What do you do when there's nothing you really want to do?
February 20, 2008 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I've slowly been leading a life people would envy: I've worked jobs people whistle at, I'm dating one of the smartest and most beautiful women I've ever met, I'm smart, witty, and I can pick up anything faster than you could blink. I'm also 23, I don't give a shit and I want to.

I feel like I'm entirely passionless. I love comics, but not enough to do much more except read them and talk about them. The same goes for film and music. The same goes for any of the dozens of interests I have and cultivate. I don't want to do anything but read about them. And there's not a single one I like more than another for more than a few weeks or months at a time. I know a lot. At least I know a little about a lot. Certainly more than most people I know. I feel like at this point I should've found a cousin or distant relative of something I could be passionate about to really get into and get my hands dirty.

Nope. Nothin'.

I'm clinically depressed (technically, I'm "on the road" to bipolar disorder.) I take a fistful of pills every morning (Ritalin, Welbutrin and a mood stabilizer). I don't feel particularly depressed except when I contemplate my future. When I was a teenager, I didn't even expect to live this long. Now I'm working a 9-5 where I'm so bored I've decided to go on a warpath to make the place more efficient and I'm trying to get an English BA that will simply serve as the "BA Required" check-box on any future jobs I'll be applying to.

Nearly everyone seems to be falling either into "I'm doing what I love," "I'm doing something I don't mind doing to fund doing what I love," or "I'm miserable because I cannot do what I love" categories. I feel lost and the very few people I've met in my category are absurdly miserable. I'm not. But I want things to change. I want passion.

Where do I find it?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I was in a similar position. We have a lot in common, especially concerning the fistful of pills and the surprise you made it this long. If you want to talk more personally, please feel free to mefimail me.

As for passion, I suggest you think long and hard about your deathbed. What springs to mind as the thing you won't forgive yourself for not doing? Pursue that.
posted by milarepa at 7:45 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Trying doing something safe but quite very super challening, say earning a ph.d in maths ? Just get some of the books , be honest to yourself and discover how much you can really understand ? Trust me, the more you think you know the less you know, the more your get to know the more you understand you don't know.

You see, sometime "love" for something can go away, and god I hated math with a passion :) but I was forced by circumstances to study. I don't recommend putting yourself in such situations as it really is no good nor fun , but insisting, focusing, commiting even when sometime doesn't immediately keep you awake at nights.

As for going on the warpath to make the place more efficient, I'd recommend extra caution. Some people may not agree with your _methods_ , no matter how rational they are or seem to are ; wouldn't it be wiser not to use warpath methods, but a more comprensive and patient method, expecially when you have time to develop one ? This way you may ease your own bipolar problems, while listening to doctor and the psycologist of course, and develop an extra skill that, trust me on that, is completely invaluable and rare in all work places these days. That could be an alternative to hard comitting to maths or years of scientific research, if they just don't do it for you at all ever.
posted by elpapacito at 7:46 AM on February 20, 2008

I was you a few years ago, and still sort of am now, but with one difference: I have more perspective. Remember that you are 23 and that most people change careers more than 4 or 5 times in their adulthood now. Your friends who know what they want to do or are already doing what they want to do will change their minds later and have to start all over.
You're just taking some more time. You are doing the right thing by pursuing your interests, even if none of them are panning out yet or lasting too long. One day one will stick. And then a few years later, you will change your mind anyway.
Don't worry about it, just keep trying. Uncertainty is normal and it's just how things are going to be. Even if you knew what you wanted now, you'd want something else in a few years. Just try to get some pleasure out of your interests while they interest you and don't let the uncertainty lead to hopelessness.
posted by rmless at 7:53 AM on February 20, 2008

There's a lot going on here with you talking about your intellect, job(s), interests, depression, and your desperation.

It's hard to know where to begin as your question isn't very clear. For instance, if you're just looking for a career change, what does that have to do with your smart, beautiful girlfriend? You're "trying" to get a BA in English (whatever that means) but you have jobs that people "whistle at" (again, whatever that means.) Your passionless, but you love comic books, film, and music. You're bored at work, but going on the "warpath" to make the place more efficient.

I just don't get it - what do any of these things have to do with finding a future career that you'll be happy with?

Over all I think your post is mostly stream-of-consciousness chatter that is trying to justify to yourself (but also to us the reader) just how cool and smart you are, but is also trying to articulate some deeper dissatisfaction with your life. Frankly it all sounds a little melodramatic and very young of you. Particularly the point where you say you take "fistful of pills every morning" and then list off three different medications. Three does not a fistful make.

I'm trying to get an English BA that will simply serve as the "BA Required" check-box on any future jobs I'll be applying to.

I think this is a revealing statement. If you don't feel that you have anything to learn in college other than getting to "check that box" on applications then you're doing it wrong. College should open you up to all manner of new ideas, and frankly it sounds like new ideas are something you're short of.

I think there is a complete disconnect between how smart and witty you think you are, and what you're actually capable of. In other words, you sound like a typical smug 23-year-old.
posted by wfrgms at 7:54 AM on February 20, 2008 [20 favorites]

You say "I'm clinically depressed" and "I feel like I'm entirely passionless." These sound like two ways of saying the same thing. Work with a therapist to get feeling better, keep healthy, and don't worry too much about finding your passion in the short-term.

Here's some random speculation: is it possible you're depressed because you know there really IS something you want to do but you're afraid it'll shatter this view you have of yourself as able to do anything with ease?
posted by salvia at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2008

I'm just going to try to cover the passion thing. It's sounds like you might be a "scanner." There are different types, but basically scanners are passionate about learning things, but not about the individual things. For me, this has meant I've spent time playing music/writing songs, building electronics, reading on everything from computer programming to woodworking to ancient art, but I never seem to get up the passion for any one hobby like other people do.

This book: Refuse to Choose was helpful to me, and I think you might find it useful.
posted by drezdn at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Hm. Sounds like you're scared to attempt something difficult. You even posted this question anonymously. But you're invested in your easy successes as part of your self-esteem. And if it's all so easy, why try, right?

You're on the warpath to make things more efficient at work: sounds like a gratifying power trip. Working toward your B.A. in English so you can check the box marked "have a degree": sounds like you don't think much of university or people who place value on that kind of education. If your education isn't rousing some passion in you, you're in the wrong field. Get thee to the dean and ask questions about the other programs.

Nothing clears the mind like blinding gratitude for one's own provenance. I suggest you get on a plane for South America or India and volunteer with street kids, or a farming coop, do WOOOF or Outward Bound or something like that for four to six months. You're young. Let that fragile eggshell mind expand a bit before you decide that the road to bipolar disorder is your inevitable fate.
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 8:04 AM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

Perhaps the pills are the problem? I can not say for sure, but the idea of medication causing a vacuous existence is explored in both Garden State and Prozac Nation. Also, attempting to create art, i.e. drawing your own comics, might be a start in the right direction.
posted by book at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2008

Meds could be the secondary issue: someone I know who was moving through the various anti-depressants took one which made her not care about things she recognized she should've care for.

My opinion: interactions between the 'handful of pills' make it difficult to untangle conflicting factors.

Try working with the homeless; they have to give a shit.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2008

It really doesn't sound like you are leading a life people would envy, as you claim in your opening sentence. In fact, it sounds like a pretty shitty existence.

I say this not merely to snark, but to suggest that perhaps your whole perception of your own life and others around is entirely out-of-whack. If you're on a ton of meds, this might explain some of yet.

As for more concrete suggestions, lots of people your age go through phases of feeling aimless. There's no magic bullet solution. This may not be super helpful, but exposing yourself to more and more opportunities is a step in the right direction. Given your age and the fact that you have yet to even finish a postsecondary degree, I would think that there are many more experiences out there for you to have before you give up all hope of finding something to be passionate about.
posted by modernnomad at 8:47 AM on February 20, 2008

uhh, "some of it".
posted by modernnomad at 8:47 AM on February 20, 2008

Ive been on quite a variety of the types of pills in your "fistful" and I can say from experience that those pills basically take you to zero. If depression puts you between -1 and -10, and euphoric happiness is 10, all they do is get you to where you can build those steps to 10 on your own without having to dig out of the pit of despair first. I can also tell you that almost all of them make you feel like you are completely blank and don't care about things you know you should and want to care about. You aren't depressed per se, so they work as advertised, but you don't really feel anything else.

If you and you doctors agree its safe, stop taking them. Pills can be helpful, but they are only a helping hand; becoming the person you want to be is a journey only you can complete. Don't expect them or anyone else to make your problems go away.

And as others have said- you are only 23. This kind of quarter-life I have no clue what to do with my burgeoning life crisis is more common than you might think.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:06 AM on February 20, 2008

What do you do when there's nothing you really want to do?

Do nothing. Simplify. Don't rush it, and don't force it, but do try to focus only on the true commitments in your life. Let everything else pass through the sieve of time. Meanwhile, turn your big brain in on itself and reflect.

You're listing all these good things that you have -- girlfriend, job, comic books, sharp wit -- as if you really believe that they should make you happy. I don't think you really believe this to be true, otherwise, you wouldn't be asking these questions.
posted by Laugh_track at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2008

salvia's point is one of the most salient here.
What are you afraid of really?
Not being perfect?
Not loving your life?
The archetype you built for yourself to live up to?
Not being unique?

Let me tell you man you need to really stop quantifying your success by your external life as you see it. Just because you think you are brilliant doesn't mean you are the smartest guy in the room.
Maybe you just are in a very small room.

Stop using your talent and creativity to do things easily; it obscures your ability to see what you really like by swallowing your creativity in this excessive need to posture.

A BA in English? Come on man, for someone who is allegedly as smart as you it should seem clear that that is the easy route.

Acknowledge your limitations
Travel the world
Get humbled
try something that challenges you for real
Read some literature

Making the office more efficient is only going to give you reasons to blame others for your predicament when they don't understand your system.

I have Bipolar disorder, and I was diagnosed before this recent trend, back in 1998.
There is no road to bipolar disorder; really you have it or you don't and it's awful and complicated to live with. The depression is just as confusing as the mania in the end and you need a lot of tools to have success with combating it as opposed to coping with it.
If you have it it might be useful to know that Wellbutrin does not treat it. It usually exasperates it, especially the manic episodes. You need a better psychiatrist IMO.

In short my man, you need to figure out what you need, not what you want. Passion is the result of knowing what your needs are, finding ways to be fulfilled by them and feeling capable enough to continue to fight to progress by putting yourself in positions where you are challenged by your peers and surroundings.

Good luck to you.
posted by winterhat at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

"As for more concrete suggestions, lots of people your age go through phases of feeling aimless. There's no magic bullet solution. This may not be super helpful, but exposing yourself to more and more opportunities is a step in the right direction. Given your age and the fact that you have yet to even finish a postsecondary degree, I would think that there are many more experiences out there for you to have before you give up all hope of finding something to be passionate about."


You're to young to be so intensely worried about finding something to be passionate about. Finding your passion is sometimes a very "Zen" thing (the harder you try the less likely you are to find it,.... you only find it when you relax and stop trying so hard.) "Passion" sometimes in random unexpected places---so keep your mind "open" to possibilities.

On the subject of age... (and no insult meant to your age).. but as others have said, dont get to fixated on "finding 1 passion you'll have forever".... you may find something you like, and then your life will unexpectedly change 6 months later. Your direction in life will probably change many times, and you might also have to completely start over multiple times. Dont let your life be defined by: 1.) The things you own, and 2.) the events that happen. Instead define your life by what you make of it, and how you react to events thrown at you.

Dont like your life the way it is?.. then start introducing new things into it. Start small by forcing yourself to listen to some brand new music each day. Drive a different way home each day. Start reading some interesting new books or magazines. Visits parts of town you dont normally visit. Start taking a day off from work each week and do some volunteer work. Start drawing your own comics..,etc..etc..etc Your life is what you make of it. Dont like the drudgery?... start doing things that arent "drudgery".
posted by jmnugent at 9:19 AM on February 20, 2008

Your brain doesn't seem to be working for you. Forget trying to find a passion in life. Focus your few resources on thinking your way out of your substance addiction.

After that you may find that you have some strong feelings and that these feelings require you change your life.

Seriously. Smart isn't how much you know or even how fast you learn. It's the power to think your way out of bad situations, bad habits, and bad choices. If you can't do that, then you aren't smart. Clever maybe, but not smart.

A cautionary note: People who aren't smart have often suggested that one cannot "think oneself" out of mental illness. If you bite that apple, then smart doesn't count for anything. Smart isn't a panacea. It's a tool. If you figure out that you aren't smart after all, find someone smart and get them (usually via therapy) to think your way out for you. A perfectly good solution.

But you have to get out of the pills business ASAP. That's a no win situation.
posted by ewkpates at 9:20 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

ewkpates- yes, yes, yes. What ultimately got me better was turning inward and listening to my thoughts and asking is this productive? what am i achieving by thinking this thought? is this solving a problem for me? why do I care? should I care? and on and on. You are exactly right that smart is a tool and it can get you out of those self-feeding loops that depression thrives on. It got me out and it can get anonymous out too if hes committed and willing to throw away who he thinks he is to find out who he really is.

jmnugent's zen point applies to self also- the harder you try to "be" something the more it will elude your grasp. We are who we are regardless of the filters we try to pass ourselves through and the sooner we learn that the better.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:28 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

the experience of many people on "mood stabalizing drugs" is what you're describing: we feel nothing, we care about nothing. sure, we aren't horribly fucking depressed and suicidal, but we aren't dancing through the tulips and signing songs either (which is kind of what all the advertisements for these drugs and many of the doctors who prescribe them initially promised us). so that "passionless life" of yours could be because of the drugs you're taking, or because of the depression/bipoloar, or both.

frankly, not everyone can afford to be passionate about something. working three jobs and going to school doesn't leave much time for passion, you know?

also, most people are bored by their jobs (which is why we're on metafilter answering questions). welcome to life. there is an incredibly small percentage of working adults who are passionate about their work/careers. don't expect to find fullfillment the same place you get your paycheck--it's unlikely to happen.

one more thing: you're 23. you're probably not as smart, witty, and envied as you think you are. unless you've been at your job for 10 years, don't go on the "warpath" telling people they're doing it wrong. they've been doing it longer than you, and "warpathing" around will only make people hate you. and that doesn't make for a great workplace.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:31 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

As salvia and others have said, I believe this lack of passion is a *symptom* of your depression. You don't have to feel sad to be depressed; that kind of general apathy is how your depression manifests. Keep treating the depression. Keep studying and living your life. You're very young yet.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:58 AM on February 20, 2008

But you have to get out of the pills business ASAP. That's a no win situation.

This is bollocks. Tom Cruise and L Ron Hubbard's love-child's bollocks. Talk to your medical professional and maybe to a couple others about the drugs if you think they're not helping. Don't dump them based on a "Drugs are bad, mmkay?" philosophy espoused by someone on the internet.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Good lord, child. There is nothing any more wrong with you than there is with most of us, except that your intro was egregiously boastful.

Look, nobody is happy at twenty-three. Everyone is floundering around, most folks are still trying to figure out what they're "supposed" to be doing, and the only ones who live enviable lives are the ones we don't know very well.

My only advice here is to ignore the bit about "substance abuse." If you have been prescribed pills, either take them or talk with your doctor before going off them. SSRI withdrawal is not fun.

But seriously? Take all of this to your prescribing doctor and your therapist. (You do have a therapist, right?)

People grow up confusedly thinking that their early twenties are supposed to be the best time of their lives. News flash: Your early twenties suck. Pretty much universally. You're trying to make it on your own, you're dating and looking for the "right" relationship and the "right" career path, and meanwhile you have no idea where you're supposed to be going, not even thinking of how to get there.

One more bit of advice: Do you care at all about this degree you're pursuing? Because getting a BA in English literature is great, if that's what you like. You don't have to be super-passionate about it, but it should mean something to you, something more than checking off a box on a job application. If not, switch majors and go for something that actually does pique your interest or that will at least serve you well later in life, whether it's computer science or economics or underwater basketweaving.
posted by brina at 10:23 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm with the feel-nothing-on-antidepressants crowd. It was awful. But I got into it so gradually via spaced out med adjustments that I didn't realize what it had done to me until I came off them. The irony is that depression causes you to lose interest in the things that normally interest you, just like the tv commercials say. But the medicines, at least for a subset of people who take them, cause them to... lose interest in the things that normally interest them. Or to just not give a shit, as you say.

There are many good responses in this thread. I like the one that talks about how the meds can pull you up out of the abyss and give you a platform to work from. That's what they did for me, allowed me to stabilize and cobble together a barebones life, albeit a shitty one. But I thought I could keep taking them beyond that and they'd bring back the old me. I guess that's what the med people thought too because we kept fiddling with the mix for years. I had my own fistful(s). But they never did bring me back and I finally quit them. Then my feelings returned. Your situation sounds a little different in that you're not miserable. Maybe you don't need the meds. Maybe it's time to reassess with whomever is prescribing them.

I still had and still have now a hard time giving a shit about anything in particular, just like you say, but I'm no longer numb. I too have a lot of potential and a nice set of gifts and it seems like a waste that they aren't screwed into something deep. But very slowly I've been able to release the insistence on finding the magic passion potion and just work on basic living of life. It feels like a defeat and a rationalization at first, like you will waste your life if you don't find that one thing and start doing it (and you feel pressure from the people you know to have a good answer when they ask what you are doing and what you want), but it's like another thread here says in that the harder you look for it, the less likely you are to find it, because you're spending all your time and mental energy focusing on this thing instead of doing the thing that will lead you do it - living. It's like sitting in the middle of the road staring intensely at a dubious map you've drawn of a place you've never been and then getting frustrated that you never seem to get any closer to the place you think you're supposed to be. Life is an unknown and you need to walk forward into it and see what you find. I think your passion has to find you while you are otherwise minding your own business, just living, just walking forward.

You will continue to find things that sort of interest you and you'll pursue them for a while and then discard them. This will be disheartening because you'll wonder whether it will always be this way, and is there something wrong with you. But keep doing it.

I was so afraid at 23 that I was screwing up by not finding and jumping on "my" track forward. I realized later that experimentation was exactly what I should have been embracing then, recognizing that I wouldn't figure out what I really liked until I had tried enough new things to start getting some inklings. It sounds counterintuitive, but just start doing things. Don't worry whether they are right. Change when you find something more interesting. Keep bumping into things. Resist the pull to define yourself by what you do or what you've done. It's harder to experiment freely when you are older and have more anchors like mortgages, wives, kids, vesting requirements, tempting salaries, etc. Now is the perfect time and you have lots of it.

"Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." Don't look for a party to bust out or a secret club to be revealed to you when you do the right mix of thinking about your life path. Put one foot in front of the other, repeat, keep your eyes open for opportunities, pursue them even when you know they aren't the answer. Lastly, the thing every young person hates to hear, be patient. Really you have no choice on the patience, so either be angry about it or just be.

Good luck, brother!

PS- check out the boards on quarterlifecrisis.com for a more narrowly focused group of people like you who can dive deeper into this and related issues. #1 question: "What am I supposed to be doing with my life?" You'll find a whole societal stratum of people grasping... grasping... and while it won't solve your issue, it will help you to put it in perspective.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some good points here, and to tack on a bit of personal experience: I'm 30 and I just discovered that travel and meeting new people in that context is what I really enjoy. Among other things. It took me this long to discover that there isn't a 9-5 job that will fulfill my needs. Intellectually I understood the limitations of the job world when I was 16, but it takes many, many years to cast off the cultural baggage (in an emotional and spiritual sense) that doesn't jive with your personality if you can do it at all.
posted by MillMan at 11:01 AM on February 20, 2008

Yeah, mood stabilizers can definitely make you feel disconnected. Sometimes that's better than painful intense drama, but it can suck in its own way, too. Depending on your own situation (whether you & yr doc think playing with the cocktail is worth it), you may have to sort of think of it as a medical fact that you are responsible for pushing beyond, ie, you have to make yourself feel things by kind of deciding to give a shit.

I know it sounds sort of weird, but you can take a sort of existentialist approach here: just recognize this is your one chance to be alive, so you may as well make it an interesting experience, since you're already here and all. It doesn't mean you have to internally believe it has inherent meaning or anything. You just decide, well, here I am, may as well enjoy this. Then choose some things to invest yourself in, and start seeing where that takes you. You can do anything you want, constrained only by the forces of nature and the repercussions of social interchange. On some level you always know it's basically just a game, but, you know, it has really awesome graphics...

If you get involved enough this way, things will come along and you won't even notice that you accidently cared without even thinking about it.
posted by mdn at 11:54 AM on February 20, 2008

Travel. Guaranteed to reinvigorate anyone.
posted by Lucie at 12:30 PM on February 20, 2008

Look, nobody is happy at twenty-three.

That is simply not true. I was extremely happy at 23. I think the reason was that I was having an adventure and doing something that I loved. (For me, that was the Peace Corps. For you, who knows? You need to figure that out.)

I asked this question a while back, and you might find something useful there. It's something I think about a lot, because I don't feel that passionate happiness as much these days as I did when I was 23. (And 16, and 20, and 25 - also living overseas. Clearly there is a pattern here.)

I got lots of advice in that joie de vivre thread. For me, personally, I think a few things work*:

(1) Exercising regularly - it just makes me happy (after the fact). I put this first because it's free (potentially) and possible to do every single day.

(2) Meditation - the world seems brighter and more vibrant afterwards - particularly practicing mindfulness. Yoga does this for me too.

(3) Doing something exhilerating - for me the easy choice is travel, but I can think of other things, like scuba and horse back riding and successful public speaking (I'm terrified) - I get a rush. I think challenge and variety and stimulus are important to feeling passionate. When I do these sort of things - especially travel - my world is more vibrant, fascinating, envigorating.

(4) In my case, I switched from a good job to pretty much my ideal job. I didn't know this job existed, but if I had imagined my ideal job, this would pretty much be it. I go through the day - generally - pumped up and excited, because I love the work so much. It is a "cool" job but mainly it's a fast-paced, exciting, high-profile kind of job dealing with an issue that I have always been interested in. I'm sort of like you in that I have lots of interests but few things I'd make an effort for. I found a job where there is a "thrill"** element, and I think that's largely why I like it.

I can't comment on the depression/meds other than that it sounds like you have an extra hurdle to overcome. But I think finding passion and vibrancy is hard in the 9-5 world as an adult. I say, shake it UP. Try new things. Kooky things. Challenging things.

Good luck. I haven't found the perfect solution yet, but I think these things have been helping.

* I don't do these as much as I should.
** Also, excuse my ignorance, but if thrill-seeking is bad for people who are borderline bipolar, than ignore most of the above advice.
posted by Amizu at 12:34 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I will give you the same advice I'd give myself, as one who is 10 years older and very much like you- including the traits of being boastful, narcissistic and self-absorbed. I don't take my own advice, so I imagine you'll take this with a fairly hefty grain of salt.

Up above, someone said you can think yourself out of depression, and that's both true and false. It's true in that, well, I suppose one can contemplate oneself out of depression. But it's false in that this is largely unlikely for most people. Sometimes you need a kick in the head to remind you of what's possible- you can't very well become healthier if you'll always have this part of you that skeptically doesn't believe "healthy" exists, and that happiness and contentment are just traits of stupid sheeple. But every time you spend a day in that state, it'll seem self-evident and unquestionable, and make it easier to

Consider doing ayahuasca. You're young, apparently making good money, and don't have a lot of strings holding you down. Fly to Peru for a week and get yourself properly shamanized. You need a shock to the system, and a resetting of perspective, because you seem way too concerned about how other people think of you. You are not other people's lofty opinions of you. I think you might be disheartened to realize how infrequently people think about you, or measure you as you measure yourself.

Also, stop caring about material things. No one cares how much money you make, or the type of job you have, or how awesome your trophy girlfriend is. You have an apparently smart, beautiful girlfriend, and you're sad? You write about her in your question as if she's just another tick mark on the "How I am a successful and awesome human being, dammit!" checklist, as if the desirable girlfriend was just another Beemer in the garage, just another downtown view condo.

You can be happy with almost nothing or with everything, but happiness is not a process, it's a state of mind. Once you're in that state of mind all of your questions will seem silly, and you'll find your passion without even trying. And you don't even have to have one passion... why can't you try different things without worrying about each one as if it's the right choice? Try something, then something else, and hey- when you weren't looking, life happened.

Are you just scared that if you pick one thing to do, you're "wasting" everything else about you? Don't be. You're not a Great Man of History, of whom Destiny has hand-selected you for Titanic Accomplishments. You're just alive like the rest of us- enjoy it while you can, and it seems you luckily possess the natural gifts to ensure your own sustenance and stability fairly effortlessly.
posted by hincandenza at 12:35 PM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

If you fix the depression you will find your passion.
posted by konolia at 4:01 PM on February 20, 2008

I kinda feel that the people claiming you're boastful are missing the point. It's part of the passionless feeling - you know what you have is awesome, you're thankful for it, but somehow you can't muster all the love and energy and passion that what you have deserves. "I have a wonderful partner who cares for me...but why am I only feeling 'meh'?" Do you feel that you don't deserve what you have because you can't appreciate it enough?

I'm going through similar things. Clinical depression (though nowhere near bipolar, last I checked), I have a few good things going for me, and while I have found some things I am passionate about, I often have to "fake" the passion - not as in pretend I am passionate about something I don't give a damn about, but force myself to take that first step (to sign up for that class, or go to that conference, or whatever) - the energy from that is what sustains me through. "Hey this is fun!" But yeah, taking that first step, being motivated enough to actually do it, is hella difficult.

The meds can do that for you too. I'm on Efexor and I have DEFINITELY noticed the lack of drive. Granted, with my depression at its worst, I was fixated on everything going wrong - but at least there was some energy. And while I appreciate that I'm not flying off the handles, it is extremely difficult to muster the energy for myself. Considering that I have a reputation for being over-energetic, this is very hard. But as I said, it's the energy of others that often sustains me and propels me along. Many people find it odd to believe that I don't often feel as energetic as I project, but that's because I'm usually alone and have nothing else to motivate me. When I'm in a situation I enjoy - BOOM.

I'm a scanner too. I have all sorts of interests and can't imagine leaving 9 behind to focus on 1. Don't worry about being a professional at anything. If it looks interesting, explore it. Make being interested your passion. A meta-passion if you will. I tend to have a strong passion that lasts for a few years, then move on - but most of my interests and passions hang around for a lifetime, even if not quite as intense as before. It's like a cycle. Barbara Sher's books are quite good with this.

good luck; I'm here by MefiMail if you want to chat.
posted by divabat at 4:14 PM on February 20, 2008

Don't care eh?

So, long story shortened significantly: many years ago, I had a friend (let's call him Steve) who also didn't care. Much more so than I suspect you do from reading your post.

After some thought, I told steve that not caring is in fact one of the most liberating things possible. If you do not care, you can be truly free. Free enough to hop onto a train and hobo around the country, join the french foreign legion, start a charity, try to live off of selling poetry or busking, become a whitewater rafting guide, pick an outrageous goal and don't stop till you acheive it, start a company that does something remarkable. Dive into something hard, slightly risky (not necessarily to your health, but definitely to your general sense of ennui and apparent lifestyle stability).

Steve went to Africa, had some adventures, nearly died a couple of times, and now has a lust for life, a vigorous, infectious joy that is second to none, and perhaps most importantly, a passion and purpose in his life.

Not long ago, I found myself in a similar position to yourself, and, thinking back to Steve, I jumped into something wondrously impossible and adventurous, and I haven't looked back since.

Life is too short to be board.

ps: read Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
posted by Freen at 4:48 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I can't speak with any authority on your depression, but it sounds like there's some good advice here.

I was in a vaguely similar place when I was 17. I was good at most things I tried, and usually was able to be among the best, but without really exerting myself. I had no idea what the next few years would bring, and I was feeling like I had a lot of momentum but no direction.

I ended up travelling for a year. It wasn't meant to be a soul-searching 'find myself' kind of trip at all. To be honest, it was meant to be a lot of boozing and (fingers crossed) a lot of foreign women. I'd set up a job as an au pair with a Danish family in England.

As it turned out, that job went pear shaped and I was out on my arse soon enough. I'd say that the following year was the most amazing and thrilling of my life, if it hadn't been followed by the past five years which have all been incredible. Being overseas, being out of my comfort zone, being challenged in ways I hadn't before, having to rely on myself all the time... it was exactly what I needed. I got passionate. I loved every minute of that year, even the ones that were painful or lonely or terrifying.

It's not a quick fix. It's not even a guarantee. It's not for everyone. Still, I'd heartily encourage you to give it a shot. Would it be possible to take three or six months off your job? There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, short term jobs, vacation work positions, etc. There are plenty of AskMe questions regarding this.

Working on the depression sounds like the best first step, but if you're still longing for some kind of passion, definitely think about travel.
posted by twirlypen at 7:15 PM on February 20, 2008

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