Should I keep this office job or make a Fresh New Start?
June 10, 2004 7:31 PM   Subscribe

So, I want to run away from home. No, I'm not a disaffected teenager, I'm a disaffected twenty-something who needs to decide My Future. (More is to be found on the inside for your convenience.)

I'm 23 years old and six months out of college. I'm presently working full time on a temporary basis for my university, and it looks more likely than not that the job will become permanent at some point within the year. The job would provide a good basis for a starting a stable life here in Austin. But....

I've never lived outside of Texas. I haven't travelled much, nor did I live an exciting college student life whil I had the chance. I want to eventually go to grad school, but I'm not really motivated to do so right away. The smart thing to do would be to stick around for a few years at the job and save enough money for either grad school or a move to another state. The stiffled young woman inside me says to seize the day and run off with wild abandon to the Pacific Northwest.

I guess I just need some advice and stories from the the wise members of Metafilter; am I wasting away my youth at an office job or should I be an adult about it and plan to someday fulfill my desire for a Fresh New Start, even if it could take years?
posted by lychee to Grab Bag (54 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Go now! Speaking as a old-timer of nearly 38 years, I'm absolutely dumbstruck at all of the things that I *could* have done at such an early age, but didn't. Not necessarily "regret," but...always left wondering why I didn't try a few more things in my salad days.

That old chestnut: in your old age, you are much more likely to regret what you HAVEN'T done, than regret what you HAVE done. Probably true.

And Pacific NW is a great place to start. If you swing through Montana, lunch is on me!
posted by davidmsc at 7:43 PM on June 10, 2004

As you grow older, it's fairly likely that you'll become somewhat more risk-averse. Inertia is hard to overcome, and once you've found some nice, boring stability it will take quite a lot more effort to shake things up than it would to do so right now.

Go play. You only live once.
posted by majick at 7:44 PM on June 10, 2004

Hmmm... in hindsight, if I were in your shoes, I would "get out of dodge" if you have even the slightest desire to do so. You're college educated, so it's not like you're totally misguided. I DIDN'T do what you're thinking about doing and quite frankly, I regret it. Because now, I'd really love to do that more than ever, but it just isn't as feasible now. I may have more money than I did before, but I don't have near the mobility (family, career, home ownership). It sounds like you really want to go. You can get a job and "save up" anywhere. If a little kick in the ass to get you more motivated and inspired is what you're hoping for out of this thread, then I offer you the first boot. Do it!
posted by Witty at 7:45 PM on June 10, 2004

Go now. I'm doing the same thing.
posted by amery at 7:46 PM on June 10, 2004

ok... third boot (damn preview delay).
posted by Witty at 7:48 PM on June 10, 2004

Come to Seattle, I'll buy you a drink!
posted by falconred at 7:56 PM on June 10, 2004

I left Texas for California on much the same terms. No regrets. It hasn't always been easy, but it's been worth it.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:56 PM on June 10, 2004

Don't run up a credit card balance. Otherwise, carpe diem.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:58 PM on June 10, 2004

I also vote for the change. We're only young once. Once a family and such comes around, the prospect of just moving on a whim isn't as viable. I know when I graduate in a year, I'm all about getting out of GA and out of the South.
posted by jmd82 at 8:00 PM on June 10, 2004

I said "what the hell" and moved out to Hollywood when I was your age. I may end up moving back East (on the wrong side of 30 now) but I'll never reget sqandering my youth out here rather than taking the "safe" route and working at a cube job. Go to the Northwest. If you don't love it, you can always go home.
posted by herc at 8:05 PM on June 10, 2004

BUT, and this is not a small but...

If you're someone who's always lived in Texas, and has a stable set of old friends, and hasn't ever lived anywhere where you really don't know anyone, be advised that this is Not Easy for a while. You'll get over it, everyone does, but be prepared for a lonely year. I say this as a long-time USAF brat who had to start over not-quite-yearly until the middle of high school.

Or, and this is where I was going with this when I started typing, consider where you might move to and give places with one or two friends you know -- or even casual friendly acquaintances, not necessarily good lend-them-your-car friends -- a big plus.

You should probably still go for it, but it can't hurt to spend a little time (summer?) thinking harder about where you want to go and why. Though, thinking on it, you might find that moving someplace you really don't know anyone at all might be better in the longest run.

And you shouldn't be saving much money for grad school, unless you mean a professional school or a need-it-for-a-job MA or MS. For "academic" grad school, don't take anything less than a full ride* for at least 3 years or, really, 5. If you're somewhere that makes you pay, you'll be overworked, won't finish for 10 years if at all, and all the jobs will be going to people who got free rides somewhere else and got out in 6 or less.

*State schools often have to jigger this around because of dumb state laws
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:07 PM on June 10, 2004

I did something similar to what you're thinking about, some years ago. It was Not Easy. I haven't regretted it for an instant. ymmv.
posted by transient at 8:15 PM on June 10, 2004

When I was 17, I moved 1000 miles away to a city I had only driven through once. Best impulse I ever followed.

Being an "adult" is not only way over-rated, it's simply not something you should think about until you hit your 40s, if then.

So grab a map, find a city that might suit the life you'd like to live, and go for it.

On preview: ROU_Xenophobe is right, it'll probably take up to a (rather lonely) year for you to make friends. But it's worth it in the end.
posted by cmonkey at 8:17 PM on June 10, 2004

Do it! I lived in Portland for all of my life, and even a skip across the river into Washington has done wonders for my worldview. The PNW is prime for this sort of thing, as this region crawling with relocated people from flyover country, and there's a pretty huge population doing the same thing you want to do. Plus I can buy you an espresso beverage of your choice at Coffee Time if you come here.
posted by calistasm at 8:20 PM on June 10, 2004

You should move to Vancouver, BC. Good adventure to be had here.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 PM on June 10, 2004

I am going to add to the "Do it."

I grew up in Austin and left to go to college, spent some time in new england and recently moved to Germany for a few months. I am back here, and I love Austin. I doubt seriously that now that I am getting to the settling age that I will do the big move again for a very long time, I am still glad I left to see other things. It is hard. But it will probably be one of the best decisions you ever make.

In fact, I would be so bold as to say if there is any way you can figure out how to move to another country you should do it. My time in Germany was the most eye-opening experience of my life. Give yourself a Global Worldview.
posted by jopreacher at 8:30 PM on June 10, 2004

I say go for it, but with one caveat: strike a balance between "spending your future" and "letting the days go by". Don't move on credit -- and even that rule could be broken on severe need -- but be as financially responsible as possible during your move. Wherever you land, don't spend a lot of time unemployed (especially unemployed and sitting around by yourself because you're new). Get a job, change your mind 3 weeks later if you need to, but the point is, make sure that no matter where you are you're doing a blend of fighting for the life you want to live and saving even just a bit for the life you will want to live later.

I've never regretted moves. I've only regretted not moving.
posted by namespan at 8:48 PM on June 10, 2004

I'm essentially conflicted, but I'll come down on the other side. Times are tight now. I wouldn't be throwing away a decent job just for a little adventure.

You didn't say if you like the job and/or your coworkers. If both, recognize your luck and find your adventures while employed. Certainly it sounds like the longer you remain, the wider your options become.

For context, I'm a 38 year old Canadian Air Force brat who moved every three years when young and spent three in Germany, so when I had a chance to settle in a city and call it home, that's exactly what I did.

However, I'll agree with jopreacher, if you go, leave the country. Nothing gives you perspective like having to deal with another culture.

Ultimately, people muddle through, whatever the circumstances. Any option is viable; in the long run it's impossible to predict the effects of life choices.
posted by alex_reno at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2004

Let me add to the "go now" chorus--you don't know what a luxury it is to have no one but yourself to care for until you give it up (hopefully voluntarily). I wouldn't trade my family for anything, but I never would've even met my wife if we both hadn't simultaneously opted to move to Hawaii straight out of college. (She grew up in MI and went to college there, and I had grown up in CT and gone to school there.)

If you're really not the type to pull up stakes and move to a new place with no safety net, there's no reason you can't actively seek a job in a far-off place. There's definitely something to be said for the pure adventure of just landing somewhere with nothing but a little bit of cash and a whole lot of gumption, but it's not for everyone. That doesn't mean you're stuck, though. If you're open to moving, you've actually got better chances of finding a _great_ job, since you're tapping into a much larger pool of opportunities.
posted by LairBob at 9:08 PM on June 10, 2004

Travel, leave the country. There's nothing like travelling to open your eyes to what a wonderful collection of people inhabit this small patch of earth.

If nothing else, it would make you appreciate where you came from better and that might be a good thing too.

If you swing by south east Asia, I can show you around.
posted by timyang at 9:29 PM on June 10, 2004

I'll add my voice to the chorus singing "go!" I'm one of those people who went, supposedly for two weeks, now I've been here half my life. It's been a blast and I've never regretted it.

My only other suggestion would be to think about what you want to do: you mention both traveling and living somewhere else. Your primary goal might change your approach a little.

If you want to travel money helps, so waiting a little bit (I mean weeks or months, not years) and saving as much as you can before you go might not hurt... just don't wait too long!

If you want to move somewhere else for a while, just go. You may end up flipping burgers, or whatever, while you find your feet, but you'll be settling down and meeting people. Finding new places to live and new jobs etc. is always easiest if you are on the spot.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:55 PM on June 10, 2004


Email me your address for a notebook to write your adventures on and some MeFi pins to give away to kindred spirits you meet along the way. My way of saying - go now!
posted by azul at 10:43 PM on June 10, 2004

Joepreacher has the right of it. Move internationally, anything else is too much the same.
posted by Goofyy at 11:06 PM on June 10, 2004

Austin's fantastic, but try moving to Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam or..... if you're really brave... Tokyo.

Do it. Live the adventure. You'll still have e-mail - and all of us here at MetaFilter.
posted by skylar at 12:46 AM on June 11, 2004

Absolutely do it! You have the rest of your life to get stuck in a rut, now's the best time to try something totally different. I was in exactly your same situation a year ago, even down to the cushy university job for 8 months after I graduated. Then I decided I hated the Minnesota winters and moved down to Phoenix for a life of sun and adventure (and sun...and more sun...and even a little more). As others have said, it hasn't been a cake walk, but it's been a lot of fun overall. Heck, you might have some company up there in the PNW, I pine for rainy days now and may make another move before I really get tied down.
posted by TungstenChef at 1:33 AM on June 11, 2004

Never been out of Texas?! There's a warm beer waiting for you in London. Come and explore the Old World - it's a fascinatnig place!

Seriously, you've got the choice to do this now, it becomes a much more difficult proposition when you've got mortgage payments to meet and a car to run.

Do it, have fun. Let s know how you get on.
posted by dmt at 2:56 AM on June 11, 2004


I'll add to the chorus of 'get out of the country'. As soon as you start to travel - even somewhere 'easy' like Mexico (close) or Europe/Australia/New Zealand (western culture) - it will open up a whole new range of friends & possibilities. You'll be amazed at how different the US looks from the outside too ;-)

As a taster have read of stavrosthewonderchicken's blog which contains some cracking stories of a travelling life.

That said, don't worry too much about the age thing. I didn't get out of Europe until I was 28 (1986) and I've been bobbing off regularly since then.
posted by i_cola at 3:29 AM on June 11, 2004

As a P.S.
You might want to go where your $ will go further. i.e. Not Europe at the moment!
posted by i_cola at 3:30 AM on June 11, 2004

Teach English in Asia. You'll meet lots of great expats, learn another culture, build skills that will be reasonably valuable later in life, and not have to work very hard to live a good "young person" life. My email is in my profile, if you're really interested in learning how to pull it off in Beijing.
posted by gd779 at 4:52 AM on June 11, 2004

A lot of people I know have gone to Australia for 6 months or a year. They travel down, work a bit here and there to keep covering their costs and then come home. It may be a way to spend some time trying to determine if you really want to be away from Texas and home, while still having a fairly well-defined end date. That way, you don't end up feeling like you failed at living on your own when you move home again. And if you enjoyed it and want to move elsewhere or travel more, well, then you can go ahead and do that.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:15 AM on June 11, 2004

Join the Peace Corps, become a Merchant Marine, join the international cast of Up With People, but go somewhere. Some people prefer the dart and map process, some prefer the 'beer index' process, and some prefer the 'cities with names of more than four letters, two of which are vowels' process. Do you speak any languages? Have you thought about working in a National Park for the summer?
Pack lightly - you'll need less than you think.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:47 AM on June 11, 2004

You should travel. As a uni graduation present my parents bought me a flight to Europe and it was the best experience I've had. It helped that I have relatives there and they put me up for a couple of weeks however I did spend a lot of time on my own, meeting new people and trying to get around in a completely new place. I went back a few times on extended trips after making enough money back home to finance another trip. You'll have plenty of time to waste away your life in an office job later. Right now you're young, you're interested and you're still probably not too adverse to putting up with dirty clothes, heavy backpacks and sleeping in dodgy places, like hostels in Amsterdam or Prague. Besides, if you can get a permanent job now, you'll definitely be able to get a permenant job when you get back, after you've discovered yourself and learned more about what the world has to offer. Who knows? Austin may seem too small then.
posted by KathyK at 5:58 AM on June 11, 2004

How did you guys work in other countries without visas? How can a Canuck like me just pack up and go to, say, New York or Paris and hope to land a job? Does pulling pints at the local tavern really pay the rent in a town like NYC? Interested to hear how you all made ends meet.
posted by Succa at 7:30 AM on June 11, 2004

Go and go now.

I was 33 when I finally got up the nerve to run away (also from Texas to the PNW, as it turns out).

Have fun!
posted by deborah at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2004

I ran away to the Pac NW from Mass. when I was two weeks out of college in a van with a bed in the back and all my stuff and never ever regretted it. The job market is tighter now than it was, and rent is a bit steep so be careful with money [I agree with the "don't go in debt just to live a little" chorus] but I think it's worthwhile especially if you can entertain yourself and feel okay talking to strangers. In fact, prepare RIGHT NOW. Use some discretionary web-surfing time to meet people out there. Chat in the craigslist PDX/SEA forums, get to know some friends of friends on or If you're not limited by massive debt, consider something like Americorps or Vista. There are lots of those jobs in Seattle. Lay some groundwork. See if you know anyone who knows anyone who could rent you a room on the cheap or help you find a get-started job. Just because you're packing up and leaving [for a while, you might decide to come back so don't burn bridges] doesn't mean you can't plan a little bit.

You are not wasting your youth at your job per se, but getting out and about when you feel a bit more immortal and a bit more into taking risks is really a great way to make your future career seem more like a choice and less like a ball and chain. I feel like I did low-level goofing off in the PacNW for about a decade and now that I'm settling down in Vermont at a straight job with a boyfriend and a sensible car, I don't regret either where I was then, or where I am now. If you feel like you should go, then you should probably go.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 AM on June 11, 2004

Go. Travel light, don't be afraid of some temporary poverty and loneliness (you will have spells of homesickness), don't run up debts, be open to experience, learn how people in different places see the world, make friends, drink the local brew, keep a journal if you can manage it—you'll read it in fascination in a decade or two. Go.
posted by languagehat at 8:02 AM on June 11, 2004

Yes, to echo the others and add my two cents - go. I think staying in your college town is just about the worst thing you can do to yourself, having known some who have done it. It's fun for a year or two, then your friends start to move away and it gets pretty depressing. IWithin a summer of graduating college I had moved to NYC and stayed there for four years. It was VERY hard but well worth it.
posted by drobot at 8:14 AM on June 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

How did you guys work in other countries without visas?

I'd guess that some were on student work-travel plans, and others worked informally, and others taught English.

How can a Canuck like me just pack up and go to, say, New York or Paris and hope to land a job?

You can't.

Does pulling pints at the local tavern really pay the rent in a town like NYC?

Can. I knew someone who was a cocktail waitress in NYC in the early 90's, and she'd make $75--200/night in tips.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:37 AM on June 11, 2004

One more vote for "go! now is the time! do it! but don't get into debt over it".
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:49 AM on June 11, 2004

Does pulling pints at the local tavern really pay the rent in a town like NYC?

bartending or waitressing in NY is a better source of income than most entry-level office jobs (but it doesn't come with health insurance or any security - although neither does temping...)

I'd echo jessamyn on this one: you know what you really want. Staying in one place, settling down, finding a rhythm to life etc, can be great; moving on, seeking adventure, exploring the world can be great. What's important is what you really want.

Don't not do something because of fear or laziness; choose actively. If you decide not to do something, choose because you want to take a different path, not because you don't feel like you can handle the first path. You can.

One of the hardest things about life is having to make choices between things - I'd like to do everything, but some things are simply incompatible (eg, you can't be part of an active, creative community and also be running off to try out new places all the time). So you have to compromise certain things (online communities help; friends who are good at writing letters; taking short but really exciting trips; living in a city full of vitality, etc).

As for grad school, you really shouldn't have to save up much for it - most schools will pay for you, you can always take out loans, and you can also work while you're in school. Depends where and what you want to study, but I wouldn't get stuck on that.
posted by mdn at 9:08 AM on June 11, 2004

Go GO GO!! Go to Europe. You can leave CHEAP in Europe...big money in a good Eurail Pass, you can live in Youth Hostels the rest of the time and eat cheap. Do that for as long as you can afford it. Then go back to the states and waitress your way around the country.
GO NOW. Do it before you get a boyfriend or a good job or something else.
But DO NOT go into debt. DON'T DO IT!!!!
posted by aacheson at 10:16 AM on June 11, 2004

I was 23 years old, fresh out of college, and didn't speak a lick of Czech when I landed in Prague. I'd never been out of the country. I learned to navigate the city, how to change money, how to use the public transportation, learned how to grocery shop in metric (tough when you're not sure how to convert lbs to kgs). I learned how to turn strangers who didn't speak the same language I do in to friends, and most importantly I learned that I could take care of myself.

It was the greatest confidence-building exercise I'd ever done. Even today, I sometimes still rely on the memory of myself at that time in my life to know that I can handle whatever problems I am faced with now.

posted by vignettist at 11:27 AM on June 11, 2004

i've not lived more than 3 years in one place since i left university. i'm not sure it's all it's cracked up to be (i really hope i won't be moving again soon - i'd like to relax somewhere), but i also don't think it's that big a deal.

you can move later in life - people that complain about not moving when they were younger because they "can't do it now" by definition couldn't find the guts to do it when they were younger either...

but moving doesn't change things like you expect. things that you think will be good turn out to be bad (and vice versa), and you can't escape yourself (you do learn just how much of your life - including the crap - you are responsible for).

so do whatever you want to do - in many ways you're unlikely to change your life much beyond what you'd expect from your age, nationality and social class, whatever you do.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:40 PM on June 11, 2004

I haven't travelled much, nor did I live an exciting college student life whil I had the chance.
Take a long trip somewhere staying at youth hostiles, like in Europe. You may find yourself by the interaction you have with all those you meet on your trip.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:25 PM on June 11, 2004


I moved to Florida in my early twenties. Best thing I ever did. Now I am an old married old fart back in North Carolina with a husband and three kids, and look back on that time fondly. I am content now but doubt I would have been if I hadn't GONE.
posted by konolia at 4:43 PM on June 11, 2004

Pick up stakes, gather your best clothes, and get the hell out of dodge.

I'm a former Navy brat in his 20's, and grew up with the adventure of travel; the family creed is "If we haven't lived there, we've passed through".

You know how they say that you can never know how lucky you are to have something until it's gone? Absolutely true; I spent the last six years stuck in the same place, and I never realized how lucky I had it until I found myself grounded in a town and stuck in an office to save money for a college education that I denied myself through a misspent youth. In subconscious efforts to keep myself mobile, my truck was brand new in 2002 and already boasts over 50,000 miles to its name.

If you've got the chance, doll, take it now while you've got it. Don't you want to become one of those kickass old grandmothers who always has a story to tell? ;)
posted by Potloaf at 7:20 PM on June 11, 2004

Roadtrip Nation is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by yonderboy at 7:59 AM on June 12, 2004

Lychee, you've just been given a wonderful gift, because you were nice enough to ask for advice. A number of Mefites upthread have offered you a contact point. I'll add Portland, Maine to the list. If you want to travel and explore, it's vastly easier if you have a contact or 2. Map out a plan for a grand Northamerican or overseas adventure. Take pictures and blog it. Make the blog into a book about the adventure.

If you are female, it may be a bit harder to feel physically safe. I did a couple of months travelling, mostly in Britain, just out of college. Hostels, hiking, busses, trains were very safe. Lots of European and Australian young people travel. I found that if I used the Let's Go books to find a place to stay, I'd meet other people and travel with new friends for a week or so. It was easy and so much fun.

You don't have to burn bridges. The Uni might very well welcome you back when/if you decide to return home. Good luck, and let us know what you decide.
posted by theora55 at 11:09 AM on June 12, 2004

I have spent a lot of time abroad (a year in Europe, a month in Japan, six weeks in Israel, two months in Mexico), and travelled extensively in the states too (including a post-grad road trip to Seattle, where I lived for four years), and in general made a lot of major decisions off-the-cuff in the name of "following my heart" or some variation thereon. I don't regret most of them. But it has not all been peaches and cream, either. Please:

1. Don't spend money that you don't have.
2. Don't use up all your favors.
3. Don't go to grad school unless you have a really good reason, and it's paid for.
4. Seattle isn't what it once was.

But give a shout when you come to NYC.
posted by bingo at 1:51 PM on June 12, 2004

Response by poster: I have a great big smile on my face. Thank you all so much for the encouragement. I definitely feel like I'm losing out on something staying in town, and travelling/moving sounds like a decision most people don't regret. Thank you again, and I'll be contacting some of y'all for more information.
posted by lychee at 2:15 PM on June 12, 2004

A small social tip to keep in mind if considering a move to the Pacific NW: the best time to meet people here is spring and summer. You can still meet people in the fall, but by the time winter rolls around, folks can be pretty closed off socially....then spring rolls around again, and suddenly you've got a new friend on every street corner.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:22 PM on June 15, 2004

If you really want an amazing experience, consider moving to an island, preferably one that is tax-free. I moved to Bermuda when I was 27 and haven't looked back since. I have had amazing experiences, made a ton of money, and become friends with people from all over the world. Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, Gurnsey, Maldives.......... take your pick!!!. The service industry is always looking for good people. There are opportunities abound! Look into it. It a well kept secret that not many Americans take advantage of. Canadians are everywhere down here.
posted by jasondigitized at 1:01 PM on June 15, 2004

If you stop through Tokyo, be sure to drop me an email :)
posted by gen at 6:31 PM on June 15, 2004

Between Frisco and Los Angeles sits a wormhole that links Texas to California. It is known as Bakersfield, and it is where I am stuck at the moment.

Not much I can offer in the way of entertainment; as eclectic as my musical tastes are, there's a choice of (from the young rebels who will never leave town) hardcore metal or (from the old people who will never leave town) shitkickin' country. However, if you're ever taking the 5 freeway over the Grapevine out of Los Angeles heading north, e-mail me and drop by. You'll earn a free tank of gas for your travels, if nothing else.

Good luck with whatever decision you make, and don't worry; you're sure to land on your feet in one way or another.
posted by Potloaf at 10:00 PM on June 15, 2004

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