I feel slightly ridiculous writing this email but I’m writing it nonetheless.
My life is good and I have very little to complain about. I graduated last year with a degree in studio art and got a decent job doing graphic design for a mid-sized newspaper. I live with my boyfriend, I’ve got a small but close group of friends. I have an awesome dog and a cute apartment. I use my vacation time to visit places that interest me.
So why am I bored and listless and slightly depressed?! I can’t help but feeling overwhelmed by a sense of “Is this it?” I’m pretty sure that this is the life that I’ve always been working towards but it just feels so…. mundane.
Get up, sit in traffic, work for 8 hours, sit in traffic, get home, make dinner for the boy, watch TV, go to bed, repeat. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong! I remember starting college and feeling so excited about starting my ‘real life.’ But now I’m here and it’s not doing anything for me. What am I doing wrong?
– Oddly Listless
You are not alone. This feeling of listlessness is an epidemic that affects tens of millions of people. That doesn’t mean that it’s ‘incurable’ or that it’s not valid but know that just about everybody feels like this from time to time. Me very much included!
What to do when you’re asking “Is this it?”
Compartmentalize the suck
You list the activities in your daily life – commuting, cooking for your boyfriend, sitting in traffic. I would imagine that one or two of these things carries more suckage weight than the others.
Have a good think about the aspects of your daily life that are bringing you down; experiment a bit with compartmentalizing the suck. How do you feel if you do everything the same – but don’t watch TV? How do you feel if you do everything the same – but bike to work instead of drive?
Once you’ve cornered the suckiest components, work to lessen or remove them all together
If it’s the commute that really drags you down, get some awesome podcasts, ask your boss if you can work from home on Fridays, move closer to work when your lease ends. =If you hate cooking and washing up every night, get your boyfriend to cook on Mondays and Wednesdays or find a really cheap takeaway place. If you hate your job? Well, that deserves a post of its own.
Get rid of the tv
Or at least cancel the cable. You literally burn more calories sleeping than you do watching TV. New studies show that it’s actually possible to become physically addicted to tv. Television shows promote unattainable lifestyles and body types and every time I watch The Housewives of Whatever my blood pressure doubles.
Spend your evenings catching up with friends, going for runs, trying new ethnic restaurants, volunteering, attempting complicated recipes.
Or if you’re too worn down from work for all that? Read a book, play with the cat, listen to smartypants podcasts, skype with friends in different time zones. You don’t have to go cold turkey off TV, but save it for programs you really, really like.
Personal anecdote: My best friend is Capt. Smartypant McHardworker. She met her now-husband when she was 16, landed her current (awesome) job at 23 and bought a house at 25. Super impressive, right?
Oddly, she found herself completely frustrated by her impressive life because she had not anticipated being a well-salaried, married home-owner until she was in her 30s. She had everything she’d planned for five years too early. She spent some time mooning around malcontentedly and then feeling guilty about her chronic malcontent.
But! Then! She and her husband decided to try something new! They decided to start a brewery! She is completely excited and thrilled and so, so happy to be doing something new. Her office job and house were not ‘it.’ They were just one part of the story, one phase in her life that will inevitably have many phases.
So if you’re feeling stuck and listless start thinking about the things in life that really excite you. Travel! Fashion! Micro pigs! Start crafting some new goals involving the things that excite you. Realize that this is just one little phase in your life. And if you don’t like this phase, work hard to start a new one.
So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you can’t really navigate out of this phase of your life. Maybe you have kiddos or a mortgage or you take care of your parents. That doesn’t mean you’re destined for a life of monotony, digging yourself further and further into your muddy little rut.
Try mini-new things: a new recipe, a new vegetable from the Asian market, a new TV show, a new body wash, a different park, a different drink at Starbucks.
When we start making mini changes and we realize that the world does not actually come crashing to a halt because we ordered an Americano instead of a Cappuccino, we can slowly build up the courage to try big new things.