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I feel stuck! I'm 20, living at home with no job and no car.

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iamlost asks:

Hello. I’m feeling very lost lately and need some help. I am 20 and got my bachelors degree in economics in the fall. I really want to be a make-up artist though and went to night school while at college and have a qualification and a small portfolio. I am now living back home in a real small town where I can’t even find a part-time job and I have no car to travel out of town to work. My dad won’t help me out and I spent hundreds of dollars on lessons but he won’t let me behind the wheel or even let me pay for insurance on his car. So I send my portfolio out but rarely get any work and if I do it’s unpaid! I stay in bed until noon and feel like such an embarrassment to my folks. I then get up to eat and pretty much go back to bed. All I want to do is snuggle up to my pillow where I feel warm and safe (almost loved as strange as it sounds) and cry.

I am a shy girl and find it hard to make friends, when I do I can’t keep them. I can’t understand why they’d find me interesting and won’t agree to go out partying in case I’d be a bore so my college friends all drifted away and I’m not in contact with anyone I went to high school with. I am alone with my folks in the house and never have anyone my own age to socialize with. Couple that with my shyness and I’m lonely. I’ve also never had a boyfriend for the same reasons, although no boy ever hit on me either so the opportunity never arose. I would love to have sex and find myself thinking about it all the time and masturbating twice a day, I’d also just love some affection/cuddles or to have someone to talk to.

Lena replies:

Here's the rest of iamlost's question:

"I’m also having weird feelings. My dad doesn’t seem to acknowledge me as a young adult. I overhear him talking to his buddies and he says things like ‘you can’t leave young people alone in the house; they’ll have parties and go crazy. Just like when we were young’. I’m like – what am I? He leaves me alone in the house everyday and doesn’t think I’d ever do anything wild. It makes me want to go out and have sex or even make a porno or something to make him see me as something other than a kid. I can’t talk to my parents though because my mom and I have never had that kind of relationship and my dad just doesn’t listen. Even though I’m living with my parents I feel just as alone and isolated, if not more, than I did when I was living alone at college.

I’m sorry for unloading all this on you but I just can’t find the will to get out of bed and when I do I just want to get back in and sleep. I’d love to move to a big city and pursue my dream, date handsome men and maybe even one day do make-up on a stage show or film but I feel like it’s unattainable and it kind of scares me but the alternative is waste my life here. I just don’t know how to go from this to getting a car and becoming independent.

I come from a place where counselling/therapy are taboo. I’ve only seen shrinks on TV and they seem to deal with older people and I’d feel embarrassed going for help. Yet the idea of having somewhere to go where someone would listen to me is very attractive.

Thanks for reading and I’d appreciate any help."

Getting started

I can understand how you're feeling stuck: you don't have job opportunities or a means of getting there, your family situation is extremely restrictive, and you don't have close friends to turn to. That sounds incredibly frustrated, so I can imagine how you feel like you're stuck. I know you have many options and will have a bright future; however, that will mean making some compromises and taking steps outside your current comfort zone in the immediate future.

Finding employment and moving away from home

Your father sounds very unsupportive and even controlling because he won't support your working or driving; he also sounds pretty out-of-touch with reality. While it may seem like he's holding you captive, the good thing is that you're a legal adult who has both a college degree and professional job training. You have many work opportunities even if they're not in your hometown. I would start by applying for jobs that pay a living wage: it's hard enough to find any job these days, even with a college education, but having one puts you in a position that is better than those without one, although everyone has options. I know you want to work as a make-up artist and I think this is something you'll be able to do professionally with time as you gain experience and build your portfolio. In the meantime, I suggest you get a job where you can use your economics degree.

People simply must work: not everyone loves their job and a lot of people even hate their work but they do it to pay the bills. Fortunately, there are a lot of options out there and I'm sure you can find a job that you can at least tolerate. If you're lucky, you might even be able to find a job where you can bridge your economics knowledge with your skills as a make-up artist, such as working in the finance side of the cosmetics industry or working as a book-keeper for a beauty salon. If that's not immediately possible, you can work the 9-to-5 and then spend your free-time and weekends doing make-up on a voluntary or freelance basis. You can use this opportunity to network, to build a reputation as well as a client base and get involved in a professional network. The cool thing is that in the long-term, having an economics degree and money-sense will be a great thing if and when you want to start your own business: a lot of people are great artists or hard-workers with creative ideas but lack the business knowledge to make their dream jobs their day jobs. I suggest you contact your university's career services office for help with a resume, interview skills, job leads, and more. I also suggest you interview and shadow people who are successful make-up artists to learn about their background and tips for success: chances are it's been a long road of very hard work. You're just at the start of that now but you can ultimately find success: you just have to get started, which is going to take some elbow grease and compromises.

My understanding is that you don't have many opportunities locally so you'll probably need to move in order to make all this happen. If you live somewhere where you can use public transportation, then you won't even need a car. Even a used car isn't cheap, and car insurance and maintenance really add up, so it'd be good to not plan on having one for awhile, at least until you've been working a bit. I see moving out of your father's house as being essential for your professional as well as personal well-being. Living with roommates is a good way to cut down costs as well as a nice way to socialize. I know it may take awhile to save up to pay for the security deposit but perhaps your family would agree to help you get started; if this isn't possible, it may take getting a loan. While I wouldn't encourage people to take on unnecessary debt, it sounds like it's going to be mandatory for you. If you could live at home and work, then I'd recommend doing that first but it sounds like you'll need to move to get a job.

Making friends and starting to date

So your old friends aren't really people you want to hang out with anymore. Even if your college pals are pretty party-hardy, most people aren't partying 24/7, especially if they want to graduate; what about connecting with them over other shared interests? What about getting back in touch with people you know from high school through online social networks? Meeting up for coffee doesn't mean you have to become BFFs and, just as you've probably changed, so have they. Something hard about being depressed-- and it sounds like you may be suffering from situational depression-- is that it's hard seeing the potential and positive. You also want to make sure that you're yourself but also that you try not to be too negative or critical of others for the choices they've made in their lives, even if they're different from your own. I see you're being really hard on yourself, which is really too bad; even if your parents may be frustrated, it doesn't mean they-- or anyone else-- thinks less of you as a person. However, it is important to get moving!

I think that once you start getting your career on track-- and with it your adult life, you'll find yourself making new friends whom you have stuff in common with, as well as meeting people to date. While it's not the case everywhere, in the US people tend to socialize or even become friends with co-workers; work is about doing your job but it's also about connecting with the people you work with. Whether you're temping or working full-time, you will be able to have more social contact that way. In addition to work, you can meet people-- both friends and dates-- through volunteering and clubs or organizations, like a bowling league or environmentalist group. I know you want to find a boyfriend and I'm sure that you will find a relationship eventually; however, in order to have a good relationship, it's also important to be in a good space both mentally and physically so you're ready when one comes along. Right now I'd recommend working on starting your adult life in terms of work and friends, and then move to dating, although I think that it will come quite naturally once you've got the first two things in place. For now, masturbating and exploring your solo sexuality are a great way to enjoy yourself, relieve tension, and find out what you like for when you are in a partnered relationship.

Rome wasn't built in a day (and most big life changes don't happen overnight)

While I'd wish you had all of these things right away, it can take time. I'd start by living more like an adult while living at home: getting up at a set time, looking for work-- be it temping or volunteering for now, and helping around the house. You can do chores, make dinner, talk to your parent/s about budgeting and paying bills. You can offer to help chip in. I'd work on getting out of the house: perhaps you can catch a ride with your dad and take it from there, like finding a job or just getting out of the house. I'd also start exercising, even if it's simply going on a daily walk. I'd talk to your parents about making plans for your adult life: if they are willing to help you get started, that's excellent; if not, then you'll be on your own but that's fine, too. In order to get treated like a responsible, independent adult, you'll need to start living like one. You may not have access to an automobile right now but you do need to get into the driver's seat of your own life. Just as you've had lessons on how to drive and are ready for the real thing, you've had lessons to help prepare you for your adult life and you're ready to start living the independent adult life you want, can handle, and deserve-- but will have to work for.

I think exploring counseling would be an excellent idea. Talk therapy really has its benefits for all and it sounds like you may be dealing with some depression issues and low self-confidence, which are unfortunate but not permanent even if they're holding you back right now. I'm also sensing a certain "learned helplessness" but it may just be that you're having trouble kickstarting your adult life. If you can look into getting counseling now, I think that'd be great; however, if you can't, I'd focus on taking those steps to start making your life better, such as by getting a job. Because you've earned both your Bachelor's degree and done professional training (and at a young age!), you clearly have both the ability as well as diligence to accomplish your goals. Moving back to your childhood home as an adult can be incredibly difficult, especially if you've enjoyed so much independence for awhile, and it can even leave you feeling like you're stuck and in a dead end. I believe in you and your abilities and know there will be positive change.

Again, I can understand the frustration of your current situation but you truly do have so many opportunities, it's just getting started. Even if you're not ready for big steps, you can start with small. And doing so is going to make you feel so much better and improve the quality of your whole life. I know you can!

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written 19 Feb 2010 . updated 31 Jan 2014

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