How do I fix my life?
April 26, 2016 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I am about to graduate college with a business degree, a mediocre gpa, and very little experience. I have not made a single friend in college or been in a relationship. I lived with my parents for the whole entire time in college and they expect me to be married before leaving the house. I tend to succumb to extreme laziness and procrastination. I can spend 8 hours daily on the internet instead of doing homework. This procrastination has seeped into my job search. Am I ever going to be prepared for life?

It took me an extra year and a half to finish school because of my major procrastination issues. There was one specific class where I failed catastrophically, where we had to write a 3,000 word essay. It took me three tries to finish this class, because I would procrastinate it to the point where I felt too embarrassed to show up to class. I've always had issues like this with schoolwork where I would wait until the last second to finish or study for anything. I've skipped exams because I did not feel I was adequately prepared for them. Or I've gone into the exam knowing that I did not prepare enough and failing them with expected disastrous results. Instead of studying, I will spend hours upon hours on the internet. I have a sink on my couch from sitting on it for so long. I literally have no other hobbies. I've realized that my academic issues spill over to other aspects of my life. So much of my drained self confidence comes from not being able to manage my time. Because of these results, I have not applied to any internships because I assumed that no one would ever waste their time on me. It has affected me socially as well, because for some reason I am so terrified of people knowing my secret that they would dislike me immediately.

Even when I have tried to make friends, I feel that I have been taken advantage of. In one case in particular, this person used me for rides to and from class. I think I knew that they disliked me from the beginning but for some reason I did not want to accept it until it blew up in my face. I have a quiet voice and people speak over me all the time. I do have some sort of social anxiety, I think. Often when someone tries to approach me for friendship I assume that they will think the worst of me. I do not think I am capable of making friends.

My parents expect me to stay at home until I am married with someone that they consider acceptable. I am not allowed out late at night. Despite their strictness, they do everything for me. I think a little bit too much for me. I feel that I am much too dependent on them and I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to take care of myself. I have thought about moving out before but I have about 25k in loans that I would like to take care of before I move out.

Most days I feel like everything is out of control. I do not have interest in doing much besides being on my laptop for hours a day. I don't know how to change and I'm afraid of failing. I don't know what to do anymore. I just feel like its too late to change. I spend too much time berating myself and feeling like I will never amount to anything. I am scared to be a friendless, jobless, thirty five year old living with my parents. This is the trajectory that I am going in right now. I just want to stop being afraid of everything and feel like I am capable of things. Help?
posted by sheepishchiffon to Human Relations (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
While you are still in college, is there a campus counselling service you can partake in?

Absent that, what I want to convey to you is this: the true lesson of adulthood, imho, is learning how to ignore the feelings and just do. I have seen this with my college-aged sister; she seems to think that proper adults teach this magical point where it's all resolved and done and perfect, and that is simply not true. She looks at me and says well, you are married, you have a job, you have done it, success! But a job is work. Marriage, even a good one, is work. You have to just push through the fear sometimes.

Example: I am learning to drive, as an adult. It is hard, and deeply scary. The instructor has just told me I am good enough now to go out with my husband and drive. I am terrified. I am worried I will screws it up, he's going to think I am a terrible driver, and he's never going to let me touch his car again. But you know what? Sh-- has to get done. A driver's license will open up my job prospects. It will make life easier now that we are expecting a child. It doesn't matter if I want to or not. It doesn't matter if I am scared or not. I just have to DO it.

A book you can read with might help you is 'Better Than Before' by Gretchen Rubin. She categorizes people based on different motivation types to help you figure out the motivation strategies which best suit your personality. I am the type which responds to external motivations e.g. the boss tells me to do something so I do it, the doctor tells me to take my vitamins so I take them. So I respond to the driving by saying well, my baby needs me to be able to do this. My husband needs me to be able to do this. And it bypassses the issue of whether I want to or not.
posted by JoannaC at 7:57 PM on April 26, 2016 [24 favorites]

Move out. Move out. Move out move out move out.

I know that it seems impossible to even think about moving out, and yes, it will be hard, but it will be even harder to make the changes you need to make in your life while living with your overprotective parents.

Do not wait until you pay off your student loans. I know the balance is daunting. Just start to think of it another dumb bill you pay every month, along with rent, utilities, etc. Don't spent too much time thinking about the balance.

It sounds like you haven't found something that makes you tick. That's okay. An awful lot of people choose wrong in college, and don't really figure out what they can be awesome at until their 30s or later.

Do something to break the couch lock. Force yourself to go without computers for one day a week. Go to the library and check out a book and then go to a bar and read it. There are few things I find more gratifying than reading a book at a bar and then returning it the same day.

Now is the time to explore. Go to a poetry reading. Go to a movie you wouldn't normally go to. Buy a Greyhound pass and ride around the country. Do things that scare you.

I deal with social anxiety too. And it's tough. There are no cheat codes to make it easier. But sometime around when I was your age, I started noticing other people like me in every social situation. People who wanted to be part of it but also wanted to be able to leave at any moment. And I started being friends with those people. I lived in a house of eight of them for awhile. And I found that when I was with people who wouldn't demand all of my energy, I started trusting them more and letting my guard down, and I started becoming the person I am now. I even found someone to fall in love with. But I could not have done any of those things if I'd have been putting huge amounts of pressure on myself to get married ASAP.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:16 PM on April 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you are on the internet a lot, you are doing something, not nothing. There are things there that keep your attention. What are those things there that interest you? Maybe give some thought to that in order to figure out what your passions are. It seems you need to find what motivates and excites you. I've heard good things about the book Drive but haven't read it myself. Might be worth a look.
posted by OCDan at 8:43 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

My depression can manifest in ghastly procrastination, and what you describe sounds very familiar to me. I'm seeing a therapist and taking medication, and even so I sometimes struggle with procrastination. I really hope you'll consider talking to a therapist soon. I don't even want to think about getting by without my shrink or meds. I'd probably just spend my life as a sad blob on the floor!

It sounds to me like you're really not passionate about business, and you may be sabotaging yourself to delay going out and getting started in this career you don't care about. I'm guessing you went for a "practical" major and now you feel trapped. If you've made it this far doing something you really don't want to do, that's impressive persistence! But it's persistence that needs to be applied to things you do care about.

Put some energy into figuring out what you really care about, and try to think of some way your degree could be applied to that. Whatever you're passionate about, odds are there are ways a business degree could be very useful. Every field is going to need somebody to run the business. If you find something you're passionate about, I bet you'll procrastinate a lot less.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:51 PM on April 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

You gotta move out. You don't need your parents' permission to move out. You don't need to have paid off your loans before you move out.

You do need income, but you can indeed get a job. You say you're about to graduate? You can still apply for internships now as a student. You could do an internship this summer. Even if it doesn't pay, or doesn't pay much, it'll give you experience.

Have you had any sort of job before, food service, etc.? I would suggest getting any kind of job now while you're still living at home, and save up enough for a deposit on a room in a shared house/apartment. The great thing for you about internships or grunt jobs is that time management won't be as much of an issue. You'll probably be given work to do in small tasks, or you'll just have to do the work in front of you (ie, make coffee, ring someone up). And if your loans are federal student loans, you can do income based repayment, where you basically pay around 10% of your monthly income. It takes longer to pay off but it's less painful now and you can increase your payments when you're making more money.

I can tell you as someone who has hired and managed recent grads - employers' expectations are not as high as you think they are. There's a reason recent grads make so little - you're kind of expected to need to learn on the job, and if your worst problem with professionalism is poor time management, you'll be doing a lot better than many other recent grads. That's not a knock on recent grads, but just a reflection that people do a lot of learning and growing their first few years in the workforce. I cringe at some of the things I did at that age, but it all worked out OK.

I really strongly feel that earning your own money and eventually getting out on your own will help you start to build the confidence you need. Once you're working and living with roommates and building that confidence, it will also probably be easier to meet people and make friends.

Oh and finally, it is definitely NOT TOO LATE to change. You are really, really young. I know it doesn't feel that way, but you are. You have your entire career and adult life in front of you.
posted by lunasol at 8:52 PM on April 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

How do you fix your life? By taking initiative. By minimizing procrastination to a point where you could function as an adult. When you move out, if you procrastinate on paying your bills.. guess what? Your electric gets cut off. Procrastinate on paying your car payments, your car gets repossessed. Missed a deadline due to procrastination? Well, you're fired now.

Basically, you get it if you want. If you want to fix your life and be on your own, then you do it. Sit down, get out a piece of paper and write down goals and timelines to accomplish them. Take one step at a time and make it happen.

First of all, before you do any of this. Congratulate yourself for a job well done. You are about to graduate. It doesn't matter how long it took, but that you finished. Make a choice today that kicking yourself while you're down, i.e. beating yourself up about procrastinating, is wasted energy you can use towards your goals. Make your life better. It doesn't need to be fixed. You just have to show up.

Take your life by the reins. Most importantly, know that your parents love you, but as an adult you really don't have to listen to them.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. If you "want to stop being afraid of everything and feel like" you are capable of things, then you have to *do those things*. It's about incremental change. Take that first step. Therapy may help. Feeling like you're capable will reinforce feelings of capability until you get into a feedback loop and you feel like you can take on the world. Which, you can. Only you are holding yourself back. Is that helping you? No, or you wouldn't be posting this Ask. Can you imagine what your life will be like in a year from now if you stop holding yourself back and push yourself forward? Easier said than done, I know. But you gotta at least try. If not for yourself, for these internet strangers that responded to you. We obviously believe in you.

Believe in yourself.
posted by lunastellasol at 9:31 PM on April 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't know what kind of organisations there are near where you live, or what you might possibly be interested in, but there's plenty to be said for taking on voluntaristic work in your community. More materially, it's good for working up the 'experience' column on a resume. It could be charitable, or religious, or educational, or a local emergency service, or even something like the Army Reserve, but it'll get you out of the house and give you a bit of confidence.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:44 PM on April 26, 2016

Procrastination like this is a lot harder to find opportunities for outside college. If you move out, get a job with fixed hours, and take a few small social risks (joining a meetup group, picking up some hobbies, volunteering) some of this might simply melt away. But I do recommend seeing a counsellor/therapist, in any case. Eight hours a day of procrastination sounds like me when I was most seriously depressed, on the verge of becoming non-functional. You're young and your situation is likely to change for the better once you get out of the relatively unstructured college environment; perhaps any depressive symptoms will vanish or shrink in a different situation. But it's worth protecting yourself, via therapy or whatever else, just in case.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:56 PM on April 26, 2016

Oh also, one specific resource on procrastination: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. It didn't 100% work for me, because it's not a cure for depression, but I found some of the concepts in there useful and I have friends who swear it changed their lives.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:00 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a lifelong procrastinator myself, I sympathize completely with you! Just so you know, the world is not divided into successful people who never procrastinate on the one hand, and horribly disgraced procrastinators on the other. There is a tiny minority of people with limitless energy and effortless organizational skills, but the rest of us are in a constant battle with our laziest impulses.

Because I myself am such a bad procrastinator, I've learned all sorts of tricks to help me get stuff done. Some techniques that have gotten me off my duff:

• A good to-do list, broken down into non-intimidating steps. If you look at your to-do list and item 1 is "Get A Job," you're naturally going to shut down and give up. Instead, break it down so that every step is something you can accomplish NOW. Instead of "Get A Job," you might write:
• Spend an hour revising my resume.
• Find one internship I can apply for.
• Find a second internship I can apply for.
• Email one professor to ask for a letter of recommendation.
• Email another professor to ask for a letter of recommendation.
• The Pomodoro technique. Basically, you choose an amount of time that you can stay focused for (25 minutes is traditional, but the important thing is to find a time that works for you.) You decide on a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and start work on that task. When the timer goes off, you set it for 5 minutes, and let yourself surf the web or whatever for 5 minutes. Then you go back to another 25 minute timer.

It's really simple, and it is ridiculous that it should make a difference, but somehow the knowledge that I can websurf guilt-free in 25 minutes is enough to make me stick with the task at hand.

The Pomodoro website kind of oversells it with books you can buy and courses you can take, but this is really just a version of the to-do list advice. It's overwhelming to think about being productive all day long, so just focus on being productive in short, manageable bursts.

• Pavlovian conditioning. Be aware of the habits you've fallen into and the associations you've made, and create new habits and associations centered around being productive. Choose a place in your house where you aren't used to websurfing, take the laptop there, and make yourself do something productive, even if it's only for three minutes. If you have to stop and surf the web, fine -- but before you start surfing, get up and take the laptop somewhere else. Eventually, you will come to associate your productivity spot with actually getting stuff done.

Besides doing geographical conditioning, you can do aural conditioning. Have a playlist of songs you only listen to when you're getting stuff done. Stop listening to it the instant you start surfing the web, and start it up again as soon as you get back to work. Eventually, just listening to the first song on the playlist will help get you in a productive frame of mind.

• Instapaper. I've found that a big time-suck for me is stumbling across an interesting article on the web and then getting lost in it. If you get in the habit of sending stuff to Instapaper (or Pockit, or Reading List as soon as you stumble across them, then you don't have that subconscious worry of "What if I forget about this article and never find it again?" Basically, it allows you to put off procrastinating until later.

Again, just to be clear, the reason I know all these techniques is not that I am Mr. Productivity. It's the opposite -- I had to try every technique in the book just to keep myself going. Eventually, I cobbled together a series of tricks that work for me, but it took me a while. And it's still an ongoing process. So (just to keep up the theme of non-intimidating steps), your goal at the moment should not be to master every productivity technique in the world and become a whirlwind of efficiency. Your goal should simply be to try one or two of them for a few days, and see if they help... And then try another one or two... and so on.
posted by yankeefog at 2:06 AM on April 27, 2016 [17 favorites]

MOVE OUT. You typed the words "I am not allowed out late at night." You are an adult, in college, worried about not having friends or activities or interests or motivation. These concerns are not compatible with a scenario of living at home and being 'managed' by your parents. Let me tell you: I also come from a culture where it is 'inconceivable' to move out before marriage. But let me also tell you: DO IT. As someone above said, you do not need permission. Just get a job, and move out. I can 100% guarantee that acting like an autonomous, living, capable adult will completely shift your entire outlook, and sense of energy and self. You will watch yourself figure things out, will write that dumb check for your student loans, will buy some furniture that you like little by little, will go out to see some late-night music shows, will cook food and wash your dishes, and put some books on your shelf, will maybe have roommates who you can interact with and thereby expand your social circle, etc.--- and slowly your life will build. This other nightmarish reality of letting your life be determined by what your parents deem acceptable on the other hand? In my experience, that is a recipe for further depression, further procrastination (hard to be motivated when there is no sense of hope or excitement or self-agency, you know what I mean?), and becoming even more out of touch with others. Ask me how I know. Get the heck out of your parents' house as soon as humanly possible.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:28 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

There are lots of different browser extensions and apps (RescueTime, WasteNoTime, etc.) that can lock you out of some of your biggest time waster sites after a certain amount of time. This might be something to look into if you find that you frequently lose a lot of time on a small number of sites. If they're locked down, you'll need to either do something else on the internet (like look for jobs or internships) or do something else, which may be helpful.

It does sound like you're in something of a funk right now, and inertia is a hell of a drug. The number one way to get going on something is just to start on it. Once you've started, continuing to do it gets easier, and I say this as a lifelong procrastinator.

Nthing Pomodoro technique. I normally forget to do it, but whenever I have tried it, it does seem to work for some things.

Also, I get that staying with your parents is tough, and you should definitely prepare to move out, but if at all possible, I'd try to get a nest egg from a job (any job) socked away before making any big moves. And when you do move, find the cheapest possible option.

I can only imagine how much tougher life could be if you got away from home only to have to move back in again a couple of months because moving out expenses and a too-high cost of living zapped your savings. That happened to a friend of mine, and it was really rough on him emotionally to have to "claim defeat" and move back home.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:24 AM on April 27, 2016

You're overthinking this, and assuming that your past behavior perfectly predicts future behavior. Let it go. Focus only on your top priority, which should be getting a job- any job. This will give you the means to do other things, like move out and develop your own life, though I personally wouldn't recommend doing that until you have a stable income.

Start looking for a job online right now. If you see something remotely appropriate, apply for it immediately. Call your school's career services center and make an appointment to edit your resume and learn some job searching skills. RIGHT NOW. If you start to have self-defeating thoughts, remind yourself that the only way you'll get anywhere is to do something, and that you can take a break at (x) time.
posted by metasarah at 8:01 AM on April 27, 2016

I find structure to be SO helpful.

Anxiety and depression manifest in the feelings and actions you're describing, so for sure address those with a doctor asap. Go today if you can.

Once you're on the path to having your chemistry imbalance adjusted, make a schedule for every waking moment of your day.

1. Upon waking do 30 minutes of exercise (yoga, walking, stretching.)
2. 15 minutes of meditation
3. Shower and dress for the day
4. Attend classes
5. Spend time between classes searching and applying for jobs, any job for now, internships, etc. You need to earn money and to have a place to be that's not home. Home is for sleeping and showers.
6. Study for 2 hours.
7. Household chores for 60 minutes
8. Family time
9. Read a nice book or watch a show on TV.
10. Bed

That's an example, but you can use it if you'd think it would be helpful.

Part of procrastination is getting sidetracked, if you know you need to get X done because Y waits, it can help.

When I was in school I had a crushing schedule that required me to get out of bed at 5:30 AM. I used to snooze after the alarm, but it threw my whole morning off. So I made a deal with myself. When the alarm goes off, feet are on the floor. Once I started moving I could shake off the sleepy feeling, but if I didn't get out of bed, it wasn't like I was getting extra rest. This one, small thing REALLY helped me become the organized and productive person I am today. I learned that sometimes, you just have to get UP! After that, everything else seems easier.

Good luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:09 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanks guys for your help. Right now I'm sitting at home trying to get job applications done. No luck yet, but I'm working on it! I do plan on attending therapy sometime in the next couple of weeks.
posted by sheepishchiffon at 7:04 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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