Conventional Wisdom is a different kind of advice column. Your questions will be answered by people from all walks of life rather than by advice experts. This week, a rambling storyteller advises a woman who is in a major life rut. Want to throw your hat into the ring? You can submit questions here.
I'm in a rut. But it's worse than that, I'm stuck because I realized that I have no goals. I am 30-years-old and in my twenties two things happened. The first thing is that I worked dang hard to get two university degrees. I picked a field that I did well in academically (journalism), but when I entered the work force I realized I couldn't hack the competitive atmosphere and the lack of creativity. The second thing that happened was that I got sick. I was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease that left me in pain and frequently bedridden.
When I was sick I was miserable, but the drug that I was prescribed made me CRAZY. And it made me gain weight. I was depressed and anxious and didn't want to see friends or family, I felt like a loser because I didn't want to see anyone, didn't feel attractive, and felt like a failure because I gave up stressful journalism for a super boring marketing job. So fast-forward a couple of years to today.
Today, I'm healthy. I'm off the prescription that made me nutty. My mood is great. I feel more like myself than I have in YEARS. But the thing is . . . I've spent so much time with my health as my number one priority that everything else has been stagnating. I'm in a job that I find boring, I still have friends — but now that I've poked my head out of the sand I'm feeling out of step, especially as many are now in serious relationships and have seriously good careers. I feel like I'm behind, but the thing is I don't know what to do. I'm drifting, and I'm starting to get anxious! Can anybody help me figure out how to get my confidence back and get a plan together?
Signed, In a Rut
To hear what a Rambling Storyteller has to say,
Hi In a Rut:
The answer to your problem lies at Ponderosa. Stay with me. I want you to picture yourself at Ponderosa. You go there because everyone says steak is very delicious, and you like delicious things, so you’ve been planning to order a T-bone. In fact, you have been preparing to eat a steak for so long that you’re sweating A-1. So you go to the restaurant, but then you realize that — oh crap! — someone has pickpocketed your wallet. So you chase the crook, and it’s exhausting, but you finally nab her and get your wallet back.
With that ordeal over, you want to sit down, but a bunch of other customers have snagged tables — and most of them are already on to dessert, those jerks. FINALLY you get a table and order the steak you’ve been craving. But when it comes out, it looks like braised mouse and tastes like a sweaty toupee. You stare at it and think, “Ugh, I don’t want this at all.”
Now, is it your fault that you were delayed by a stickyfingered crook? Or that the tables were filled by customers who started eating way before you did? Or that it turns out that steak isn’t delicious to you? I bet you can easily realize that no, none of this is your fault. So why are you being so hard on the Ponderosa that is your life?
Let’s review what you’ve told me: You were diagnosed with a painful disease, and the recovery process was not easy. Yet you managed to triumph. You thought you wanted to be the next Helen Thomas, but actually, you don’t, and that’s okay. How about giving yourself some compassion and credit for being handed more to deal with than most and handling it well? Of course other people are doing other things with their personal lives and careers. That’s because they’re not you. They didn’t beat back a disease, and they didn’t realize that they want to do a different kind of work. Different situations, different places in life, so ditch this “I’m behind” talk.
If you keep comparing yourself to others, you will never be satisfied. Ever. Stop doing that and start living each day like you’re going to kick ass — because, honestly, you’ve been given a second chance at a healthy life, and you’ll thrive by focusing on the opportunities ahead of you rather than ones you’ve missed in the past.
So, how do you regain your confidence and get going again? Whenever you start comparing yourself to others, stop those thoughts in their tracks and remind yourself that you’re on your own path. Focus on your personal situation, your experiences, and your goals. Start with what you do know: You don’t want to be a journalist, and you don’t want to do the snoozeville job you’re doing. So what things interest you? What is your passion? Could you add some volunteer work to your schedule, take a class somewhere, or otherwise follow what you like to do? Doing that will help you figure out what to do for work, and it’s bound to boost your confidence and self-esteem. That, in turn, will help you get ready for a great relationship when it happens.
Going back to the Ponderosa allusion, you might not want steak, but hey, look, there’s a huge all-you-can-eat salad bar! Approach the salad bar of life, dear reader. Sample a little of this, a little of that, and you’ll start figuring out what does taste good to you. (Just stay away from the croutons. Stale bread helps nobody.)
A Rambling Storyteller