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ASK ALICE: What to do when you're young; should you leave a job when older?
Editor’s note: Ask Alice is a new feature for our online readers. Alice is a certified therapeutic massage professional with an extensive background in relationship psychology. You can Ask Alice questions at DearAskAlice@gmail.com
I am 15 years old and I live in a small town. I get so bored sometimes that I don’t know what to do with myself. I tried drinking, but I don’t really like it. I tried smoking pot but the smell grosses me out. I’m kind of a loner so I don’t really have many friends. I just feel like, “what’s the point?” I don’t think I’m actually depressed, but maybe just so bored that I’m discouraged. Do you have any help for me, Alice?
Signed, Down and Out
Dear Down and Out
A more chipper and optimistic person would tell you to get out there, make friends, don’t turn to substances for relief, maybe find Jesus or something to that nature. But my dear Down and Out, advice like this will just make you roll your eyes and change nothing.
I don’t know if you’re ready to hear this, but there’s something tough that needs to be said: life is hard. For everyone. Young and old, rich, ugly, pretty, popular and also people like you. We can get caught in the traps of substance use, or creating our identity as part of some group, or blaming our small town environment for our misery – but the real issue here is, “Who Am I? and Who Do I Want To Become?”
You’re 15. You probably want friends and to fit in and sure, life might be a little easier that way. But what shouts at me loud and clear from your letter is that you haven’t answered these big questions yet. Don’t feel bad, you're young, and some people never do. I think you’re a lucky duck to be asking for help now, at 15, because you are primed and ready to try out everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.
Have you ever picked up a drawing pencil? Sketched anything? Journaled? Written a story? Maybe picked up a guitar or drumsticks? Maybe walking dogs for $... the point is, there’s so much out there to fill time and create identity and ward off boredom and figure out who you are and even make life less hard that even a small town can’t contain you. In three years, you can go and do and be whomever you want. Maybe take these three years and figure out what’s next.
Should I quit my job? I want to, but the economy sucks. I don’t have a wife currently, and my kids are grown. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis and I should just get a cat. Help?
Signed, Workin’ Stiff
Life is short. You could die at any moment. Well, it's probably unlikely that it will happen right now, but still.
Some of the wisest thinkers realize how fleeting the human experience is and they urge us to recognize our own mortality and make the best life we can for ourselves. Sounds like a plan to me, Stiff.
What you didn’t say in your letter are specifics: What is your job? Does it pay the money you always dreamed of? Are there any rewarding and redeeming qualities that keep you at your job? Or the bigger questions: No wife at the moment, so… you’d like there to be one? Do you need financial security to make your next wife appear? Where are your kids and what do they think Dad would enjoy doing for a living? Do you want a cat? Will getting a cat make the job issue go away?
I think it’s a big mistake to stay with a spouse or in a job or at a school or in any living circumstance because “the economy sucks.” The economy sucks quite often and yet art still gets made, people still quit jobs and find other ones, and those of us who can’t or won’t do the life that The Man wants (i.e., self-employed creative types) still manage to eke out a living, even while “the economy sucks.”
So no excuses, Stiff. What do you want to do? It sounds pretty loud and clear you want to quit – so do it. Trust your gut; it leads us where we need to go. Life is short. Get a cat, a new wife and a new job, not necessarily in that order.