I am 21 and bored with life
May 8, 2008 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I am 21, male, and I'm pretty bored with life, I feel stressed about doing nothing. I am having trouble figuring out what it is I really want to do with all of the time I have right now, and I've definitely been stagnating. Give me some advice!

I've run a small computer business since I was about 14, and now I've gotten completely bored with it, but I have so much of it automated and outsourced at this point I really do very little (probably 4-6 hours a week) and all of my bills get paid, and I have enough to let me be comfortable for the month (hang with friends, go out, etc.). I recently got my motorcycle license because riding a motorcycle sounds like a ton of fun to me and I've been looking at motorcycles but I can't afford to pay cash for one. I don't want to take on the debt of a loan for something I could possibly destroy within weeks of owning it.

I've always been very motivated but I tend to love having a creative outlet. In high school I was in every play I could get into and I would take extracurricular classes that sounded interesting. I didn't apply for any schools after high school as I was working, but now I am planning on starting at my local CC come fall because I miss the social environment school gave me. In my current work I don't meet anyone new and my daily life is for the most part spent inside or out with my old high school buddies doing nothing very productive.

I have a huge urge to travel but again money comes to mind. I don't want to get a salaried job- I've only worked one in my entire life and while it was an interesting place to be in it didn't challenge me at all.

I feel like I'm just rambling now, I know I'm lucky to be in the position I'm in, I'm in Southern California with all of the time in the world, given my position, what would you do?
posted by thegmann to Work & Money (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You are so, so normal.
If you didn't have some of these fears for your future then you should worry.
What would I do? Experience life just like you are, and perhaps even larger, while you try to figure out some plans for your future. This is the time to have fun. Exploit it.
posted by caddis at 5:52 PM on May 8, 2008

travel travel travel.

it only gets harder to get away. save up a chunk of money and go for a year. see the world. see what it's like outside of america. start in south east asia and wander from there. SEA is probably the easiest and cheapest place to start. you'll figure out the ins and outs of travel and then will feel more comfortable going more challenging places. you can travel for a year for as little as $10-15 grand if you don't mind living cheap.

also, in general, i find it's good to appreciate fallow periods. they're useful.
posted by xz at 5:53 PM on May 8, 2008

I have a huge urge to travel but again money comes to mind.

The one recommendation I invariably give to young'uns (and what I did myself -- I've been almost continually expat for about 20 years now) is to travel as early and as often as possible, at least if you're willing to make the tradeoffs in terms of saving-for-the-future and career growth and all that crap.

I'm not sure about Americans, but young Canadians have a wide range of options for Working Holiday Visas in a variety of countries. You get a one year visa, can work for three months at a time typically (often menial jobs, but not necessarily, and I fucking loved picking fruit in New Zealand) at a single job. There are well-developed networks in all of the target countries to help you get sorted if you do it.

Even if America doesn't have Working Holiday arrangements, there are other options (teaching English in Asia or elsewhere (be forewarned if you're interested -- it isn't easy, but there are a lot of previous threads here asking about it), resort work, under the table stuff almost anywhere backpackers congregate). Many of the times I headed out when I was young for my multi-year wanderings, I had very little money beyond airfare and a month or two subsistence, and I was always able to meet people who would hook me up with gainful employment, in Europe and Mexico and Australasia and all over the damn place.

Do it, if you can scrape together enough money to get started. Do your research, meet as many people as you can, and it'll all work out. Probably. It'll be the best decision you've ever made if it works out; if not, you'll know for the future if it's something you really love, and if so, you can go back to the US, make some more $$, and head out again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:57 PM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think that's what I fear is being normal. I have a tendency to place very high standards on myself.

And I was appreciating this relaxation time, but now it's turned into routine (I've felt this way for at least 6 months).
posted by thegmann at 5:59 PM on May 8, 2008

caddis is right. It's normal to be worried and it good that you're worried about your future, as opposed to not worrying about a thing in life. Continuing from what Caddis and xz said, spend your youth learning stuff that'll make you a better person. If you have some money, take classes that you always wanted to take but couldn't. Or travel and live somewhere and learn a language. The more exposure you have, the better.

If I was your age, I'd study a foreign langauge or two, take some interesting courses, explore various hobbies, take some risks, challenge myself, and overall try to discover what I am passionate about.

Oh...and read, read, and read some more.
posted by icollectpurses at 6:08 PM on May 8, 2008

As a 21 year old myself, I totally understand. If you want to travel but don't have the money, why not considering traveling with some volunteer organization (Peace corps, Americorps, all kinds of other organizations online)? They won't cost you a ton and they're challenging. I think you're right in taking college classes- I would recommend doing that at your local CC until you find something you like, something that you could see yourself doing and something that challenges you. Some of these volunteer orgs prefer if you have a college degree and will even help pay off loans depending- so I'd look into it. I personally have done a lot of traveling through school. College offers the opportunity to go so many places and do so many different things. I've been to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Guatemala, the UK, and Germany now all through school related trips that let me do things/see places I wouldn't normally see if i had gone on my own. They've also spawned so many new ideas and have given me a totally different perspective of what to do with my life. I'd highly recommend traveling somehow, especially connected to school/college.

Speaking of motorcycles. I met this guy in Guatemala this January who worked a job for half the year just to make some money (In the tourism industry- easy job) then he drove his motorcycle down from CO and rode all through central America and Mexico. It's so cheap that he was able to live on just a few dollars a day and he's spending like 6 months like that. That would be a cheap way to travel... just a thought. Of course this assumes that you get a motorcycle...
posted by bobdylanforever at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

pick up an instrument. My best memories of my twenties were learning and playing whole songs on the guitar without messing up once. Another thing to ponder is picking up some manual labor skills like carpentry or plumbing. Go see if you can apprentice for free helping out a local pro. It will broaden your horizons and also save you tons of money when you eventually own your own house.
posted by any major dude at 6:20 PM on May 8, 2008

Is there a reason you can't expand your business? Maybe work 20 hour weeks, or even 40 hour weeks getting new clients or whatever, or expanding in a new direction, and then hopefully get it all outsourced and automated, so you're making enough money to buy that motorcycle, or fund your travelling. Once you're able to, travelling will definitely ease that boredom, and in the meantime you'll have a goal to work toward.
posted by Sar at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2008


I've considered it, I also think I may be a bit OCD at times, I have trouble dedicating myself to something unless I'm fully comfortable with the idea of being committed to it, and since I'm already tiring of the business I've decided it's time to at least find a new direction.

Given unlimited resources (this is hypothetical) I would probably be in New York exploring the city, or in Germany partying for a bit.

I'm just so much of a planner and I've been so used to knowing exactly what I wanted in the past it's difficult for me to start something new without knowing what I'm getting myself into... Wow I feel like I just typed a sentence I've read a million times before.
posted by thegmann at 6:52 PM on May 8, 2008

The only thing I can say more than the other already great comments is that you are very smart not to want to take on debt. I will turn 21 in just a few weeks and I'm already sunk in it for various reasons of laziness and selfishness, and now it's hurting others around me. You seem like a smart guy, and you're going to do well in life once you get over this boredom.
posted by joshrholloway at 6:52 PM on May 8, 2008

Seems like you have a great problem in your hands.......i am 24 and if I was on your shoes...I think I would be doing a heck of a lot of dating.....A LOT OF DATING!
posted by The1andonly at 7:12 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Break your daily routine. Try something that you've never tried before. Go hiking, volunteering, or take a meditation course, for example. That way you don't need to dedicate yourself and you get to broaden your horizon, and if it doesn't work out you've only lost several hours.
posted by semi at 7:16 PM on May 8, 2008


Hahaha, well that was what I was doing for a while... but my lack of new social inputs and my long bout of stagnation pretty much led to me drying up all of my leads. I think a big part of what started this stagnation was me breaking up with my 6th girlfriend in 4 years, she was 3 years older than me and everything was right with the relationship. The sex was amazing, we loved each other's company, she had her own life and I had mine, 8 months in though I still can't figure out why I broke up with her... it just started a downhill thing I'd seen spiral downhill and turn into something way worse too many times.

Anyway, that began some depression that I got over, then I dried up all of my leads, and now I just need to start doing something to get outside of my house regularly, aside from work and the gym.


I've considered hiking, I actually plan on going tomorrow. I'm getting some good advice for both long term and short term from this and it's helping me quite a bit. Thanks guys! If anyone else runs across this feel free to throw in your $.02, I'll be watching this thread.
posted by thegmann at 7:53 PM on May 8, 2008

Oh and to continue on part 1 of my previous post I mean get outside of my house to meet new women. But also to get outside and see the sun for once, yes.
posted by thegmann at 7:56 PM on May 8, 2008

If I could jump back ten years I would probably stay and finish up college. It is such an awesome place in so many different ways. You'll not only get mental stimulation but get a whole new social circle to boot. I'm sure you'll find lots of leads to follow up on.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:38 PM on May 8, 2008

Go the library and get a copy of I Could Do Anything IF Only I Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher. The exercises will help you figure out what you want to do and how to get going. While you are at the library, check out some things that look interesting, outside of your normal reading. Maybe biography, travel, classic literature?
posted by metahawk at 11:15 PM on May 8, 2008

I'm in the same spot you are.. except I'm 34. Although I love the "travel" advice, my personal advice to you would be to definitely go to college. You dont wanna start hitting your 30's without having finished college. Trust me on this. True, you can be successful without college, but its not easy.
posted by jmnugent at 11:51 PM on May 8, 2008

When I started getting bored with my career at age 26, I took up flying as a hobby. It is kind of expensive but was much more challenging than I expected and very rewarding. I will never forget my first solo, or the day I passed my flight exam, or the day my certificate arrived in the mail. Since that, I have taken up SCUBA, tennis, and a few other things, but none are as challenging or ultimately satisfying as flying.

Note that these are things that I would do in addition to a job, not instead of it. If I were to leave my job, I would most likely move to Israel and spend 6 months working on a kibbutz.
posted by charlesv at 8:17 AM on May 9, 2008

I am 25 and bored with life as well. While we don't have the same situation, if I were you at 21, I would definitely go travel. As long as this recession isn't hurting your business and you can afford to go away for a while, the experience you gain from traveling will be well worth it. I graduated college at 23, worked a dead-end restaurant job until I finally went off to Costa Rica for a month. I volunteered, took Spanish courses, and enjoyed the beach (surfed a lot). It was a great experience. I'm now at another deadend job, and with no career in mind, I'm wondering if travel is the best option again. At 25, I'm thinking I am too old and need to get a move on with a career choice, but you're only 21... Go for it!!
posted by crm1130 at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2008

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