My third-of-life crisis

post by polymathwannabe · 2014-11-10T15:28:36.043Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 29 comments

I've been wanting to post this for a while, but it always felt too embarrassing. I've contributed next to nothing to this community, and I'm sure you have better problems to work on than my third-of-life crisis. However, the kind of problems I'm facing may require more brainpower than my meatspace friends can muster. Here I go.

I live in Colombia, where your connections have more weight than your talent. But I'm not sure about my talent anymore. Until I finished high school I had always been a stellar student and everyone told me I was headed for a great future. Then I represented my province in a national spelling contest and had my first contact with an actual city and with other students who were as smart as me. After the contest ended, I tried to maneuver my parents into letting me stay at the city, but they would have none of it. After an unabashedly overextended stay with my aunts, I eventually was sent back to the small pond.

My parents and I disagreed seriously about my choice of career, primarily in that they took for granted that the choice wasn't even mine. Because my older brother appeared to have happily accepted his assigned path in business management, I was forced to do the same, even though it held absolutely no interest for me. But I wasn't very sure myself about what exactly I wanted, so I wasn't able to effectively defend my opposition. Another factor was that in the late 1990s the Colombian army was still allowed to recruit minors, and it's a compulsory draft, and the only legal way to avoid it was to be studying something---anything. My brother did spend one year at the army, but at least the entire family agreed that I would break if sent there. No other options were explored. With my school scores I might have obtained a scholarship, but I didn't know how to do it, whom to ask. My parents held complete control over my life.

So began the worst eight years of my life. Eight because the only university my parents could afford was terribly mismanaged and was paralyzed by strikes and protests every semester. I was deeply depressed and suicidal during most of that time, and only the good friends I met there kept my mood high enough to want to keep going. After I filed some legal paperwork and paid a fee to be finally spared the threat from the draft, it didn't occur to any of us that I didn't have a reason to be in that university anymore. None of us had heard of sunk costs---and my management teachers certainly didn't teach that.

During that time it became clear to me that I wanted to be a writer. I even joined a writing workshop at the university, and even though our aesthetic differences made me leave it soon, I envied them their intellectual independence. Many of them were students of history and philosophy and one could have fascinating conversations with them. I felt more acutely how far I was from where I wanted to be. My parents sent me to that university because they had no money, but they chose business management because they had no imagination.

My parents had made another mistake: have too many children in their middle age, which meant they constantly warned me they could die anytime soon and I must find any job before I was left in the street. The stress and the fear of failure were unbearable, especially because my definition of failure included their definition of success: become some company manager, get an MBA, join the rat race. My brother was quicky jumping from promotion to promotion and I was seen as a lazy parasite who didn't want to find a real job.

For a while I volunteered at a local newspaper, and the editor was very happy with my writing, and suggested he might move his influences to get me an intership even if I wasn't studying journalism. Shortly afterwards he died of cancer, and I lost my position there.

I went to therapy. It didn't work. After I got my diploma I found a job at a call center and started saving to move to the big city I had always felt I was supposed to have lived in all along. I entered another university to pursue a distance degree in journalism, and it has been a slow, boring process to go through their mediocre curriculum and laughable exams. I still have at least two years to go, if my lack of motivation doesn't make me botch another semester.

Currently I'm on my own, though now my other siblings live in this city too, and all my aunts. I no longer visit them because I always feel judged. I'm close to turning 32 and I still haven't finished the degree I want (in many ways it was also a constrained choice: I cannot afford a better university, and I no longer have anyone to support me in the meantime, so I have to work). I do not want to put my first diploma to use; it would be a soul-crushing defeat. I have promised myself to prove that I can build my life without using my management degree. But these days I feel I'm nearing a dead end.

Three years ago I found a good job at a publishing house, but I've learned all I could from there and I sorely need to move on. But it's very difficult to get a writing job without the appropriate degree. Last year I almost got a position as proofreader at a university press, but their ISO protocols prevented them from hiring someone with no degree. I have a friend who dropped out of literary studies and got a job at an important national newspaper and from his description of it there's no guaranteed way to replicate the steps he took.

So my situation is this: I'm rooming at a friend's house, barely able to pay my bills. The Colombian government has launched an investigation against my university for financial mismanagement, and it might get closed within the next year. I have become everyone's joke at the office because I am so unmotivated that I'm unable to arrive on time every morning, but I've become so good at the job that my boss doesn't mind, and literally everyone asks me about basic stuff all the time. I was head editor for one year, but I almost went into nervous breakdown and requested to be downgraded to regular editor, where life is much more manageable. I feel I could do much more, but I don't know how or where. And I don't feel like starting a business or making investments because my horrible years with business management left me with a lingering disgust for all things economic.

Through happy coincidences I've met friends who know important people in journalism and web media, but I have nothing to show for my efforts. At their parties I feel alien, trying to understand conversations about authors and theories I ought to have read about but didn't because I spent those formative years trying to not kill myself. I enjoy having smart and successful friends, but it hurts me that they make me feel so dumb. Professionally and emotionally, I am at the place I should have been ten years ago, and I constantly feel like my opportunities for improvement are closing. I don't have enough free time to study or write, I don't have a romantic life at all (new recent dates didn't turn out so well), I don't even have savings, and I can't focus on anything. This city has more than a dozen good universities with scholarship programs, but I'm now too old to apply, and I still have to support myself anyway. Some days I feel like trying my luck in another country, but I'm too unqualified to get a good job. I feel tied up.

My 2004 self would have been quite impressed at how much I've achieved, but what I'm feeling right now is stagnation. Every time I hear of a new sensation writer under 30 I feel mortified that I haven't been able to come up with anything half decent. My second therapist said my chosen path as a writer was one that gave its best fruits in old age, but I don't want more decades of dread and uncertainty.

I don't know what to do at this point. J. K. Rowling once said there's an expiration date on blaming your parents for your misfortunes. But the consequences of my parents' bad decisions seem to extend into infinity.

29 comments

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comment by zslastman · 2014-11-10T15:54:02.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Much sympathy. Your chosen career is a risky one and there probably isn't a way to make it safe - otherwise there would be even more writers than there are now. The way to avoid years of dread seems to me to have a good side job, one that leaves you with some energy to write. Some thoughts:

1) You may want to think about how you can overcome your disgust with all things economic - your parents poisoned that aspect of intellectual life, but economics is fairly well regarded here abouts - maybe you can salvage it for yourself by making it your own? Coming at it form a more LW perspective?

2) Can you just pull out from professional life? Start writing now, arrange to come in later, deliberately, so it doesn't become a guilt trip for you? Live cheaply and just start writing? It sounds like you've got plenty of frustrations and stuff to write about - why not just write it, as therapy if nothing else?

3) Do you need to prepare for the fact that you may simply not be able to be a writer? Everyone starts down that road without knowing if they can do it - it's a lottery. If I were you I'd try to confront that reality head on, and try to be process rather than results oriented.

4) Are you taking care of your life generally? Food, excersize, sleep? Generalized misery, for me, is usually about these things, rather than the causes - career, family etc., which my brain outputs when I ask it what's wrong.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-11-11T03:52:27.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

overcome your disgust with all things economic

I will acknowledge there's a huge component of pride in this. I don't want to give my family an opportunity to tell me they were right in their choices all along. When I joined the publishing company after three years in various call centers, my brother described it as "finally seeing sense."

pull out from professional life

You've no idea how much I envy backpackers, but the prospect of not having a secure paycheck terrifies me.

Live cheaply and just start writing

I live cheaply already; it's just that I let previous roommates leech off me for too long and I'm still catching up with the effects of my misguided helpfulness.

plenty of frustrations and stuff to write about

Indeed, enough stuff for a thirty-season soap opera. But that's not the kind of stories I'm interested in exploring, at least not too overtly. My story ideas have other questions to answer.

you may simply not be able to be a writer

I can write. I may never get published. I need to figure out how to use the former to fix the latter.

taking care of your life

True, I'm not getting enough sleep these days, which should be fixed next month after I deliver a huge assignment at the office and my final exams for this semester. I'm a non-smoking vegetarian teetotaler who has to walk a kilometer between home and the bus stop. I hope that counts.

[edited to fix spelling]

Replies from: Jack_LaSota, bingobongo, RichardKennaway
comment by Jack_LaSota · 2014-11-16T22:01:03.303Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I will acknowledge there's a huge component of pride in this. I don't want to give my family an opportunity to tell me they were right in their choices all along. When I joined the publishing company after three years in various call centers, my brother described it as "finally seeing sense."

Your family was already either right or wrong. If you are choosing in order to not follow their advice, instead of choosing in accordance with what you think is the best way to achieve your goals, they are controlling you just as surely as if they were picking a career for you that wasn't the best way to achieve your goals.

Being free of your parents means that you don't worry about what they say.

comment by bingobongo · 2014-11-11T08:43:34.116Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

overcome your disgust with all things economic

I will acknowledge there's a huge component of pride in this. I don't want to give my family an opportunity to tell me they were right in their choices all along. When I joined the publishing company after three years in various call centers, my brother described it as "finally seing sense."

You try to live up to the expectations of "friends who know important people in journalism and web media", you feel bad for not having the degree you'd need, you feel bad about not living up to the "professional" expectations of your family. At the same time you give up opportunities to make a (probably decent) living with your first degree (and with it probably a chance to write more).

Be more proactive. You are responsible for your life now, and you are really responsible for your own feelings.

Do you think your parents and siblings would think they won if you changed field of work? Are you reading their minds and predicting their future minds? And would it change anything in your life if they won? Would you feel you lost and you'd be defeated if you did it? Really? Is there a rational reasoning behind this, implying you live in the present?

Try this "simplish" technique http://sourcesofinsight.com/how-to-use-the-triple-column-technique/

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-11-11T09:31:06.323Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I will acknowledge there's a huge component of pride in this. I don't want to give my family an opportunity to tell me they were right in their choices all along. When I joined the publishing company after three years in various call centers, my brother described it as "finally seing sense."

...

You've no idea how much I envy backpackers, but the prospect of not having a secure paycheck terrifies me.

That looks like a big conflict. You want a secure paycheck, but to you a secure paycheck means giving in to your family (and judging by your brother's remark, that's what it means to them also).

I don't have any suggestions for solving that, but I do think that as long as you hold that conflict it's going to be a big obstacle to moving in any direction.

Replies from: zslastman
comment by zslastman · 2014-11-12T08:27:23.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm a non-smoking vegetarian teetotaler who has to walk a kilometer between home and the bus stop. I hope that >counts.

Actually, in my experience, the amount of exercise needed for strong benefits to mood and energy is about 20 minutes hard exercise (talking during becomes difficult), at least 4 days per week. You could take up running. Murakami swears by it.

I don't have any suggestions for solving that, but I do think that as long as you hold that conflict it's going to be a big >obstacle to moving in any direction.

This. It may help to see you lack of security as a fair price payed for your career. Others experienced it early, you simply have to deal with it later on. People have overcome far worse. Start meditating.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-11-10T16:36:55.819Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for posting about your real problems despite them being messy. It's harder than people realize.

At their parties I feel alien, trying to understand conversations about authors and theories I ought to have read about but didn't because I spent those formative years trying to not kill myself.

I can sympathize. It's easy to feel like you'll never catch up to people who had various advantages in the past. I think, though, that you can get yourself onto a path where you wind up blowing right past those people who you used to compare yourself to without really noticing. This is because the right path has intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic, so you start forgetting to compare yourself to others.

comment by shminux · 2014-11-10T16:51:02.367Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

First, you definitely write well and have your way with words in English, For someone who has apparently lived much of his life in a Spanish-speaking country, it is already impressive. Do you write in your spare time, fiction or non-fiction? Do people praise your writing and ask for more? If you do speak English half as well as you write, finding a way to live in an English-speaking country, where there are generally many more opportunities is certainly the order of business (ehm, sorry).

Second, what do you thing would be one thing (just one, not a combination of several) which could help you out of the funk? Examples: $100k, a writing contract, being accepted to the university in a program where you can finish your degree...

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-11-10T22:45:17.140Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm close to giving up on writing science-fiction in Spanish; it's just not a good market. I plan to translate/rewrite my first novel, which sold a minuscule amount during its two years at the Kindle store.

At the same time, I'm writing a Captain Planet fanfiction that people have liked a lot.

Also, I intend to save for an annual examination to become a certified translator. That might help my emigration prospects.

one thing [...] which could help you out of the funk? Examples: $100k, a writing contract, being accepted to the university in a program where you can finish your degree...

I need to be able to make progress in my projects without damaging my ability to support myself. But I'm not sure that the concrete way of calling this need is "more time."

comment by James_Miller · 2014-11-10T16:12:41.628Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Look into doing Internet editing and tutoring work. You might be able to supplement your income giving Skype Spanish lessons to U.S. students. I have heard (although I am not sure) that lots of U.S. high schools are desperate for math teachers fluent in English and Spanish.

Also, like anyone else feeling depressed, see if you can benefit from improving your sleep, diet, and exercise routine.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-11T01:25:07.581Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are the opinions of others causing you to put too much pressure on yourself? I believe there are several examples in your post of others laying significant expectations on you. You are expected to...

  • Achieve the great future predicted for you when you were in high school
  • Match the success of your brother
  • Meet the career expectations of your parents and rest of family
  • Match the perceived sophistication of your peers and friends
  • Conform to the social norm that you should have already finished the degree you want

Heavy burdens to bear. It’s thoughtful of you to consider the wishes of those around you, but are you allowing them to wield an unhealthy amount of influence?

I’ve recently begun to examine this issue in my own life. I’ve made some progress and it feels wonderfully liberating. Hope this helps.

comment by AndrewCarroll · 2014-11-13T04:20:02.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey there amigo. I hope I can offer something resembling good advice for your 1/3 life crisis.

It appears to me these two statements are incompatible:

"...especially because my definition of failure included their definition of success: become some company manager, get an MBA, join the rat race"

"My 2004 self would have been quite impressed at how much I've achieved, but what I'm feeling right now is stagnation. Every time I hear of a new sensation writer under 30 I feel mortified that I haven't been able to come up with anything half decent."

  • In the first quote, you claim that you have no desire to "join the rat race", and that the pressure to do so has caused myriad psychological issues.
  • In the second, you claim that you "feel mortified" when you "hear of a new sensation writer under 30".

If the first statement is true, then why should the reality of the second make you feel anything? Do you want to be a sensation writer under 30 (or at 32)? Or do you not care about the rat race? Answering this question firmly and moving forward without regrets may aid your mental health!

To choose to be a writer cannot be to choose a life of fame. Fame does not necessarily come from good writing, nor are the institutions which decide who becomes famous set up to promote good writing -- they are set up to make money. They are failed institutions in that regard, precisely for their successes. As zslastman pointed out, you may try being process, rather than results, oriented for this precise reason!

I think this next quote from you, in particular, shows that you entered something unaware of what it is you want:

"My second therapist said my chosen path as a writer was one that gave its best fruits in old age, but I don't want more decades of dread and uncertainty."

What does "best fruits" mean to you? Why does it come in old age? Why can't it come right now? You want to be "a writer", but your conception of what that means does not reflect reality. After all, aren't you a "writer" right now? Or does being a "writer" mean being a sensation under 30? Or a sensation at 43 when you finally "make it"? Maybe you don't want to be a "writer" at all. Maybe you want to be a sensation. That's something else entirely. And given how arbitrary becoming a sensation is, and that the institutions which create sensations have little to do with individual (read: your) effort, if what you want is to be a sensation then you better also prepare for the price: decades of dread and uncertainty.

Something has to give. The nice thing about a "crisis" is that it implies a contradiction. Use the contradiction to illuminate the discrepancies within it between your conceptions and existing conditions. Hope this helps!

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-11-13T15:47:27.429Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very true. I hadn't thought of it that way. By rejecting the corporate life of tie suits and promotions I've always liked to think I'm choosing a more genuine life, but maybe I just should admit I'm longing for another kind of prestige.

Your analysis reminds me of something Dale Carnegie said, that humans are ultimately defined by how they meet their need for greatness. I guess we can all agree that it's not a bad thing to be uncomfortable with feeling unimportant.

However, the blurry difference between that aspiration and megalomania is one that worries me. I want to be excellent, to do something of value, to be admired; but I don't want to delude myself. Reading LW has adjusted my estimate of my intelligence sharply downward, and currently one of my worst fears is that I'm only smart enough to not buy homeopathy, but not enough to actually improve my life.

Replies from: ChristianKl, Lumifer, Azathoth123
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-13T17:12:00.953Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading LW has adjusted my estimate of my intelligence sharply downward

LW is a pretty high IQ environment and most people at the lower end of intelligence on LW at still ahead of 90% of the population.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-11-13T17:45:25.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

currently one of my worst fears is that I'm only smart enough to not buy homeopathy, but not enough to actually improve my life.

That fear is pretty clearly unfounded -- there are a LOT of stupid(er) people whose life is better than yours. I don't think IQ is a binding constraint for you at the moment.

comment by Azathoth123 · 2014-11-15T04:27:56.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to be excellent, to do something of value, to be admired

From reading what you wrote I don't believe you actually want to do something of value, rather it seems like you want to have done something of value. In the OP you said:

During that time it became clear to me that I wanted to be a writer.

All the writers whose blogs I read have very little respect for someone who "wants to be a writer", as opposed to someone who wants to write. (This is not restricted to writing).

Incidentally, you wrote:

At their parties I feel alien, trying to understand conversations about authors and theories I ought to have read about but didn't because I spent those formative years trying to not kill myself.

I don't know what kind of theories are fashionable to talk about in Columbia, but if they're anything like the ones similar people talk about in the US and Europe, they're mostly nonsense, don't worry that you don't understand them.

comment by MaximumLiberty · 2014-11-11T15:17:59.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have become everyone's joke at the office because I am so unmotivated that I'm unable to arrive on time every morning, but I've become so good at the job that my boss doesn't mind, and literally everyone asks me about basic stuff all the time. I was head editor for one year, but I almost went into nervous breakdown and requested to be downgraded to regular editor, where life is much more manageable.

This sparked two thoughts.

First, if you are already arriving late to work, you might consider intentionally rearranging your day to get up and write first thing. It seems that the path you want most is in writing, so you might look for ways to use the part of your day when your mind is most fresh for that.

Second, not everyone should join management. Being able to do something well is not the same as being able to manage someone else doing it. You seem to fill more the role of a team lead -- the expert that everyone goes to asking how to do it. Eventually a good team lead becomes irreplaceable, especially if they actually embrace the role of mentor and teacher. That means that you will have the pull to ask for the projects that interest you most and to ask for more compensation. But using that pull can be a difficult balance. You have to be careful to ask in way that causes your boss to agree you deserve it, even if your boss can't give it to you. Eventually, the boss will give you something. You just have to avoid being a pest in the meantime.

comment by 0746 · 2014-11-17T14:16:04.934Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would have been in a similar situation had it been not for my second chance. My parents forced me into an area of study I didn't like, Although, I later managed to switch universities and courses into what I wanted to get into. It did end up meaning being dependent on them for a few more years and it wasn't a very comfortable experience.

But its not that I can't relate to how you feel right now. Even through I work in the field I like, my company discriminates heavily based on post graduate education. For example, if you have a postgraduate degree or a PhD, your pay and the sorts of projects you get to work in tend to be significantly better and more interesting than if you just have a degree. It makes me think that if I got into what I did sooner and spent as many years in university, I'd also have had a PhD. And work done by most other companies in this area is not as interesting. I'd probably fall asleep as I've done previously. When you have differentiated experience based on qualifications like this, something to the effect of Mathew's law start to play. Those with better qualifications get better and better doing more challenging work and those with less qualifications are always left doing grunt work.

Anyway, I've stopped waiting for my job to make me better. I've stopped spending weekends and overtime doing office work. No matter how much effort I put into them, it's more or less the same work over and over. It does not scale. It does not take me where I want to go. It does no feel like I am pushing my limits. However, I am also not in a position to just quit my job and study for a couple of years. So I've gone on a self-directed journey to fill gaps in my knowledge with MOOCs and courses and take other initiatives like personal projects and such. It does cut heavily into my social life and a few other sacrifices. I am not even sure how well this will pay out. But it just feels too damn frustrating to not do anything about it.

comment by Michelle_Z · 2014-11-11T21:40:00.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your parents did you a great disservice, though that doesn't mean you can't self-improve. I've faced similar struggles, though arguably not as severe. My parents were also a large driving force in my life and had me make decisions I did not want to make. For depression, I'd say to make it a habit to find a couple things every day to be appreciative of. For cash, I'd try tutoring people online english. A lot of parents of high school students concerned about their children's grades and getting into college, and will spend money to have them tutored, even if it's online. There are also agencies to go through for that.

For that matter, there are a lot of ordinary tasks people will pay money for you to do. You can be someone's online PA (again through agencies) or a copywriter. Point is, there are a lot of ways to earn money on the side, so you can get your head above water financially.

I don't know enough about the writing career to give any advice on that, nor do I know much about the state of Colombia. But from what you say, it sounds pretty difficult to make it there. This might sound a bit extreme, but have you considered moving to another country?

You're fluent in english, which means you probably could learn another language if you wanted. Duolingo has a number of languages on there that you could learn, so if you do consider moving to another country, you wouldn't be limited to countries that speak spanish or english.

Also check out holiday/work visas. I don't know if Colombia is one of the listed acceptable countries. You can work/holiday in australia, saving something like $18k-20k+ USD. Check out this post. As a potential plan, you can save up the money you need to get the visa using secondary income via tutoring languages, and then spend a year in Australia. There's no reason you couldn't keep taking online courses while doing that, and you'd end the year with a fair amount of money in your bank, which might allow you to study full-time for a bit, depending on the cost of living in Colombia or wherever you choose to go.

How confident am I that this can work? Well, I'm basically giving you my plan, except my side job is as an illustrator.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-11-11T21:49:01.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I appreciate the time you took to describe a very detailed plan. Just one thing: I live in Colombia, not Cambodia.

Replies from: Michelle_Z
comment by Michelle_Z · 2014-11-11T21:54:30.711Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

*edits advice! Oops!

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-13T04:19:47.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Although your problems reinforce each other, you may be able to improve each problem independently. Think of it like untying a knot: You pull a bit at each loop in turn, and eventually everything loosens up. In particular, be careful of giving one node (e.g. achieving success as a writer, getting a degree) an exaggerated influence on other nodes (e.g. improving your relationships). And I deliberately phrase this with some ambiguity: Try not to hold any mistaken beliefs about how much one thing can improve another, but also don't arrange your life so that one thing truly has a vulgar influence over other areas of your life, or let an obstacle in one area stop you from acting in some other area.

I'm not saying that your problems are actually independent or of equal priority, but in practice, trying to untie a knot by pulling at a single loop is a common mistake.

Similarly, the origin of a problem can be quite separate from its solution. I think this is the productive attitude to take concerning the past. Unless you can realistically expect that further reflection on your early relationships with your parents is going to uncover some new action you can take right now, or lead to some emotion resolution that (for some reason) hasn't already happened, then well, don't expect it. If you've thought about something for a while and aren't making progress, you can leave it unresolved for now and move on. Maybe later things will be different. Despite the emotional pull of these problems, people seem to eventually internalize this attitude. At the very least, try to have a novel approach if you do think about these things.

More specific thoughts:

Do you want to visit your siblings and aunts? If so, you just do it and learn to roll your eyes when they talk about you "seeing sense", or give advice or make comparisons. You're not at all alone in being the black sheep of a family. Under many conditions, this is still compatible with having good relationships. Per above, don't let your career problems (or their opinion of your problems) have undue sway over your relationships today, even if they developed in tandem, and don't hold your breath for some moment of resolution. I would say something like "swallow your pride", but in all honestly I think black sheep just learn to reclassify certain things as "nagging" and ignore them.

Can you sell to the English speaking market while living in Columbia? It's not exactly easy to make a living as a writer anywhere, but the rough numbers I've seen thrown about for the English market look much better at a lower cost of living. The quality of your English seems fine.

There's something of an honorable tradition of writers selling out. I suspect this is not as easy as writers imagine, but you could try it. It may even be fun.

As others have mentioned, is your aversion to business and economics something you want to change? Since your aversion is clearly rooted in circumstantial emotional history, you might still discover that the ideas themselves are interesting, once you remove the emotional baggage. Of course, the real business world is full of nonsense and boredom, but these aspects are easier to bear if you have some detached intellectual appreciation.

comment by coyotespike · 2014-11-13T02:42:39.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm just turning 30. I spent my 20s in education (undergraduate and law school) and the Army. I'm now interested in technology and entrepreneurship. For several years, I was extremely frustrated that I didn't know any math or programming: my humanities background felt like a huge waste of time. In other words - I really feel your frustration at being "behind the curve."

However, even a third of the way through life isn't too late to change course - remember, you and I are only a decade past the normal college years, when most people learn their trade. It'll be challenging to catch up, but not impossible. I finished my legal job a few months ago, and now I'm living out of my home country in a cheaper location, taking MOOCs to learn to program.

(I couldn't agree more with your definition of failure, by the way: if people find meaning in joining a corporate giant and working their way up, great, it is actually quite impressive, but it would kill me.)

From reading your post, it sounds as though you more-or-less know what you would like (am I wrong?): to make some more money, hold a more-or-less prestigious position, get published more, and/or get into a good graduate program in journalism (?). But you struggle with the effects of your past, and you don't see a clear position forward, since you lack money and credentials. Those are real challenges.

I think posting your question on LW is a great first step. You, and your chosen path, are not "normal," and family and friends often just are not open to alternative career paths. Many people simply cannot imagine legitimate careers that stray from the beaten path. Getting a sanity check by finding like-minded people can be encouraging and strengthening. I don't know how many friends you have who are supportive of your desire not to work in a soul-crushing job for 30 years...excuse me, I mean, your desire not to "work responsibly"...but if you don't have many, then please keep reaching out. There are lots of people like you. (feel free to message me)

In fact, perhaps you should travel elsewhere, long-term. In a new place, with new people, a different schedule, things might look different. Scandinavia sounds nice...

Finally, I have often read that daily writing is the single best practice for a writer. So you could set yourself the project of figuring out motivation/self-modding to get yourself to do that. The writer's redemption: if you write something well, then who cares about the rest of your life?

comment by cameroncowan · 2014-11-11T22:08:53.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The important thing is to capture the now. Starting at a young age is no guarantee of success. I just recently committed to writing full time and I spent the past decade of my life doing pretty much everything else but writing for myself. It is very hard to see successful professional friends and how well their lives seem to be doing while you are stagnant.

What is yours will not pass you by. The right opportunity and the right situation can be yours the key is to be looking for the right opportunity and find out what within yourself needs to shift in order to make that possible. I understand how parents can have a terrible effect on you. My whole life was run by my parents until I was well within my 20s and if I let them they would still be running things. There is a deadline for blaming your parents for life problems and you haven't passed it yet. I agree that side work and writing is the best thing to do. As many greater writers have said, if you feel the need to the write there is only one important thing in your life to do and that is write, write, write. Hone that craft!

comment by palladias · 2014-11-11T16:53:46.560Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What kind of freelance writing are you doing/could you do? Whether or not you have a job at a newspaper, do you have any relationships with editors who you can pitch? Most people enter writing by doing a lot of freelancing and (maybe) ending up with a job, but amassing a big portfolio of clips.

I'm not sure, from this post, which kind of journalism you're interested in. Longform profiles? Reviews? Beat reporting? Editorial?

You can't get steady work doing any of those easily, but you can often get sporadic work (and feedback/experience) doing any of them

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-11-10T20:36:36.534Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might wan't to have a look at the much cited on LW work by Seligman (this is an online link, no cost implied). This is advertized as self-help but goes deeper. Seligman explicitly talks about depression and parent influence and even though he doesn't give specific advice he might give you some deeper insight into your situation and what you can and can't expect to change. And where and how you even might arrange yourself with the situation.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-15T17:28:35.490Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I sent you a message.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-15T07:25:31.868Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's always ISIS.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-11-10T16:28:04.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know what to do at this point.

Accept full responsibility for your own life.