Straw poll: what to with the next few months of my life?
July 1, 2018 4:14 AM   Subscribe

It's been a terrible 4 years and I'm burnt out. On top of a lot of other things (caregiving for people with cancer; dad dying; big breakup; lots of upheaval) I recently abruptly lost my one big client, and I'm having trouble finding new work. I'm considering handing the notice in on my expensive flat and living out of a backpack for 2/3 months, while trying to work remotely. However, I worry this will burn me out even more. I'm already panicked that I have no money coming in. Plus I've started seeing someone. I'd love help on making a decision when my brain feels tired.

I'm being incredibly indecisive. I'm burnt out after being caretaker to my (now ex-) boyfriend and dad, both with cancer; my dad died last August, then me and said boyfriend split up after a long drawn-out period in March.

I work as a consultant, which has been my anchor and a distraction (it's also kept me ridiculously busy, and I've saved up around £20k, which I had earmarked for the beginning of a house deposit). A client that was taking up all of my time recently went insolvent, leaving me with no work and no warm business leads (said client were talking to me about going permanent so I had no idea this was in the offing).

I've got about four week's worth of holidays booked in the next couple of months and I'm considering handing the notice in on my flat in London, which is £1000 a month, and living out of a backpack via cheap accomodation and couchsurfing with friends for 2/3 months. However, part of me wonders whether this will burn me out even more. I'm already pretty panicked that I have no money coming in. I could keep the apartment and still travel, but I worry about it being £2-3k down on the drain on a place I'm not using (and I couldn't sublet it out). I've worked so hard for this money, and it's the first time I've really been able to save seriously in this crazy-expensive city.

I've started seeing someone too, which is complicating my thinking.

There's two sides of me battling: one is very tired of London and its ridiculously expensive rents, craves some adventure and mental 'space', and thinks it would be healthy to have some carefree time. There's lots of things I want to think about - what I'm doing professionally (I'm a bit out of enthusiasm for my current career path); processing the last four years; what I'm doing romantically etc. Plus I've almost forgotten how to have fun on a regular basis. If I gave in the notice on my flat, the money saved from rent would fund my travels and I wouldn't have to be worrying about what I'm spending as much (the flat all of a sudden feels like a big financial burden), or finding too much work remotely. I would try to do some though, which would perhaps keep me treading water financially and not having to dip into my savings much.

However, the other part of me thinks that as I'm a 33 woman and want a child at some point, I should be focusing on settling my life down, finding the man I want to marry and establishing myself - not running away from problems. The thought of packing my stuff after so much upheaval already is exhausting. I've only been living in this flat for 5 months after moving out of the flat I shared with my ex, and I paid a little more for it than a room in a shared house because I wanted peace and quiet. I have never been very good at routine, and the past few years mean that this is really exacerbated - I generally have poor self-control and struggle to do the things that are bound to keep me feeling healthy and happy. I worry that going away will just be another version of keeping myself busy, but unmindfully - and put off the work that I think I need to do in getting my head in order.

I also worry that giving up my flat while I travel would make me feel adrift. It's a sanctuary, and reasonably priced given what else would be available. Perhaps I should spend the time in between the already-arranged holidays just chilling here, not couchsurfing with friends around the country - which would be nice, and fun, but perhaps exhausting.

Add to this I'm seeing someone that I like, but I am not sure if we should be together right now. He makes me feel very loved (there have been no declarations to that effect after only two months), I feel like I can trust him, we want the same things in the future and we share the same political views, most values and things we like to do. He's also incredibly kind - something which I have recently realised is my number one quality in a person.

But I worry it is too soon after such a difficult time - my friends tell me I have a tendency to 'settle' and go for people who are 'below' me in some way (I do have a history of caretaking), and that I 'should' date around for a long time before settling with someone (i have gone on four dates with other guys but haven't been interested in them). This guy is also highly anxious and awkward to a point where I'm not sure about introducing him to other people. He also earns very little as a gardener - I want to have children, and I would need to know he could support us if, say, I got sick. And sometimes it feels like we don't have enough to say to eachother.

I have a tendency to let myself get really into relationships quickly, swept along by the other person's enthusiasm. I often keep one foot in and one foot out of a relationship, always playing doubts over in my head. I'm tired of this and want to build a life with someone - the right person. I have been open and honest with this guy about the strange place I am in. He's also very understanding and good at giving me space if I need it. But he would clearly like something serious, and I think about that a lot too. And I don't want to mess him around or hurt his feelings if I turn around later and say that I don't want to be with him (something I have done to several guys, which I feel awful about - I probably could have prevented this had I listened to my doubts in the first place).

It's very easy to see him a lot as he lives 20 mins away, and we are always in touch over text. I think part of me wants to physically put some distance between me and this person, just so I can definitely get the space I need to work out what's going on in my head, because I'm constantly confused about the way I feel. I realise this is extreme and a little crazy, but I really feel too tired and burnt out to make any kind of considered decision right now.

Has anyone else been in a similar position? i'm in such a state of indecision that I am spending the majority of my headspace just going through the different options. Questions are:

1) How do you make wise decisions when your brain is so tired?
2) Have you ever took an extended trip like this, and did it help you clear your head?
3) Do you think I should a) Give up my flat and go travel for 2/3 months and try and embrace adventure, before coming back and finding a new place / a more stable work situation? b) Go on the many trips I have booked but keep my flat - leaving it vacant for about a month in total over the next two months? This would probably mean me trying to work more in between, if I can find it.
4) Am I right to be suspicious of dating this new guy? I'd literally been single for around two months when I met him, after a long, protracted break up / no contact period with my ex of a few months ( so I had had time to prepare).

Any insight appreciated - sorry for the ramble, which reflects my current state of mind! And yes, I'm in therapy, but I am really not finding it helpful at the moment, and I'm considering dropping it given the current financial situation.
posted by starstarstar to Work & Money (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Think about your long term goals. You want a stable family, home, and career. What you do in the next few months is not going to make or break these goals. I worry about you feeling stressed with no flat.

I think you should think about career. Are you considering a permanent gig? Networking towards it? In your city?

If you're not moving towards a stable career, semihomelessness and travel may make you feel stressed. I don't recommend it for you at this time. Some people can roll with it and enjoy that time, but your post reads like you won't.

If I were you, I'd keep the flat while I work on my career plan. Maybe keep dating around too. Career and energy are important, and the guy you're seeing isn't super compatible. Maybe dating around will prove he is a great catch, or not.
posted by Kalmya at 4:25 AM on July 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you've spent the last several years doing a lot of work, career-wise and interpersonally, and that some part of you realizes that you need some time/space to metabolize everything that's happened. I'd listen to that part of you. It can be hard to do that, particularly for those of us who like being pointed toward a goal, & who feel the need to justify every step as part of some Grand Plan. But that impulse is coming from somewhere, and you ignore/repress that sort of thing at your own peril.

Also: you seem like a competent person with skills; what happens over the next 2-3 months won't make or break your future, your career, your ability to find a partner (or stay with this partner).

I've been in a brain space similar to this, albeit with different circumstances. I don't know that the travel & time off were all that relaxing in the moment, but when I look back on the couple of months I spent driving around the US, crashing on friends couches, feeling alternately joyful & free and then panicky about the direction of my life, I am so grateful for that time. There were no grand revelations, and there was plenty of stress, but having a bit of time and space away from the treadmill of my life helped me get perspective on what I needed more of (and less of) in my life. I wouldn't put too much pressure on yourself to EMBRACE ADVENTURE and MAKE DECISIONS. You just need some time and some space!

Honor the part of you that realizes that you need this, even if you're not exactly sure what ~this~ is yet. You'll figure it out. Spending a bit of money (i.e., keeping the flat if you like it and can imagine yourself living there upon return) to make the process logistically easier on yourself might be a kindness.

Best of luck to you!! <3
posted by attentionplease at 6:00 AM on July 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you're burnt out, probably the last thing you need is more upheaval. Traveling is not *really* all that relaxing, imo. Lots of opportunity for getting lost, getting mugged, getting stranded, etc. What if you focused on yourself for a bit? Meditating, journaling, etc. Take on a small, satisfying project, perhaps creating a sanctuary space in your flat. Just take it slow with this new guy. I don't see an issue with being in a relationship after the earlier breakup, but keep your head clear and your eyes open.
posted by BeBoth at 6:44 AM on July 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

You present your choices as rather extreme either/ors but if you give notice on your flat and rent a more inexpensive shared place it might give you some breathing room to do the travel you want without the stress of couch surfing.
posted by MadMadam at 6:55 AM on July 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don’t see it being very beneficial to live on friends’ couches for months on end under any circumstances. That’s very hard on friendships even when everyone goes into it with the best of intentions. It certainly isn’t restful and it won’t give you any space at all to call your own, much less space to think over the decisions you want to make with clarity.

If you plan to work remotely anyway, then can you get a 6-month lease somewhere else in England that’s considerably less expensive?

As for the guy, unless you plan to marry and have kids with a broke, awkward gardener that you can’t bring around your friends, I think you should focus on your own mental health and financial stability way before you worry about his. If the relationship peters out because you’re not in the area, so what? Doesn’t sound like there’s a future there anyway.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2018 [15 favorites]

And I don't want to mess him around or hurt his feelings if I turn around later and say that I don't want to be with him (something I have done to several guys, which I feel awful about - I probably could have prevented this had I listened to my doubts in the first place).

This is a normal part of relationships! Yes, of course you feel sorry about hurting someone you’ve cared about, but breaking up with someone after you have determined that the relationship isn’t for you is normal and healthy. It doesn’t make you a bad person. You didn’t “do anything” to those guys. Lying about your feelings and staying with someone out of a sense of obligation is a lot worse.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:03 AM on July 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I say keep the flat for now. 1. It’ll give you someplace comfortable to land between trips, which is nice to have. 2. 1,000/month seems like a pretty good deal in a city like London. If it is, hold onto that! 3. I bet if you’ve been so busy, you may not have time to have really made it home. You can do that with your free time now.

It’s great that you have 20k saved. But speaking as a fellow freelancer, that’s not necessarily the start of your house fund - it’s your emergency fund. And now it goes into action. I too have savings that I would like to use for a down payment - but I know I may need to use it at some point if I go through a dry period.

I bet you will be able to find something else by the end of this period, if you want it. You sound very resourceful and like you have some in-demand skills.
posted by lunasol at 7:17 AM on July 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another alternative would be housesitting--especially useful if you can rent out your flat on Airbnb while you're gone. I use Trusted Housesitters (you typically take care of a cat or dog) and it's possible to find long housesits (one month, two months, six months, etc). They have a lot of listings in the UK, but also in places that aren't too far away, like France. If you stay in one place and don't have the stress of being someone's guest, it might be more relaxing. Let me know if you want a discount code.
posted by pinochiette at 7:17 AM on July 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

I don't know what you should do with the next four months, but

This guy is also highly anxious and awkward to a point where I'm not sure about introducing him to other people. He also earns very little as a gardener - I want to have children, and I would need to know he could support us if, say, I got sick. And sometimes it feels like we don't have enough to say to eachother.

I feel pretty strongly that you should end things with this man. If you were right for each other, at this early stage you would mostly feel excited, not judge-y about his earning potential(!) and "awkwardness." (And if his income is this much of a problem, why have you continued dating him for two months? Presumably you discovered that he's a gardener before or during the first date...) friends tell me I have a tendency to 'settle' and go for people who are 'below' me in some way (I do have a history of caretaking)...

FYI, other people aren't "below" you. If you end up in a caretaker role, then your partner was a poor match for you, but that doesn't mean he was "beneath" you. You should tell your friends to cool it with this nastiness.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:21 AM on July 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

Whatever sounds the most enjoyable to you, do it! I'm giving you permission!

Personally I'd keep the flat for the next few months -- that way you will have somewhere to come back to if you get tired of traveling and won't have to worry about finding a new place. But leaving for 2 months to clear your head absolutely won't ruin your future.
posted by kingdead at 7:41 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can you get a roommate for the next couple of months? You won't be there very often, and it will cut expenses.
posted by charlielxxv at 8:04 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all your answers so far, I really appreciate everyone taking the time and the different perspectives! To answer the practical questions - I can't get a roommate, or sublet. I actually do live in a shared situation with my landlord and his wife, but it's kind of a self-contained thing. There's one bedroom, so I couldn't share - unless they were sleeping in my bed - but I'd have to go back and forth from travels so that wouldn't really work.
posted by starstarstar at 8:10 AM on July 1, 2018

you seem like a competent person with skills; what happens over the next 2-3 months won't make or break your future, your career, your ability to find a partner (or stay with this partner).

I second this motion. And with that: Go! Go! Go! Travel! Life may never give you this freedom again. You have the urge, so go!
posted by Dashy at 8:15 AM on July 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

1) Remind yourself that everyone's brains get tired and we all still have to make decisions because that's just life - it's not good or bad. The key is to be kind to yourself, and treat yourself as you would a friend: You are making the best decisions available to you at the time. You are several steps ahead of people making deliberately bad decisions, or bad decisions despite having good ones put in front of you. Just the best you can do at the time, and let go of anticipating the results.

2) I have not, but I know many who have, and one friend who is leaving tomorrow on one after a breakup and a layoff - she put her things into storage and is off to adventure until November. I don't know of anyone who has done this who found it "head clearing" per se because that's what vacations are for. The travel you're describing just sounds like life, a different format than you're used to, but... life. With all the thinking that entails.

3) If you have a lot of trips booked and just have interstitial time in-between, it might be worth it to either give up your flat and couch surf, or see if you can line up temporary folks to stay in your flat for $$ while you are gone if that's allowed.

4) Having a new relationship is not something that should hold you back from this travel. You are going on those vacations anyway - he was going to have to cope with being away from you for relatively extended periods of time no matter what. If you're expanding those out to just being away for the time in-between the travel, that's totally okay. You know how long this will be, and it sounds like you're not planning on seeing anyone else while you are literally on the road. The way to tell him is just to say, "I have extended travel coming up, and I will be away in various locations for X weeks. We're obviously very new and I like you quite a lot, but I know it's unfair to just ask you to wait around for me. I'm not planning on pursuing any other romantic interests while I'm on the road - I will be very busy - but I understand if you don't want to wait around for me. Let me know your thoughts."
posted by juniperesque at 9:13 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think going on these trips will rejuvenate you, to the point where you'll be in a better headspace for the big asks regarding career and love. But giving up your flat and couch surfing you're going to be adding a level of chaos to your life, akin to the distractions you created by working so much when you were caretaking.

I think its more avoidance. I think you should keep the flat for stability but rest these next few months. Mix a staycation with your trips. Yes, your savings will take a hit, but you're skilled. Its hard to bounce back from grief and job loss. Maybe let the boyfriend teach you how to garden! Just work on you and relax.
posted by charlielxxv at 9:19 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Break up with the anxious person because that is more caretaking!

I vote that you stay put in your own place and start a RADICAL program of self-care while traveling. Then after the first month of regular routine self-care, look for some work while continuing with your self-care regime.

There are free or low cost meditation groups and you should look around for at least 3 in your area and start going to them once a day. Everyone needs to turn their brain off once in a while. Every neural pathway firing for you right now is a "crisis pathway" - all the grooves and hits from recent life events - and you're not thinking clearly.


At the very least take a relaxed walk every day (every morning, and do it super early as the city is just waking up?) in a nearby park or other green space. Do not compromise on this one single action. I recommend listening to talks or audio books that deal exclusively with consciousness and self-care. Back when I did this, I listened to Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, but now you have AWESOME female possibilities like Brene Brown. While you are listening to other people talk as you walk, it will entirely interrupt they way your thoughts are cycling through stuff in an overtired kinda way.

This podcast interview w/ Dr. Azita Nahai reminds me of you in some ways. The surface story she is telling doesn't exactly match yours, but the flavor of what you are going through right now is in there. I believe she talks about a teacher named Guru Singh, his podcast is here. The Guru Singh podcast might not be your jam, but I'll include it anyway. He's been meditating for a loooong time, and his podcast talks are taken from the opening 20 min of his yoga class. There are a ton of other women who give talks and lectures in this vein and I deeply recommend you hunt them up. Everything exists on youtube and podcast platforms, audio books and the like, there is zero reason you have to be consuming the same old ideas that have you feeling stuck. You can reprogram your habits and your brain, exercise and meditation is how you get there!

Lastly, what are you eating? Try and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables for the next few weeks and months.

Break up with that guy! Replace him with kindness and care towards yourself. You can couch serf, but I think that makes developing new habits and routines aimed at your wellbeing more difficult. What do you think? There's a lot to be said for shaking up the staus quo, too. I see from your narrative that a lot of extreme changes are going on, and the part where you slow down and take stock is missing. I think you might be burning out, which is a totally natural phenomenon when you only have been taking care of others, not yourself.

You have an emergency fund and a safe sane living situation. These two things are HUGE. I urge you to spend the next few months taking deep care of yourself, that includes the daily (or near daily) habit of exercise + meditation.

When was the last time you relaxed deeply?
posted by jbenben at 9:27 AM on July 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

But giving up your flat and couch surfing you're going to be adding a level of chaos to your life, akin to the distractions you created by working so much when you were caretaking.

I came by to say this. You have enough savings that you can afford to look after yourself by keeping a safe place to relax between trips or return to if necessary. A few months of travel and/or self-care is not going to hurt your career, either.

Re the guy, is the relationship adding more fun and connection to your life, or is it draining you? That's not something you have to decide right away, but it is a question only you can answer.

I have the same tendency to distract myself from anxiety by creating more "controlled" anxiety, and I've found that it really helps to sit down and ask myself "what will simplify my life here?" Sometimes you need to take a break and calm down enough to figure that out.
posted by rpfields at 9:36 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Why not do both? Keep the flat, but go away for two or three weeks and really kick back. You still get a nice break, but you don't have this big uncertainty hanging over you on return.
posted by smoke at 2:27 PM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Final update from the OP:
Hi guys!

So I kept the flat (right choice), went on holiday (neutral on this - some fun moments and was good to get away, but I definitely bought my anxieties with me and it ended up being very tiring moving around), and ended it with the guy, whose anxieties escalated to the point where I just didn't know what to do. We are still friendly, in a very distant way, and I think of him fondly. He did have some quite serious issues which I really hope he can work through.

After this I actually went on a bit of a dating odyssey where I met quite a lot of people (hey, I didnt have a job and I had loads of spare time), and got much much better at spotting when I didn't really want to continue with someone (thinking back, even the first date with that guy was super awkward and I was not attracted to him enough). So I got lots of practice at saying no and realising that there really are plenty of fish in the sea. It was healthy.

Then I met my current boyfriend and had an instant spark. I'm glad I listened to his and pursued it even if it doesn't work out in the end.

Thanks so much for your help.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:42 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

« Older Hills (& other spaces) for contemplation (esp....   |   Name of Kenyan Classical Orchestra or Choir? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.