let the numbers game play out until you meet someone you want to explore further.
posted by amaire at 7:28 AM on February 27, 2014

Also, hopefully your friends aren't saying "what's new on the man front?" to be disrespectful or mean, maybe they are trying to live vicariously through you?

I have a GORGEOUS friend, oh my god, she is stunning. She is also single and struggles to meet men that she connects with. I always enjoy seeing her to hear about her dating escapades because it's funny and charming and I genuinely want her to be happy and find someone who is worthy of her. But, if she said to me "I really don't want to talk about the man situation" I would fully understand and we could talk about something else.
I've been with my man for so long that I kind of miss dating sometimes and it's exciting to live vicariously through someone else.

Don't stop seeing your friends because you don't want to talk about the man thing or the job thing, just pre-empt it with them that you DON'T want to talk about that stuff before you go.

Also, I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason and don't give up just because it hasn't happened yet! You sound mature and intelligent and level headed and I'm sure you're just in a rough patch right now but you'll get through it.... keep your chin up!
posted by JenThePro at 7:28 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation. Someone reminded me recently that this is a rare and valuable time--time to reinvent yourself, to figure out what really brings you joy, to be free and get to know yourself better.

Maybe you don't have these underlying concerns...but I just wanted to say that your job and relationship status, while certainly big aspects of almost anyone's identity, are not *you.* I'm trying to remember that and to see this time in my life as an opportunity.
posted by pril at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2014

Sure, you can define your success at life based on having the best partner or career, and a lot of people do, but most people can find more happiness by putting those things lower on the list of things that are important in life. Start developing strong interests that are outside of your career and partner. It could be anything but would be more helpful if it isn't a passive interest like going to concerts, watching sports, or drinking. Find a hobby that involves you and allows you to develop mentally and/or physically.

All of those athletes at the Olympics that didn't win medals aren't losers, they have developed something which gave their lives strong meaning beyond their careers. Do the same. Define yourself with some interest - it can be minor to begin with but as you put more time and effort it will become major. There are so many things that are open to you I hesitate to even make a small list. My interests tend towards drawing, researching, working at various non-profits, biking, photography, etc all of which are outside of my career but they define me more than my career. My career is simply a job that pays for my activities that are really important. Use this opportunity to build interests that define you.
posted by JJ86 at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2014

"Failure" would imply you had done something wrong, and you haven't, for all the reasons gauche described. Unemployment is a systems thing, for most people these days. There are people hanging onto jobs who shouldn't be, if there were such a thing as meritocracy. So reframe that, you didn't fail. It's luck.

Push push push for work to improve your odds, and do not drop out of the world, that will not help your odds.

Life is long and things change, sometimes fast - this is temporary.

Take care of yourself now - protect yourself and your energy so you can be in a place to take good luck when it comes.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:49 AM on February 27, 2014

I have found both things really painful in the past and now neither bother me.. and I've been thinking about why and if/how it might help.

A few observations..
When people meet at a party that "what do you do?" question comes and what it really means is 'what is your/ (my) job?' Why?
Seriously.. why? You are the sum of 30+ years of life experience and way more than your job.. maybe exploring some other distant parts of yourself could give some continuity/boost to that shakiness just now.

When people ask me about men.. it kind of irks me a bit these days, not in a major way.. but I kind of think a) I'm not 15 b) I've got plenty of other things to do c) if your own relationship is really that great why are you working so hard at trying to convince me how great relationships are or attempting to set me up (uninvited) with some horrendous, completely inappropriate specimen d) is that question really even that.. interesting?

It's just a somewhat rude (?) convention.. it wouldn't be considered ok to ask "how come your still married?".. so who made that rule?

It sounds a cliche but you do have time to work on your relationship with yourself - your primary relationship - your constant. Give that the time it needs just now that's the relationship that needs the TLC.

On a practical note a careers counsellor could be a good sounding board that could take you in an unexpected direction..
posted by tanktop at 11:16 AM on February 27, 2014

People are just asking what's new on the man front because people like to talk about their love lives. It isn't a referendum on whether or not you're dating anyone. Relationships are interesting and people like gossip. Why don't you just tell your friends the truth? Everyone -- no matter how together they seem -- has had job issues and boy problems. You're also allowed to say, when they ask these things, "ugh, shitty. I don't want to talk about it. Hey, did you watch True Detective this week?" (or whatever you do want to talk about.)

You're not a failure. Literally every human in the world has been unemployed or single and sometimes both at the same time -- I certainly have! These things almost always work out eventually, it's just that getting to "eventually" has moments where it blows. Hang in there.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2014

These in-between transition times in life are brutal.
But, the vast majority of people I know that have been laid off land in a position that is much, much better.
Waiting around for life to happen is terribly hard, but you will get a break, no one is forever unemplyed/unhappily single.
Keep yourself busy, work your connections, go outside!
posted by littlewater at 12:55 PM on February 27, 2014

This happened to me last year.

I made the gamble to relocate to a new city without a job waiting for me, believing I could find something in my field based on my strong resume and track record. But it was a lot harder than I thought, and I spent several months unemployed, and several more months underemployed, working outside my field, and generally career insecure.

I also got out of a somewhat serious relationship right around the time I turned 30, and while I've dated casually during the last three years, I haven't found anyone I was excited about since then.

Until last fall, things were looking really hopeless. I pretty seriously thought that this would be my life forever: work a shitty day job, barely make ends meet, probably not ever have real love or relationship stability in my life.

But I am here to tell you that it gets better. I now suddenly find myself with a job in my field. My plate is full of side projects and creative work (most of which I loaded up during that year when I felt like I had nothing going on). I don't want to call it a New Year's Resolution, but I rang in 2014 resolving to go back to dating, and it's been surprisingly not awful.

I literally woke up this morning wondering how my life could possibly be as amazing as it is now when less than six months ago I was sobbing on the phone to a friend back in New York, saying I had nothing to live for and would probably die in a ditch.

So hang in there. It is possible you will spend some time feeling like you have a shitty life. You could have that rock bottom sobbing on the phone moment. This is probably not going to be easy. But it's not forever. I promise.
posted by Sara C. at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

My story is a lot like Sarah C's. I ended a job and an 8 year relationship the same week (got made redundant) when I was 29. But what I found out was that so much of it is perspective. Sure, I had my moments when I wallowed in the whole I don't have a man thing, but seriously, mostly I remember telling myself that soon enough I would find my life partner and this was probably my last chance to enjoy being single.

In my head, my future husband was waiting for me somewhere and this was my last chance to enjoy first dates, first kisses, the butterflies in my stomach, not knowing where things would end up - the whole fun part of falling in love and meeting new people and not knowing where things would go. I decided to give myself over to the experience.

The same thing with my job. I didn't like the job I'd had anyway and my career allowed for a lot of travel and the idea I could end up pretty much anywhere and I had no idea what my future looked like - well you could view that as terrifying or exciting but I decided to embrace it. I ended up being single for around two and a half years, dated up a storm and then met my future husband a month before I moved interstate to look for new work. I landed the best job of my career, doubled my wage, partied my ass off and started dating this guy long distance.

Fast forward and we're married, house, two kids and the whole shebang. But it pretty much turned out like I thought it would - you will end up with someone, almost certainly, so you might as well enjoy the journey! And as much as I love my husband and our life, yeah, I was right, assuming we don't get divorced, there never will be any more first kisses, and I don't have the luxury now of packing up my life at a moment's notice and moving across the country. There are a lot of benefits and fun to being single and unattached. Revel in it, because it won't last forever - there is a time for everything, and this is your time to be single and focus on you.

Somewhere out there, there are people who are really jealous of your freedom! Go have fun!
posted by Jubey at 4:00 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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