"Secret skimping is out, like false bosoms." - Marjorie Hillis, Orchids on Your Budget, 1937.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Only me to Hold me Back

I've been struggling a lot lately with a few big issues. To put it simply, I'm sad and bored. The reason for this is two-, or maybe four-fold. It's difficult to parse out the tiny, separate, nuanced reasons, but here's the gist of it:

  1. I've disliked my job from the very first day I set foot in the office more than 3 years ago -- the atmosphere as well as the subject matter. I've stayed because (i) I agreed to stay for at least 2 years, and I wanted to prove I could do it no matter how tough it was, (ii) I'm paid well for what I do, and I the health benefits are generous, (iii) the economy, and (iv) I can't think of anything I would actually like to do instead;

  2. I am relatively isolated. The only person I see outside of work is my fiance, and the only other people I regularly keep in contact with are my parents (I don't have any siblings). I've never been very sociable, and I find that making (and keeping) friends is sort of exhausting and difficult. However, now that I work in a tiny office, and I'm not in school, I find myself missing a little bit of companionship. And sadly, I find it especially difficult to make friends and identify with other women.
  3. I have no solid interests. This is either the cause or the result of my tendency toward consumption-based addictions (see: FOOD and SHOPPING), I haven't decided. I don't really do many things that could be considered "hobbies". I've tried things like knitting, but it feels pointless. I read sometimes. I tried a silver-smithing class. I've signed up for a sewing class. Nothing really sticks, and I spend most of my time doing what amounts to nothing, which produces more anxiety. It also makes things like "interest inventories" difficult, since I can see myself enjoying each option equally, which makes picking a direction that much harder.
  4. I haven't worked out a purpose. Now, I don't mean some big Come to Jesus moment where I attain spiritual enlightenment. I'm talking about something that I can get passionate about. It doesn't have to be something I do for a living right now; it doesn't have to be philanthropic or IMPORTANT; it just need something fulfilling that excites me -- something that I can nurture and develop that makes my heart pound -- something I want to stay up all night working on until I can't keep my eyes open. Items 3 and 4 are subtly different. 3 can serve as fodder for some light conversation. 4 gets me out of bed in the morning. Ideally (eventually), a career could be derived from or based on 4, but should at least be related tangentially to 3. 3 is broad, 4 is deep. I don't think I need to say it, but knitting doesn't fall into this category either. I painted for a while in college, and that was the closest I ever felt to feeling "flow" (except for maybe my philosophy course), but its such a big, tortured process, and I don't think it was THE THING for me.

I'm aware that these are all big elements of life, and a lot of people would argue that, outside of the things I've included in this list, there's not much else to it. These are really basic things that make up a personality -- likes, dislikes, friends -- that make up a person, and as such, they're things that I shouldn't even have to consciously address, which makes their absence even more perplexing.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who finds him or herself in similar circumstances, or someone who has successfully fixed what needed fixin'.

23 comments:

QL girl said...

I've been in a similar situation to where you are right now....and it was terrible.

I dont really think you need to start with any "solid" interests. Is there anything you've always wanted to do? Something you're curious about? I started by going to dance classes. I'd been meaning to go check them out, but hadn't made time. And guess what? I loved it. It turned into a solid interest, but wasn't necessarily that way in the beginning. As you start to meet people, you won't be best friends right away, but slowly you'll get used to striking up conversations, and even that small interaction will be better than solitude.

Try something new, and take one step at a time. Don't try to change your life all at once.

Having a blog really helped me too. It sounds kind of sad, but it's helped me feel more connected to others, even if the extent of our relationship is just reading posts with the occasional comment. Use your blog to vent, and for whatever it is you want!

I haven't exactly "fixed" everything I needed to yet, but even in taking my small steps it's been so much better than it was before.

Jenn said...

Wow - are you reading my mind? I can so relate...

I have disliked my current job the 3 1/2 years I've been here - kept it in the beginning because it pays well, has great benefits, and is very flexible (as a mom to 3, definitely a plus). Benefits are now not that great, I've yet to have a review (much less a raise) since I've been here, and my kiddos are getting older.

Not really as isolated as you mentioned, but as a mom to 3, my priorities are kids, kids and more kids - homework, baths, family time - not a whole lot of "me" time. Oh, and I'm the only employee in my department - very isolated at work. Solid interests include kids, kids and more kids...

I agree with QL girl - so much that I think I'll take her advice as well :) Oh, and I'm actually going to take steps in the summer to switch jobs - hopefully to one I like better and can have more interaction and hopefully get away from the mommy mommy mommy situation I have myself in right now...

Good luck!

me in millions said...

Being a grown up is hard! No one tells you that part. When I was feeling similarly to you, I found out I was depressed and everything clicked. It takes some major guts to make a big change, but it sounds like that could be what makes all the difference for you.

Christopher said...

I'm in a bit of a different situation that you, but only because I've had a few years to "figure it all out" since your tender age of 25, but I'll try to illustrate the path I took to so-called enlightenment. I'm including financial details only because of the financial nature of this blog.

I'm 28 years old, about to turn 29 in April. I'm currently self-employed as a photographer and an investor, with about five hours per week devoted to each. The investing generally takes about five hours per week year-round, but this is the slow season for photography. I generally "work" between 15-20 hours per week at photography during the busy season, but even then it doesn't feel much like work. I'm good at it, I enjoy it (as much as work can be enjoyed), and I'm paid handsomely for very little time spent. I work as much or as little as I want, have NO set schedule, and I choose exactly who I want to work with. I currently pull in about $55,000/year from my investment portfolio, and another $15,000-20,000 from my photography work. If I continue to invest at the current rate (my portfolio is entirely in real estate--I don't think IRAs are a good choice for somebody hoping to retire at 35), I should be able to hit six figures from the investments alone within the next 3-5 years. At this point, I'll stop, spend 5-20 hours per week managing the properties, and figure out what the "next step" is. I live with my girlfriend of three years, and we have a stable, symbiotic relationship based on equality and respect. The respect part is the one that was always missing from my previous relationships, and I'm fortunate enough to be with somebody whose emotional security is sufficient enough that her only relationship rule is "don't f--k other women."

Sounds pretty great, huh?

Lets rewind to age 25. Broke, renting a shitty apartment, working 50 hours/week at a banking job I hated, constantly running around on my out-of-town girlfriend, falling-down drunk at least 4 nights a week, and absolutely NO idea what I was going to do for the next 40 years of work. In fact, I was in the opposite of your situation--I had too MUCH social interaction, too MUCH stimulation.

I won't go into the details of how I began investing and taking pictures, suffice to say that I didn't have financial help, and I didn't do anything that any other reasonably intelligent 20-something couldn't do. I DID make financial sacrifices, but I realized later on that the things I was sacrificing were not NEARLY as valuable as not having to worry about money after turning 35 years old. Ever. (CONTINUED)

Christopher said...

(CONTINUED) You may need to look for different work, hone a particular skill into a money-making hobby, or try out a change of scenery either by changing apartments, cities, or lifestyle. For me, it was all about separating what I "do," and how I "make money." I was not an artist, a friend, or a lover. I was a bank employee. I realized that as long as I had a "regular job," I would be forever defined by my employment instead of my character, personality, etc. I was lucky enough to figure this out at 25 with no kids and no wife instead of at 60 when all of my choices had already been set in stone.

With respect to "me in millions," I don't think depression is your problem. You've shown enough thought, initiative, and capability through this blog to indicate a personality that is itching to "break free." My advice would be to start planning your escape NOW, so that when you've gathered enough resources to spend some serious time on personal development, you'll have comfortable cushion. Keep saving, try to pare down your "shopping," and, most importantly, get your fiancé ON BOARD with whatever it is you decide to do. Nothing stifles personal development more than the objections of a significant other. Trust me on this one.

Finally, don't fall into the delusion that you have "all the time in the world." If somebody had given me this advice right out of college, I would have said "but 25 years old is SO FAR AWAY!" Now I know that 35 is just around the corner...

Investing Newbie said...

Everyone gives some great pointers and advice. Classes are a great way to meet people as well as find out more about your interests. Depending on where you live, you can also try Craigslist/Meet-Up/Lunch Table to seek out groups of people with common interests. That's definitely the way to start expanding your social network.

In terms of being more satisfied, I believe that takes time. At this point in our lives, i think we have jobs, not necessarily careers. Maybe later on in life, once we know what we WANT to do (through multiple occupations and networking), then we'll find the perfect situation that makes us wanna get up out of bed. But for now, appreciate the fact that you know this isn't what you want to do and start taking steps to research what interests you.

Kelly said...

Hi,

Very much in the same situation here, it is such a relief to hear some other people relate. I am 27 and stuck in a cubicle doing meaningless office work, and feel like my health and personality are just being sucked out of me.

But at the same time feel like a huge loser because I'm not sure what I'd really like to do - well, some ideas but they don't seem feasible without going back to school, which I'm not willing to due to our current financial situation (100K+ in student loans.)

I also don't relate very well to the other "girlie girls" in the office which definitely contributes to the "alone and stuck" feeling.

It would be great to get a group together to talk about these issues - I've thought about starting something on meetup.com - my husband isn't very excited about these ideas though, like Christopher says, that makes it a lot harder.

Christopher - I would love to talk with you about the details of how you got out of that life. Sounds a lot like me, drinking too much too. Very interested about investing for beginners.

My e-mail is Kelly.Johnson@us.ing.com

Cheers,
K

Christopher said...

@Kelly,

Alcohol really did play a huge part in my "adolescence extension" as I like to call it. An important point I neglected to mention earlier was that around the time I began eschewing booze, I was introduced to cannabis. While it's never a good idea to swap one vice for another, I have to admit that weed has completely changed my life.

I have never, ever, in the three years since I started smoking pot woken up the next morning and thought "what the f--k was I thinking?" or "my head feels like an overfilled water balloon" or "who the hell is this woman sleeping next to me?" IN contrast, it was normally the exception when I DIDN'T feel that way after a night of drinking. It remains one of the biggest reasons why I can't COMPREHEND the illegality of cannabis, whilst tobacco and booze kills hundreds of thousands of people every year in this country alone.

Making that switch almost immediately steered me away from those activities that were crass and unbecoming (e.g. hyper-planning a soulless career, climbing an invisible ladder, philandering), and pushed me toward more appropriate goals (e.g. fidelity, sensible career choices, acquiring happiness AND money instead of one at the expense of the other). This, in turn, provided the sense of purpose and self-awareness that "Eking Out" seems to be craving.

None of this was particularly difficult, and it's not as if it had anything to do with social pressure (indeed, I am somewhat of a non-conformist and am staunchly anti-religion). I'm also not suggesting that "Eking Out" quit her job and become a pothead surfer dude. However, it's worth noting that this "ah hah" moment came to me at the exact age that she's at right now.

Kelly said...

@ Christopher,

I'm completely with you on the legalization of pot. The best argument comes from my husband, who worked for the county public defender's office helping everyone who had got thrown in jail the night before.

He noted that so many of the cases they heard were alcohol related, but you never heard of someone getting stoned and then beating their girlfriend, getting into a bar fight, etc.

Unfortunately the stuff doesn't really do much for me, but I am really working on cutting down on the alcohol, it is hard though.

I would still like to hear more of your story and how you got into investing, maybe you could recommend some books? I think I'm very smart with money but investing is a mystery I suppose it's beside the point because we have nothing to invest anyhow.

Cheers,
K

Kelly.Johnson@us.ing.com

Christopher said...

@ Kelly,

My situation is a bit unique, and I'm sorry to say that it's close to impossible if you're not willing to live in the type of city where housing is REALLY affordable. I can pick up a three bedroom house near a major undergraduate college for 25k and rent it out for $750/month without batting an eyelash. It's sort of a no-brainer to pay 25k for an asset that's going to pay you $9,000/year for the rest of your life.

Do this ten times, buying one per year from the time you're 25 years old, and you have an annual un-earned income of $90k by age 35. This is 30 years sooner than most people who put money away into an IRA. The best part? Your income cannot be obliterated by a swing of the stock market. I personally know of three people who had over $1 million in late 2008, earning a tidy 50k/year in interest. Guess how much they have now? About 400k. Sorry, but if that happened to me overnight, I'd be tempted to blow my brains out. So, no IRA for me.

So, I have to live in a smaller city with slightly less glamorous surroundings than NY, Boston, Chicago, etc. However, the cash and freedom generated by my investments allows me to go to any one of these places (and anywhere else, I might add) whenever I feel like it. Even two plane tickets per week and a bunch of posh hotel rooms are cheaper than the mortgage on a Park Avenue pad.

I don't generally read books that tell me how to invest, as I've figured a lot of it out already, and I have no interest in the stock market. However, I am a big fan of books that focus on simplifying life, making the most of what you have, alternative ways of thinking about money, etc. Here is a short list:

"Work Less, Live More" by Bob Clyatt

"Affluenza" by John De Graff, David Wann, Thomas Naylor

"Simple Prosperity" by David Wann

"Cashing in on the American Dream" by Paul Terhorst

"Your Money or your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

Anonymous said...

Here's a simple thing I did that helped me (I'm not sure where it came from, I think I read it in an article years ago). Pretend you won a million dollars....write down the top 10 realistic things you would do...chances are, 1 of those top ten things is what you REALLY should be doing instead of what you are doing now.

The trap is getting into some rut job and thinking you can't get our of it due to the items you listed (pay, health care etc). These are important, buit not so important that you should be miserable the rest of your life.

My top ten had own a pub, bistro, and a bunch of travel stuff. So that made me think...my ideal job would be owning a pub, possibly in some far away land. So I set my sails on that and began to research what i needed to know, and where I could do it and what it would cost. I can't go into all the details here but, i achievd my goal and I'm not some silver spoon in the mouth guy, I was making 40K per year and had debts etc...

Basically, what I'm saying is, there is something out there that you woudl LOVE to do, you;re just not doing it. Write the list, you might be surprised what comes out.

Anonymous said...

Oh, just a point to Christopher. Kicking the booze binging is great, however, not all poeple who drink take it to excess (I for one like a few beers and a glass of wine and my days of 'pounding' are long behind me ). And, don't confuse me, I'm not putting words in your mouth..I don't suggest you assume all who drink only binge.

Also, we could debate all night about the facts with regards to pot (I don't disagree about the merits of the stuff), however, in the end...it's illegal, whether we like it or not...my point is, I don't think that pot was only reason you got on your path (it may just have saved you a number of hangovers).

Anyway, I do like your story and what you have acomplished, I think many people can learn from you and what you have done. If possible, could you tell us what city you're in ?

(as a side note, who knows, maybe not far off pot will be legalized...discussions of healthcare and a number of other issues have sure changed the countries landscape and possibly will in the future)

eking out said...

QL: That's great to hear about your dance classes. I may be deeply out of touch with myself, but I can't really think of anything I've always wanted to do. I've taken a couple classes, but there's nothing yet I feel like I need to pursue further. Right now, I'm signed up for a sewing class, so we'll see how that goes. Thanks for the encouragement.

Jenn: I never realized how easy it is to get "stuck" - it's difficult not to, isn't it? Good luck with your unsticking, and let me know how it's going. I'm also plotting (:P) for a switch.

me in millions: Seriously, it's way harder than people let on. Although, not having to stay up all night to do homework is sort of awesome. Anyway, I've tried various medications over the years, and I've never noticed any positive difference. I do talk to someone though, which is nice, especially since my social circle is so limited.

eking out said...

Investing Newbie: That's a great point. I've been reconsidering all this pressure I've been putting on myself to find the "right" job, but at this point, I've had to admit to myself that ANY job would be the right job RIGHT NOW, as long as it's not my current one.

Kelly: the part about your health and personality being sucked out of you - I can completely relate. Sometimes I imagine how much brain-melt I've experienced from all the hours spacing out at my desk. Terrible, I know. School also sounds like a horrible idea for me right now, especially since it wouldn't be wise to get an advanced degree in anything unless I was 100% sure of my direction - talk about a waste of time and money. I've also tried a few different meetup-type things, but I haven't gotten anywhere with it. I wonder what our major malfunction is, or I guess, I wonder what makes it harder for us to meet/relate to other people.

eking out said...

Christopher: Thanks for sharing your experiences. And actually, photography has been on my mind a lot lately since I've been shopping photographers for the wedding. So much so that I've been toying with the idea of getting a decent digital camera (the one I have right now is a 5 year old Kodak 4MP point-and-shoot) and playing around with it with the idea that at some point in the future, if I'm decent enough, and I enjoy it enough, I might be able to make some money with it.

Anyway, I am currently planning my escape. I've been doing a pretty good job of focusing on my financial goals since about August 2009 (you can clearly see the line of demarcation on my net worth chart), and this week I've made a decision of when I'll give notice. It's scary, and I don't feel quite comfortable in the money department just yet, but I feel just as strongly that if I don't leave soon, this job will kill me.

Luckily, my fiance is very supportive in just about every way. We don't see eye to eye on everything (I'd like to downsize to a smaller apartment, he doesn't want to), but we agree on most things.

Also, I've been painfully aware of the clock ticking since I was an adolescent. I've felt old since I was 9, so there's definitely no danger of me thinking I've got a lot of time. In fact, I think this fear has led to some of my paralysis.

In any case, I'm trying to utilize more of my time now pinning down my strategy for getting on with my life. It's difficult getting there when I'm so far away ...one step at a time, I guess?

Christopher said...

@ Anonymous,

-I didn't actually stop drinking, I simply stopped getting drunk. This made all the difference in the world.

-As far as pot legalization goes, fourteen states have already done it. Once the majority of states see the light, the federal government will have no choice but to re-think it's ridiculous policy. I also must point out that, in my opinion, just because something is "illegal" doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. Laws, particularly unjust ones, are meant to be challenged. This is how our society evolves.

-I'm a pretty private guy, so I won't pinpoint where I live, but Erie, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse are all pretty similar cities. You can guess for yourself which of those I live in.

@ Eking out

- Trust me, if you have a bit of an eye and are willing to learn, you CAN make money as a photographer. I'm tracking to pull in $25k in 2010 and I've only scheduled 14 events.

-If you don't have a wedding photographer yet, and you live in the Northeast. I'd be happy to talk business with you...

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Christopher said...

@ Anonymous

This is horse shit.

A quick Google search of "aim trust" and "scam" yields 55,000+ results.

As far as I can tell, this little corner of the web is about personal finance and getting rich slowly. I don't want to speak for Eking Out, but if this were my blog I'd ask you to kindly peddle your investment scam elsewhere.

eking out said...

Christopher: I'm actually trying to learn more about digital photography right now to decide whether this is a passing whim, or something I should pursue. I'm having trouble swallowing the startup costs (not that I should have a professional camera in my hands at this point, but I need some kind of DSLR), because even a Canon Rebel is quite a lot of money.

And I AM in the Northeast, but the wedding is in my hometown (down South).

Christopher said...

@ Eking out

First, do you have a name? I feel foolish calling you "eking out."

Second, I would caution you against getting into photography with Canon. Nikon, in my opinion, has the superior imaging products and the price difference is negligible. Down the road, if you decide to upgrade the Nikon lenses will serve you better. A Nikon D5000 with a kit lens will probably run you around $500.00, which is as low as it gets for a DSLR.

Having said that, your productivity as a photographer has almost nothing to do with your choice of manufacturers.

Just be happy you don't use my system: Nikon D3 with three pro VR lenses = $10,000.00

eking out said...

Christopher: My name's Sarah.

That's interesting about Canon. It seems to be the sexier of the two brands, or at least it seems like Canon gets the most play among the younger set.

I'll do more research into Nikon products. Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...

@ Christopher

(I'm the first Annon, not Mr. Scammy Annon)

I'd like to talk to you more about some of your investment deals in real estate (I don't need to know where you are but round about how you're doing things).
email me at keepersnug@hotmail.com and I'll let you know what specifically I want to know.
thanks.

And Sorry Eking out for using your comments section as a message board.

Christopher said...

@ non-scamming Anonymous

I would be delighted to answer any questions you're willing to ask on this blog, but I'm afraid I don't give out my email address.

This way, everybody else will benefit from the information as well.

Sorry to be so fussy...