How do I let go of feelings of resentment?
October 25, 2018 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm assuming that my situation is not unique and I'm hoping you all have some advice I can use. I'm part of the millennial generation, and I don't know how to get over the very strong feelings of disappointment, resentment, and anger that I have about how my life has turned out. Please don't judge me too harshly for this, I'm really working on processing it all and getting a better attitude but I have to be honest about my feelings first. Apologies if this is too much information or too long.

So, like many millennials, I was told by parents, educators, and adults in general to Dream Big and Follow My Passion and if I Work Hard, I Will Be Successful. I was told America was a Great Country and that the American Dream was obtainable. I watched my parents and their siblings and friends work their way into rewarding careers and comfortable lifestyles, with nice houses and vacations and retirement. I got good grades in high school, went to college and then grad school, and graduated. Into a recession. With $80,000 of student loan debt. But I started working right away and have never stopped working since. I've been working full-time for 10 years now (first in the mental health field and now in education) and have NEVER had a comfortable salary or felt financially secure.

So fast forward to now, when I'm in my early 30s: working a career that requires my degree but that caps potential salaries at a low rate, student loan debt hanging over my head, paying high housing costs, not being able to save much for retirement. Living in a country that doesn't provide me with basic services like health insurance or paid time off, where my vote feels increasingly powerless and the people in charge are running everything into the ground and we're laughed at or pitied by other countries. I see baby boomers and hate them for the mess they've left me and my peers. I feel like giving up - I'm realizing that the life I dreamed about is not going to happen - I will never be able to buy a house, I'm not sure I'll be able to retire, I won't be able to afford kids, buy myself a nice inexpensive new car, travel, or even just be financially secure enough to not worry about money so much. It feels like the deck is stacked against me and others in my generation and we can't win. I feel acute shame and embarrassment when my parents suggest doing little things that cost money and I tell them I can't afford it, because I wasn't able to do what they did and become comfortable.

Please understand: I realize that I'm more fortunate than billions of people in the world. I try to practice gratitude everyday, count my blessings, and appreciate the little things in life. I volunteer my time, serve others, I try to avoid social media and news about politics, and I actively appreciate the roof over my head and the food on the table. I say thank you to the universe every opportunity I can. I'm good with money management and budgeting/planning, and I continue to be willing to work super hard to improve my situation. But I just never expected to struggle so hard for so long, and every time I hit a financial setback (which is SO often) or think about my future, I feel these really raw emotions coming back up. How do I let go of what I had wanted and come to acceptance about the life that I have? How do I get over these powerful feelings of anger, resentment, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration? If you have experienced or are experiencing anything similar, and have something that helped you get to a better place, mentally and emotionally, I'd love to hear it. Thanks in advance, Metafilter community.
posted by carlypennylane to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Three things helped me

1) I realized I wasn’t alone
2) Learning a little history and political economy to understand what we were facing and why (Polanyi’s Great Transformation really was a great transformation for me)
3) I joined with other people facing similar struggles and injustice to change things (for me that meant joining the DSA)

You aren’t alone and it might not get better but we can sure as heck try, together.
posted by congen at 4:31 PM on October 25, 2018 [11 favorites]

I think it's important to remember that things have always been hard. It's easy to look at how an older generation is doing, but things have always and will always be difficult, just in different ways. I am saying this from a place of understanding. I, too was fed the idea I could do anything. I, too am a 30-something in an education adjacent field. I, too can't even fathom the idea of ever retiring or paying off my student loans. The thing is, when you are brought up to think life is going to be ideal, and then you learn the reality, that that is impossible, it hurts deep down and it takes a long time to come to terms with the idea that what you imagined doesn't exist.
posted by Aranquis at 4:48 PM on October 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

religion and drugs are the big fixes for this problem, which basically everyone has. it's the human condition. we all find something to struggle for that we can't quite reach.

if you're not into religion or drugs, try something adjacent, like stoic philosophy, veganism, or exercising a lot.

if you achieve the American Dream and find yourself satisfied and at peace, you are basically a bodhisattva. more likely you'll just find that the end to your resentment and striving is in another castle, so to speak.

you can break out of this cycle at any point, but nobody on the internet can tell you how.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:50 PM on October 25, 2018 [33 favorites]

It's possible that you're grieving the life you thought you were going to have and worked so hard for. Grief is hard. So is depression. Let yourself have your feelings and be kind to yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Is there any reason you are locked in to your current situation? My state (known for it's record-breaking pathetic teacher pay) is rife with stories of teachers who moved to a state with better pay or just changed careers. It's not always an easy change to make but perhaps it's worth considering.

Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 5:04 PM on October 25, 2018 [14 favorites]

I agree that it’s important to remember it’s always been hard. I think this supposed generational difference is really artificial. I’m a boomer, and my experience has been like yours, not your parents’. I’m almost 60 and still have $30,000 in student loan debt with payments that still make my life difficult. I have lived with tremendous financial stress my whole adult life. My young children once went out and collected pop bottles after seeing me yet again crying over money. And I’m not sure I can ever afford to retire, especially now that I have cancer and rely on drugs that cost $30,000 a month that I’m supposed to stay on for life (I currently have great health insurance that will disappear when I retire). So I think one step to letting go is to try not to think of it as us versus them.

What has always been helpful for me is reading history. There’s been a lot of horrendous suffering in the world that makes not being able to afford a car or take a vacation seem really minor. My parents were more financially comfortable than I was, but most of the men in that generation lost years of their lives, if not their lives, to World War II, and women suffered through societal expectations that are hard to imagine now. Not to mention Europeans who lived through the Holocaust and Asians who lived through devastating occupations. My parents also lived through the Depression, and I found reading The Grapes of Wrath a good reality check. My grandparents all grew up in dire poverty. This is not meant to make you feel bad for the feelings you’re having. They’re totally normal if you’re consuming American media, which is run by advertisers who want you to think that everyone is buying lots of things and that things will make you happy. The whole economic system is based on creating dissatisfaction and desire. And as long as boomers and millennial focus on being mad at each other, they’ll ignore the whole rotten system that pits them against each other and makes sure that most people are financially insecure.

And good for you working to get past the resentment. But since you’re focused on boomers a bit, I think it’s important to remember that we’re all over the place. Some of us are homeless. Some of us live in terrible poverty. As for leaving the world a mess, I guess I don’t understand what power young people imagine we had to fix the world. But I think we did cause some important social changes. Sexism, racism, and homophobia unfortunately still exist, but it would be hard for you to imagine what those were like when we were young. When I was a child, for instance, newspaper want ads were split into jobs for men and jobs for women.
posted by FencingGal at 5:24 PM on October 25, 2018 [70 favorites]

Does your job satisfy you?

I ask because, while I'm not in quite such an insecure situation as you, the chief way I reconcile myself to not having everything I want (which would include being able to buy an apartment in this city I live in and love) is to think about the fact that my job contributes to society and makes other people's lives better. It doesn't necessarily sound as if you feel that way. If you're going to be stuck in a low-paying job, can you look for one that offers more intangible satisfactions?
posted by praemunire at 5:34 PM on October 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Definitely work on processing your feelings of shame. Intellectually you know your situation isn't your fault, but our national myth is built on equating financial success with personal virtue.

I'm about your age and I'm definitely grumpy that I don't live in a world where I can live my ideal best life (lady professor, astronaut poet, etc etc). I seem to collect inspirational quotes that address these feelings. Gandalf helps a lot, and so does Tori Amos, and Thomas Hardy, and Viktor Frankl.
posted by toastedcheese at 5:45 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you, everyone, for your comments so far! Please keep them coming, they are comforting me and providing some things to think about. I just want to clarify a few things:

I do love my job (after a career change) and that is one of the things I'm grateful for - I just wish it paid a fair living wage.

And to FencingGal, thanks so much for your comment - I sincerely hope I didn't offend, and if I did, I truly apologize. :( I know not all baby boomers had it easy. I do feel like the "system" is the real issue here and when I say baby boomers, I mostly mean the ones who contributed to the system becoming so dysfunctional, not the ones who fought to improve the world. I'm just feeling like so many people my age got handed a really raw deal, and I'm struggling to get past that and just accept it and live my life anyway.
posted by carlypennylane at 6:00 PM on October 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

You definitely aren't alone. This grip of money-helplessness-anxiety came right back reading this. My situation was a bit more grim (unemployment/ freelance) so my solution was a bit more extreme: I left. Obviously not for everyone, but I am MUCH happier here in this "emerging economy" where I am not living paycheck to paycheck. The world is large!
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:05 PM on October 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

I’d second reading up on the human condition.
It’s a big concept that is often ignored in standard education for your age bracket.

I’m in the cracks between gen X and millennials, and I will also add that you’re not wrong about the bum deal you’ve been handed.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:12 PM on October 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

We did. We got a very raw deal, and one that is not helped by the people who gave us that raw deal acting like we somehow brought this on ourselves. It sucks that we work hard and strive to make the world a better place and get poverty wages in exchange for it.

But real talk, if your job (loved or not) doesn't pay you a living wage and you can't rely on your family to support you beyond that salary, you owe it to yourself to find a career that will pay you what you need to live. I used to justify my meager salary by saying I worked for social good, but the reality is that I need to prepare for my future and that of my aging parents. Scraping by on principle started to seem selfish and dangerously short-sighted. I know it sounds terrible, but it's the reality I have to deal with and it doesn't serve me to pretend otherwise.

So yeah, after a lot of introspection and heartache I switched to a career that pays better and honestly I'm still pretty miffed at the state of the world but I'm no longer choosing whether to pay my gas bill or buy food.
posted by ananci at 6:12 PM on October 25, 2018 [23 favorites]

My wife and I are in our mid-60's and work hard and hope to retire soon. But our families never taught us much about budgeting or investments so we learned the hard way. I feel betrayed by my church, my original political party, and even some friends/relatives of my age who I find spouting nonsense. But, just like the OP, my adult offspring are worse off, and if they wanted to blame us I would be OK with that (although sad), but somehow they don't. Student loans is a big deal, and I don't get why our government doesn't invest in its own children. This last election I was amazed that more women and young people didn't vote. I still don't understand it.

So the above shows that I do have strong emotions (actually toned down for this post). As far as how I deal with it, you may find it silly, but I use Pocket to save articles that relate to these awful contemporary problems. And then I tag them with things like: constitutional_violations, pure_evil, organized_crime, dystopia, argument_for_term_limits, valuable_insight, racism, climate_change, idle_rich, etc. Somehow, for me, labeling the insanity of our current situation helps me vent my frustrations.

Of course, relaxation or counseling would perhaps also help with my frustrations, but with a 2.5 hour daily commute there's little time for them. But there is of course the movie "The Network" with its famous quote: "I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!"

And on preview, I just want to make clear that I am not trying to defend us boomers, so much as say that there are all kinds of negative dimensions to the current world situation and I think that having a rosy outlook is almost impossible, so realism and honesty is a way to try to deal.
posted by forthright at 6:25 PM on October 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

I am a student, younger than you, but on the cusp of being in a similar situation. My program gets little funding and I struggle every single gooddamn day. My family struggled and now I struggle, too.

It's hard. And I think it's a struggle that is very unique to our generation. That's not meant to minimize the very real, very valid struggle of generations that come before us. It IS meant to say that this our struggle, and it's remarkably frustrating to realize how little many from different generations understand that. It's a unique situation that we are going to carry with us our whole lives, and we are simultaneously, constantly being inundated with messages about our entitlement and laziness from people who graduated with no debt and bought a house at 25. It's hard if not impossible to imagine the stress it brings unless you've lived it, and dismissive comments that don't acknowledge how hard if not impossible it is to pull yourself out of this sitation only make it a thousand times worse. Glad you could find a job with a living wage. Some of us can't. And for those who did, sometimes even that isn't enough.

Self care is good. Eat right, exercise, remember to take deep breaths. But it's also good and productive to let yourself feel. Your feelings are valid. You have every right in the world to be angry. They will try at every turn to silence you about it--don't let them. You can and should use these valid feelings to fight back. Speak up. Vote, for god's sake. Make them listen.

Dealing with anger can be a balancing act between using it to fight back and not letting it destroy you. It's a balance I'm still working on. Point is, it's okay to let yourself feel it. Use it to make this world better.
posted by Amy93 at 6:35 PM on October 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

carlypennylane, you didn’t offend me. It’s clear you are really hurting, and I think this false idea that all baby boomers had it easy is pretty much everywhere, so lots of people assume it’s true. No, I did not graduate with no debt and buy a house at 25. Not even close. I’ve been paying on my student loans for literally decades. The only reason that there’s an end in sight is that I’m eligible for student loan forgiveness because I work for a nonprofit. But because I started paying on my loans before that program started, the first twelve years I made loan payments don’t count toward the ten-year maximum. So there’s an instance where boomers got screwed.
For me, the false idea that I think caused my financial struggles (the lie I was fed) was that I could pursue my passion and make a living wage. I went to graduate school in English, and I think my life would have been very different if I’d been told that I needed to major in something that would lead to a job that paid well. It sounds like you may have fallen into that trap as well.
I really do feel for you. As I said, I’ve struggled financially my whole adult life, and it is exhausting.
posted by FencingGal at 6:56 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

To clarify---I don't mean that boomers didn't struggle or deal with loads of debt. I just think that people who never had to struggle and skated through life are often the ones accusing millenials of being lazy, and that's often infuriating.

I really think that trying to support each other and work together to both understand and do better will end up being one of the keys to working through this.
posted by Amy93 at 7:00 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Amy93, I agree.

I really dislike generalizations based on age, whether talking about boomers or millennials. People are individuals.

People who haven’t struggled like to think they’re successful because they worked hard. Most people don’t like to credit luck for their accomplishments, but it plays a huge part in both subtle and not so subtle ways. Lots of people work hard their whole lives and never achieve material success.
posted by FencingGal at 7:20 PM on October 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

anger, resentment, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration

lelel 👉😂👉me👈😭👈 irl

The worst part is I now make more per hour now than either of my parents ever have, but they got approved for a mortgage in suburban Toronto ca. Q4 2008 and sold eight years later for double what they paid. They are now set for life. I'd have to save half my income for literally decades before I come close to owning that much wealth, which won't happen at all because the other half has to go to rent. I completely get where you're coming from.

Of course these trends are entirely meaningless at an individual level but that doesn't undo the fact that we in the aggregate missed out on the chance to attain an immense amount of wealth by being born too late. You're a few years older and therefore much better equipped to offer me wisdom than the reverse, so before this thread turns into a Four Yorkshirepeople sketch, i'll just say: h*ck the haters. You do you.

That said, the advice to read history as a means to gain perspective has proven quite helpful to me. Not as a means to self-flagellate for being ungrateful or w/e, but to take solace in the fact that throughout the ages people have banded together in solidarity and community to get through the worst trials and ordeals imaginable. We are strong enough to get through the malaise. We won't be ground under.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 7:23 PM on October 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

if your job (loved or not) doesn't pay you a living wage and you can't rely on your family to support you beyond that salary, you owe it to yourself to find a career that will pay you what you need to live

I definitely wasn't trying to imply otherwise. I'm on Job #2 of the Pro-Social Job Collection. Had to leave Job #1 because it didn't pay well enough and I was too old to be going backwards financially.
posted by praemunire at 7:42 PM on October 25, 2018

I'm a boomer, and I feel deeply for you. What other countries have monetized their children's education in the way the United States has? I put myself through college and grad school when it was possible to do so without taking out huge predatory loans. Banks took a small fee for handling the loans, the interest rates were capped, and regulation limited the ways loans could be used, mainly for tuition. I have voted my entire life against the financial interests and the politicians who have monetized education and health care out of staggering greed. Colleges and universities are complicit in the theft. I wish I had some decent advice for you. Just know that some of us oldsters out there are outraged at the theft of your financial security. I am so sorry.
posted by Elsie at 7:46 PM on October 25, 2018 [12 favorites]

Well, I think there are two parts of this to getting past this: 1) the things you can't/couldn't control and 2) the things you can/could control.

The things you can't control include the fact that you are not really wrong. Notwithstanding the experience of different individuals, it is harder now to have the same lifestyle and income as our parents.

There are also the things where you did make choices. You said you first worked in mental health and now you are in education. These are not high paying professions. While a teacher's salary went further for boomers in their early 30s, it was never a path to an upper middle class lifestyle. I'm not saying this to scold you, but rather because it might be healthy to reflect that there are decisions you made because you didn't prioritize wealth, but did prioritize job satisfaction and having a job with meaning (I'm guessing).

Have you heard about Rebecca Traister's new book about anger? I haven't read it but I heard her talk about it. My understanding is that her take is that maybe the problem is that we're are trying to squelch our anger when there are plenty of angry-making things out there. I'm not sure anger and frustration are unreasonable responses to these kinds of daily stresses.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:48 PM on October 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'll tell you something that helps me:

We tell each other that it's super-normal to experience material ease, even saying wack things like "THE MILLENIALS ARE THE FIRST GENERATION EVER TO DO WORSE THAN THEIR PARENTS!" but in actuality the American midcentury was a huge exception to the normal way people live on Earth.

For instance, before America's baby boom there was World War II, the Depression, World War I, children working in sweatshops, the Civil War, slavery, horrible pressures forcing people to migrate to the States, and genocide. Middle-class people living in midcentury America were so affluent compared to almost everyone who came before them.

Or if you want to compare our lives to the lives of contemporaries in other nations you'll find that even millennial Americans have a lot of material abundance when compared to the majority of the world's citizens. Hell, I moved to Italy in my twenties and everyone my age lived with their parents, because none of them could remotely afford to move out. My first Italian sweetheart was college educated, almost thirty, lived with their parents, and worked in a warehouse making three euro an hour.

I'm not saying this in the spirit of "eat your dinner kid, there are people starving elsewhere". I'm saying this because I feel like "natural prosperity" myths have really penetrated our culture and they make our lives more painful than they need to be. The struggle is real! And struggle is hard! But imagining that struggle is unnatural, unusual or accursed gives us a second pain on top of the first pain.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:12 AM on October 26, 2018 [29 favorites]

How do I let go of what I had wanted and come to acceptance about the life that I have? How do I get over these powerful feelings of anger, resentment, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration?

As I have mentioned in other places here, Al-Anon talks about the three As: Awareness, Acceptance, Action. As an individual, I pay attention to my feelings and, initially, simply expand my awareness of the situation I am in. That awareness, in this situation, might include the awareness that your generation did get a raw deal. That capitalism has screwed you royally. That there is nothing fair or just about your situation and many others. Awareness also includes being fully aware of all of your feelings about your situation: that anger, resentment, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, and any other feelings (comfortable and uncomfortable) that you experience.

Acceptance is the part of the process where you come to acknowledge to yourself that right this second, you cannot change your situation. Acceptance is not approval; it is an acknowledgement of the reality that you are living in at this moment.

After you feel fully aware of the situation and your feelings, and have accepted that this is where you are for now (without judging yourself for your feelings or situation), you can work on the Action part of this process. As bluedaisy notes, there are the parts of your situation you can control and the parts you cannot control. What are those factors in your life?

In my own life, I found myself angry, resentful, etc. as I realized that I simply could not afford to continue living in my favourite place in all the world. Accepting that reality, which took a while, made it possible for me to eventually make a relocation plan. I ended up moving close to my family and living in a situation that is not ideal but is sustainable, affordable, and way less stressful. I am doing well in a place I never expected to enjoy.

I mention my story because my life has become better as a result of moving. Btw, I am not suggesting you move or change jobs or anything. I am simply noting that in my case, I was angry and resentful often because I had not accepted the reality of my situation. It felt unfair that I needed to relocate and maybe it was, but that was the reality. The reality was that I had to let go of the idea of how my life should be and figure out how to make it as good as possible given the actual limitations I faced.

Like others here, I also make a gratitude list. I note 3 things every day for which I am grateful. I do it in the morning, and that works for me but many others do it differently. Other things: I speak up for myself. For years I was convinced that speaking up for myself was pointless and would not change anything. As it turns out speaking up for myself, even if I don't get what I want, makes me feel better about myself and my life. For me, that is an important form of self-care. So is exercise, distraction (as needed), reality checks, and just letting myself feel my feelings and not judging myself for them. So if I feel sad, I let myself feel sad for awhile. (The one thing I fight is feeling like a victim simply because that has never been helpful to me: YMMV.)

Life is really hard for many of us right now. Thank you for asking this question. I wish I had an easy way to help you and myself with this stuff, but for me it is a process. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:30 AM on October 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

My go-to thought process when I feel like other people (anyone: healthy, attractive, wealthy, etc...) have it easier is to remind myself that "comparison is the thief of joy". It helps me to drop that thought process, and re-route my thinking. (Plus the stuff you're already doing: practicing gratitude and the knowledge that globally, because of where I was born/live, I am in the top 5% wealthiest people in the world - even if I have to rely on welfare).
posted by b33j at 3:16 AM on October 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yes OP, your generation really has a bad deal. All of your anger & resentment about that is fully justified. I'm not going to try to talk you out of it with any count-your-blessings crap. The fact that someone somewhere has it worse than you does not make your situation any more tolerable.

Just two thoughts, from me:

1. this is what late capitalism looks like

2. in a democracy, as successive generations come to see ever more clearly how badly they're getting screwed, and how much worse it could still get, it's self-limiting -- this hasn't quite happened yet, but look at Podemos or Syriza or Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders for (so far, hypothetical) ways in which political & economic change could happen

Across all generations, our responsibilities are first, to survive as best we can; second, to make sure that democracy lives for long enough that a workable majority comes to see the changes that are needed; and third, to resist right-wing populist-nationalism by any means necessary, because that'll fill the gaps if we don't.

The next generation after you -- which will include my children -- may yet have it worse still. The next one again might -- possibly -- see a turnaround.
posted by rd45 at 3:46 AM on October 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I also want to add that I finally got a job that paid a living wage when I was 43, not to change the subject to My Sad Life, but to let you know things can get better, even if it takes a long time. (Unfortunately, I made the mistake of getting into a lot of debt when things were bad, and that’s had severe repercussions.) When I got diagnosed with cancer two years ago and was freaking out, my therapist said, You don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s been very helpful to me, to remember that the future is unpredictable.

I also find the guys who call themselves The Minimalists really helpful in learning to be happier with less.

I’m glad you posted this because I think it’s opened up an important discussion. I was very moved by your difficulties. They’re real, and you are not whining. I sincerely hope things get better for you.
posted by FencingGal at 6:02 AM on October 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, the resentment. I'm a few years older than you, but I feel like I spent my 20's following the suggested playbook for an ideal life and being miserable. I spent my 30's doing massive course corrections as I picked through what advice was still good in modern America. It's been hard.

One thing that helps is to realize that the ones giving you advice to go all in for college really thought they were giving good advice. 40 years ago, when your parents and teachers were young, a college degree was affordable AND a ticket to an interesting, prosperous career, and that's what your elders had in mind when they were encouraging college to you. They didn't foresee today's predatory loan lenders, devalued degrees, etc. In a similar way, by the time you are 60 I'll bet American society will have figured out how to control college and medical costs, and you will be justifiably proud of that effort, but your kids will be lamenting that you didn't handle some other issue, something we can't even imagine here in 2018.

Another thing that helped me was realizing that people all over the world and all across time are a mixed bag of good qualities and bad ones. They can be great at some things (working to reduce prejudism, for instance) and bad at others (reducing capitalism's cruelty, in this instance). 99% of people are doing the best they can with what they've got, and hopefully it leaves the world in a little better place.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 6:18 AM on October 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello soul brother/sister/sibling.

I find the worst part of it is so few people are willing to admit they're struggling, so you just did a brave thing, and let me tell you that it made this internet stranger feel less alone.

I'm a little younger than you, and to be honest, these feelings, among other things, is what let me to anarchy/socialism/radicalism. This is why so many of us consider ourselves socialists, have gone on strike in the Fight for $15, have participated in Occupy and Black Lives Matter and MeToo. I'm not sure anything is going to get fixed unless we get organized and fix it ourselves.

Not saying you have to become a fuck-the-man style activist, just saying this is *why* people do that.

The advice you're getting to change careers, move, try to make money, etc, is all well and good, but you are also not required to deep-breathe and gratitude-list your way into acceptance of a situation that is really, genuinely not ok.
posted by coffeeand at 7:39 AM on October 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

I am sorry to hear that you are feeling this way OP. There's a lot of great advice in the responses. I would add that a lot of people have the appearance of wealth and happiness, but are operating on huge amounts of debt. Debt can be used as currency, oddly enough. Defining what is comfortable for you may help.
posted by Calzephyr at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I feel acute shame and embarrassment when my parents suggest doing little things that cost money and I tell them I can't afford it, because I wasn't able to do what they did and become comfortable.

Do your parents have a good understanding of your situation, and why you can't take their suggestions? Would it make you feel better to explain it to them, or do you think that they are the kinds of people whose life experiences and financial situation have made them less and less receptive to your truth, that you can't solve your financial problems with a little more gumption and self-denial?

If it's the latter, then I, an internet stranger, hereby give you permission to stop having these kinds of conversations with your parents (or coworkers, or neighbors, or other adults in your life who simply do. not. get. it.). If you want to explain things to them, and you feel like it would be received well, give it a try, but I wonder how much of your feelings of "anger, resentment, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration" come from measuring yourself against an understanding of what's "normal" that applies only in your parents' or hometown friends' world, and not in your own community. If they can't or won't educate themselves about some of the things that you (and me, and others who've responded here) are dealing with, it might help to be a little more guarded in your conversations with them so that you aren't met with suggestions about how you could be doing things differently.

My mom and one of my senior colleagues are people who have demonstrated that they get what people our age are dealing with, financially. When I talk about this stuff with them, I feel heard and understood. My dad and some of the other people in my workplace (and honestly, even my therapist, sometimes) are the kinds of people who tend to think that a more positive attitude will change my life, and did you know that there are programs where they'll forgive your student loans? (Why, yes, I do, did you know that you have to resubmit documents annually and make payments under very specific conditions to be eligible to apply for that forgiveness after 120 monthly payments, and that the program has been under threat from our Secretary of Education for the last two years? No? Wait, why are you walking away?) Giving myself permission to tune that stuff out hasn't solved the larger issues that you're describing, but when I think about it, it's really minimized the amount of time that I spend ruminating on the things that I don't or can't have in comparison with our parents' generation.

I'm also an early 30-something with student loan debt that keeps growing even though I make my payments, living somewhere I could find a job but can't afford to own a home, so I feel you. I could have written a version of this question yesterday.
posted by Anita Bath at 11:40 AM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by bunderful at 7:03 AM on October 27, 2018

Thank you SO much to all who posted their thoughts on my question. I was nervous to ask it but once again, metafilter shows that this corner of the internet is filled with wise, compassionate, kind people. Just reading all the answers has made me feel so validated and comforted, and I'm going to start working on some of the ideas suggested here as I move forward. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!
posted by carlypennylane at 3:11 PM on October 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

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