Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Oct. 16, 2005.
Dear Carolyn: I’m a 32-year-old single guy, and I recently moved to a new city for a change of pace and took a job that I now find is largely unfulfilling and boring. I have few friends here, just dropped out of graduate school and don’t really know what to do with my life.
A year ago, I would have said I was happy and content at my previous job in another city. Any suggestions on what could have gone wrong? I can’t bring myself to ask my friends and family because I don’t want them to think I made a bad decision or have somehow failed in this new endeavor.
Adrift: What good are failure and bad decisions if you can’t share them with friends?
If you’re not ready to laugh about this yet, then just flip it around: What good are friends and family if you can’t share your failures with them?
These people know you, love you, care about you. They’ll be a lot more useful than I can in ferreting out what went wrong and why.
That is, if anything did go wrong. Maybe this is a natural adjustment phase that’s already starting to pass. Maybe this is the bottom you needed to hit, to force you to dig for your true talents, needs and priorities. Maybe it took a change of pace for you to appreciate how well your old job and city suited you. Maybe you were right to leave your old job but not your city, or your city but not your job; maybe you were right to leave job, city and school, and it’s just your Plan B that needs tweaking.
Maybe you need some perspective. Wrong job, wrong city? Oops. Bummer. Next.
Maybe failure needs me as its PR person, because it’s near the top of everyone’s list of horrors — only death and bad haircuts give it any significant challenge, and not necessarily in that order — and yet often it’s the one thing that lies between you and the happiest place you’ve ever been. Kind of like bridge traffic en route to the beach.
I realize this all must sound oppressively chipper to someone stuck in bridge traffic with no perceivable end. But I think it’s important that you not lose sight of the fact that the worst phases of your life are still phases, and there will be an after — one that is an improvement by definition.
It’s especially important to keep this in mind when you’re depressed, which you might be; please start the regrouping process by checking out depression symptoms at nimh.nih.gov, and then talking to your doctor, if needed.
Also, make one small change to your life that you think will make it better. And I mean small: Take walks during your lunch hour, or read every day or eat better. Then give it some time, and make another change — another small one, or one that’s a little bigger, like acquiring a skill you’ve always wanted, or joining a group/club/team.
And again, please talk to your family and friends throughout. Go visit them, even. Say as much or as little as you’re ready to say. Opt to confide in the warmest, least critical family member or friend. Laugh at yourself. Try again. Fail. Repeat.