update: I get bored with all my jobs and don’t know what to do with myself

Remember the letter-writer who had dropped out of school, got bored with all her jobs, and didn’t know what to do with herself? Here’s the update.

Well, I’m 23 now as of August, and it took me seven months but I just got employed at Starbucks last week! My orientation was just last Friday. I got along with my coworkers very quickly, and the benefits are great. My supervisor at the library was very taken aback by my resignation. I even cried after getting off the phone with her because she asked me to stay, and because I liked my coworkers there.

Your advice helped me see work less as something that I absolutely have to have passion for. I started to focus less on my tasks as reasons why I should stay or leave, and more on the environment: most of my coworkers were great, the library can be nice and quiet at times and in certain areas, whereas most of the time it’s busy with school children (who are loud). I enrolled in an amazing youth job agency, and was assigned a job counselor who helped me tremendously with my job search. Throughout the months, I got a lot of interviews, attended job fairs, and got a lot of practice and feedback on interviewing. It was hard to get by financially, but I did it, and I’m so happy that things are finally changing for me. So right now, I’m focusing on building myself back up financially and becoming stable, so I can get an apartment of my own and pay my way through school. Yes, I’m going back to school!

I thought every single day about how to get myself into a career where my skills and/or knowledge would be useful, as opposed to chasing a rags-to-riches American Dream, like I was doing before. Your advice helped me with that. I was so lost for quite a couple of years, but pulling myself out of school allows me time to think and explore my options. I have to admit that a career choice was stressing me out a lot. It’s just recently that I’ve given myself permission to relax my mind, be patient with myself and focus on the present moment. I did have help from my mental health counselor to figure all of this out. I’ve been seeing them since spring, as soon as I had dropped out of school. Actually, I’ve had issues concerning my mental well-being since childhood, and in my family (and ethnic culture) it’s a big taboo. But as an adult, I’m finally able to help myself get the therapies I need. I’ve decided that it would be a shame not to help others get better too. Mental health is just such a huge problem. I’m either going to finish my undergrad at my old school or transfer my credits to an online university, and then do a master’s in counseling psychology or art therapy. I’ve done extensive research into all of my options, so I’m going to make a decision very soon.

As for my writing, I still write everyday but I’m in no rush to publish anything. I used to think that I had to accomplish most of my goals in my 20’s, but honestly I think the craft of writing gets better with time and practise. I still want to write novels, and I will, but I’m taking my time.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. C Average*

    Congratulations. It sounds like you’re figuring a lot of things out.

    I worked for several years at Starbucks and really enjoyed it. As you note, the benefits are good for that kind of work. The environment is fun and fast-paced. The irregular scheduling can be a drag, and inconsistent hours can make budgeting a challenge, but overall it’s a fun place to land while you’re figuring out your long-term plan.

    One thing about Starbucks that I failed to appreciate at the time but very much appreciate in retrospect: you’re at the crossroads of a bunch of different people. Chat them up, learn about what they do, pay attention, eavesdrop. You may wind up learning about a great profession you didn’t know existed, or make a friend who can open up new horizons to you. I picked up some friendships in my Starbucks years–over a decade ago–that are still flourishing, and have led to professional opportunities. It’s amazing the connections you can make as a barista.

    1. LBK*

      I worked at Starbucks for about 9 months and completely agree with everything you said here. Literally the only thing I didn’t like about it was having to wake up super early for opening shifts. But if I got laid off and needed something to pay the bills while I looked for a new job, I’d go back to Starbucks in a heartbeat.

    2. Al Lo*

      I worked at Starbucks off and on for almost 5 years, and have always been able to be hired back in a heartbeat when I needed a supplementary part-time job for a while. That’s another benefit to working at a large chain like that — as long as you leave on good terms, you should be able to keep it in your back pocket in the future. I actually interviewed just a few months ago (and ended up not working there for other reasons), but even 5 years after I last worked at a Starbucks, I was offered the job on the spot.

      The benefits are good and the management (in my experience) has always been more reasonable than other retail horror stories (especially when it comes to honoring availability and day-off requests). It’s a great stepping stone as you go to school and make your future career choices!

    3. cleo*

      I had a similar experience meeting a huge range of people working retail in my 20s. I’d ask my customers what they were working on (it was appropriate for the type of store) and I had several “wait, I could do that, you get PAID to do that?!” moments that led me to my current career.

      1. starsaphire*

        And, as a massive bonus for an aspiring writer: Look at all the *characters* you’re meeting! :)

  2. Allie*

    I have a friend who worked at coffee shop through school and then eventually left teaching to work at the chain full time, and as a store manager she is actually making significantly more money and is happier than she was as a teacher (unfortunately, some states pay their teachers/librarians/other public servants very badly). Point is, you never know, that pay-the-bills job you take in college may end up being what you actually end up being what you want full time. Best of luck to OP.

    1. Al Lo*

      Yeah, I know a number of store managers like that. Starbucks, in particular, seems to be quite good to their managers, and I know both young, mid-20s managers who are making good money, and also second-career managers who have found a niche.

    2. MsCHX*

      I worked in fast food right up until I started college. I will admit that 18 year old me was snarky about the store manager working there in his late 20s. But I didn’t have a good grasp then on his $48k salary (yep, I totally asked how much he made. Sheesh). Not that that’s a TON of money but for a single, not-yet 30 year old (and this was 20 years ago I may add), he was actually doing really well! LOL!

  3. Lana Kane*

    You did an amazing job working on yourself and being introspective, and it’s paying off! Be proud! Lots of people poop out after only doing like, one or two of the things you did. Onward and upward!

  4. Barney Barnaby*

    Wonderful news!

    The best advice that young people can get is to not think that they must love their jobs or else they are failures; most everyone merely tolerates their jobs. (That’s why it’s work and they pay you for it.) Likewise, a lot of young people think they need to figure out their lives in their early twenties. I’m not promoting the manic pixie dream girl lifestyle, but there’s nothing wrong with finding a decent job with nice colleagues in a company that issues paychecks in a timely manner, and seeing where things go from there.

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      Agreed, on both counts.

      Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy where I work, very much. It’s a great place to be, and I’m in no hurry to discard it (heck, I actually enjoy getting up in the morning and coming into the office, which is something I haven’t been able to say in a long time). But it’s not the kind of thing someone would describe as a “dream job”. Thing is, that’s absolutely fine. I have my hobbies outside of work, and they define me as much as does the office. It’s just one slice of the whole.

      As for the other point, I think that the culture at large primes people, these days, to think that they have to achieve things early in their careers or lives. I’m 32, and I know that when I was fresh out of college I felt the same way, to the point that I went into a bit of a funk when I started to feel myself stalling. But when I started to take the long view, I came to realize that high achievement before you’re 30 is more of the exception to the rule than the norm. I mean, everyone thinks about Mozart, but Haydn didn’t even write his first symphony until he was 25, and look what he managed to achieve.

      You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, OP, and that counts for a lot, too. Glad to hear you’re feeling better.

  5. Gentle One*

    First, congratulations! On all that you are doing for you–that is so important. One bit of advice, if you do go the on-line route to finish your degree, please vet the school and its reputation carefully; some are not good, some are very good.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Since she works at Starbucks, she may be getting her degree from Arizona State University, which has a partnership with Starbucks and enables students to get their degrees online from ASU. It would be an excellent route for her to take.

  6. Chriama*

    I’m really happy to read this update. It sounds like you were dealing with all sorts of things – mental health issues, pressure to find your “passion”, fear and lack of direction. I’m pretty much the same age as you and have watched some friends go through the same sort of stress. And I’ve gone through my own fair share of stress about wondering if this is really meaningful to me and what I want the rest of my life to be like. So I’m happy to hear that you’ve pulled through, and it gives me hope that my friends and I will eventually end up in good places too.

  7. SOMA*

    Just wanted to say that I was the exact same thinking about my writing: that I had to do it in my early 20’s or it would never happen. Then I went to a concept pitching event, and saw how many people much older than me, with long-time jobs that meant they wrote in their off-time over many years, were there. It made me feel a lot better about not needing to rush; that writing was something I could take my time with.

    There will always be a need for books and stories, OP! :D

    1. StrikingFalcon*

      Also OP, you are completely right that it takes a long time – like years – to learn to write well. Even published authors improve remarkably over the years, and they generally spent years getting to the point of publishing. It’s an art form, and just like painting and music, requires practice. I would encourage you to try to find some kind of group where you can critique and be critiqued – it’s very, very helpful to get feedback, even if it’s just on isolated scenes. And university libraries can have great books available. Good luck!

    2. Kira*

      What you said about seeing people older than you doing similar work is so true. I’m not a writer, but in other ways I find it very helpful to see a range of people a decade or so older than me (30’s, 40’s) and where they are professionally. It helps me feel less inadequate about not achieving the end-goal in my 20’s.

      In my job right now, I’m happy to see that some of my coworkers are well-along in their careers and doing the job I have. Of course they’re better than I am at parts of the work, but I like the example that they’re happy and didn’t “graduate” from this job to “better” things.

  8. Sara M*

    I’m a professional writer. Almost every writer has a different job in addition to writing. Most of us spent time at Starbucks, restaurants, or service places.

    You’re in good company! Be patient, persistent, and kind to yourself. We want to hear your stories when you’re ready to share. :)

    1. Anion*

      Ditto, and ditto. In my case, I didn’t really start focusing on writing until my children were born and I was a stay-home mom, but it still meant fitting writing in around all of the other work I had to do. It was still a couple of years before I started getting published.

  9. seejay*

    Sometimes you really do need a break to figure things out. I went straight into university out of highschool when I was 18 because that’s what I thought you did and after three years, had to drop out because I just wasn’t mature enough at the time to handle everything. I spent three years in the workforce at dead-end jobs, feeling frustrated and worn out because I felt like I should be going further, but limited due to my education path. When I decided to go back to university, I analyzed what I’d done wrong the first time around and made changes to each of those areas that hindered me and went back to the same school, into the same program (I honestly had no other degree I could take when it came down to it). I graduated three years later with honors and now I’m finishing up a masters degree in the same program in a more prestigious university. I never thought I’d wind up on this path either.

    Going through a few stumbling blocks isn’t a bad thing, it just gives you a different perspective! Good job!

  10. Venus Supreme*

    You’re on the right track, OP, because this is the perfect path for you. You’re doing excellent stuff.

  11. AMT*

    Just chiming in to let OP know that writing skills can be put to good use even in a non-creative profession. As a psychotherapist, I’m contracted with an academic press to write a professional book. I also develop curricular materials for textbooks in my spare time. Even if your writing goals are creative, nonfiction writing credits with a reputable publisher will look impressive when you’re pitching a novel.

    1. LSP*

      I graduated with a degree in English and spent the first 3 years out of college working for a local newspaper. That made me some good contacts in government, and now, 10+ years later, I make a pretty good living working for a government contractor and have just been tapped to write up a template for state’s to use in partnering with other agencies. It’s not the most exciting writing, and it’s not at all what I thought I’d be doing when I was in my early 20’s, but there is something satisfying about knowing my writing could be seen nationwide and used as a how-to guide of sorts.

    2. Honeybee*

      Yes! I’m a researcher and I write every day. Much of my writing is reports in the 20-35 page range that end up going to software developers and designers and/or business folks that summarize research and recommend changes in a user-friendly way. I started writing fiction when I was young, so I developed into an excellent writer over time, and those skills have definitely come in handy even though I write mostly nonfiction. And I still write fiction as a hobby :)

  12. LSP*

    Well done, OP! I’m in my mid-30’s and see plenty of people my age who are still mentally where you were six months ago. It’s tough to accept that you may spend a good part of your life not being constantly stimulated, but if you can find something that you like well enough, in a place with good people who respect what you bring to the table, and are constantly willing to step up and learn new things when the chance presents itself, you’ll be just fine.

    It sounds like you are really moving in the right direction. So glad to hear it!

  13. The Strand*

    I’m so happy you’re feeling better, and doing better. Whatever happens next, and whenever it happens next, you have gained a great sense of perspective. Everyone I know who has taken some time off, and explored for a bit, rather than “sticking to the treadmill” of expectations (personal, family, both) has benefited so much in the short term and in the long term.

    Keep writing!

  14. Princess Carolyn*

    What a satisfying update! Wishing you all the best, OP. As long as you have some kind of goal to work toward, it’s absolutely fine to change those goals a little or a lot as you get a better feel for what you want and what you’re good at. The mental health field seems like a great fit for you, OP, because you can find purpose in helping people every day.

  15. One of the Sarahs*

    Co-signing everyone else – I’m really happy for you OP, especially that you’re being kind to yourself. Go you!

  16. Lucas*

    Depressing that kids are allowed to be loud in libraries; they should be kicked out for that, like anyone else.

  17. Anna*

    This is such a cool update! Reminds me of the line from that poem “Wear Suncreen” (read it’s original form circa 1997 here by the way http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-schmich-sunscreen-column-column.html), “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

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