what should i do with my life?
October 25, 2006 7:16 AM   Subscribe

what can bring meaning to my life? (long story inside)

(sorry, there's a bit of venting that may seem unrelated to my question, but it all ties in)

my parents died when i was eleven, and i lived with my only grandparent until i was seventeen. when i turned eighteen i was given my parents' fortune (a nine digit figure). i'm now in my early twenties living in an apartment in brisbane.

i have no close friends, and, excepting my grandmother (who is suffering from alzheimer's), no immediate family. i've never had a girlfriend or a meaningful relationship. i don't go out. i don't get invited to places or parties, and i think i'm comfortable with that (having never enjoyed those sorts of activies when i was younger).

right now my life consists of nothing; i live alone in an apartment, and i don't do anything at all. i think i'm a shut-in; i rarely leave, not because i'm afraid, but because i don't know what to do outside. i don't even have a driver's licence or a car. i just browse the internet, sleep as long as i can, and watch tv.

my life is very empty, and very unfulfilling. i've done absolutely nothing for 2 years now, and it is affecting me physically (being indoors all the time has made me gaunt, weak, thin, and pale) and mentally (i'm starting to trip over words in conversation, and i think i'm going a little crazy). i'm antisocial, and i suspect i'm also a sociopath. i'm so unhappy. i think my dissatisfaction with my life will disappear with full-time work.

i'm still very much a kid inside; i have grand dreams being someone noble, making a difference in the world. but my reality is now so far seperated from my dreams that i don't even know where to start.

what is the best thing i can do with my life, and my money ("best" in terms of the secular humanism tenant of "making this a better world")? i'm intelligent, but have no skills. ideally i would want to be around people, and i would like to help people. i briefly worked as a volunteer after i left school but found the particular job unfulfilling (salvation army; the people i dealt with weren't very nice, and i'm not a very resilient person). given that i am in a unique position to dedicate myself entirely to volunteer work, anywhere in the world, what avenues should i look into? peace corps? red cross? what kind of skills are needed for these sorts of jobs? volunteering aside, what else could i do with my life that is meaningful? what would you do in my position?

thanks for your time, metafilter!
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (69 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
You obviously have the time and the money. See other parts of the world. See how others live. This can easily inform your plans for any future vocations/jobs.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:21 AM on October 25, 2006

Nine figures? That's $100 million dollars minimum. A million dollars if you are including decimal places. You can easily make the world a better place with that money. Ask your financial advisor to help you to hire a consultant that will work with you to set up a charitable foundation or to work in partnership with a charity that you respect. Instead of being a volunteer you can hire and support employees and volunteers for YOUR vision, YOUR idea. Experts in the field of philanthropy can help you to determine what your vision is.

True philanthropy is a full time job and the rewards are immense, although it does take time to do properly. Talk to other philanthropists and learn from them.

You have, literally, a legacy. Traditionally your responsibility as scion is to take the legacy in a new direction whilst honouring the traditions of your forbears. It's an art form and has been done extremely creatively and memorably.

You might not have skills, but you will be judged against other scions - many of whom don't have skills but know how to take advice and how to keep their idea going. Anybody can attain these attributes with practice.

Before you do any of this, you might want to go to a doctor and get your health checked. Get your vitamin and mineral levels checked and make sure your lethargy and isolation haven't got a physical cause. Therapy, or the reading of therapy informational books, might give you some insight into the root cause of your desire to isolate as well.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:27 AM on October 25, 2006

Did you go to college? College is fun, and also a good way to meet girls.
posted by myeviltwin at 7:27 AM on October 25, 2006

I would consider attending a university, possibly part time. You'll meet new people, learn new things and still have plenty of time for volunteer work and traveling.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:28 AM on October 25, 2006

Medical school, if you can hack it. You’ll come out of it without the immense debt of most med students and will be able to afford to do work where the pay is marginal.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 7:29 AM on October 25, 2006

Here's a workshop on doing philanthropy in Australia, too.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:31 AM on October 25, 2006

Get yourself a TEFL certificate and teach English in a third world country.

Working with kids is a good way to get out of yourself. Seeing people improve their skills day on day is a good way to develop self esteem. Travelling and seeing the world is something you'll hear suggested by others, and I don't mean to denigrate travel for travel's sake, but it seems to me that you would rather do something of use whilst you are there. Your money could really make a difference somewhere, but why not go and use your mind and your self to make a difference there first, and see if that is what you want to do.
posted by handee at 7:34 AM on October 25, 2006

Or if you want to study, why not combine study with travel? You could do your degree anywhere in the world.
posted by handee at 7:36 AM on October 25, 2006

You shouldn't try to help anyone else until you have helped yourself. It may sound selfish, but you're likely to resent any choice you make unless it comes from your internal motivation.

If I were you, I would start with getting out a bit - go running, or walking, whatever. After that, since you say you are intelligent, but lack skills, think about what you'd enjoy being able to do, and look into that - you don't have any time pressure or funding problems. Don't start with "what can I do to save the world, and what skill would be most beneficial to achieve that". Start with what you enjoy and you'll find a way to turn it to good use.

Don't worry about the socialising, it will follow naturally (but slowly) when you start doing something.
posted by crocomancer at 7:37 AM on October 25, 2006

If I was you, I would go spend some time in a monastery.

Do a year of intense study and meditation. Maybe in Thailand, studying Theravadan Buddhism, or maybe in India, studying Tibetan Buddhism, or maybe some other place, depending on your prediliction. Seems like you have the right temperment. Or do a three-month silent retreat somewhere.

You will probably respond that you aren't religious, but this sort of experience can teach you a lot. For example, it can teach you how to care about others in a way that you never imagined; and compassion being the place from which most meaningful work is done, the experience may put you on the path you are looking for, even if you aren't religious per se.
posted by milarepa at 7:38 AM on October 25, 2006

posted by fixedgear at 7:41 AM on October 25, 2006

OMG, travel, travel, travel. You live in an enormous country. Go see it. Solo travel is not an instant party; it's really quite easy to be introverted and introspective while you see the world. And you obviously have the funds to eat, drink, and sleep well while you're on the road.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:43 AM on October 25, 2006

Get a gym membership and volunteer at a local women's shelter.

Go as often as possible to both.

Also, make a real effort to read good books, there have been plenty suggested on the green.
posted by ewkpates at 7:43 AM on October 25, 2006

first arrange for the best, most professional hospital/hospice care possible for your grandmother, and get her a trust fund to ensure she gets that as long as she's alive.

then give all the money away to charities you consider deserving -- you aren't enjoying it anyway and they need it more than you do: then you'll have to find yourself a job, earn a living. it's a humbling, very positive experience. character-building, even. you'll learn the pride of having earned the money that put the bread on the table and a roof on your head. you'll be self-reliant, it's an amazing gift
posted by matteo at 7:45 AM on October 25, 2006

No offense (because who knows what that amount of cash and losing my family would do to me), but I don't think someone who describes himself as an unfit, antisocial shut-in can offer much to a voluntary group at this time.

But you have all the time and resources in the world to increase your fitness, skills, coping abilities and comfort in your own skin and really contribute.

If you were my friend I'd suggest either part-time college or a part-time job or a structured series of lessons doing soemthing other than sitting in front of a computer. I agree with BTGOG that you could start a nice foundation, but you need to sort yourself out first and just get out there. I've had brief periods where I had nothing to do but wallow by myself, but nothing close to 2 years, and I recognize your description of brain turning to mush etc.

A local college course or series of lessons in some sort of sport or outdoor skill will mean you'll be getting out of the house regularly, have a schedule, gain some skills, socialize. Or pick a local bar, parks department, store, whatever place the skills appeal and get some part time work.

And I would hope that you'll increase your energy and get the impetus to improve your fitness, get outdoors more, get those driving lessons, gain confidence and ultimately be able to decide what direction to aim for the rest of your life. And yeah, look after your gran.

The best of luck, genuinely.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:46 AM on October 25, 2006

If you don't yet have a college degree, I would pursue that -- going to college will give you a schedule to get you out of the house and will provide a possible community. Many "do-gooder" positions such as Peace Corps require a college degree. Also, going to college will help you figure out what you are really interested in doing.

If you already have a degree, or if college is not for you, I would look into setting up an internship or volunteer position with a non-profit agency. Don't forget that you have to "sell" yourself and hustle a bit to get a good volunteer slot. The fact that you are free is only one piece -- you also have no experience. So if you are willing to do data entry, or answer the phones, or whatever, say that (and then do that). Think of the experience as just a first step toward figuring out what you want to do and making connections to people who can help you do what you want to do. Also, I would set up a regular schedule so that you have to get out of the house and that you start to get to know the staff.

The Salvation Army is not the type of group you want to go with, in my opinion. I would go with a secular, well-regarded agency. There's a world of difference between a well-organized and functional non-profit, and a dysfunctional, disorganized non-profit. If you know anyone who can make a recommendation based on their personal experience, go with that.

You could come up with groups to target based on issue (hunger, HIV/AIDS, environment, disability rights, foster kids, international, etc.) or based on type of group. For me, I like the legal non-profits because, well, I'm a lawyer, and I also appreciate being around smart and educated co-workers. So if that appeals to you, you might look into a legal non-profits.

If you end up being really motivated to work on a particular issue, or a particular project, my advice would change to be more targeted (e.g., oh, you want to work on clean water issues, you should contact so and so). But since you don't yet seem to have a particular issue or community, I would start with dipping your toe into the world.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:46 AM on October 25, 2006

PS I may have underestimated this guy's wealth -- maybe he needs to see about joining non-profit boards of directors as well as starting a foundation. But he still needs to get himself sorted out first.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:50 AM on October 25, 2006

Another piece of advice, for what it's worth - even though you own your parents' money free and clear, you might want to consider hiring an estate attorney to put it back in trust for you. Loneliness breeds vulnerability, no matter how smart or savvy you are.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:52 AM on October 25, 2006

Is it really necessary to go directly from complete isolation and depression to a self-actualized saint on the One True Path?

Here's another idea. Get involved with a subculture that is constantly desperate for people with money, figure out who the influential figures are, have lunch with them, and propose a new event (a rave, a film, whatever) funded by you, the condition being that you are involved in every step of the process, that you meet everyone involved, etc. Poof! You're a subcultural demigod. Aspects of your personality that seemed strange are now merely 'eccentric.' Watch as people increasingly want to spend more time around you and propose other projects for you to be involved with.

Note that I'm not saying you should go around giving away your money in exchange for friends. But there is a balance to be had. In terms of exerting an influence in the world, your fortune is the main thing you have to start with. Don't spend it all; spend a tiny little fraction of it, and observe without angst as the ripple effects of your money create new situations and change people's attitudes. Watch that happen, contemplate it, and consider how that influence might be used in an even better way.

Having a positive effect on the world is, even for someone without hundreds of millions of dollars, a work in progress. You don't just suddenly do the right thing. You go around doing things more or less arbitrarily, things that may not be right but that seem like they might be right, and from those experiences you start to develop real priorities.
posted by bingo at 7:59 AM on October 25, 2006 [3 favorites]

This thread is reading a little bit like a "what I would do with a million dollars" game. If the OP has good reason to think they might be antisocial or sociopathic then they should definitely NOT volunteer at a woman's shelter or go teach kids English in a foreign country. They should take themselves to a good doctor and get some help.

From the description, though, it sounds like boredom and depression are just as likely to be problems as antisocial or sociopathic tendencies.. I second the advise to take care of yourself before trying to help others. If you think full-time work would help (and you aren't thinking about hurting people), then university is probably a good place to start (you'll probably need some training to get the interesting jobs). You may benefit from some therapy regardless: having someone other than your grandmother to talk to would probably be helpful. Also, self diagnosis can be dangerous (you can risk unintentionally suggesting that you want to hurt and kill people when all you are trying to say is that you are lonely and sad, for instance).
posted by carmen at 8:02 AM on October 25, 2006

You need to start feeling better about yourself. Anyone deserves that, no matter how much money they have. Also, if you have so much desire to help people, you can't be a sociopath. Get some therapy, a physical trainer, learn some skills.
posted by sweetkid at 8:03 AM on October 25, 2006

Go to University, assuming you can get in. That's a good start. Travel. That's another good option. A very good option I would say.
posted by chunking express at 8:03 AM on October 25, 2006

Since federal education funds are drying-up, how about a scholarship fund? Like, for vocational education students? People like my son, for instance...nudge, nudge...wink wink...

Sorry...I couldn't help it.

posted by Thorzdad at 8:09 AM on October 25, 2006

I'll second all of the above about visiting a doctor, speaking with professional philanthropists, etc. My two cents: Make yourself a little daily schedule, and stick to it. Having too much unstructured time is probably contributing to your depression and unhappiness, keeping you from eating properly, and making it easy for you to waste hours in front of the tv and internet.

9:00am - Make breakfast, egg and toast
9:45am - Wash up dishes, take a shower
10:30 - Go for a walk
11:15 - Shop for groceries
12:00 - Go visit with the elderly at a local care home

Bringing even a little structure to your day will help you regain a sense of control over your life.
posted by junkbox at 8:18 AM on October 25, 2006

If there is anything in life you are passionate about, follow that passion without question. Should you have no passions in life, explore and find one. Of course, that is fairly broad advice.

Go out and do things you never have before. Get a minimum wage job in the service industry for a few months. Spend two weeks hiking alone in the wilderness. Talk to everyone you can, and learn anything that they will teach you. Take a day to go out of your way to help people in little ways. Take a day to go out of your way to be a jerk. Go to the gym and work out for a few weeks. Find a man with an idea, and lend him a few thousand dollars to make it work. Go to Wal-Mart and ask an employee there what they always wished they could be. Go to a few religious worships. A unitarian church, a baptist church, a synagogue, a mosque, a temple. Anything that isn't a cult. You don't need to believe it. You don't even need to like it.

Do not think too hard about what you are doing when you do these things. Let yourself be absorbed, and take from it whatever you will. Don't try to seek meaning in these things. If all you learn from two weeks in the wilderness is that you hate hiking, that's good enough. These are all just things that let you get out in the world and learn something you're not familiar with.

You say you're in your early twenties. I am 23 years old myself, and I suffered from a lack of meaning as well. I decided a few years ago that I would finish a bachelor's degree even if it meant changing majors in my fourth year, and that I would teach English abroad once I finished. Teaching English? That's making a living. Going abroad? That's learning more about the world. Meaning? There's a little, but I don't look to it for deep insights.

I've found some meaning in life, although nothing grand and glorious yet. It involved a lot of introspection, a tale of putting myself through hell that's too involved for this already long post, and in the end, simply letting it happen. Don't hunt for meaning so openly yet, you have to learn about the world and who you are first. I have a great talent for math, but even if I were to be able to dedicate myself to it full-time and fund my own research without worry, I'd likely never get anywhere past mediocre research simply because I have no passion for it. When you know who you are, what you have true burning passion for, and how you can best serve this purpose, you may find you have forged your own meaningful role in life.

Don't bother with the volunteer organizations though. you can find out if you are passionate about helping others easily enough, and if you simply aren't, leave those positions to those who are. If it is something you love, go for it with gusto and don't look back.

So, I suppose what I am trying to say is that searching desperately for meaning in your life may lead you to dedicate yourself to something in the hopes that you will find meaning in it. Do what you will, and do what you love, you can find meaning in what you do easily enough.

Sometimes, making the better world is simply a matter of taking care of the part you have control over best, yourself. From there, good things may follow.
posted by Saydur at 8:19 AM on October 25, 2006 [2 favorites]

I am not sure your life has to have meaning. Your life could have meaning and still suck.

I would focus on having fun. Getting out of the house. You sound like you feel trapped. First thing I would do is take driving lessons and buy a car. Having a license is personal freedom.

Then, I would go to a university without telling anyone about my fortune. I would try to be a kid (or young college aged person).

Don't give your money away just yet. Giving it will not create meaning in your life until you can learn to appreciate it. Live a little and then decide what to do with your jack.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:19 AM on October 25, 2006

If I understand correctly: cash is no object; you want to make a difference to the world; become a little more social; get physically fitter.

Regarding jamesonandwater's comment that volunteer organisations wouldn't accept you: leave that up to them. Just apply. Don't worry if you're not accepted, you can always apply again later. However, you may not be psychologically ready for what volunteer work entails: many people are ill-prepared for what is involved.

To that end, it seems that what people suggest about healing yourself first would seem sensible. Rather than go to a gym, have you thought of getting a personal trainer? A gym can be an isolating experience. With a PT you'd have no choice but to do some hard work in the company of an effusive individual - that's the general idea anyway. It might help.

As for the psychological side of things, find a highly recommended therapist and get cracking. Your posting here demonstrates that you have the will to make the change, so there's no reason you shouldn't see benefits.

If you work out how to make a difference to the world, you'll be in a rare club. Try thinking small to begin with, like your neighbourhood. What could you do to help? You might want to go a little off the beaten track. Beyond that level you could start thinking about your city and how services could be improved for the less fortunate. At the national or global level, why not find a list of philanthropists with your sort of capital and see what they've done?

Hmm. With your combination of large cash resources and interesting psychological profile, have you considered becoming a super-hero? :-)
posted by ajp at 8:22 AM on October 25, 2006

Agreeing with those who suggest starting with yourself before you try to help others. Work on self-knowledge, self-improvement, self-healing. You (a kid inside - antisocial - no friends - fear you are a sociopath) have a lot of work to do for yourself before you can do for others.

Therapy/counseling sounds like a good idea. I think you need more help than you can get from strangers on the 'net who only know a little bit about you. Likewise, some other structured out-of-home routine, whether it's taking a class or uni or even something as simple as starting by going out for a cup of coffee every day. Stop "doing nothing," even if what you start doing is something small.

Good luck.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:22 AM on October 25, 2006

Don't worry, you're not a sociopath. A sociopath wouldn't be so unhappy.

You don't do anything because you don't have to do anything. You've fallen into the self-propagating trap of inertia. You know you need to do something, but you've been inactive for so long that your 'get up and go' has got up and left.

Here's what you need to do: Leave Your Apartment. Start slowly. Go to see a movie. Go for long walks: the exercise will go a long, long way toward making you feel better.

You say you don't get invited out. Do ever invite anyone out? Call up a friend or acquaintance and go out for a beer or a piece of cake. Or invite someone over to watch TV. If you extend invitations to people, they will extend them back. You will meet their friends and friends of friends. Your social circle will grow and you will feel better.

When you are feeling better, take the advice of many people in this thread and go traveling. Take a year and have an itinerary that you're not afraid to change. Wander. You'll meet people and get ideas. Don't force an epiphany. If it doesn't come, don't worry. Travel for Travel's sake.

I like By The Grace of God's idea above. You could start your own charitable foundation, or do what Warren Buffet did and find a charitable foundation you respect and is willing to put you on the board. Board meetings will help structure your time and give you something to look forward to: working with the foundation to help others.

Finally, you ask what others would do in your position. I would take the above steps: get out of the house, meet people, travel. I would channel the interest and dividends from my money into a charitable trust run by others who valued my feedback. I would also start a record label and a publishing company. I'd view this as a hobby, not a moneymaker. Being free from commercial responsibility would allow me to release all kinds of crazy cool records and books by people who I respect and admire. I'd be able to support financially struggling artists and writers and i'd be able to share their gifts with the world-- and it would be fun, too!

Remember, take it one step at a time. Don't lose heart. You can do this. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:26 AM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I would also start off with travel -- but I would make sure that a good portion of your travels are done in the tradition of normally-financed youth: backpacks, hostels, etc.

Travelling as people of means typically do means you miss out on a lot that life has to offer. You won't eat as the locals do, you won't drink where the locals drink. Most importantly, you won't meet other folks trekking around. Hooking up with them, meeting, talking, traveling together, is 50% of the point.

At your age and stage of life, there is a lot to be learned from your chronological peers, and they're backpacking.
posted by crickets at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2006

Baby steps. It sounds like you think of grand plans of What to Do With Your Life, and then get stuck trying to figure out The Best Thing You Could Do, and then it all gets overwhelming and you might as well just watch a little TV.

Go online, find an organization in your area that could use some volunteers, and go volunteer there. Don't get all caught up in whether it's the Best Possible Option, just go do something. Do it for a week, or a month. Then assess how that experience was for you. If it was great, do more. If it was awful, try something else.

The important thing is to start. Anything.

And as a great hero of mine, Mr. Rogers, used to say...if you set out to try to be happy, you'll end up chasing that idea of "happy" all over the place. But if you set out to be helpful, you'll probably wind up happy.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2006

Regarding jamesonandwater's comment that volunteer organisations wouldn't accept you: leave that up to them

Naw, just to be clear, I was thinking that he/she wouldn't be emotionally or physically ready at this time and suggesting he prioritize his own health/energy/well-being before jumping in. But that's all based on reading a few paragraphs, so my interpretation could well be wrong.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2006

By the way, you have more in common with others than you think: for example, your favourite TV shows have more in them than vapidity. You have stuff to talk about to engage with people. I have been working my way through the Sopranos and the central narrative of the show, which is the relationship of a Mob Boss and his therapist, is fascinating. Or Alzheimers, which my great grandmother had. Or your favourite websites. Hell, I can bitch and ponder about Metafilter for hours. If you are going to be on the Internet, get on IRC and find a place to hang out. Start forming relationships with people there. Leaving the house is better but that's a start if you can't bring yourself to go out and socialise. I had to learn to enjoy socialising, myself. Normalcy can be learned and the rewards are huge. (also normal doesn't have to be the stereotypical type or normal - it's normal for YOU. I'm much better and happier and more normal now, but still way off the beaten track.)
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:33 AM on October 25, 2006

I have a somewhat unique perspective for you.

I did very well in the tech boom. So well, in fact, that I retired two years and a half years ago at the age of 34.

I spent the first year doing all the things that I always wanted to do but didn't have time to. That was fine.

After that first year, my life began to look very much like yours does now. What friends I had all worked during the week, and even when we did see each other I constantly felt the gap between us. I've always been pretty solitary, but I was spending days on end alone and, in the end, creating excuses to not go out.

I did mess around with volunteer work, but the truth is that it's not very fulfilling to me. It was just something that I "should" do. Also, people respect you in direct proportion to how much they're paying you: volunteers are the least respected people on the planet.

In an attempt to reach some clarity in my life, six months ago I sold my house and gave away the vast bulk of my belongings. I now live a relatively monastic lifestyle in a studio apartment. This has helped tremendously, as a studio apartment is too small for even me to stay in all day, so it forces me to get out and about. Even a walk around the neighborhood helps a lot.

About a month ago, I finally gave into the fact that I'm just not cut out for a life of leisure. As of right now I am busy getting a job in the tech industry again, and I'm once again looking forward to building cool technology as part of a team. Performing useful work and getting paid for it: I won't say that's the meaning of my life, but it certainly feels better than any of the other alternatives I've come up with.

P.S. About travel: I went on the road for eight months just after I retired, living in low end pensions and hostels. The sights and such were nice, but the true value was in the anonymity. Without the familiar trappings of home constantly reminding me of who I was, I was able to get up every morning and decide who I wanted to be that day: A solitary scholar studying ancient greek ruins, a gregarious man who bought drinks for strangers, an introvert reading books in his room all day, etc. It was a great chance to explore who I am, and who I might want to be.
posted by tkolar at 8:34 AM on October 25, 2006 [7 favorites]

well, you could start by paying off this huge-to-me/tiny-to-you tax problem i have....no? okay. really, all the above sound like excellent ideas (barring the monastery- wtf? not exactly going to help with socialization!) but i cannot stress the importance of a good therapist. no drugs, if you can avoid it. i can't say enough about how important learning to know yourself, and learning coping skills will be for every other aspect of your life. and don't settle for a therapist your not sure of. find someone that you "click" with. it'll make your flow so much more rewarding. good luck to you.
posted by metasav at 8:37 AM on October 25, 2006

I think school would do you a world of good. Perhaps, given your situation, you could gear your study towards a life of philanthropy - public affairs, political science, health care policy, business management, etc. Not only are you getting out and socialized in a more structured way and learning really useful stuff, but you'll also be making connections and learning about the organizations you might choose to work with in the future.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 AM on October 25, 2006

I don't necessarily disagree with By The Grace of God's suggestion, but I think you have 5-10 years before you go down that road.

Work on gaining comfort and confidence in yourself in a variety of situations. Go to school, travel, volunteer in a variety of organizations and situations until you find one that suits you. Take a job, work at it for a year, then take a different job and work at it for a year. Perhaps learn an instrument and play music with people. Find ways to take leadership positions in small groups.

Going from where you are now to managing a 10-100M legacy (and all the interests vying for your attention and money) towards either philanthropy or profit (or both) is going to take some preparation.
posted by Good Brain at 9:38 AM on October 25, 2006

Establish an organization dedicated to spreading the message that money won't make you happy.
posted by goethean at 10:03 AM on October 25, 2006

Your dilemma is fascinating. A lot of people are distracted from a deep existential funk much of the time by all the things they need to do to get by. You, on the other hand, have it very easy. Too easy, perhaps.

Why don't you set up a whole seperate financial identity for yourself. Get a job, and live a whole seperate life financially, one where you have to work a day job to get by. Live only on the means that this life provides you. Maybe you'll find yourself thinking... "I wish I didn't have to go to work, so I could...". Then do that! Quit in a spectacular way! And working could help you make friends.

Or, dude, college. College, with an infinite amount of money and no pressure to succeed sounds optimal to me. You could just take fun classes, like SCUBA diving and music theory - whatever you are into.

I wish woz would chime in on this thread. He did some very cool things after he was financially made. One that comes to mind is putting together a huge musical festival, essentially for fun.

Oh, and start a blog about your adventures. I'd read it.

posted by phrontist at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2006

Funding microloans, with even a small fraction of your fortune, could do a world of good.
posted by phrontist at 10:07 AM on October 25, 2006

A couple reasonable short term goals to shake off the funk and isolation:
Driving lessons
An art class (this will get you out among peers, and DOING something with your hands and imagination)
posted by availablelight at 10:14 AM on October 25, 2006

I don't think you are a sociopath. I think you are lonely and going through (like me!) the arduous process of being in your twenties and discovering who you are. The fact that you asked this question says a lot for you.

On NPR this morning there was a piece on the Doyle Scholarship. Apparently a fellow whose son died in 1921 decided that everyone who wanted to go to college should be able to go, and when he died in 1948 he left a trust to fund students' educations at Santa Rosa Junior College. Imagine having that kind of impact on a community.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:27 AM on October 25, 2006

If I may be so bold? Spend $5 for a second MeFi account to that you can respond to these suggestions.
posted by blueshammer at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2006

I would almost suggest you start small with the charity - do one of those 'sponsor a child' things, or something where it does one thing and you get to hear about how $Poor_Child got to go to school an extra year because of you, or $Poor_Village got clean water cutting infant deaths in half. It's easy and there's an immediate reward, and you start hearing about how charities work and get a couple of names of 'people who run charities'. If you're not doing anything now, then even sponsoring one kid or ten goats or whatever will be something.

Second suggestion: contact a celebrity who does a lot of charity work. Think Pat Rafter: I'm sure he can live off his winnings and more - what does he do? It might be a little difficult to get in touch with the actual person, but if you can show that you're not just some loony fan but somebody looking for advice, I'm sure they would respond. Pick your favourite celebrity, or the first name that comes up in a google search of the first charitable cause you think of. If that doesn't get an answer, try the second name.

And for you personally: as others have said, if you haven't been to uni, go. Take a full fee place, and just make sure you pass. Do a philosophy major for the meaning of life, or do business management and tax law to figure out how to run a charity, or do chemistry because you're interested. It doesn't matter what you do because you can always go back and study something later if you decide you should have done x, but it'll be a structured way to get out of the house. It's not actually so easy to make friends just by going to class, but it gives you practice in having conversations, makes you get dressed and organise your time, and gives you the opportunity to join any number of groups that are aimed at socialising.
posted by jacalata at 10:36 AM on October 25, 2006

Find a job. Preferably something that interests you. But most importantly where there are young people working. At that age most people aren't obsessed with a carriere or SO's or family life yet. And the workplace can be an easy way to resocialize, it provides structure to your life and quite possibly a pragmatic purpose.

Buy an old house in the old city centre (don't know where you want to live) the kind of thing everybody 'd like but not suspiciously so. When you find somebody you're comfortable with offer them a room for rent.
I've seen well-to-do students do that to great effect.
Go live in a university town; all kinds of 20+ people move there and have to find new friends.

You've got yourself to discover; chances are that you are more sociable than you think. Have fun!
posted by jouke at 10:49 AM on October 25, 2006

Take some classes, whether toward a degree or not. This will impose some structure on your days, and introduce you to new people. Take courses that interest you, so you don't end up bailing out on them, but only take a few at a time - 3 or 4 concurrently, so you can really study for them.

Check the papers and internet for local fundraising events where you can volunteer for a single afternoon - walks, 5k runs, things like that often need volunteers. This is a great way to meet and interact with people as well as try out volunteering to see how you like it. Also, you can make connections with people that can lead to other ways of helping within the organizations.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 11:10 AM on October 25, 2006

First project: build yourself up. Figure out what traits you should work on -- personal courage, knowledge of how organizations work, skill in talking to other people -- and then make a plan, or just a set of (flexible) rules for yourself, to accomplish those things.

Second: Figure out what effort will make the most difference in the world - moving it in the direction you think will help the most. I was reading about the Gates Foundation a while ago, and what I read gave the impression that their decision to support education was the result of careful study. They didn't start out knowing much about education, and in fact have had to learn a bit about it as they went along -- the foundation's first programs weren't 100% successful, but they are learning from their mistakes.

Third: Form a plan to advance the cause/field you choose. The first effort, building your own personal and other skills, will be important for this - it will not only help you implement your plan, but your self-education and the experiences you have will help you know how to form your plan.

Even with the amount of money you have, you won't be able to make a real difference all by yourself. Also, you'll probably have to be careful to avoid situations in which people just agree with you because you have what they need for their own efforts (money). It will be easy for you to be either too passive or too pushy -- so take the first very seriously, and allow that it may take a number of years, which is fine. Start slowly.

Also -- it is important that you do things you enjoy, really, or you won't work with joy; people will be more inclined to give you their best if you are genuinely enjoying yourself.

You may very well not know what you enjoy. I myself find the Meyers-Briggs assessments pretty unhelpful because I don't really know the answers to the test's questions. You just have to try things, one after the other, and see what your mood is immediately afterward (when you go home from a meeting/rehearsal/lesson/session) and the next day. You might spend a year or more on just this -- but it will be fun, most of the time, and you can meet people.

If you have some kind of job, talking to people might be less awkward because you won't have to be evasive when asked what your job is, and you'll be able to relate to their employment stories. But you can take a job (even a volunteer job) that is light and interesting - museum guide, teaching assistant, hospital volunteer - and that will also give you a chance to look at the world from a different perspective. Also, you'll have a chance to see how the people you meet treat you for *you*.

This sounds like a really interesting project; I wish I were there to help you find the perfect job and activities.

Another reason I emphasized the first project - I've worked on a couple of boards. It's not trivial, especially when you're young (I was really young the first time) -- the interpersonal skill required was something I had to develop. Also, a lot of board members, I think, don't really have a feel for other parts of the organization; while they may be primarily fund-raisers, they still make important decisions and more detailed knowledge can help.

Good luck. I hope you aren't too burdened by all this. Please, take care of yourself; you can't do much if you're not enjoying yourself. It really makes a huge difference, and will help you do your work, whatever it is, with a full focus that will inspire others.
posted by amtho at 11:12 AM on October 25, 2006 [2 favorites]

I was expecting this right away from someone else since it's really not my style of advice, but it's something that likely should be thrown out there...

Have you tried living it up? While you're not going to immediately start looking well and socializing well just by being affluent, it can certainly open doors to certain social opportunities. Join organizations, buy a few nice things (car, clothing, a small place in a major city) and hit the streets running. See what comes up, and try to talk to as many people as possible without coming off as an arrogant rich guy. If you're genuinely nice and talk to enough people, you're going to start seeing where you want to spend your money and time.

I have relatively little money of my own to spend compared to your inheritance but I've successfully made friends in bars, coffeeshops, and other places people meet. From there, I've gone out to art openings, public concerts, and other social events. If I had the money, I'd be donating to these events or to their beneficiaries, especially those that help local homeless shelters, clinics, and the like. Not that they wouldn't deserve the money before, but because there's a personal connection that didn't exist before I had this social network.
posted by mikeh at 11:20 AM on October 25, 2006

Perhaps read Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. It is helpful, and written by someone who survived Auschwitz, so therefore hard to argue with.
posted by scratch at 11:21 AM on October 25, 2006

It's interesting how demotivating having too many opportunities is. When you can do anything at all, how do you decide?

I'm going to nth the idea of going to college. If you've already gone, go again. Why not? There is no easier way to surround yourself with interesting people (and to force yourself to get out there and interact with them). Which is the easiest way to become an interesting (and, more importantly, interested) person yourself.

Also, the classes might not be a complete waste of time. You might accidentally discover something you're genuinely interested in doing, instead of doing Good Works because you think you're supposed to.
posted by ook at 11:23 AM on October 25, 2006

I agree with the advice about helping yourself before helping others, and trying to get some structure in your day. I know that, as a full-time university student, it's so easy to let the day slip by if I have nothing planned.

Here are some suggestions to keep yourself from getting out of touch with the world:
- Look for a roommate
- Volunteering
- Get a job
- Go to university (and participate in extra-curriculars there)

I sense that you haven't gotten a chance to talk to many people about your problems. A therapist might be able to help you in this area.

P.S. Reading the question reminded me of the book/movie About A Boy. One of the two main characters, Will Freeman, is in a similar situation as you in that he doesn't have to work because he lives off his dad's song-writing royalties, and he doesn't have any responsibilities outside of himself.
posted by catburger at 11:32 AM on October 25, 2006

Clear out your old life (everything you don't use or love) and go travelling. I think you need to go through a process of catharsis before you start trying to create something new. What tkolar says about the freedom of anonymity is absolutely true, you'll get to reinvent yourself every day if you want and decide what feels right to you.

FWIW I have seen this work for a friend who was in somewhat comparable circumstances.
posted by teleskiving at 11:40 AM on October 25, 2006

You don't have to work for anyone, ever. Think bigger. I'm all for the foundation idea. If I won the lottery that's totally what I'd do. I dream about it constantly. I think you have absolutely ideal circumstances just waiting to be put to use.

I also like the idea of getting on a foundation's board first to see how it works. To do that you'll want to clean up a bit and make yourself presentable. I uhh... don't know what comes after that in terms of getting on a board. I'm poor, you see.

For your own foundation, I'd pick some area of focus that appeals to you, and which has the promise to improve things in the world or in a region or in a specific sector of life. It's like you've got this fountain of gratification waiting to shower all over you. Get excited! Don't expect to manage the details yourself. There are people who do this for a living. Find the best ones and start hiring. Use their knowledge and expertise to strategize, implement, and grow. You set the broad guidelines and make it their task to fulfill. You stay connected enough to keep it on track.

I also agree with the people who are saying that step 1 is to get yourself a regular schedule which gets you out of the house. Health will do wonders, so since you can afford a personal chef and a personal trainer, do both. You're unmotivated, so outsource your motivation at least at first. You can start simply with the trainer, and you'll aim for healthy with the chef (not fancy/extravagant). Some kind of class that asks something of you would be good too. Start small and don't overwhelm yourself. And don't worry about failure. Put yourself out there and get engaged. The first step won't be a home run, but it'll knock other things loose and introduce new contacts and opportunities and the machinery will begin to unstick. All of that can start to help in terms of meeting people and relationships too.

And speaking of meeting people, the travel idea could work too. Don't go the millionare route, go the backpacker route. Travelling alone can stink and be lonely if you stay in nice hotels. If you're in hostels, there's this whole underground community of people that you plug right into. You meet all sorts of nice, fun, open people from all over and can engage to the degree you are comfortable and withdraw when you need space. Communal dorms, lunch buddies, impromptu excursion partners, an atmosphere of fun, spontaneity. Pack a backpack, get a guidebook, travel simply and light, and just go roam. No schedule, no money limits, go explore! Australia/NZ is a great place for this and you're already there.

And some of that same travel, if targeted at less advantaged areas of the globe, can give you ideas for your foundation. You could also do some guided trips with a purpose, like through Global Exchange (political/social/economic), Witness For Peace (same), Earthwatch Institute (environmental), Habitat For Humanity, Heifer International, etc. They handle all the planning and logistics and line up all the contacts. You just show up and learn.

This is going to be great. Your oyster awaits. Do it for us poor saps slaving away for the man!
posted by kookoobirdz at 11:55 AM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

A note on Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" mentioned above. He says there are three ways to find meaning in life: through a vocation, through love, or through suffering. Screw #3. Work on #1 while making yourself available and increasingly ready for #2.
posted by kookoobirdz at 12:02 PM on October 25, 2006

As for the psychological side of things, find a highly recommended therapist and get cracking. Your posting here demonstrates that you have the will to make the change, so there's no reason you shouldn't see benefits.

Non–CBT professional talk therapy doesn’t have a much better success rate than not doing any talk therapy over the same period of time; it seems to be a quirk of how payment for healthcare is structured that it’s so popular in the US. Put otherwise, most people get better spontaneously, but people are nonetheless content to have gone to talk therapy when surveyed, and recommend it to friends.

So since you don’t actually have an incapacitating problem, and you’re paying yourself (as you are if I understand the Australian health care system correctly) it will probably not be hugely worthwhile for you.

If you’ve never had a girlfriend despite completing years of compulsory schooling, I suspect you’re lacking in confidence or looks, or both. Try Asia if you want to explore that side of things—I have a considerate, not unattractive male Australian friend in Thailand who would never consider going back to .au because he’s so much happier there, mostly for that reason. (Taking advantage of a social judgement of Western men as more attractive than the locals is not more unethical than taking advantage of social judgement of height or looks as more attractive, by the way. Just behave well.)
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:10 PM on October 25, 2006

When you say 9 digit figure do you mean a sum between $100,000,000 (100 Million) and $999,999,999?
posted by dgeiser13 at 12:46 PM on October 25, 2006

Anon wrote of his volunteering experience at the Salvation Army: the people i dealt with weren't very nice, and i'm not a very resilient person

It's really not that unusual for people in bad finacial situations to be not very nice, and not very resiliant themselves. A lot of volunteers think that the poor people they help are going to be really thankful, but that's not always the case, because extreme poverty isn't exactly the best condition to cultivate a happy mental state. (Isn't it funny that extreme wealth hasn't put you in any better a mental state either?)

Anyway, there are actually a few organizations devoted to helping young, wealthy people figure out what to do with their money. Here's one US based org called Resource Generation; maybe they can tell you where to go in Australia.
posted by footnote at 12:54 PM on October 25, 2006

My suggestion: do as several others have suggested and just go somewhere and work. Find a place to live in a suburb, give yourself $1,000-$2,000 in startup costs (initial month's rent/deposit/utilities) and then find a job. Doesn't matter what job, as long as it's something you think you could stand to do for a while and it pays for rent/utilities/food. It's like a game with a couple of ground rules, namely:

1. No dipping into your existent funds.
2. You have to make enough money to cover your costs and provide for recreation.
3. You have to stick with the job for a certain amount of time. (Your choice, but I'd suggest at least three months.)

This could enable you to (1) meet people, (2) learn what life is like for the majority of young people your age, (3) learn what you do and don't like about the working life, (4) get used to being social in somewhat more scripted interactions ('cause at work, they usually want you to interact with people in a certain way, answer the phone a certain way, etc.), without the pressure of being socially creative.

Some things you might want to do before attempting this: get a medical check-up, learn to drive and get a car, and/or go to college. For someone like you, college might actually be useful—going could help you determine what you're interested in, what you're really not interested in, and develop a few marketable skills along the way. You can also meet a lot of intelligent, interesting people in college—and as with holding menial jobs, it's like playing a game. If you screw up with someone, it doesn't matter—you're only going to be there for a few years. And if you do happen to meet some good people, so much the better.

I do have to second the superhero suggestion, though—you really do fit the profile. :)
posted by limeonaire at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2006

Become Batman.

Joking aside, I think this is a situation where you need to take care of yourself first and others second. The way you describe yourself doesn't sound too healthy. I'd work on eating healthier, getting in better shape, and getting yourself into the world first. You have the money, so seeing a life counselor of sorts might be a good step for you but is not necessary.

The absolute first thing I'd do is get on a regular sleep schedule. Eight hours a day at the most, waking up the same time every day. That will give you so much time you will have nothing else to do but start bettering yourself and the world. Part time or full time college may not be a bad idea to ease yourself into the real world. It is the favored intermediate step of most people.
posted by Loto at 1:20 PM on October 25, 2006

For those who dream of being wealthy, understand that it is the pursuit that gives you fulfillment, not the money. Being young and wealthy is a great formula for depression. You don't need to try anymore. Nothing seems worthwhile. You can have whatever you want materially but you don't want any of it. This person's situation is even worse - he/she doesn't have a family to give to, and did nothing more to deserve his/her fortune than survive until he/she was 18.

Step 1. Anti-depressants. They work. Go to a doctor. Clearly in your mind you are far superior to this struggling medical school graduate but believe me - antidepressants work. You don't need to be miserable to be depressed. They won't solve your problems long-term but they will keep your attitude positive enough to look at the world differently.

Step 2. Do a random act of kindness. After the anti-depressants kick in (give it eight weeks), watch the tv, read the newspaper and give at least $50,000 to somebody you find that needs it. Don't give it to a charity - give it to someone where you can see it helping. Even if you have a debilitating personality disorder, you will see that people will give you a lot of acceptance and lots of other things, merely because you helped them. Kindness breaks down all barriers. You will start to feel connected into something.

Step 3. Assess how you felt about what you just did. Analyse thoroughly the feedback people gave you about who you are. Think of more ideas about how this new connection with humanity can be gradually materialised into a real life.

Step 4. Go to Step 1.
posted by zaebiz at 2:07 PM on October 25, 2006

my parents died when i was eleven, and i lived with my only grandparent until i was seventeen. when i turned eighteen i was given my parents' fortune (a nine digit figure). i'm now in my early twenties living in an apartment in brisbane.

This is the most interesting bit of what you say and I don't think anyone else has touched on it. Did you know between eleven and eighteen that you would inherit that massive amount of money? Was it suddenly told to you when you turned eighteen? I can't imagine how that would affect you psychologically. Obviously, you were brought up in a wealthy family but to suddenly find yourself in possession of such an enormous amount of money... what on earth have you done since you were eighteen? Just sat around?

What were your hopes and dreams when you were a child? What did you always enjoy when you were young?

My suggestion: go view the Flickr map. Find the most beautiful place. Book a first class flight there. Pack a tiny bag. And go. And then do the same thing once you're explored a bit. And again. And again. And then come home, and go to college.

And then decide what you want to do with your money. Just put all that aside and tell yourself that you don't need to make any decision until you know yourself a little better.
posted by humuhumu at 2:14 PM on October 25, 2006

A nine-digit pile of monetary assets is a huge responsibility, and it can feel like an enormous burden. I'd suggest living as though you didn't have it; that's what I'd do in your position. Try to imagine what life would be like if your legacy was much smaller. Pretend that you only have $20,000 in the bank.

If you didn't have that fortune, how would you live? Presumably you'd choose a career (if you like computers, maybe try computer science), go to university, and find a job. So do that. Leave the bulk of the money somewhere safe (government bonds, term deposits) and forget about it for a few years.

Once you've got more life experience, you'll be in a better position to figure out what to do with the money.

A couple book recommendations:

Seconding Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled is another good meaning-of-life book.

Andrew Tobias's The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need is an excellent introduction to personal finance.

To answer your original question:

If your fortune is nine figures ($100 million or more), then the most effective thing you can do to make the world better will be to become a major donor to charitable causes. You could donate $1 million or more every year from the investment income alone. But as I said, you'll probably need more life experience.

You might want to spend some time reading biographies of major philanthropists. George Soros is particularly interesting: In many ways, Mr Soros is more ambitious than earlier philanthropists, such as Carnegie. His interests are both more international (he operates in more than 30 countries) and broader in scope. He has tried to do foreign-policy jobs that governments used to regard as theirs. In 1996 he spent almost $200m promoting democracy in Eastern Europe, outspending the American government on providing aid to Hungary, the former Yugoslavia and Belarus.

One other thing: make a will, if you haven't already, leaving enough money to cover your grandmother's care, and giving the rest to charity (you mentioned the Red Cross).
posted by russilwvong at 2:32 PM on October 25, 2006

get a kitten
posted by milarepa at 3:33 PM on October 25, 2006 [3 favorites]

Err... a little balancing perspective on the anti-depressants. They do work for some people, they don't work for others, and they have mixed or undesirable results for others. Can't hurt to try but it's not a clean cut guarantee. A professional can advise whether to try them or not and then you can figure out over time if they're worth it for you.
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:45 PM on October 25, 2006

Okay I'm going to say something that's about to get me in trouble. But what the hell.

Charity Shmarity.

No offense to those who've suggested it, but throwing money at someone else's problems isn't likely to fill the hole in your life any more than throwing it at something else. Not until you know why you're doing it and that you WANT to do it.

And brother? You ain't there yet.

The way I look at it, your biggest problem is that you're anti-social, a little out of touch with your actual feelings (not sociopathic) and the kind of angst you got going on because of those two things...well it's got a lot of inertia going for it.

And bodies at rest stay at rest. Even when it's not a good place to be.

So I'm going to tell you one thing you need to drop a couple of bucks on: a motivator. You need to buy yourself a coach to get you out there everyday. Not cause he's your friend, or your relative. But because it's his JOB to get you where you're going. Someone to hand you a list of stuff to do for the day and tell you to do it. And someone to be with you as you do it for the first time. Plus, on your get in shape angle, that coach is also gonna get you out of bed, get you to the gym and get you to not spend all your time in the sauna there.

Chances are you can get one of em, full time, for 50 grand a year.

Now here's the second part - and the tougher one - that needs to be addressed. That guy who's going to help you get where you're going? Where's he helping you go?

Answer: everywhere.

This is more than just one of those "go travel" things that everyone else has been promoting. That's for people with a wanderlust and a direction and compelling desire to see a part of this planet before they lost their spot on it to the worm food that's gonna replace them.

And brother? That ain't you. Not yet.

What I'm saying is you need to think of all the things you've ever liked - even in some tangential way - and list them out. You liked race cars as a kid? It's on the list. You like eclairs for desert? On the list. You like the movies of Sarah Jessica Parker? On the list. You like sailboats? ON THE LIST.

Then you take that list, and you get your coach to help you do it, two weeks at a time, for the next year. Don't tell anyone you're worth a mint. Don't tell why you're doing it. Just you and your coach, learning this new thing and then doing it.

Race cars? A nascar training facility in California. Takes you from beginner to semi-pro in two weeks. Eclairs? An intensive pastry cooking school in NYC. Sarah Jessica Parker? Call her agent and offer 10 grand to that broadway kids charity program she likes if she'll have lunch with you.

I know. This seems daunting. It seems crazy. It seems, above all, not you. But it CAN be. You just put the easier stuff ahead of the harder stuff and work your way up. And, remember, no matter how hard it is, there's ANOTHER person going through the exact same stuff WITH you.

Aren't you glad you're paying for that coach now?

IN the end, in a year's time, maybe two, you'll have cleared the list. And I guarantee, at the end of that time, you will have a much clearer picture of a lot of things. You will know why you want to give to charities and which ones. You'll know what things you thought you liked and which ones changed your world. And you'll know the best thing of all:

You'll know who you are.

And that won't get you all the way across the river, but it sure as hell will put you in the same boat as the rest of us with out a nine figure paddle.

You've been given the greatest opportunity ever. You get to learn how to be or do anything you want to do. And you get to do it on your own terms in your own time in your own way.

I get why you can't see it right now. And I get why telling someone who's blind that they look hot is pointless too. But I'm telling you, do what you need to do - pick that path, pick a person to help you get there and go - and it won't be.
posted by rileyray3000 at 8:42 PM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I hereby out myself on AskMeFi. I will run the workshop that By The Grace of God refers to here and have worked in Australian philanthropy for several years. But I'm speaking here as a fellow MeFite as well as a paid philanthropoid :)

I don't think you will necessarily want to come along to the workshop, especially not feeling the way you do now. I do second what others have said about looking after yourself. But if any of the comments here have perked an interest in philanthropy, there is plenty of help out there - it can just be difficult to find sometimes. You might want to start out gently with a bit of research, reading and reflection.

There's a PDF document called A Guide to Giving for Australians which you can download and which gives a good basic overview of the types of things Australians can do if they want to give their time or money to make the world a better place. It won't answer all your questions, but it will give you more info from which to make a decision. It also has worksheets and things so you can work out what your passion might be and where you might want to make a start. It's downloadable from here.

When and if you feel ready, there are a number of other young people involved in philanthropy who you can link in with, people your own age - young trustees and family members who would welcome you and probably understand some of the same pressures and issues you may face.

There's also a centre for philanthropy and nonprofit studies at QUT, if you want to combine study with philanthropy. There's a philanthropy course at Swinburne Uni in Melbourne as well.

If you want to talk it over, my email address is in my profile. No obligation. This is my job but I'm also passionate about philanthropy and love to link people in with the information they might need.

And I don't think you're a sociopath; making the world a better place is not generally on a sociopath's agenda. On the other hand, there have been philanthropists both here and overseas who have been eccentric, reclusive, even 'antisocial', but who have done wonderful, wonderful things. Giving can bring great joy and be fun; it might not be the way you find your joy, but you might want to find out.
posted by andraste at 12:18 AM on October 26, 2006

Don't donate your money now. Philanthropy is nice, don't get me wrong, but you need to first find what you love. Discover the things that are meaningful to you and give your time.

How would I discover these things? I would put away all but, say, $200,000 of the money and forget that I even had a fortune.

Assuming Grandma is healthy, I would then get a student visa, move to NYC or London, and rent a reasonable apartment. (You won't need a car for now, you'll have lots of time to learn to drive later.)

I think you might have already been to university, but I would go again. Don't let on to anyone that you have a fortune. Live like the avarage student with no more privilege than a full-ride scholarship. And study everything under the sun. Take pottery classes, learn ballroom dancing, fencing, trampoline. Study literature, philosophy, history, a foreign language. Computer science, if you like. Psychology or any of the hard sciences too. Learn to write really well. Get into heated discussions with your classmates and perfect your debate skills. Speak in front of a crowd. Act in a play. Host your own show at the campus radio station. Help out at the campus volunteer center. Find a mentor. Get a part-time job at an indie bookstore or bartend at a pub. Study abroad.

So you'll be in this great environment to start meeting people again and begin exporing your interests. Maybe you'll stay awhile to graduate and pursue more education, maybe the experience will inspire you to take off to travel the world or start your own non-profit. Maybe you might decide to work for someone else full-time.

This is how I would equip myself with the skills, friendships, and dreams to decide what to do next. And become Batman.

Don't rush, you have all the time in the world. The best of luck to you!
posted by QueSeraSera at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2006

Get out there and travel, you'll never know who you'll meet and have a good time. Hell, drop me a email, come visit Florida and we'll paint the damn town red. Life is an adventure, and you're in a great position to enjoy it, even if you don't know it yet.
posted by AdamOddo at 3:57 PM on October 26, 2006

I hope you read this. What I have to say, probably, is very much pop psychology. And I"m not a psychologist.

But you're lacking a father figure. Really; you've been living a life full of loss (all the money in the world doesn't change that.)

I think you need some level of psychologist/mentor/father figure. Someone who can provide you some of the structure you need (and likely male structure.)

I'm not saying you need to beat a drum or kill an animal. I'm saying, I think you need someone to force you to grow a little...Someone who won't take crap from you, but will also help you dust yourself off.

You need to fail a bit. And succeed a bit. It's called growth. It's tough. Someone caring will help you do so with a minimum amount of pain.

Additionally, I hope this person will help you find a passion.

It sounds like you have enough money to "buy" this. There are two problems there - one is that if you do this, how will you react when things are tough? You need someone to help get you social but also helping you physically recover and become more healthy. I look at your time volunteering and when you found it frustrating, you needed someone who'd help you cope. You don't want your life to be a series of things you quit at. Second, really, you'll resent this person over time.

If you can be sound of mind and body, you'll have a much, much easier time finding your own path in life (vs. here at metafilter.)

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by filmgeek at 7:03 PM on October 26, 2006

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