can job-hopping BE my career somehow?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I am in my early 30s and the longest I have ever had a single full-time job is 11 months, while the longest I’ve ever had a single part-time job is about two years. When I put together a resume, I’m picking the relevant positions from over a dozen jobs.

I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder about three years ago, but I’ve had it since I was a teen, just undiagnosed. It basically means that I’m always burnt out. I’m always exhausted and sleepy — to the point now, and this is new, that I’m having memory and concentration issues and I’ve had to cut back my hours and responsibilities at work. It means that I have an irresistible need for sleep that comes in waves throughout the day, but any sleep I do get is unrefreshing. I wake up in the morning, or after naps, and feel just as tired and horrible as I felt when I lay down to sleep. I hope you can understand, in this context, why I become burnt out on jobs really quickly.

I’m not considered disabled enough for benefits (believe me, I’ve applied), and I’ve already exhausted all the pharmaceutical options available to treat my condition, to no avail. My condition is permanent and incurable. The best I can do right now is go to therapy on a regular basis to try and keep myself from becoming depressed, which makes everything 10 times worse.

My current job is actually fantastic: delightful coworkers, easy but varied work, flexible schedule, generous benefits (I accrue PTO! as a part-timer!), and lots of compassion from the higher-ups when I finally came clean about my health issues. I only managed to get this job in the first place because my resume mostly has temp jobs on it. Since the jobs have “temp” in the title, it doesn’t look too bad — even though I left most of them early for health reasons. They did ask me, at my interview, about the job-hoppy pattern, though, and I said something about being restless before but finally ready to settle down, and that seemed to satisfy them.

I actually did well enough at my work at first that I got a significant raise after six months on the job, and I got nothing but good reviews. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got to get out of this sedentary industry if I’m going to keep my sanity. My work quality has tanked over the past few months due to the aforementioned memory and concentration issues and it is not something I’ve been able to fix with sheer willpower. I plan to stick it out as long as I can here, but when I inevitably quit or get fired, I’ve got to try something new.

I think I may need to find a non-sedentary industry where I can work part-time for enough to live (part time minimum wage jobs aren’t a super viable option), or work for a month or two at a time and then have a month or two off. Do these kinds of jobs even exist? Are there summer jobs out there that pay enough to sustain someone through the winter months? I seem to do okay at new jobs for six months or so — perhaps it’s the novelty of something new; I don’t know. But then I have relapses where my symptoms get impossibly worse, and I’m just not reliable over the long term.

Do you have any advice for my situation? I’m willing to try anything new! I’m willing to go back to school, or try trade school! I’m willing to simplify my life even more to survive on less money! All I know is that what I’m doing now is not sustainable at all.

Readers, what ideas do you have?

You can read an update to this letter here.

{ 396 comments… read them below }

  1. Schnoodle HR*

    What about going through a temp agency, specifying you only want 2-3 month assignments? Not sure on the benefits though.

    1. The Original K.*

      You can get benefits working for a temp agency; you just have to stay employed (read: keep getting temp assignments).

      1. Volunteer Enforcer*

        Seconding this. At one job I had, there was this highly respected lady who had experience exclusively in temporary jobs.

    2. AccountantWendy*

      More support for this. “Professional Temps” are great! However, also often sedentary. What about seasonal work in agriculture or at resorts or something? Landscaping? Or on call work like catering server or banquet server?

      1. Bertha*

        I was about to say, my first temp job was working in a corporate archive/records management. I wouldn’t call it physical, but I was looking through papers, looking through different boxes, moving files, moving between different rooms. A lot of bigger /older companies still have a great deal of paper records, at the very least even the process of digitizing them requires some physical effort. I also worked at an architecture firm that had a ton of large drawing sets to be digitized and organized – that definitely involved a bit more movement than just sitting at a desk and staring at a computer (though of course, still a lot of sitting)

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I worked for an insurance company not too long ago where one of the divisions still had rows and rows of boxes with claims info going back to the 80s waiting to be digitized – there are definitely places that can use that sort of help. I would imagine that scanning docs into a file management system wouldn’t be too mentally taxing, and the whole getting up and moving around for various boxes (and to take things to the shredder, breaking down the boxes for them to be recycled, etc.) would help with the sedentary part of having an office job.

        2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

          I did archival consulting work for years. It was actually a lot of fun but also, being consulting work, involved a lot of different jobs at different projects. Working for a consulting firm could help – same job, but also a lot of different jobs.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes. They have perma-temps that they don’t try placing in any temp to hire positions, you are working for the temp agency themselves!

      I had a former colleague go that route. She did eventually get hired on full time and they had to pay an extra butt-load of money to buy her contract out because she wasn’t supposed to be available to leave the temp agency but it was worth it for everyone in the end in that case.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Great suggestion. Agencies love people who pick stuff up quickly and can do several short assignments consecutively – the agency gets the reputation/goodwill multiple times over, compared to a single placement over the same period, with the fees identical.

    5. Denise*

      Yep. I started temping when I graduated from high school, did it on breaks and also when I wanted extra income. Completely flexible and pretty great exposure to the different types of companies and company environments out there. There was never a penalty for taking time off, I just let them know when I was available.

      If you do well on your assignments, they’ll keep sending you out. The main downside is that work is not guaranteed and even if you do earn decent money, the business model of temp agencies is such that you would probably be making more if you were working for the company directly.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Yeah, to your last point. It helps if you can save money for economic downturns or other events that might affect demand for your services. Sometimes you may be eligible for unemployment at the end of assignments.

    6. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Absolutely this. My mother had a very similar sleep disorder. She managed a long career as a freelance technical editor and writer going through a staffing agency. She was very valuable to them, especially as she didn’t (usually) accept offers of permanent positions at the company. That job might be a bit too sedentary for you but the career trajectory would work. And she was able to charge more as she gained more experience and skills.

    7. Finallymakinganaccount*

      Work in catering, or a temp place that offers catering gigs. I do this on my Saturdays for extra cash, but there are many people who this is their full or part-time job. It’s interesting, always different, and you’re usually on your feet. You can choose if you want to work a 12-hour gig or a 4-hour gig.

    8. calonkat*

      If you’re in a largish town, this could be a really good solution. There are lots of employers that are willing to hire through a temp agency during rushes, and don’t need staff otherwise. And being sober and not having serious performance issues is sort of rare in the “willing to do part time physical labor” fields.

  2. Choux*

    I have an acquaintance who bartends on Fire Island in the summer. He said that bartenders there can often make enough money working from May 1-September 30 to be able to afford rent in NYC (outer bouroughs) for an entire year.

    1. anna green*

      Yes! Seasonal jobs may be a good idea for you. There are lots of fields with seasonal work. You can look around your area to get some ideas. Is there a big tourist season? Or weather related work?

      1. Sharikacat*

        Maybe not just a regular seasonal job, but find two workplaces that will let you work for a 6-month stretch with one, then go on “reserve” while you work the other job, and vice-versa? Some workplaces only need extra help during a specific period of time because when business gets slow, they have to cut hours. A regular employee who only works during those times would be less effort to maintain than replacing someone who quit due to the cut hours- just need a small refresher each time. If you can string together a few of those workplaces, you can get that variety while still being a dependable employee.

      2. GooseTracks*

        If it’s a tourist area, tour guide work might be good! Leading walking tours, museum tours, boat/bus tours, etc. – I’m in the suburbs of a major city and we have a ton of that stuff, especially during the warmer months. Definitely not sedentary, and it could be a lot of fun. Plus there’s extra income potential from tips and booking private tours.

      3. FuzzFrogs*

        Speaking of seasonal–try being a Park Ranger, OP! Most ranger jobs are summer jobs (roughly April-October). They don’t pay as much as Fire Island, but they’re usually active jobs, and 90% of the jobs involve very cheap or free on-site housing. My twin sister works as a national park ranger–she’s worked in Alaska, the Florida Keys, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and recently in a gorgeous, remote park in California. While she’s working towards a career, many of her colleagues are retired people or those who simply prefer to ramble and live in interesting places. And with the affordable housing, saving the money they earn is pretty feasible (although again, not a fortune, but not too bad).

        1. DoomCarrot*

          Having been both a tour guide and a ranger as student jobs – definitely yes to the above. Even better if you have languages! Tour guiding can pay really well if you’re fluent in something obscure, because you’re pretty much guaranteed every tour going in that language.

          5 all-day bus tours per month were enough for me to pay my rent and living expenses at university.

    2. Sharkie*

      My mom did something similar in college. She waitressed and bartended on Martha’s Vineyard and was able to pocket quite a lot

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Another seasonal job is being a golf caddie. If you are good and work hard in the summer you can make good money to last through winter. If you enjoy it you can become a semi-pro caddie. I have known some people that will caddie in the north Chicago, New York, etc in the summer, then move down to warm areas Arizona, FL to continue working as a caddie in the winter.

        It is an active job while you are actually working, but also allows for plenty of time to nap during the day while you are waiting to go out on a job. Depending on how the golf course works some may assign you jobs ahead of time. You can generally work on your own schedule you show up when you want. With the caveat that people who show up on a more regular basis will get more work.

        The cons are that there are no benefits (PTO, healthcare, etc), it is very labor intensive, but I have seen people in their 60/70’s continue to caddie.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        A friend of mine worked “summers” at a hotel on the Vineyard after college — if you can stay long enough into the fall (ie, are not going back to school), you get laid off, so she got unemployment through the winter and then went back in the spring.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I have a friend who worked at a plant nursery from mid-March thru Christmas, and then went dormant for the next two months on unemployment (till she got a light bar, and I teased her that her chloroplasts felt better with the light).

      3. Happy Lurker*

        We frequent a mountainous tourist area with very busy seasons, but long stretches in between. I have become pretty friendly with a few locals and they mention the seasons are extremely busy 10 weeks in the summer and 10 weeks in the winter, with shoulder seasons and stretches of just plain nothing.
        I don’t know if this would help the OP, with a sleep disorder, by getting a serving job with irregular hours, but it is something to consider when other options are done.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          I had a friend in college that worked at Disney. It was hard work, but its on your feet, different every day and she made killer money. Now she was on a program where didn’t have to pay for housing (not sure what it was), but she saved up so much money she paid in full for grad school with no loans.

          1. Princesa Zelda*

            Just as a note, you do have to pay for your housing with the Disney College Program, they just deduct it from your checks before you actually get them. When I worked there 4 years ago, I had to find my own housing and I had a lot of trouble making ends meet.

          2. irene*

            These days, the Disney College Program isn’t great money, fyi. You get paid, but your housing is deducted from the paycheck, food options are limited and expensive unless you’re resourceful, and you’re basically not treated very well by the company.

            I have several family members and friends who work for the mouse and the general consensus is that the CP program takes advantage of naive or optoomuchstic college kids and the only way to really have a great experience is to not rely on it for your income and living expenses, and to not be dazzled by the whole company. Of course, the same can be said for most of the minimum wage jobs there, and many of the slightly-above-minimum-wage jobs, but the company also uses the CP program to cut back on non-CP staff, because they get tax breaks and other benefits for having the program.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Yup. I did the College Program 20 years ago and while I had a fantastic time, I wouldn’t say it was a great money-maker. The first paycheck was negative because of the housing deductions! I was pretty fortunate that I didn’t need to save money; I had some co-workers who did and they struggled.

              It was, however, a really good way to learn retail and customer service (I worked in one of the bigger stores). Being in the CP basically guaranteed that I could get and succeed at any retail job I wanted– that still held true when I was between corporate jobs in my late 30s and needed something to help tide me over.

              1. Pretzelgirl*

                I am not sure how she didn’t have to pay for housing. It could be my memory not serving me correctly. This was like 15 years ago.

                1. LoveByLetters*

                  I can confirm that it’s def not a money maker — and everyone knows this going in the door. You do it because it’s AMAZING on your resume. But you’re basically making below minimum wage AND they’re taking money out of your paycheck for rent (which means no incentive on the part of the housing to provide any kind of service), paying tourist prices for food, and working 60+ hrs a week. It was truly miserable and one of the worst time periods in my life – I received threats from assigned room mates, from managers, from the union workers who perceived me as taking their jobs .. However, all of that said, it was 100% resume gold for the hospitality industry.

                  But I wouldn’t try for a theme park to make any kind of money. They count on employees (even full time ones) having “passion” and pay you less for it.

    3. Manders*

      In the PNW, I know some people who take jobs in Alaska over the summer and basically earn enough for the year. They tend to pay very well because it’s seasonal work in sometimes undesirable locations. However, there are some job conditions that might make it tough for someone with a sleep disorder to thrive (long hours, sleeping in company housing, very far away from any therapists or medical facilities).

      Another option to consider would be finding a career with remote work and flexible hours, and pairing that with moving to an area where the cost of living is cheap.

      1. BeeBoo*

        I was going to suggest this! A friend of mine would lead fishing trips in Alaska every summer through one of the resorts and made enough money that he only worked 5-10 hours a week during the rest of the year.

        1. AKchic*

          As an Alaskan who hired for seasonal jobs – these are typically fish related. So, gutting, cleaning, packing, canning, etc. It includes 14-16 hours days 6-7 days a week for 2-5 months depending on the contract. The pay isn’t as great as you’d think. It’s the mandatory overtime pay that is what makes it so attractive. And since the work isn’t in a big city, people assume that there isn’t anything to spend their money on. Not true. It just means what little there is to spend their money on is a lot more expensive. The two bars in town raise their prices for the tourist/fishing season. The drug trade is hot and heavy (and at a premium).

          Outside of fishing, there’s commercial lodges, mining, the oil / gas fields (which aren’t doing well right now), logging/timber, and a few other niche markets.

        2. a good win*

          My cousin used to work on fishing ships in Alaska (salmon I want to say?) and earned enough to couch surf around the country visiting friends the rest of the year. It was great, I got to see him a lot when he would come through my area every year or two.

        3. BuildMeUp*

          I’ve also seen gigs that range from 6 months to 1 year and are for the tourist-y locations where the Alaskan cruise ships stop! So they would be for the restaurants and retail locations there. The main one I remember seeing was high-end sales for a jewelry store.

      2. Alli525*

        Yes! A friend’s little sister was a camp counselor in Alaska and I believe she raked in some pretty serious cash.

        OP could also consider WWOOFING – which can take you anywhere in the world, really – if they don’t mind hard labor.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          Does WWOFing pay? All the people I know who did it needed to cover their travel expenses and only had accommodation and some food provided.

          1. smoke tree*

            It doesn’t pay, but I have met some people who do seasonal work and get room and board on farms in between. Depending on where you stay, though, it may mean that you get pretty minimalist accommodations in exchange for quite a lot of work.

          2. lemon*

            Most WWOOFing opportunities do not pay. Some individual farms are nice enough to give a stipend, but it’s usually not a lot (~$100-$300/month).

            WWOOFing always seemed like kind of a scam for restless college students to me, tbh.

            1. Observation*

              I agree it’s a scam. Also, OP probably has a life wherever she is and might not want to spend the rest of her life working for free in Europe.

        2. JJ Bittenbinder*

          For others like me who had absolutely no clue what you were referring to, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, according to Google.

      3. Kara*

        I was going to suggest this as well. When we were there in July we met a lot of people who worked there during the summer months then moved to the lower 48 for the winter to hold another job. Mostly it was tour guides, wait staff, bartenders, etc.

      4. It's a fish*

        I’ll throw in agreement on this as well. I work in northern tourism, and work approximately 100 days a year, in 4-6 week chunks. Between pay and tips, I do well enough to not need to work the rest of the year.

        As somebody who has almost always been a contractor, and is very goal-focused, I find this kind of work perfect. I work 16 hour days until I can’t stand it any longer, then I have 2-3 months with no work at all, when I can truly zone out. (I mean, I could, if I didn’t have kids/volunteer gigs/etc. But these are optional!)

      5. TardyTardis*

        I used to type papers for someone who worked a king salmon boat winter term, and he paid for the rest of the school year (he made even more money by staying out of the high-stakes poker games).

    4. blackcat*

      Yep, I have a friend who works at McMurdo station (Antarctica) and makes enough money in 5 months to live a very comfortable lifestyle the rest of the year.
      But that’s not something I would recommend with sleep troubles! Constant daylight messes with you.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Though on the other hand, if your body clock’s out of sync anyway, you may handle it a lot better than most!

      2. Zephy*

        I feel like it could kind of go either way, honestly. Either the constant daylight will make OP’s sleep disorder worse, or it won’t matter. OP’s body has already decided to hell with circadian rhythms; what difference does a lack of a discernible day-night cycle make?

      3. A*

        I know someone who did that! For three years (1/3rd of each year). LOVED it, and lived like a queen the rest of the year.

        Unfortunately she was never able to find her footing back into full time employment beyond an entry level though since she was only doing admin work, and didn’t work at all outside of that gig during the three years she did it. Ended up not-so marketable. She ended up marrying one of the scientists she met on-site who was able to support her…so.. I guess it worked out??

    5. ANon.*

      Can verify! I, too, heard that a friend’s former roommate works as a bartender in the Hamptons over the summer and makes enough money that he doesn’t need to work the rest of the year and can still afford an apartment in Harlem.

    6. LSP*

      My brother works in a tourist-heavy area on the Jersey Shore as a bartender. He works year round but only 3 days a week, and is able to pay all his bills and still save money.

    7. A*

      Oh my word. I am in the wrong industry/career/life!

      …although to be honest, I’m way too fiscally conservative to pull something like this off. I’d be an anxious mess.

    8. Sk*

      That was my first thought as well! I’ve lived in a few coastal towns that have a heavy tourist season. We’d get workers for just 3-4 months doing boat tours, bartending, paddle board instruction, all sorts of things. You work 10-12 hour days, make some good overtime money, then either lay low the rest of the year or go get a seasonal job somewhere else. I knew people that would do a seasonal job in Maine during the summer then head down to Florida for the winter seasonal work. I could never do that kind of life, but for restless wanderers it seems perfect.

    1. Samwise*

      Adjunct instructor at the college level just about anywhere offers pretty terrible pay and very unlikely to offer any benefits. The hours are longer than you might expect, although a lot of those hours are flexible. You do have to be awake and peppy during class time and office hours, and those will not be flexible.

      1. Squeakr1*

        As an adjunct instructor with two advanced degrees, I’m a little miffed that people could just put that out as an option without knowing anything about the OP’s educational background beyond the fact that they worked a lot of temp jobs. At least here in the bay area becoming an adjunct instructor was one of the hardest jobs to get even with degrees and experience.

        1. Creed Bratton*

          Yup, and while most adjuncting positions require a master’s degree – as Samwise mentioned they also frequently do not cover living expenses even when working full time. The opposite of what you want OP.

            1. lemon*

              Exactly. There are people with doctorates who can’t get hired as adjuncts because the field is oversaturated right now.

              1. Properlike*

                I would get paid a lot more being a temp or even an (underpaid) substitute teacher than a college adjunct. When the college sends around the job fair flyers, the joke among the adjuncts is that we should go and find a job that pays more.

          1. Dahlia*

            I think there is in fact a point where brainstorming isn’t helpful, and that line is when something is actually impossible. Suggesting things that are actually impossible, in my experience, makes the person doing so feel like they helped, while making the person asking look bad for saying “no, that’s actually impossible”.

            And that’s not actually helpful.

            1. Devil Fish*

              I agree with what you’re saying, except for the reason. It’s not impossible: OP said they’re willing to do anything, including go back to school. A lot more suggestions are potentially viable since OP is looking for something potentially more long range than needing a new gig immediately.

              It’s misguided because the person who suggested it apparently had no idea what any of the details were like (pay, hours, schedule, contract), which means they couldn’t possibly know if it met any of OP’s requested criteria (which… yeah, no, it does not at all).

              This would be more helpful if this was limited to first- or maybe secondhand knowledge, instead of “I have a friend who did this job and I have no idea what any of their circumstances were but my vague opinion is that it matched at least one of the criteria you named, so check it out!”

          2. A*

            OP asked for a non-sedentary job that is part time and enough to live on. Based on the symptoms described it also sounds like there would be some limitations in ability / skill set application.

            I can see why it might upset those in the field given how extremely competitive it is. Not only does this not meet the OP’s needs (given that it requires a fair amount of specialized education and/or experience, is low pay, and competitive), but it downplays the reality of those that fought long and hard to become marketable enough to have a shot at it, and do it out of passion since it comes as a financial sacrifice.

            Nothing wrong with throwing out ideas, but that doesn’t mean people won’t react accordingly. I’d be pretty frustrated if someone suggested my specialized career path as an example of a not-so-hard, low hours/high pay, easy to get into career path.

          3. VelociraptorAttack*

            There’s brainstorming and then there’s throwing out a job that we have no indication the OP is qualified for, requires extensive education, and also isn’t something where you can teach a quarter, take a quarter off, teach a quarter, take a quarter off.

            No one is suggesting the OP become an astronaut because space missions are generally only a few months at a time.

        2. pancakes*

          Yeah—I have a friend who has a JD, like me, and a Masters, and going back to teaching at the adjunct level has not been a rousing success. There are lots & lots of people with similar qualifications and the jobs for the most part just aren’t there.

    2. Jinxed*

      I learned how to do taxes last year and did them for about a month in January with a tax firm. I was soooo tired, and while it’s decent side money, I can’t imagine living on it. Granted, my tiredness possibly came from a combo of doing my main retail job, too, but I ultimately decided it wasn’t a good fit for my situation. Tax law takes a lot of study, too. Not impossible, but you gotta fully commit.

  3. animaniactoo*

    The main thing I can think of is that you want to be looking at contract work and short-term contracts.

    There are all kinds of contract work, but I would be looking at fields that are heavily standardized around short-term contracts, which will allow you an “out” of the job without being fired from it, and the freedom not to start another contract until you’re ready for it.

    1. Antilles*

      This was going to be my suggestion too. Not only are the contracts generally shorter, there’s also usually a clearly defined end point, which might help OP in a “seeing the light at the end of this tunnel” kind of sense.

      1. Ama*

        Not to mention that people looking to hire contract workers expect to see resumes with lots of short term jobs on them, so you don’t have to do as much explaining.

    2. Nom the plumage*

      Technical writing gigs can either be permanent, or you can go for the ones that only last 6 months. There are a lot of technical industries that need contract workers to look over documents for short-term projects.

      I get contacted all the time for these things on LinkedIn since I have ”freelancing” in my background.

    3. Hey Nonnie*

      Actually, my first thought on this was to look into the Teamsters and working on tv/movies. Each job is on a project-by-project basis, with a defined end-point, and a unionized job means the pay is going to be better than other kinds of temporary or project-based work. It’s also more physical than sitting at a desk all day.

      I don’t know all the details about how to apprentice, join the union, and find jobs. Plus you’d have to be prepared to be always searching for your next job (although you’re already doing that, so you’re aware of the energy it takes and, I hope, have some coping techniques to deal with that). You’d also have to live in or move to a location which has a thriving production industry so you CAN always find that next job. (This is not just LA, but you’d need to move to a production center, like Chicago, Vancouver, NYC, Atlanta.) But it might be worth looking into, since you could opt to take a 2-month break after a project wraps, and still be able to find another project to work on without anyone looking at you funny. Or, if you get hired to a television series, there will be production cycles where you’d be active for part of the year and inactive for another part.

  4. Fortitude Jones*

    No advice, just sympathy, OP. This sounds incredibly frustrating for you. I hope you can get some good work suggestions here – I’ve always worked office jobs that require strong attention to detail, so wouldn’t begin to know where you should go for a non-sedentary position.

    1. Emily S.*


      OP, this sounds like such a challenging situation.
      I hope you’re able to figure out a job path that works for you.

      Good luck!

  5. Lol no*

    Have you thought about seasonal industries? If you’re in the states I’m not sure how it would work, but in Canada we have seasonal industries (tourist areas with Parks Canada, for example) that employ people for several months out of the year. Again, this is based on Canadian rules and I don’t know all the details, but if you work enough weeks you can qualify for EI for a good part of the year if you are a seasonal employee. Is something like this an option for you where you are located?

    1. Anax*

      Jobs like fencing, landscaping, and masonry are necessarily seasonal, in most areas – they really aren’t possible in winter. They’re also project-based, which might provide some useful variety.

      The pay is’t necessarily fantastic, but I have a number of relatives who do work during the summer and take the winter off, so it should be doable – especially with a union position, if that’s possible. (Lots of ski bums in my family.)

      (The particularly well-paid trades may be more problematic with the LW’s concentration issues; electric, steamfitting, and machining work can all be fairly dangerous, which is a concern.)

      1. Emily K*

        If there are any around LW, theme parks also staff up big time from about Memorial Day to Labor Day and then down to a skeleton crew of core corporate employees when the parks close for winter. That might also be appealing to OP because there are a lot of different kinds of jobs you can do at a theme park – they’re like little miniature worlds – so he could potentially do a different job every summer, even, without the difficulty of applying to a whole new company every summer.

        Then you’d have maybe 1-2 months after summer work dries up before retail starts staffing up for the holidays.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Leaf removal can last for a while after the leaves stop falling, too. I work for a company that hires both permanent and seasonal workers, because the work may be slower during the cold months, but it is there. On the other hand, it may offer the variety and non-sedentary work OP is looking for. On the other other hand, it might involve more driving and using heavy machinery than OP would find safe with a sleep disorder. Pros and cons, I guess.

          1. Emily K*

            Yes, my city does curbside leaf collection every Monday from October through March. (Which they take to public works’ compost pile, and then March through October they deliver compost to residents who order it.)

        2. A*

          Yes! I have several friends that make more doing snow removal for 6-7 weeks out of the year than they do at their full time, year round day job. If benefits weren’t a concern they could probably live on that alone as long as they were willing to live in a lower cost of living area.

    2. WorkingGirl*

      Seasonal industries were my suggestion too. Seasonal retail around the winter holidays, maybe a camp counselor in the summer (which can be long days, but it’s a fun job if you like working with kids).

    3. Chronic Lurker*

      I know someone in the States who got a seasonal job with a local national park during their peak tourist season — she’s in her 50s and the role wasn’t physically intensive and didn’t require specialized skills/education. Once she was in the park system as an employee, though, she got priority hiring for other seasonal jobs at other parks, and she and her husband (who had already retired) basically turned it into a kind of working retirement, traveling around the country while she works short-term jobs that she loves.

      1. History Chick*

        I was a seasonal ranger right after college and loved it so much! Two of my fellow seasonal were retirees. Tried to become full time, but ended up leaving for a full time job at a museum. This has always been my plan – to try to go back to seasonal work when I retire.

    4. Banana Pickle*

      I’m a ski instructor in Colorado, and I live in Summit County (an hour from Denver, with four ski resorts in the county). The economy of a tourist town might serve you well. There’s a TON of part-time work of various kinds (indoor/outdoor, days/evenings, people-y/non-people-y) available in the county. (We have a crazy-low unemployment rate, and businesses struggle to find reliable help… or any help.) It’s pretty common to hold a job for six months, then do something different — or you might have a job where you don’t have much work in “mud season” (meaning, the transitions between summer and winter tourism). But even during the summer or winter season, the frequency and intensity of work depends a whole lot on school / time-off schedules. So during the winter, Christmas is crazy busy, President’s Day and MLK are busy, and three weeks in March are an endless stream of spring-breakers. But otherwise? Pretty chill, and if you’re part-time, you’ll work less frequently.

      The downside is that it’s expensive to live here, but if you live a bit north or south, rent prices drop significantly. Also, at least for a ski town, move there in the spring mud season and get a year lease. If you look for housing in the fall or winter, it’s faaaar worse.

      The upside is that the community is awesome and there’s so much fun stuff to do!

  6. Sharkie*

    If you like people and you live in an area that allows it, working as an usher for a sports team (baseball sounds like it might work for you- work for 2 weeks off for 2 weeks) is a lot of fun. A lot of folks work there once they are retired because it is decent money, but IDK if it is enough to live on alone. Could be worth researching

    1. ThatGirl*

      I have a friend whose husband ushers at a ballpark, he’s a teacher so it’s a good summer job. He also works at a fairground in the summer (I’m actually not sure doing what there) helping with festivals and events. I do not know how well either of those jobs pay, but they might be worth looking into.

      1. Veronica*

        One of my friends is good at side hustles, and one of his is setting up for festivals. There are festivals all summer in various parts of the city, so it could be fairly steady.

    2. Funfetti*

      I was going to say that ushering and doing box office are also good part time jobs. I’ve done it for performing arts/theaters. It’s easy and it’s consistent/varied enough. Plus you get free tickets to see the show. Same with any museums or your local zoo. They need good customer service folks – and with zoos there would be an outside component typically.

      1. NYCMusicNerd*

        Some box office jobs (especially in NYC, where I am located) are also part of a union, so they would come with full benefits!

        1. pancakes*

          Those can be good jobs but they’re not easy to get. I know someone who worked at a Broadway box office and she only got the job because her father was in the union. There are only a handful of jobs at each box office and because of the benefits the turnover isn’t high.

    3. Person of Interest*

      I also had a friend who was a teacher and was an MLB ballpark usher in the summer. Try to get assigned to the section with lots of season ticket holders – she got great tips in addition to her base pay!

    1. Natalie*

      Lots of seafaring jobs seem to work this way. My cousin is in the merchant marine and spend anywhere from 2-5 months on a ship, and then a similar amount of time not working. No idea if the OP’s health issues would lend themselves to that kind of work but it might be worth looking into. Maybe cruise ships as well?

      1. ThatGirl*

        Depending on the type of jobs available or that the OP is qualified for, but yes, cruise ships often have short-term contracts where you work for a couple of months, get a few weeks off, etc. Event staff are the ones most likely to be from English-speaking countries.

    2. Rachel*

      The inland towing industry would be on and off as well. If you get a certificate to transfer oil/hazardous materials, then you should be able to find a job relatively easily. The nice thing is you can live anywhere, because you are on a vessel when you’re at work. I don’t know how well it would work with your sleep issue as well as most of these are 12 on/12 off hours.

    3. MayLou*

      My concern with any offshore jobs or remote places like Alaska would be healthcare – they’re pretty strict about not taking people who might get sick (I know they can insist on dental work if there’s any chance of something coming up, like needing an extraction while you’re away).

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My brother had to have his wisdom teeth removed when he joined the Navy despite them not causing any issues because of that.

    4. Miles*

      Mining is also usually two-and-two (two weeks of 8-12 hour days in camp, then two weeks off), pays well, and if you’re working in exploration camps it is often seasonal. While it’s probably not a good idea for them to operate heavy machinery, camps also need housekeepers, general labourers, admin staff, etc.

    5. Just Elle*

      That was actually my first thought. Welding is an astonishingly lucrative job, and very seasonal – either a few months out on a rig, or in places like North Dakota where the weather only allows it half the year.

      But then I started thinking about the extreme safety implications of not being 100% while around heavy equipment or water, and thought better of it.

    6. Observation*

      Not directed at you specifically, but it’s strange how many suggestions seem to focus on moving around the world every few months. Just because OP can’t hold a job for a long time, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a spouse, a home, family responsibilities, a community…just a lot of assumptions I’m noting.

      1. Miles*

        A lot of people working those kinds of jobs also have spouses, homes, family responsibilities, and communities, too. It’s certainly not always easy to balance camp/boat work and other life commitments and maybe their lives don’t look quite like yours does, but it’s doable. This isn’t the 1800s, job listings for ships don’t say “orphans preferred” anymore.

      2. NotSusan*

        I understand it wasn’t directed at my comment specifically, but i wanted to say that my friends who do this style of job have families.
        I would venture to guess ppl are assuming OP can be flexible bc OP listed a ton of limitations in the letter but none about being staying where they are, or staying near family.

  7. Kenzi Wood*

    I was an inadvertent job hopper! The only thing that seemed to cure that was going into business for myself as a freelancer. You get to pick your schedule and every day is varied enough that it doesn’t get boring. Would that be an option to explore, OP?

    1. Kenzi Wood*

      I should note I had concentration issues for a while due to some medications I was on. I totally get that part and feel you on this. Again, freelancing means I can go take a nap or a walk or drink coffee if I know my brain isn’t up to working right now. That room for self-kindness is huge. <3

    2. Non profit pro*

      Can you give more information here? I’m not OP, but have been looking into restructuring my career do to work issues. I’ve had multiple people suggest freelancing, but without much explanation for what that really entails.

      1. TootsNYC*

        My own experience with the freelance job plan is that you need to have skills that are often sought out on a freelance basis.
        There’s really no such thing as a general freelancer. All freelancers I know are freelancing in a field in which they’ve built up expertise. Lots of them get their experience as an employee and then step out to freelance.
        Some don’t–writers pitch ideas and build their cred by using their past writing for smaller venues (even sometimes their college work) as their credentials. (that’s why so many places think they can pay writers in exposure and clips).

        But all freelancers that I know have a specific skill.

        So look around at your industry and see if freelancers are already part of the workflow model.

        1. TootsNYC*

          also: In my field, we hire freelancers because for two weeks out of the month, it’s crazy due to a deadline. And then the other two weeks, there’s not enough work.

          So it’s a natural on-off cycle. But during that “on” week, we need good and reliable people.

          With a full-time job, you’re not always on deadline, and we can cut you some slack for day here and there.
          But for our freelancers, while we understand if they get sick, we also need them very much when we hire them. It’s crunch time.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          It’s not quite true that there’s no such thing as a general freelancer; I use apps like TaskRabbit to pick up odd gigs like envelope stuffing, installing tons of software, packing/unpacking, etc. and it’s now my biggest source of income. (I also work part-time retail and do a bit of poorly paid freelance writing.)

          Note that you generally need to live in or near a city for services like that, and that general odd-jobs freelancing will not pay well (usually $15-16 an hour for me). But the bar for entry is low.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Forgot to note: I have Asperger’s and have had a lot of issues with depression and anxiety, and my job history before this was mostly temping and honestly quite poor. I finally decided that, since I am crap at most jobs, I would try to have multiple sources of income so losing one would not mean losing all my pay.

    3. El*

      This is what I did, too. Worked in several different industries and nothing felt ever really felt like a good fit. The best job I had was in publishing and I was there for three years (two years longer than any other job I had) until the company drastically changed and many employees jumped ship. Have been freelancing for five years now and it’s the happiest and most stable that I’ve been.

      LW, I don’t have a sleep disorder but I am chronically ill (SLE) and deal with anxiety, depression, and chronic insomnia which hugely impacted my ability to work in an office. You may want to look into remote work or freelancing if at all possible. It’s a trade-off in that you don’t have traditional benefits, but for some of us, that’s worth it.

      1. OP*

        OP here — working from home/freelancing won’t work. I don’t have the discipline/executive function to motivate myself at home. my last office job allowed working from home and every time I tried I either worked half a day or *never opened the computer* and slept the day away instead…

        I *had* skills that would lend well to freelancing but without the ability to concentrate while sitting down or motivate myself when alone, they’re basically useless.

    4. LilySparrow*

      I’m also a freelancer and the part I would caution about is that if you need external stimulus and not being sedentary, or battle depression, freelancing from home on a skillset that’s computer based might make everything worse.

      You have to take care of your own IT, admin, taxes, as well as pitching jobs, etc. It can be overwhelming if you struggle with executive function for any reason. And if you don’t have a compelling reason to leave the house and interact with people, it’s very easy to slide into isolation.

      There are other freelance/small-business type skills where you are frequently meeting clients at their locations (interior design or landscape design pop to mind), that might counteract the tendency to hole up and shut down.

    5. LizardOfOdds*

      I was going to suggest freelancing, too. It can be sedentary, but because you can do it whenever you’re awake/functional, it tends to work well for people who keep unusual schedules. The only trick is medical insurance if OP is in the U.S. If you’re working for yourself here, OP would need to figure out coverage, especially for ongoing specialist medical appointments and treatments.

      1. OP*

        the only time I’m awake/functional is when I’m actively exercising (e.g. hiking) or talking to someone. I tried the working from home thing and I really just can’t…

  8. Fred*

    Coming from a fellow chronic insomniac… how are you awake enough to focus, learn a new position, and excel to the point of kudos early on, but then decline significantly in memory and concentration later?
    I, too, have job hopped a bit, albeit for different reasons. I’ve found that learning a new role often takes more focus and memory than doing the job once I’m comfortable.
    I often get sleepy during the day as my three hours interrupted sleep at night is insufficient. I will nap in my car for a half hour at lunch if needed and find that helps significantly with my focus. Could you try that?
    Is it possible you also get bored or overwhelmed with your new job?

    1. Manatees are cool*

      It sounds to me as though the OP has narcolepsy. Memory and concentration problems are part of the symptoms and new symptoms occur over time. There is increasing evidence narcolepsy might be an autoimmune disorder.

      1. snack_attack*

        I second that it could be narcolepsy, I have a sibling that was recently diagnosed with it, and it is not a very clear cut diagnosis at all, and treatments are hit and miss. My sib went through a sleep study and in addition to narcolepsy, was diagnosed with sleep apnea! It’s not a well-defined disability, which then makes it difficult to have any sort of medical or financial disability assistance. I have the utmost sympathy for you, it is not easy to manage. With that being said, see if you can seek help from a support group for your condition, which may offer additional insight as to how to manage living with the medical condition. You are not alone!

        Contract work may be a good option, especially if you suffer from burnout after a few months. I would also consider maybe trying to find out what you’re interested for a long-term career, not letting your condition fully dictate what you have to do the rest of your life. Sure, insufficient sleep negatively affects performance and mood, and certain careers may not be a good fit if they have certain strenuous hours/working conditions, but having a career you are passionate about will help fend off depression and burnout over the long-run. Best of luck!

      2. san junipero*

        Either narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia for sure — I’d guess the latter since narcolepsy naps are supposed to be more refreshing. I’m right on the borderline between the two so we decided to go with narcolepsy for insurance purposes, but thanks to the debate, I’m well-versed in both.

        Job fatigue in and of itself can definitely contribute to the OP’s problems getting worse. When you know you *have* to be alert in order to grasp basic elements of the job, it’s easier to push through. When you settle into a routine, it can be harder. Also, the longer you’re on a job the more frustrations and stressors tend to rise up, which can contribute to exhaustion.

        1. Red 5*

          Ah, those insurance purposes. My diagnosis has actually officially changed like three times for the same reason. I never know what to actually tell people I have.

          But I also decided about three years ago to stop caring about the label and focus on treatment and what I needed to be a functional human. Which included changing things about how I worked in order to make sure I didn’t burn out at the job I have because it was just too good in too many ways to let myself falter at it and better compensating for cognitive problems.

          Hypersomias are not something the world is built to handle, which sucks for those of us that have them.

        2. Gadget Hackwrench*

          Sounds like IH to me. I came into the comments just to sympathize with OP about it! I’ve got an IH Diagnosis and let me tell you, the docs have been trying everything they can to find an excuse to change it to Narcolepsy for “Insurance Purposes” since the effing insurance companies don’t cover the meds for IH since they’re all “off label” Narcolepsy drugs!

          I’m lucky as hell to have pulled a shift at my job where I basically work 3 days a week and warm a desk 2 days a week for a total of Full Time Hours.

          OP: Have you looked into FMLA? Strategically used “Hypersomnia flare days” have been a godsend for me. The ability to periodically say “fuck today, I’m sleeping,” has been a wonderful burnout preventer. It sounds like you might need more than a day here or there but FMLA can cover up to 12 weeks of leave a year, so you might be able to get your Sleep doc to write you up FMLA for a few week long “flares” per year where you can, when you are sensing you’re not up to the work anymore, tell your boss you’re going to need to take a week off for your Hypersomnia, and know your job is secure from being fired for doing that.

      3. FuzzFrogs*

        I think I agree, if only because I have narcolepsy and significant memory/concentration issues. I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid and the sleep doctor believes it may have been narcolepsy all along. The treatments are very similar, and so I only pursued a better answer when I went off ADD medication as an adult and found myself having screaming meltdowns any time I stayed out late.

      4. Sleepy Sun*

        The sudden sleepiness attacks that are not at all refreshing sound really familiar to me as well. In my case it turned out not to be narcolepsy, but another neurological issue that goes hand in hand with my tourette’s syndrome.

        In short, whenever I was doing something monotonous, boring or just plain peaceful (such as data entry, listening to a lecture or watching movies) my brain’s energy level would not just drop but absolutely plummet. Once an “attack” got started there was no telling how long it would last. Many hours were lost to “sleep” that didn’t refresh. I once actually fell asleep while standing up, though I immediately woke up once my knees started buckling. It also came with some cataplexy-like weakness, like my mouth hanging open because my jaw got too weak to stay closed. And while I had trouble staying awake during the day, I also suffered insomnia during the nights.

        I went through a narcolepsy study but that wasn’t the problem. I eventuallyfound the very concept of energy levels of the brain myself, online, and it sounded very famialiar. After discussing it with my doctor we started trying out stimulant-based meds and hey presto, suddenly no more attacks! Nowadays I have one medication to keep the sleepiness attacks away and another for the chronic insomnia. I still have plenty of sleeping problems at night, but they’re more manageable, and the daytime sleep attacks are perfectly controlled by the medication.

        So in conclusion, neurological problems are really weird and complex and hard to pin down.

      5. OP*

        correct (almost): I have Idiopathic Hypersomnia, which is basically all the symptoms of narcolepsy minus a known cause :(

    2. dealing with dragons*

      this sounds less like insomnia and more like narcolepsy. the issue with narcolepsy is that REM is skipped. There is no difference in sleeping 8 hours or half an hour.

    3. hbc*

      If I had to guess, there’s some factor of the newness that enters into it, some of which might seem contradictory. Maybe the adrenaline hit of trying to learn so much at once, relative restedness from the recent unemployment, or lowered expectations for a newbie. For the latter, some places are really good at giving you step-by-step instructions for all the beginning stuff, and someone good at following directions can look like a rockstar until it’s clear that the learning curve is leveling off.

      Maybe if OP can figure out what exactly that element is, they’ll be able to narrow down the kinds of jobs that will work best.

  9. Phil*

    I was also tired all the time and I know this isn’t what was asked, but I would seek another medical opinion. I had sleep apnea and surgery solved my problem. Medical science advances all the time and what was an intractable problem a few years ago may be easily solvable today.

    1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

      Yes! I was coming here to say this!

      Get a 2nd, 5th, 9th, 20th opinion if you can, OP. No one doctor knows everything, and there’s an answer out there for your sleep.

      I have a friend who can’t use a CPAP machine, but needs another type because his sleep is caused by a neurological problem (his brain stops sending the breathing message). Even THAT machine needed to have a setting switched to be super effective. I know there’s help out there for you, and I hope you can find and afford it OP!

      1. Red 5*

        It’s possible, probably even likely, that the OP is on their 10th opinion.

        What they are describing is pretty textbook for a hypersomnia, which have an average time of onset to diagnosis measured in decades because doctors want it to be something simple and solvable when it isn’t. Sleep apnea is easy to test for, and incredibly well known in the medical field. It’s wonderful that so many people who have it have found relief through surgery or treatment. But narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia do not have a cure, and treatment options are incredibly limited. IH is considered a rare disease, so aside from neurological sleep specialist, a lot of doctors don’t even know it exists.

        Before my diagnosis I went to a dozen doctors and I was tested for apnea four times. It took 20 years of it not being the obvious answer before anybody would look to what was actually happening to me. And my story is completely typical. Yes, it sucks to be told “what’s wrong with you will always be wrong with you and there’s almost nothing we can do about it.” But that’s reality with narcolepsy.

        1. OP*

          yep. for me it’s IH, took me 10 years to get a diagnosis, I flunked out of all the drugs that they use for it and am unmedicated. I’m pretty much at the end of the medical rope here.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      Yes, I also have sleep issues and the OP’s health still sounds quite poor. Maybe they’ve done all they can, but I hope there’s a better health option out there. :/

    3. AnonForReasons*

      Another possible solution is a little-known sleep disorder medication many doctors still aren’t aware of called Modafinil. I have extreme fatigue as part of my Multiple Sclerosis and, despite having doctors “try everything”, I had to hear about this from an acquaintance. When I did some online research, I found it has been a life-saver for others with MS and other forms of fatigue. Ask your doctor about this if it hasn’t yet been considered. It gives me a solid 4-5 hours of “normal” energy and it has changed my life.

      1. Eva*

        Modafinil is the primary treatment option for narcolepsy and shift work disorder, and the go to for idiopathic hypersomnia so among the types of doctors the OP is/should be seeing it’s very well known. It’s actually what I take, so I do think it’s incredibly useful and worth trying, but I would hope they’ve already tried it otherwise they might need a new doctor instead.

        It’s only approved for those two disorders though, so prescribing it “off label” for other things is actually kind of a can of worms depending on what country you are in. My insurance company gave me three years of grief every time I needed a refill because they were trying to prove I was using it off label. I believe in some countries it’s commonly used for ADHD as well but you can’t get it through insurance for that in the US, for example.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          My insurance in the US won’t cover Modafinil for IH because that’s “off label” and it makes me crazy. Basically “Sorry, you aren’t narcoleptic. We only cover it for Narcoleptics.” *Weeps in a corner.* Until recently I took a ridiculous quantity of Bupropion to treat it but that was only semi-helpful. (I’m off it temporarily for unrelated to Hypersomnia reasons.)

          1. Red 5*

            My original diagnosis was IH too, and I spent years fighting every six months to get my prescription for modafinil filled. Eventually I went to a new specialist for other reasons and he changed my diagnosis to narcolepsy (for more than just this reason but it was part of it). It still took his office three months of back and forth to get it approved.

            Then I discovered Costco. If you have a valid prescription, you can use a Costco pharmacy without a membership and they’ll fill prescriptions without using your insurance. Because modafinil is a generic drug, when you pay “full price” it comes out to almost exactly the same as my copay through my insurance. No paperwork, no phone calls, no messy appeals. I seriously cried in my car in the parking lot the first time I went in.

            If you don’t have a Costco near you, there might be other pharmacies that are similar. You can call and ask what the non- insured price is for it and just leave the company out of it.

            Good luck. We sleepy folk have to stick together.

      1. Coastal*

        Maybe this is an outsider perspective problem, but given how long American election cycles seem to go on for, I wonder if a position would run too long for the letter writer. However, I know folks who have done this in Canadian elections for years! (Never a job longer than 3 months, usually under 2)

    1. VelociraptorAttack*

      Political campaigns can be a short term fix but the eventual hours are unlikely to be feasible for OP. In 2012 my last day off (as an entry-level field organizer on a presidential campaign) was August 9th.

      1. the once and future grantwriter*

        A full-time organizing position with a presidential campaign might not be a great fit since it’s such a demanding schedule, but some form of part-time canvassing (either with a party’s coordinated campaign or a PAC) might be a decent fit. At the very least, a part-time canvassing position would be quite active, very time-bound, and has a fairly low barrier to entry. (My partner was in charge of hiring for a PAC’s canvassing team in a mid-sized US city, and according to him, half the folks he scheduled interviews with no-call-no-showed to the interview. They had such a difficult time hiring that they pretty much took anybody who could handle the job, and they paid $15/hour.)

        Also wanted to put in another shoutout for farm work. I am farm managing at a small sustainable farm right now, and we would have no problem hiring somebody for just a month or two (especially if it was during the spring or fall, when college kids and high schoolers are still in class but we need still need seasonal help.) And we would be delighted to hire someone back after an absence, year after year (no re-training!). Pay does vary significantly from farm to farm and dependent on the sub-sector of the industry. (I will warn you, it would probably not be super-lucrative compared to other suggestions here — but might be worth a shot!)

  10. KG*

    I’m not sure where you are located, but if you are in the US, especially in the West, I’d recommend looking at BLM, Forest Service, or National Park service. There are a variety of seasonal jobs that are primarily outside. I worked in recreation for the Forest Service in the summers when I was in college and it was a great job.

  11. Keegan*

    My sister has been doing a thing where she lives part of the year in an outfitted van, she works the summer season at a ski lodge in Alaska, which pays well enough for her to afford bills the rest of the year, and it’s definitely non sedentary. I don’t know how accessible seasonal tourism industries are near you, but it’s the sort of work that only hires for 6 or so months because the work only exists for that long, and a lot of times there’s a substantial bonus for working the whole season.

  12. Owl*

    Perhaps look at marine or oil/gas industries. Oftentimes there are positions on ships which are 2 weeks on/two weeks off or similar (4 days on, 3 days off sometines)

  13. curlykat*

    If the issue is in part from being sedentary, could you get a walking desk or one of those pedal machines for under your desk so that you can stay moving somewhat? Can you listen to music at work to keep your brain engaged, or would that be distracting.
    I worked for Kelly Services (temp) back in the 90s, they did provide benefits, but that may have changed.

    1. Elizabeth*

      This is what I was going to suggest — many places will let you either do a standing desk or even a treadmill.

  14. facepalm*

    I second the suggestions of seasonal work. I know someone who is an outdoor adventure guide-type in the summer months and then a professional house sitter in the off season. She loves life and is super happy

    1. facepalm*

      If you like working with children, what about summer camps? It would guarantee food and a place to sleep, at the minimum.

      1. banzo_bean*

        Having worked in summer camps for multiple years through college I can see the following concerns for OP:
        1. it’s very hard to save up money for the off season at summer camp as the pay is so low. For college kids it works because they have no bills to pay while in session but if you have utlities, rent, phone, credit card, it wouldn’t last you much longer than your time at the the camp.

        2. Working at a summer camp is exhausting with little flexibility for naps. Everyone is overworked and it’s hard to get time to take care of yourself.

  15. Sarah Thomas*

    I greatly dislike it when people diagnose over the internet, OP. But I encourage you to at least discuss with your medical team the possibility of untreated ADHD, because this literally sounds like a textbook case, up to and including the sleep problems.

    1. Zahra*

      I have ADHD and it does sound familiar. However, sleep issues and ADHD have enough similar symptoms that I wouldn’t want to say which one it is. In any case, looking at coping strategies for ADHD should help.

      1. Red 5*

        Exactly this. It sounds like the OP is in the same boat I am, and I basically use ADHD strategies to cope with issues at work, because maybe I have that, maybe I don’t. But I definitely have a sleep disorder, and that’s the more important medical problem.

      2. PookieLou*

        I get why people are suggesting ADHD but OP already cited a sleep disorder diagnosis. Like FuzzFrogs I’m narcoleptic, and the symptoms OP listed sound VERY familiar. Constant exhaustion will absolutely contribute to the memory and concentration issues that are making their life difficult. Whether OP was diagnosed with narcolepsy or something else, as a fellow sleep disorder sufferer, I’m inclined to take their word for it that it’s a sleep issue first and foremost.

    2. Sarah Beth*

      I can’t diagnose the OP of course, but I will say that before I started with ADHD treatment I was having this exact cycle of excelling at a job for 6 months on the novelty, then burning out fast and hard. Medication changed my life and has made it possible to have a career. How or if the sleep issues factor into it I couldn’t say, but I agree that it might be worth considering whether there is something else going on on top of the sleep problems.

    3. FuzzFrogs*

      It sounds to me like they’ve been given a Dx of narcolepsy–OP references it being incurable, and narcolepsy is generally considered incurable. And for narcolepsy and ADD, the medications are actually generally identical–either the same stimulants or within the same family tree. (There’s only one sleep drug that’s effective for us narcoleptics, and even then the stimulants are preferred.)

      OP–regardless of diagnosis, it probably will be helpful to look at ADD management tips. My childhood ADD diagnosis was corrected to narcolepsy, but the ADD self-help books are still pretty relevant and helpful. And it never hurts to try medication again if it’s been a while since your last attempt.

  16. Alexis*

    Have you considered teaching ESL online? The hours might not be conducive with your sleep needs, but you can set your own schedule and can absolutely work one month on, one month off. The pay is pretty good for flexible, work from home work (18-22/hr). This is the company I work for but there are tons:

  17. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    Our family friends own a large plant nursery, and they only really need lots of help in the summer or around Christmas (trees). Could you find something like that?

    Being outside around plants might be easier than sitting at a desk. I know it does wonders for my mental health to be outside in nature.

    Just a thought.

    1. Not enough coffee*

      I would love to work at a nursery! I have already decided that will be my “retired but still want to do something” job. Me and everyone else ;)

      1. Delta Delta*

        I worked at a couple nurseries when I was younger and I had the best time. Well, except for that one time a giant wasp stung me in the ear. But other than that, I had a great time. And I made a good wage because although it can be fun, it’s physical and can be a little unpleasant in bad weather.

  18. Anon IC*

    OP, this sounds awful to deal with and I’m outrage on your behalf over denial of disability benefits. In case you haven’t, please appeal with a lawyer. I was denied with my first application, but approved after I got a lawyer.

    The only thing I can think of is the gig economy where you hustle when you can (Instacart, Lyft etc) and rest when you can’t, but I don’t know if you can make a living at it. It sounds like the temp thing has worked for you so far, what about just embracing it and letting the temp agency/employers know you’re only available for a couple months at a time or so?

    1. Turtlewings*

      I second the advice to appeal the disability denial. I don’t know if it’s true, but cynical folk have told me every single application is denied the first time. Try again. Your condition sounds genuinely incompatible with the working world.

      1. Student*

        This is absolutely true and verified by the data the agency publishes. The default is denial, but reapplication/appeal with a good lawyer often results in a benefit award.

      2. Torrance*

        The only person I know who got SSDI benefits on their first try was also dead before they got their first monthly check. It took a few years before I had an ALJ hearing and was finally approved & that seems to be fairly common. Never give up after the first denial and (almost) always get a lawyer.

    2. Liane*

      Yes, & OP should appeal if she hasn’t already done so. It seems many, many cases get approval at the appeal level. A few weeks ago, someone in the open work thread mentioned they were an administrative judge who heard a lot of these appeals, and approved them. Hopefully they are reading today and can explain a little of how the appeal process works and where/how to get it started. (Not provide specific legal advice, of course.)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, if you have not appealed, please try. When I filed for my husband’s disability his application flew right through. I asked why. The person working on his case said that age was a factor- younger people tend to get denied more often on the first try. Work record was a factor since my husband had worked all his life except for one gap, that lent credence to the idea that if he could be working he would be. And the completeness of the application was a factor. For example, if I had not filled in the docs’ addresses and phones, someone else would have had to research that information. I had filled in every single line that I could. It took the two of us eight hours to fill this thing out. I have no clue how a person with disabilities is supposed to be able to do this. So because of my husband’s age (late 50s), long work record and thorough application he was approved on the first try.

      And we kept going to the doctor, even though he did not need to go to a doc at that particular moment. We made doctor appointments just to fill the requirements that disability needed. It was a total waste of time and resources but we did it. “Yep. Mr. NewReader remains disabled. He had eight breaks in his spine and he STILL has eight breaks in his spine. NO change.” (Even if a person does not have trouble with exhaustion, this application process will definitely cause problems with exhaustion. My suggestion here is to bring in advocates/helpers as much as possible.)

      We did all kinds of stuff to ease the situation, for example, we set up phone appointments and we used the speaker function on the phone so both of us could participate in the conversation. I bought bendy straws for his drinks so he did not exert himself unnecessarily before a call or an appointment. No one thing was a big savings in effort but we just kept doing as many small effort-saving things as we could find.

      You are in my thoughts, OP. I wish you the best in whatever you decide.

    4. Kiki*

      I will say that the person who knew who worked for Instacart (or possibly one of the others of similar nature) told me it was BRUTAL. She had a really short amount of time to get each item, maybe less than a minute, and because it was so fast-paced there was no option to ask questions if people asked for something like a 2 lb turkey, so you just had to guess what they wanted and woe betide you if it’s the wrong thing (spoiler: it’s definitely the wrong thing).

      My company (hospitality-ish, but for office space) hires part-time people to stock kitchens and handle incoming packages, and we pay $18/hour to start (in Boston, so not as much as it sounds, but not nothing). I wouldn’t say it’s a career, but if you could find something like that it might work for a couple of years.

  19. LilySparrow*

    I was acquainted with some city tour guides like on the Circle Line in New York, who worked spring-fall and took the whole winter off. I believe they had union benefits, as well – which will of course depend on the location and company. I doubt they were putting much away in long-term savings, but they were self-sustaining.

    It’s certainly not sedentary, but also not a lot of heavy manual labor. You do need to be good with people and public speaking, of course.

  20. wondHRland*

    Ditto on the contracting companies, or becoming self employed and doing short-term contracts. However, I would also explore getting a second (or third) medical opinion – there’s got to be something that can be done to improve the quality (if not quantity) of sleep. Have you had a sleep study done? Keep trying to find the answer, but in the mean-time, temp agencies might be the way to go. Good Luck!

  21. Wherehouse Politics*

    In terms of non-sedentary work, pet care works well for me. I don’t recommend the usual “uber for pets” app type gig ( done that, could write reams on why that’s problematic on many levels) but each day is a little different, you get out in the fresh air and sunshine. That may help your circadian rhythm. Costs about $200-$400 annually to purchase your own insurance. Since I work for myself, I can use my own discretion to be sure the dog & owner are a match for me. ( I offer free meet and greets.) What is particularly helpful is when clients ask you to house snd pet sit. Despite the common wisdom-I don’t have a car, but most of my clients live nearby ( I charge more for beyond a certain distance. You have to be alert though.

    1. LawBee*

      I love my pet sitter. She’s bonded and insured, so I trust that she takes it seriously. I’m out of her service area and she only charges me $3 extra a visit. And according to my vet (which is how I found her), her business is HOPPING, and she’s got four employees – so there is definitely a market for that service. Even if you’re not feeling like you could do it on your own, it’s worth looking to see if any exist in your area and would they be hiring.

      1. the_scientist*

        My pet sitter, who runs her own business, has turned me down on holiday weekends because I left it too late and she’s been fully booked. I used to live in a condo-heavy, hip part of the city and I felt like dog-walkers there made a killing because everyone there works long hours and owns a dog.

    2. Not enough coffee*

      Yes! This would be great. In my area dog walkers make $25-30/30 minute visit. You’d have to be able to walk a bunch of dogs 10-3 range because generally people want their dog walked midday.

      Petsitting on vacations is also great.

  22. EPLawyer*

    If you have been diagnosed and are working with your doctor then your problem has a name. I would bet dollars to donuts there is a support group out there for it. Find out any resources you can related to your health condition, then find people with it and see what they have done. What worked, what didn’t.

    1. Anonymeece*

      That’s a really brilliant idea. It also will provide some great therapeutic support for living with a sleep disorder in general, and help the OP figure out if the job hopping pattern is part of the disorder, or OP has disorder + other issue.

  23. TooTiredToThink*

    This information is 20 years old; but I knew a guy in college who worked on an oil rig for the summer (so 3 months) that helped pay for our very expensive school. I’d be concerned about concentration issues on an oil rig; but maybe if you are rested enough that wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

    1. JSPA*

      Sounds pretty lethal. Depends a bit whether fresh air and stimulus = concentration, or if this is more narcoleptic in nature, but really, there’s much too much that can go wrong on a rig with a split-second lapse in concentration.

      I get that we’re not giving medical advice, but if the magic of a new job / active job that throws up sudden challenges is basically the adrenaline aspect, there’s a pharmacological conclusion that could be drawn from that. (Narcolepsy, ADD, and a couple of other sleep-disordering medical issues can be symptomatically dealt with–for at least part of the day–with the same common but controlled medication. Which is not entirely different from adrenaline.) Alternatively, the question could possibly be rephrased as, “what can I do to keep enough stress and panic in my daily job to tweak my endogenous adrenaline the way a new job would?”

      In contrast, if the issue is, “I get helpfully physically exhausted at a new job, and don’t beat myself up for not being perfect” then the question could possibly be reframed as, “what can I do to keep my job and life physically exhausting in a good way, rather than having that phase into mental exhaustion?” In which case, something like a “40 hours in 40 days” schedule might, paradoxically, work for the OP. Another option: train to parachute in for troubleshooting at different workplaces. (Depends, of course, whether travel further disorders your sleep.)

      1. Sarah*

        Um…yeah, this kind of comment is exactly why we shouldn’t give medical advice on a post like this. You really, genuinely, have no idea what the abilities or disabilities of the original poster are. Sleep disorders are very diverse from one another. Certainly, lots of them have absolutely nothing to do with adrenaline. And the idea that medical treatment for ADD/other attention disorders that involves amphetamine classes of drugs is the same thing as the rush you get from “taking on new challenges” is extremely reductive of a really complicated issue.

        I get frustrated at comments like this as a successful, happy person with three overlapping mental health diagnoses that at various times in my life have each been fully disabling for short-medium stretches of time. When I disclose my diagnoses, I am regularly told that my job (I’m a trial attorney working with underprivileged youth) was something I was “too unstable” to do, and that I was causing harm just by TRYING to figure out how to best find accommodations that let me keep my profession. Plenty of therapy and good treatment has helped me manage and ignore those opinions – and they’re bullshit, and I’m great at my job – but those comments are really undermining.

        The thing that is harmful about a comment like this is that it suggests to a person with a disability “Hey, that suggestion someone on a message board gave when you got the courage up to ask for ideas and help? Well, you’re probably going to kill someone if you take it.” When you’re already dealing with a sort of paralysis about your life plan, and about how to accept and manage your disability as a part of who you are, hearing that – especially when it’s cached in some pseudo-medical mumbo jumbo – is incredibly discouraging.

        I’m not saying the OP working on an oil rig is some great idea. I have no idea if it is. Certainly, just like anyone with health issues, it’s good to consult a medical professional before pursing a major life change, or if you have concerns about your physical and mental ability to do a certain task. But saying that it “might be lethal” for a person you don’t know to explore that option is ableist and just…shitty.

        1. JSPA*

          My statement about safety is based only on the OP’s own words, “I’m having memory and concentration issues.” Anyone with a (again, quoting) “permanent and incurable” condition whose symptoms, under some circumstances, include “memory and concentration issues” is probably wise to self-select out of the sort of oil-rig work that pays big bucks.

          After that, I pointed out that the details of “why new jobs work better” are actually germane to any specific suggestions. We have a static description of what goes wrong. We have the general suggestion that in new jobs, things go “more right” for a while. (Unless you read this as OP meaning to say, “once they know me, and once they don’t cut me new person slack, I can’t cut it”–which is not AT ALL how I read the proposition of moving to new jobs often.) So: what about the job being new, interacts better with OP’s “permanent and incurable” condition?

          If you’re trying to solve a problem, it makes sense to nail down the parameters. New Job Excitement can be like New Relationship Energy; and like NRE, there are actual biological / biochemical mechanisms in play. So, it’s useful to know if OP has a subjective sense of NJE, or not.

          Similarly–but separately!–some sleep disturbances respond well (and others very poorly) to the exhaustion that comes from being physically and mentally empty at the end of the day. So it’s useful to know if that’s how OP feels, at the end of the day, at a new job.

          Could be that the newness of the job has little to do with the case, and that OP is getting hit by periodic or sporadic flare-ups of the problem, in a relapsing-remitting sort of way. (This isn’t a veiled hint; the term is familiar from MS, but there are a wide range of relapsing-remitting conditions.) How long OP has been in the job, at the point of flare-up, would then probably be either stochastic, or based on some periodicity that’s related to…well, to something other than the job-span itself. (OP, if you’re reading this, graphing the length of your jobs, either start-to-end or start-to-point-of-misery might show this.)

          OP says they have tried medication, so OP likely has (and we do not have and do not need) additional information that they could integrate, that might help to distinguish between these cases. And figuring out that distinction should be very helpful, as far as deciding on a course of action.

          For one case, a job that’s predictably seasonably heavy, but then allows long periods of light or no duties, might work great; for another, it’d be terrible. For one case, a job with shorter intense periods that are more sporadic in nature (e.g. something theater or film-related?) might work. And so forth. But it’s hard to know what aspect of “episodic is good,” is going to work, when we don’t know what the draw of the new job is (or if it’s just avoidance of creeping shame that builds up in each old job; which would be something to address with a psychologist, if you’re in a job that treasures you, and where the shame is a secondary problem that actually can be worked on.)

        2. JSPA*

          You may be mistaking me for someone who doesn’t have a sleep disorder (I do*) and doesn’t know people who’ve worked on oil rigs (I…did).

          Look, the VAST MAJORITY of people have no business being on a rig or drilling platform. There’s a reason that “oil rig worker” is always high on the list of most dangerous jobs for life and limb (and as drilling moves further and further offshore, the seas, the wind and and the stakes only get higher). You can go back and catch a mistake or take a short break in most jobs; not there.

          *luckily mostly controlled by one of the medicines I worked hard not to mention, so much for that restraint on my part?

          1. OP*

            oh yeah, oil rig work would definitely be lethal for me. I’m gonna ponder your comments more; I don’t think I know yet exactly what’s driving the phenomenon where I can work for a certain amount of time and then have to quit. It could just be flares of the condition, or it could be something else. not entirely sure.

    2. RC Rascal*

      Rigs are *really* dangerous. I friend was recruited out of business school (MBA) as a management trainee for a drilling company. Part of the training involved rig work, even though he was ultimately destined for the finance department. He narrowly avoided a serious accident that would have involved loss of limb and quit as soon as he got back to shore. Also–there is a set schedule where they send a chopper to pick up/drop off at the rig. You can’t just get off if you want off, and cell phones don’t work out there.

    3. Dana B.S.*

      Also old information, but my dad would work in the oil fields for the summer (1970’s) and earn enough for living expenses & tuition the rest of the year. I don’t know what he did exactly though, but it wasn’t being on a rig.

    4. Dahlia*

      The hours on oil rigging are generally incredibly long. Average here being 7am to 7pm, longer in other days. It’s an incredibly hard, dangerous job. And there are no napping times.

      1. Anonymeece*

        You also sometimes work basically around the clock (on-call 24/7) for 3 months, then off for 3 months, depending on the rig.

        It’s a very demanding position.

        Also, it does pay very well, but it’s not stable at all. I’m from an oil and gas state, and when times are good, times are good, but if it tanks, then everyone’s getting laid off. It’s very up and down.

  24. Casual Librarian*

    Would something like substitute teaching fit your needs? The days are always different, and depending on the teacher, it can vary from being really involved to “here, watch this movie.” You could pick up long-term subbing gigs (maternity leave comes to mind), and you get to kind of pick and choose what days and times you want to be available.

    Each state (and I’m sure each country) has different qualifications, but where I’m from, you can be a sub. if you’ve have a few college credit hours and no teaching experience.

    1. Liane*

      In my state & at least one other, all you need is a high school diploma. The pay (hourly) is often tiered by how much education you have, with high school diploma getting the least.
      My dad subbed for a few years after he retired, until his health got too bad, and loved it.

      1. Midwest Writer*

        Subs here need a teaching degree to sub for a teacher, but the plus side is, they’re eligible for the public employee retirement system benefits. And subs for teacher’s aides do not need a degree, so they could get on that sub list, or sub as custodian or cook (I suppose), and still pay into a retirement account.

    2. AnonAndFrustrated*

      I subbed for a few years not too long ago and it was horrible, I do not recommend it. They paid us a measly $10/hour even if we had advanced degrees and/or teaching experience, it was humiliating. I subbed at the middle and high school level and I was truly shocked at how disrespectful and horrible the kids were to us subs, we would sit around in the lunch room and commiserate and try to decide what we should report and what we shouldn’t. Not to mention the phones issue – even in schools with no-phones policies, that went out the window on sub days because they knew you couldn’t really do anything about it. I will never do that again.

  25. CDM*

    Husband of an acquaintance does something on board domestic cargo ships. I don’t know exactly what, but he works onboard for 3-4 weeks and then is home off work for 3-4 weeks.

  26. DataGirl*

    I have similar health issues and it sounds like you are doing everything you can to treat your symptoms. I’ve only recently found doctors willing to work with me on my issues and have been referred to a Neuropsychologist for memory testing and an insomnia specialist for extra therapy. I don’t know if either of those things are something you have pursued or have available- I know for me there is only one of each type of doctor in my state (!!!) so the appointments are months out- but I’m hopeful they can offer more answers.

    What does help me, work-wise, is making sure whatever job I’m in is very, very flexible with hours/wfh. I need to be able to come in whenever and leave whenever and for the most part my job is cool with that. I’m in IT so it’s also easy to justify working from home on occasion, and on those days I’ll take a mid-day nap for ‘lunch’. Perhaps you could look into IT or a similar industry that allows a lot of flexibility about when the work gets done? Trade school is also a great idea- many skilled labor jobs pay well- perhaps well enough to allow you to get by on fewer hours.

    1. DataGirl*

      Another thought- you mentioned excessive daytime sleepiness, do you suffer from insomnia as well? Wondering if a different sleep cycle that would allow you to be up at night and sleep days would help. There are lots of skilled and unskilled jobs that have night-shifts: hotel reception, security guard, manufacturing, nursing, etc.

  27. MK*

    My country has a robust summer tourism industry, so there are plenty of people who work April to October. I am not sure if they are eligible for unemployment benefits for the rest of the time or if they just live off their summer earnings as best they can. I am assuming these jobs are not too well-paid, though the minimum wage for the hospitality industry here is actually higher than the standard minimum wage. Also, they have a strong union and are legally guaranteed continuing employment year after year, as long as they are performing well and the position still exists. But these are jobs, not really a career; the people who want to move upwards eventually move to management jobs that are not seasonal, though of course the winter months are pretty slow.

    So, I think a seasonal job of some kind is your best bet, as long as you are OK with not having a career as such, because these jobs generally don’t offer an upwards trajectory. The questions are: a) are such jobs in your country, b) do they pay enough for you to live on year-round (possibly with unemployment benefits) and c) is there any job security and, if not, how can you deal with/live with the insecurity.

  28. Llellayena*

    Not sure about particular industries, but the seasonal or time on/time off ones mentioned previously seem like they might work. What is it about finding something more “active” that makes you think you’ll have less burn out (if you can get enough recovery time off each year)? Is it because sitting at a desk makes you notice being tired more which makes you foggy? Or does movement help keep you sharp? Do you have hobbies that don’t make you feel burnt out? Track how your condition affects you and what helps keep it manageable and look for jobs that use those specific actions. ADA accommodations do not require being “disabled” to ask for them, just that it has significant impact on your daily life, so ask for schedule accommodations based on that (“I can do 4-5hr shifts 5 days a week, but I can’t do an 8 hour shift” or “I need to have a day off between each shift/every two shifts”).

  29. Eliezel*

    I have been a licensed massage therapist for over 15 years. At this point I work very time, combined with an office job, and I make my own schedule. It is the kind of job that can be very flexible and it also taught me, and encourages me, to take good physical care of myself. Highly recommend.

  30. Rene*

    I wish the letter writer had named the condition they have. The symptoms sound a lot like what I’m dealing with and so far, I’ve had trouble getting a diagnosis.

    1. Anax*

      Briefly, some possibilities to look into (not a complete list) –
      – Hypothyroidism
      – Autoimmune disorders (like lupus or multiple sclerosis)
      – Dysautonomia
      – Nutrition-related issues (like celiac, IBS, etc, where your body isn’t getting enough energy from food)
      – Chronic pain (pain is tiring)
      – Psych and developmental disorders (like depression or autism, where normal activities take more cognitive energy than usual)
      – Sleep disorders (like sleep apnea, where the sleep itself doesn’t help)

      There’s unfortunately a LOT of causes for chronic fatigue; it’s surprisingly common, so it’s frustrating that it’s not easier to handle in the workplace!

      In your case, doing research and coming to your doc with a hypothesis or three may be most effective; I’m dealing with similar trouble myself, and I’ve had some luck there. Still very tired, but at least I have some better coping mechanisms so I can get more work done.

    2. san junipero*

      I have narcolepsy and I’m almost positive the OP either has that or something similar called idiopathic hypersomnia. When I was getting diagnosed we also looked into thyroid issues, adrenal issues, chronic fatigue syndrome, vitamin deficiencies, fibromyalgia, and autonomic functioning issues (which I also have, allegedly separate from the narcolepsy).

      So, there are some avenues for you to research. :)

      1. Red 5*

        Same here, almost down to the letter. 20 years of so many tests.

        If anybody is feeling like they may have a sleep disorder because they identify with the OP’s description what I’ll say from my decades of struggle is make sure to see a sleep specialist who is a neurologist. While other specialties will know some things about sleep and some disorders that affect sleep (primarily apnea) a neurological specialist will be more comprehensive and useful when you are unsure of the source of the problem.

  31. Jaybeetee*

    Seasonal work is a big option, contract work , as well as freelance or even “cottage industry” type work (aka Etsy). I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to cobble together a combination of income streams. Hell, driving Uber might be a viable option for you (if you drive), or at least a decent side-gig.

    That said, many people in your situation find themselves sucked into more predatory job situations , such as MLMs or content-mill freelance sites that ultimately pay less than minimum wage (or have you competing for work against people in parts of the world who can get by on far less income). As you research different solutions, try to avoid letting desperation lead you into something exploitative.

  32. AnonGoodNurse*

    Here in Colorado we get a lot of people who work for the ski resorts in the winter (all kinds of jobs up there and you don’t necessarily have to be an expert skier unless you are in ski patrol or instruction) and then do outdoor activity work in the summer (river rafting, hiking tours, running camp grounds etc.) It’s pretty common for college kids, but I know one guy who put himself through law school that way and then when he had a hard time finding a job, just kept his rafting business going.

    1. DataGirl*

      After he retired my dad worked winters at the local ski resort, primarily for the free ski pass but also pocket money. This was a long time ago but it only paid minimum wage, so I’m not sure if it would allow a person to save much?

    2. Shoshona*

      Coming here to say this to. Definitely explore seasonal work in national parks and ski towns. I did work in National Park concessions, and a lot of my friends have made careers out of working national parks such as Glacier in the summer, ski towns like Steamboat in the winter, and traveling during shoulder seasons. It’s usually work that keeps you on your feet, you often receive food and accommodations, and if you’re outdoorsy you get access to the ski hill or park.

  33. smoke tree*

    Taking a slightly different tack, do you think there are any accommodations that would help make a long-term office job more feasible? For example, I have a very flexible schedule and work from home full-time. I also have some ongoing health issues, and this is great for letting me sleep in and catch up on hours later, or take a break in the middle of the day if I need it. You could also break your workday up into chunks and vary it with some other activity. But I understand this wouldn’t work for everyone.

  34. rayray*

    That’s a good idea. I was going to suggest teaching and a separate summer job or even just taking summers off. I know some teachers who find summer jobs , and many more who take the summers to travel, take care of family etc.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I really wouldn’t recommend full-time teaching. The hours are short on paper but very long in reality and while summer break helps, it doesn’t make up for the long hours of marking and planning. Also, the core hours are 100% inflexible and it’s years before you can get away with bringing less than your A game all day every day (and even then you still go 100+% 99% of the time).

      If o.p. can handle short bursts (2-3 hours) of energy and focus, substitute teaching might work since she could pick and chose when and where she wants to work.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      A lot of teachers work like 60 hours a week during the school year, though, when you take lesson prep and grading into account.

  35. FaceInTheCrowd*

    I have friends who work start-ups as their career. They get a job with one start-up, stay for a couple of years, then move on to another. It’s apparently an acceptable practice in the tech industry and often offers work-from-home as a benefit. However, the hours might be long and I don’t know how good the health benefits might be.

    1. Manders*

      That’s what I do! I like my work a lot, BUT I would be hesitant to recommend this lifestyle to someone who’s struggling with energy and memory problems. I actually went through a similar, but temporary, issue due to some stresses in my personal life–it was pretty horrible and because I was at a tiny startup with no one else doing the same job as me, slacking off while I got my life together just wasn’t an option.

  36. Pretzelgirl*

    What about wfh gigs? Stuff where you can vary your hours. I am not sure if there are times of day for you that would work better for you to be working. Like if you do better starting work at 12pm, or at 11pm. There are a lot of free lance gigs that you can basically do at any time.

    Or perhaps your current place of employment would allow you to wfh.

  37. nnn*

    As a general direction (and other commenters will probably be able to provide specific examples), I think the place to look is industries that are seasonal in nature. Many of these industries involve outdoors/natural resources so there’s going to be options for physical labour in there, but if you aren’t up for that in your state of exhaustion, there would also be support roles, which probably also wax and wane seasonally.

    You might also look into how unemployment benefits work where you live, and see if there are any situations in which seasonal workers get unemployment benefits during the off-season. This information is out of date, but I know that 15 years ago, people working in the fishing industry in Atlantic Canada could work for part of the year, and get unemployment benefits for the rest of the year. Maybe there are still some places where people are able to cobble together a living like that?

  38. ElizabethJane*

    Iin addition to some of the higher paying options listed for the summer there are always part-time seasonal work options that pay significantly less but are mindless and easy (in terms of skill required, not necessarily easy in terms of people you deal with). I’m thinking something like the person bartending in a high tourist location over the summer to get a solid income, and then working supplementally at one of those Spirit Halloween Stores that pop up to get a few hundred extra to hold you over.

  39. I'm A Little Teapot*

    My immediate thought OP is the trades, but you’d have to carefully evaluate if you would be able to work safely. In every location I’m familiar with, there’s a shortage, and good plumbers, electricians, carpenters, HVAC tech, etc can pretty much set their own hours.

    Good luck. I hope that you’re able to find an effective treatment at some point.

      1. the_scientist*

        Safety’s definitely a consideration, but probably moreso in trades where you are operating heavy machinery. I know someone who is a crane operator and makes about $130K (CAD) a year, but it’s physically taxing and not necessarily a good idea for someone with a sleep disorder! HVAC and plumbing are a bit different.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Exactly. Safety is a huge issue in welding, for example. My husband has to be able to concentrate for long periods of time so he can make nice smooth welds, not to mention avoid being set on fire.

  40. ACDC*

    So this is basically what I do for work. I won’t say the company for sake of anonymity, but I am essentially a full-time salaried temp that is sent to various projects/clients for varying lengths of time while still getting benefits such as PTO, health insurance, etc. It’s a great fit for me and I love the variety of the work I do.

    1. LilySparrow*

      Could you share the industry or maybe the type of work, or the job title?

      Because otherwise this is like taunting the OP, which isn’t at all kind.

      1. ACDC*

        It’s in a finance/accounting industry, but the clients vary across industries. Job title varies on your area of expertise and experience level. There was obviously no intention to be unkind, that is quite a reach, just trying to abide by the rules and norms of the site.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think there’s any rule against naming a company in a general way – you’re obviously not slandering anyone by describing your job and that you like it!

          If anyone is in finance/accounting and interested in something like this, Robert Half has a division and I’m sure other regional firms do as well.

            1. ACDC*

              Ah ok, then I misunderstood the conventions/guidelines. Good to know for future reference! It’s the SPS (Salaried Professional Service) division of Robert Half Finance & Accounting. You can call your local RH office and ask to speak to one of the SPS Managers about joining the program. They have people from AP Clerks to CPAs working in the program, so your title and pay are based on experience.

      2. Observation*

        Yes, this comment is not helpful, which is a shame because it’s a much better suggestion than others.

      3. Marigold*

        Yeah, this is… ridiculously unhelpful. Either provide details that are helpful to the OP, or don’t write anything at all?

    2. LilySparrow*

      Oh, the accounting link reminds me of someone I know who is an auditor for a large hotel chain (I can’tremember which one, but in his casd it’s international.) He is employed by the parent company, but does in-depth projects at different sites for several months at a time.

      I’m not sure how much downtime he gets between projects, but he does change assignments at least every year, sometimes 2-3 a year. Good pay, good benefits.

    3. JSPA*

      Auditor of some sort? I was wondering about IRS, but figure there’s probably not the requisite flexibility.

  41. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    Would cold help you stay awake? My last job was in a refrigerated facility. 34 to 38 degrees F year round. Unskilled labor, which is pretty easy to find a job in around here and pays several dollars over minimum wage. There were opportunities to move up, but they usually involved machinery, and you do NOT want to be driving a forklift while sleepy.

  42. Jenny Grace*

    I know a few different people who survive all year on the money the make fishing in Alaska in the summers.
    There’s also the idea of splitting seasonal stuff? Like….ski resort in the winter, bartender on the beach in the summer?

  43. Kaitlyn*

    Two thoughts: part time remote work allows me to set my own hours. As a result, I can take midday naps or gym breaks, see friends and get enough Vitamin D, or whatever else I need to manage my life at the time. The downside is that it can be pretty isolating, but if you can pick up some occasional gigs at the same places over and over again (think: weekend barbacking, ushering, hell, even volunteering), then you can have a sense of coworker camaraderie.

  44. Judy Seagram*

    There’s an industry of social research interviewers out there, working from home for companies such as Westat, NORC, The Institute for Survey Research at Temple University, and Research Triangle Institute. These companies hire people to work from home to administer social research surveys, so you’d go to people’s homes and ask them about, say, their health care spending, or their local school system, or their smoking behavior… pretty much any topic that the government might want to research.

    The work is skilled, and interesting, and though it doesn’t come with benefits the pay is pretty good. And each study is it’s own short-term contract with its own particular issues to work through.

    I don’t know if this would appeal to the OP, but it might be something to consider.

  45. anonagain*

    There are so many aspects of this that I really relate to, OP.

    It sounds like your current job is a really great situation as far as the people go and the compensation you get as a part-timer. Is it possible to make your days less sedentary while you are still at this job? For example, could you ask to take on some more physical duties as part of your role? Or get a treadmill desk? Or perhaps tackle your work day in chunks with substantive activity breaks in between? Maybe you can get a headset that lets you do phone calls while walking around or a voice recorder so you can dictate notes (which might be useful for memory issues too).

    I used to work for a company where most of the tech helpdesk stuff was done remotely, but there were two employees who would always, always, always come to our desks to help. Both of them said it was because they get antsy just sitting in one place all day.

    Those are just some ideas that may or may not work for your context. You’ll probably have some creative ideas and it sounds like this workplace might be amenable. Again, that’s not instead of changing jobs, but just to make this job better for you while you figure out what’s next.

  46. Zahra*

    A few things:

    Your symptoms are close enough to ADHD (difficulty concentrating but also preferring shorter term jobs and frequent changes) that you should be taking a look at coping strategies for people with ADHD.

    Since your boss knows about your medical condition, why not tell her the reason for your recent productivity tanking? And ask her for ideas to improve your performance or adapt your workload in consequence?

    If you change jobs, consider project-driven positions instead of more standard ones. I find it easier to keep my productivity up when I change projects regularly.

    1. JSPA*

      Or along the same lines, they might be able to rotate OP through a few different positions, if that’s all it takes to get that “new job feeling.” (If, indeed, that’s what OP needs.)

  47. Jennifer*

    I’m not sure what fields you’re interested in, but I know of people who work in touristy areas during the summer and winter and make more than enough to live on during the downtime. A lot of visitors with deep pockets that leave great tips. Think Nantucket in summer, Colorado in winter.

  48. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

    I mean, you could work in the fisheries as a fisher. You could work in oil and gas as a rig worker. You could plant trees.

    These are all lucrative, physical jobs where you can work for a couple of months and make enough to sustain you for a few more.

  49. TootsNYC*

    OP, do you do better with active work?

    What about catering and event planning?

    My post-college daughter works for a big catering company here in NYC that apparently seeks out artists, actors, etc., who want a “day job” that has flexibility. She earns about $20/hour, and if she were interested, I bet she could move into a position with more responsibility (a “wine captain” or “head waiter” or “set-up chief” position).

    She signs up with her availability, they send her an offer of an event based on that, and she accepts if she can go.

    She’s busy on her feet at the event, interacting with colleagues and event guests. If her attention were to drift, the activity would bring it back.

    You have to live in a big city to find many of these things (as you can tell, I’m in NYC), but even in smaller cities, you can probably find catering companies that need waiters or set-up staff.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Events was the first thing I thought of too, and that could look like a lot of different things.

      There’s an entire workforce of folks who travel around to work on different festivals on a contract basis – a summer concert series, then the Nutcracker in the winter, etc. The travel might not be sustainable for OP, but if they are in a major metropolitan area, there might be enough work locally to get them through. OP might need to develop technical skills (lighting, sound, light set construction) to get enough pay, depending on their cost of living in this one.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Event staff could be a good shout – something like an usher, waiter, host, that kind of thing.

      Event *planning* I would not suggest if constant tiredness is a major issue – you really do need to be on top of a huge number of things all the time in order to plan a successful event, and the hours are not great. Certainly I and most other event planners I know work to standard business hours, but then will often have to be present for at least part of the event on top of that in case of last-minute issues.

      1. Tinuviel*

        Agreed, I wouldn’t recommend planner, but there are loads of other event-adjacent jobs that would definitely have you on your feet for weird hours. People who load/unload supplies, set up rooms, do A/V and tech stuff, temps you hire for the event itself or leading up to it. One time I was in a room backstage with a professional MC and an event specialist, just talking about their lives–the specialist wrote novels in his spare time.

        A lot of the low-skilled jobs, and events in general, have a lot of “hurry up and wait” or standing around for hours and then being ON for hours. But maybe it would be a good fit for OP.

  50. DQ*

    Healthcare! In a hospital, that’s open 24/7/365, there are lots of part time jobs open in all sorts of different fields. If you want to go back to school, you can do radiology tech, nursing, etc. or without going back to school there are entry level jobs like food service, housekeeping, etc. The hardest shifts to fill are always the part time, evenings, weekends and most organizations offer benefits to part timers.

    1. Possum*

      Yes to healthcare! Per diem staff are paid a higher hourly wage. There’s no benefits and you won’t get a consistent schedule, but you have the freedom to pick up shifts when you want them, at multiple employers if you like, and disappear for months at a time if needed.

  51. Llellayena*

    Reading some of the other comments made me thing of something: Renaissance Faires! In some places they are year round or you can skip around the country to catch a circuit of them open at different times. The work is only weekends, maybe a day during the week if your particular job needs some intermediate prep. And it’s definitely active.

  52. kelly white*

    I came here to say that my brother worked for a long time at a state park that had a little museum, and lots of trails. He always got laid off or furloughed in the winter, but was able to collect unemployment.

    I saw upthread that someone suggested house sitting- this is definitely something to look into- we have dogs, cats, and chickens, and we pay our house/pet sitter handsomely (if I do say so myself). She stays at the house, but if she slept the whole time, only getting up to feed and let out the animals, we wouldn’t care. Having someone we can trust makes such a difference!

    Something to think about!

  53. ALAJ*

    I had a friend who worked as for the Forestry Service and would go count trees and hike around in the woods in the summer and go on unemployment in the wintertime. I think he still does it.

  54. ellemmess*

    Would a change in the time of day you work help at all? Like, working evenings/nights and then being able to get better sleep during the day? I have a friend whose sleep disorder turned out to be a circadian rhythm disorder, so her solution was to get a full-time job at an animal hospital on the night shift.

      1. TootsNYC*

        my daughter’s catering gigs can be morning, but are most often afternoon into evening. And she gets to pick which she’ll work

  55. Not an expert*

    Came here to say this as well! Oil rig jobs generally require lots of training/field hours but I believe other jobs, such as commercial fishing, have a similar schedule with less training (not an expert in either field though).

  56. Robbie*

    I used to be a software contractor in London UK. Around senior level (YMMV but around 5-7 years experience) I was getting paid about £500 a day and living very cheaply (for London). I could comfortable pay my years living expenses from working 1-2 months a year. The shortest contracts tend to be around 3 months (but I did do one for 2 days), and if you’re any good you’ll be offered an extension in >50% of cases.

    Obviously earlier in your career you’ll get paid less, these contract roles don’t exist for junior devs except in very rare cases, and as a mid it’s more like £300 a day. Of course it’s always possible to get lucky and find places with more money than competence, I know not-good devs who get paid £300 a day who wouldn’t know how to reverse an array.

    I should caveat this with the fact that I have a CS degree and not everyone can learn to code, but if you have any talent in this area it can be great for work-life balance.

  57. E*

    I met someone recently who does part-year work with an airline (in this case Delta) he worked only during the summer months (maybe 4-5 months a year) at one of the hubs. Which hub and, I think, the specific position changed a little each year. And then had the rest of the year off but still got pay and benefits. He spent his off months traveling.

  58. NW Mossy*

    While this wasn’t directly your question, OP, I want to highlight the contrast in a couple of your statements. You call out a lot of positives about your current role (especially the support you have from leadership), but just a few sentences later, you’re talking about inevitably quitting or being fired.

    I feel like there’s an opportunity to make it a little less inevitable! With supportive bosses who already understand that you can deliver high-quality work under the right conditions, you’ve got a great platform to talk out shaping the job in ways that are mutually beneficial. You just might learn that there’s a real need for a floater/jack-of-all-trades type to rotate through different areas as needs change, or that they’re OK with you working short stints with breaks in between to recuperate or do something different. But you can’t know unless you ask! Before you walk away, have a couple of conversations first – you might be surprised at what can happen.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      This is an excellent point! It sounds like your employer does value you, so it’s worth at least asking if there’s a way to modify your role to fit your needs better. Especially if the alternative is just leaving, you don’t have anything to lose by bringing it up.

      Also, since you’ve disclosed your issue and have understanding management, if you do need to move on to another kind of role, I expect they can still give you a positive reference given the context.

    2. May*

      Also – Some companies pay for disability insurance policies for short term (7-90 days paid leave) & long term (years long paid leave) disability coverage, even for part time employees.
      The bar for disability coverage through an employer-paid insurance policy will be different than social security, so it’s worth looking into even if you don’t meet the bar for SS.
      You could continue to work for your current company and go out on short term paid medical leave when you need it, if you have a doctor who certifies the medical need. If you employer offers this coverage. Worth checking into!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a great point.

      This goes back to self-fulfilling prophesies, you’re doing well but you just assume the bottom is going to fall out no matter what. Even though the team already understands.

      We’ve had plenty of folks over the years that need some special accommodations, including changing schedules to fit their medical issues. We don’t fire these people, we work with them because we see the benefit of their skills verses the inconveniences of working around their particular needs.

      I once took a full time job and it turned into a part time position once I laid out my situation. The response was overwhelmingly “Yeah, you here 20 hrs a week is better than you not here at all!” and they worked with the schedule I had that bounced all over the place at times, they didn’t care. They cared that the benefit of having someone who’s skilled and reliable to preform those skills for them is much easier than trying to fish the one person out of the ocean of people who would be great at the jobs at hand and also available for a very structured time.

    4. Natalie*

      It also seems like the OP might be approaching the one year mark, which would make them FMLA eligible (assuming it otherwise applies). If your physician will support it and you can afford to take it unpaid, taking a couple of longer leaves throughout the year might be an option while you figure out your next step.

    5. Red 5*

      This is a great suggestion, and it’s similar to what I ended up doing to stay in the job I have now. If you have a supportive manager, just have conversations with them about needs and wants. They could surprise you, I know my job surprised me.

  59. nonymous*

    As a coping mechanism as you ride this job out, I recommend that you look at incorporating the skills recommended for adult ADD patients. Things like checklists and reminders and over the top scheduling. The idea being that when you are at 100% you can set the ball rolling so that half-asleep you can deliver reasonably well on autopilot. You don’t have to remember a work task if outlook is popping up with a reminder that has talking points. From the psych literature it’s expected that executive functioning skills decline when we are exhausted, so find ways to consolidate that to times when you are most able.

    Also try to schedule in breaks and see if your workspace can be modified to be more physically active/stimulating. It might be a reasonable accommodation request since your current org is so supportive. Do you have a sit/stand desk or one of those balance type chairs? Can you take a brisk 5 min walk/jog every hour instead of a 15min break? Can you work from home one day a week and blast music and dance the day away? Is there something energizing that you can listen to on headphones (maybe shuffle a bunch of Dave Ramsey-esque podcasts)? Can you volunteer to take on the most physical tasks at work and shift some of the sedentary items to other people (a lot of times coworkers like this b/c it allows them to be lazy and frees them for more advanced duties)? stuff like that may get you a few more months in a job that you seem to like.

    Long term, ++ the contract worker option. In my (advanced STEM) field it is really common for short term contract positions to pay more hourly than similar roles that are permanent staff (although minus the stock options and retirement bennies). Again, my experience is only from observations in STEM jobs, but it is really common for large companies to hire lots of contract workers and the people build up a reputation where they basically have their next position lined up before their current contract finishes. It is super-common for the parent company to have rules about mandatory breaks between contract periods, so your pacing wouldn’t be odd at all.

    Depending on your skill set you might be able to supplement periods of temping with freelance or day-labor as your energy allows. My mom used to do some last-minute fill in work for a friend who caters and she got paid ~$35/hr once the tips were included. My MIL has a condition with symptoms that come and go so she has difficulty planning ahead, but has become a huge resource for the neighbors in her apartment complex for last minute help (like childcare or pet/house sitting). They don’t schedule stuff with her but if their 1st line falls through, they will text her and ask if she is available to fill in. Sometimes she does and sometimes she can’t, but people love her because when it works she is helping them out of a tough spot.

    1. nonymous*

      edit: To be clear that MIL experience does not pay the bills. My MIL doesn’t drive so her neighbors have really stepped up getting her around and that does save $$$ in uber costs. If she didn’t barter and just charged the normal $15-20/hr that these jobs normally pay, it would mean spending money to supplement her fixed income. But even an extra $100/month could mean vacations by train to visit family or an annual camping trip.

  60. Jay*

    If you have the right educational background and are tough enough to handle it, the Alaskan Observer Program sounds perfect for you. You get 90 day ‘deployments’ during which you spend most of you time at sea, working. Then you get an extended break. Then, when you are ready, you start another 90 day deployment. 90 days on, 90 days off is a common schedule. When on a deployment salaries vary a bit (you only get paid while at sea), but generally go somewhere in the $4000 to $6000 a month range, depending on experience.
    Hope this helps.

  61. schnauzerfan*

    I know a person who works the Sturgis Motor Cycle Rally and a couple other events and spends the rest of the year in some cheap tropical place beach combing. I also know someone who works as a ranch / pet/ house sitter. She takes care of horses, cats dogs… etc. Housing is included and she stays with family between gigs. She can work at her own pace… take weeks or months off when she feels like it.

  62. Amber T*

    My dad (database developer) is a consultant who formed his own business. He’s hired on contracts that last 6 months to a 2 or 3 years. He gets restless when he stays at one place too long. What kind of industries tangential to you could also be consultant based?

  63. AccountantWendy*

    I have a friend who is a professional house sitter. She travels all over the world and stays in other people’s homes. She does have a remote work job, but the lack of living expenses allows her to work for a relatively low salary. Would something like that be an option? You could look for flexible, remote, part-time work like transcription or teaching English online, or gig work like Instacart, Task Rabbit, est.

  64. I coulda been a lawyer*

    PA state government (and I’m sure other states too) always has limited term full time jobs available. You start as a seasonal employee and have the chance to move into year round, but not the obligation. Most of those jobs are in the Department of Transportation (winter or summer maintenance), Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources (in state parks spring to fall) or Dept of Revenue (tax season plus ramp up and processing into summer). Some are desk jobs (including payroll processing and dispatch) and some are outside (mowing, giving tours, holding signs etc)

  65. Specks*

    I would highly recommend Dr. Sachin Panda’s research into sleep and his book, the Circadian code, if you haven’t already. Time-restricted eating and other research-based health guidance obviously won’t solve your severe slew issues entirely, but they might really help. Good luck!

  66. ap*

    Tour guide work, if it fits your personality, is often done in 2-4 hour high energy, non sedentary chunks. The places I have do it freelance style; you’re part of a stable, and you can take breaks periodically for other work (mostly acting for us). Pay varies, but there are tips.

    I would do this supplemental (maybe in combo with ushering, as other people mentioned).

  67. lepercolony*

    Consider construction trades like welding. Skilled trades make very good money.
    All construction jobs are essentially temporary and “job hopping” is mandatory.

    1. Anonymeece*

      I’d be wary of this, simply because those skilled trades often come with high risk factors, especially for someone with memory lapses and problems concentrating. It only takes one slip off a rafter in construction or a misplaced hand to permanently injure yourself.

      But trades in general might be good to look into. Consider browsing your community college certificates programs – 2 years, generally if not less – and there may be some jobs that you can do some research into to find out more. I know several beauticians who make their own hours more or less freelancing at different salons or from their own house. You can make your own hours, more or less, though it is demanding in the sense of having to promote yourself and the attendant stress of freelancing.

  68. Green great dragon*

    I’m trying to think of roles that are either ‘all go’ or ‘stand down’, but the ones that spring to mind are emergency situations like firefighters, and not sure whether that would work with concentration issues. Are any of your jobs something that needs some sort of on-call-ness, and when you’re needed you’re really busy?

  69. Ghost of a Ghost*

    Try Alaska. A lot of jobs are seasonal. Off the top of my head I can think of several that I’ve known people to survive on. Tourist season is a big deal in Fairbanks and Anchorage which would offer anything from bookkeeping to retail or tourguide. There’s of course the fishing and oil/gas industries, both lean more towards skilled labor like welding I think, but there’s lots of general maintenance or landscaping. And if you really want a workout, sign on as a deckhand. Season is short, but the pay is high. The cost of living in Alaska is higher, but there are so many opportunities for recreation. Just beware that the further north you go, the longer the daylight hours, which affects a lot of people’s sleep. Thinking about it, most construction jobs are high paying, job changing isn’t all that unusual, and generally they have decent benefits. Good luck!

  70. The Cardinal*

    I used to work at a nuclear plant decades ago. No idea what your educational background is but if you have a science background, you may consider applying to employment agencies that provide temporary workers to the commercial nuclear industry. Used to be there were a bunch of agencies in Connecticut and the northeast corridor in general, but it’s been decades since I worked in the industry so I don’t know whether this is still the case or not.

    During refueling shutdowns, there are temp workers who perform tasks within the high radiation containment area and they are paid one year’s salary for a few minutes of actual work. This is because they receive the allowable annual dose of 5 REM in a matter of minutes. Then the following year (and each year after) they can do the same thing again.

    1. Llellayena*

      I understand the appeal of such a short term, full salary position, but if the medical issue is that the OP is always tired and sleep does not make it better and concentration is an issue, a nuclear plant might not be the best option. Jobs that do not have a direct and long lasting impact on the health and safety of the general population might be a better fit…

      1. The Cardinal*

        5 minutes of monitored and controlled radiation work within work place limits will have considerably less of a theoretical health impact on an individual than one who uses Grand Central Station daily (the granite emits radiation), one who flies from Atlanta to Denver and back (atmospheric radiation), or one who receives a single dose of dental or medical radiation.

        Same for one month, one year, or 30 years of monitored and controlled radiation work. 50 years of workplace data from the nuclear industry as well as the science itself supports this.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          I believe Llellayena wasn’t talking about health risks to the OP, but rather that it’s a high stakes job where a mistake can have much more serious consequences than at most office jobs. Of course, nuclear power plants have multiple fail-safes, so we’re not talking about OP causing a Chernobyl scenario, but part of their safety strategy is not employing people with concentration issues.

  71. Quill*

    If – and only if – you are good to drive I’d suggest looking into doing delivery of mail or packages. Some advantages:

    – Certain routes will require you to get out of the car and walk up to the houses to deliver, so if sitting for long periods / looking at screens is a problem that may help.
    – Finding routes or shifts that coincide with your most awake part of the day may be easier
    – In most places it pays above minimum wage.
    – I know a few people who retired from teaching and went into postal service, and the way they describe it is that at the end of the day you can essentially forget everything that happened at work/on the road. If your navigation while driving is unaffected, following a route may be exactly the kind of work that doesn’t require your memory to work in the ways that you’re currently struggling with.

  72. sleepyhead*

    Oh OP, my heart goes out to you. I have a sleep disorder as well and it made my working life terrible until I got a diagnosis that (thankfully) had an effective treatment plan attached. I even wrote in to Alison about it. There are a lot of great suggestions here in the comments but I want you to know you’re not alone! I know you’ve heard every piece of advice a million times so I won’t repeat it, but the one thing that saved me was finding a third opinion who found the actual problem I had, which was NOT sleep apnea.
    I wish you all the best and all the luck with finding a career path that works for you!

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I’m so glad you found relief! I finally found a doctor who agreed that my ongoing fatigue isn’t a matter of just upping my antidepressant dosage. Still troubleshooting my health stuff but getting that medical support is KEY and can be very hard to locate.*

      Hoping the OP can eventually find a treatment plan that gets this under control, and in the meantime moving to less sedentary and more short-term work by design is a great idea.

      *I may be working on a psychological / body horror story that’s just about this this experience. No supernatural elements necessary.

  73. Angwyshaunce*

    Are there any communities out there for people with your particular disorder? They may have knowledge and resources that can help you navigate through your work issues.

    If not, and you’re so inclined, you could help to build such a community.

  74. Laurelma01*

    OP, you mentioned you are willing to go to school. Would a job that is active be better for you? People are mentioning bartending, waitressing, etc. How about Forest Ranger, Wild Life Warden? Those are usually federal or state jobs.

  75. Sarah*

    Two Ideas:

    1. Join a union and get into an apprenticeship program. Hard skill unions (plumbers, electricians, heavy machinery operators, etc etc- there are a million of them) give you a pathway to what ends up being mostly contract work. Some of it, because of the nature of the work, is de facto seasonal – you can’t run a backhoe on highways in most of America in the winter, for example. And hard-skill unions pay well – often VERY well. My friend who is in a union carpenter shop makes more money than most lawyers I know. The trick is to get past the entrance exam and get accepted in in the first place. But there are union recruiters who will be happy to tell you what you need to do.

    2. If you want a desk job, my advice would be: specialize, and then go freelance or contract. If you have something you’re good at, a discrete skill that other people don’t necessarily have the training for, this is easier. But you can train up a skill that you have the beginnings of with part time school, boot camps, etc. while you’re working on transitioning to this work.

    Some of the skills that work for this, where I have friends who either through temp agencies or by themselves successfully find a (modest, but livable!) living without holding down a 9-5 are: technical writing, graphic design, coding, web design, IT, accounting, notary work, data analysis and database work, fundraising/grant writing consulting, HR consulting, paralegal work…the list is endless. And those are only the things I can think of as “desk job” things, because, well, I’m a hella desk job person so I don’t really know what’s available! The key is that you have to be really good at it, and pick something that other people are either bad at or don’t like doing.

  76. 867-5309*

    They’re hiring temporary roles for the 2020 Census. Those could be interesting gigs that have a natural start and end date.

  77. Weegie*

    ESL teaching. The contracts, especially if you work overseas, are typically 9 or 10 months in length, leaving you the option of taking the summer off or working a series of short summer schools. A long time ago, I knew a couple who literally went to a different school in a different country each year!

    Until 7 years ago I had 20+ years of what’s kindly called a ‘portfolio’ career and am living proof that it’s doable. I’ve had three different professions and a heap of temp jobs, and have either earned very high or very low salaries – and have never cared very much either way. I benefited from working in places where shortish-term contracts are the norm, and also from 2 of the 3 professions having the same characteristic. I’m reluctantly in a ‘proper’ job now, but the minute my boss decides I have to be in the office more often, I’ll probably skedaddle :-)

      1. Weegie*

        Started out in IT in the UK – at the time it used a lot of contractors, which I think it still does. I didn’t stay in it for very long but was quite well paid. (I had a master’s in the field.)

        Switched to ESL teaching (which my first degree had covered), which I did in various parts of Europe and Asia, and the UK for summer schools.

        Couldn’t wait to get out of teaching… 12 years later (!) I accidentally became an editor, the only job for which I absolutely wasn’t qualified but which turned out to be my vocation. I’ve done that in the UK and Asia, freelance and on contracts, and worked for clients in various places overseas. That’s what I’m still doing now, but in a salaried position (longish-term contract).

        I managed to shoehorn a PhD in there too, leading me via a round-about route to some higher ed admin work as well as my long-ago temp work, but I kind of don’t count that, as it’s horrible (to me, anyway).

        Sounds glamorous – isn’t! – but I’ve never been out of work, enjoyed working overseas, and when I get bored I just take off. The trick is to be very, very good at whatever you do.

    1. dealing with dragons*

      you can also do ESL teaching on the internet if you have a bachelor’s degree. No moving required :)

        1. Not a berry*

          Seconding this! I’ve job hopped a lot since starting EFL 5 years ago and had some very interesting experiences – recently I was contracted to design an online course for a specific exam, which was new to me but it was nice to be paid to be at home and not speak to anyone for a change!
          CV-wise, it’s also easy to streamline because it’s natural to have a variety of employers and to work in chunks of months and, as a couple of other commenters have pointed out, if you have a degree, there are a lot of online companies that are always looking for teachers. Some offer set hours and organise your materials, others let you set your own schedule and students sign up. I had such a great experience as a language learner using one in particular that I’m thinking of signing up myself.
          I didn’t choose the job because I’m a grand adventurer, I just find it freeing because there’s always demand. Every time I’ve needed work, I’ve found it. (And on the rare occasions EFL failed me, temp work stepped up to the plate, something that’s been suggested here a lot)

  78. Dana B.S.*

    Kinda random: I always kinda felt like the set-up in The Shining would be nice. Minus the mental breakdown. Also with internet access. Is that job real?

  79. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m glad you’re thinking about the long term right now! It’s good to have a plan in this situation because whereas job hopping tends to be easier in our young-adult life, as you age, it will become increasingly difficult to be hired due to discrimination and all that ugly stuff.

    I really think the perma-temp position via a temp agency would be great for you as mentioned above. If you have accounting in your background or can get it by going to school, it’s often one of those decent paying seasonal gigs to work within.

  80. Veronica*

    Many years ago I met a man who told me he drove an ice cream truck in the summer and made enough money to live the entire year. Maybe that… you would have to be a very careful driver.
    Other summer things – bartending or waiting tables in a downtown or high-traffic area, or on the beach – you might make enough to live year-round. You could even arrange to go back to the same bar or restaurant every summer as their permanent summer person, because they need more staff in summer and less in winter. They might want you around the holidays too.
    Trade work that pays a high hourly salary – the one I’m most familiar with is physicians. I work at a hospital and we have contracted physicians to fill in for people on leave and paid them an hourly rate. I’m sure you don’t want to be a physician, but there must be other trades where you can do this. Maybe research and do informational interviews at placement agencies that specialize in the trades? And at the industries in your area?

  81. Kiwiii*

    While you seem a bit sick of it, your current company really seems to like you and is accommodating, I wonder if cutting your hours down even more and also starting to freelance something more interesting or finding an outdoor job (farm work? plant nurseries? dog walker/sitter? event staff for an outdoor wedding venue?) might keep things interesting enough to stay where you’re at for longer. Also – I wonder if you can make your workplace less sedentary by getting a yoga ball as a chair option or a sit/stand desk or walking around outside for client calls or something. And I wonder if rather than sheer willpower to help your memory/concentration issues if there are tools and tactics that might make managing them more possible.

    1. Kiwiii*

      Oh also,as an Option: my last job shared an office with daycare licensing for our region of the state. The licencors spent about half their time at their desks and half their time out visiting day cares, which always seemed like a really nice divide of activities if they were restless in an office. I know that they paid over $18/hr (I think the range was like $19-25, but I don’t couldn’t say for sure and I’m sure it’s different from state to state), plenty of their positions are 50-80% full time, and they have benefits and PTO and things as well, and that similar agencies had assistants hired through temp agencies and directly from day cares, so it was relatively easy to have a sort of “in” as well.

    2. Veronica*

      Tools and tactics, in case you’re not already doing them. I’ve always been easily distracted and I’ve learned ways to work with it.
      Sticky notes everywhere. At home I have them on the kitchen cabinet at eye level, and more across the top of the microwave. Anything I might forget to do, I put up a note in big thick sharpie so I’ll see it.
      At work I have them across the edge of my monitor, again right in my line of sight. These are usually personal reminders to do at lunch.
      For work reminders, I enter an appointment in Outlook with a reminder to pop up. I don’t dismiss the reminder till it’s done, even if it’s months of waiting on someone or something. (you can mark the appointment as “free” so it doesn’t look like you’re busy.)
      Notes to travel: I put notes from work to home in my lunch box, and from home to work in the mirror in my purse so I see it when I check my hair after I get to work. :)

  82. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    How do you feel about boats? What about the cruise industry? That’s seasonal and you’re not sedentary at all. But it does mean you get very little sleep which may be an issue with your sleep condition.

  83. ScientistLady*

    Have you considered working as a wine harvest intern? This can be a long term job by switching hemispheres every harvest. For northern hemisphere harvests, California, Washington, and even some places in Canada often hire a lot of interns. Europe too, especially France, but I’ve heard it’s trickier if you don’t speak the language. For southern hemisphere harvests, Australia and New Zealand are good bets. South Africa and Argentina are also possibilities.

    It’s really intense during the height of harvest (usually 1 -2 months long, working 10 – 12 hour days for 6 -7 days/week) and usually 30 – 40 hour weeks at the ends of harvest. Depending on your experience and the winery, they will keep interns for 2 – 5 months. I only did harvest traveling for a year, but my friends who have been in the industry longer would work ~ 4 months, then have 2 months off, and repeat.


    – You only work part of the year, and it pays for the rest of the year if you have minimal expenses
    – You get to travel a lot, and meet other seasonal travelers who can give you leads on other short term jobs
    – The work is physical, and the jobs are expected to be short term.
    – People from all over the world and all ages (19 to 45 was the range I saw) do these jobs, so it’s not age-limited.


    – You don’t get a lot of money. It’s best to focus on countries like the US and Australia, which pay extra for overtime, instead of places like New Zealand, where your hourly rate is constant.
    – You have to move countries every ~ 6 months. So getting visas, transport and housing in each place, is definitely a hassle. Along with health insurance and continual therapy.
    – long-term, this can be hard on you body

    I don’t know if it’s a good choice for you, but seasonal work in general might be a good bet!

  84. noahwynn*

    My brother works on cruise ships. He does several months of work and then has several months off. Depending on the exact position though, the schedule can be a bit brutal. He is on the entertainment side though, so he says it is not as bad for him. Certain positions though have really long, like 16 hour, days, especially in the cleaning and food departments

    Also, when I was a paramedic, I had a position for about a year where I worked for two weeks straight and then had two weeks off. I had to fly to the middle of nowhere and be put up in company housing for the two weeks I was on. We were “on call” 24 hours a day during those two weeks on. Sometimes it would be crazy busy and other times I wouldn’t get a call for 2-3 days. The big downside was the location. While beautiful places, you couldn’t really explore much because cell service wasn’t reliable, and when called you had 20 mins to be in uniform at the hospital with all of your supplies.

    I work for an airline now. We have a whole team that does new station openings. They will go there for 6-8 weeks when the station open and work alongside and train the new staff. They work really hard for those few months and then generally have 2-3 weeks off before the next one.

    So, not sure if those positions, in particular, would work, but I wanted to point out that there are a lot of roles with variable schedules.

  85. Kiki*

    I would suggest looking into working on set in the film and television industries. The hours are long, but they’re often union positions, the work goes in cycles for individual projects, and every day is different.

    1. LilySparrow*

      I have some experience in this industry. It is not for people with health problems.

      It is a gruelling lifestyle, and you cannot afford to take long breaks between gigs. The crew spends every break networking & making calls to book the next 2 gigs.

  86. Chris*

    I went through a two year production horticulture program. I can cobble together an enjoyable full year of work through being self employed in spring and summer, working Christmas retail at a store that has lots of gifts for gardeners, and working at a seed processing place in late winter/early spring.
    I’m never bored but there are challenges – for instance, I doubt my regular seed employer will have enough work for me this winter, and I may have to find another one. I don’t get benefits anywhere – not a big problem for me but might be a big challenge for an American who needs health insurance.
    When the seasons and jobs overlap I can wind up working an awful lot of hours – I don’t mind but most people would.
    I’d also like to point out that physical work isn’t for everybody. Somebody who normally makes a point of working 10,000 steps a day into their office work routine, and regularly goes to the gym, might think that physical work would be nice. They might think differently when they find it doesn’t MATTER if they have a sore foot or shoulder, or are slightly under the weather, they still have to walk 15,000 steps a day and carry or lift heavy loads.

  87. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    Fitness! Personal trainer, group exercise instructor, swim instructor, etc.

    If you pick the right place to work, you can clear a high enough minimum wage that you can work fewer hours.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Correction: A wage that’s enough TIMES minimum wage that you can work fewer hours and earn the same as 40/week @ min wage.

  88. theletter*

    January-March: ski lodge
    April: tax preparation
    May: help college kids move out of dorms
    June-August: water sports
    September: help college kids move back into dorms
    October: haunted houses!
    November-December: Santa

    Something that might help with the sleeping: blue-blocker glasses,Gymnema sylvestre, and regular exercise (with weight-lifting, not cardio) worked wonders for my sleep disorder.

  89. Professional Merchandiser*

    Perhaps merchandising work would suit you? Merchandising covers a lot of area. It can be anything from putting out greeting cards, stocking jewelry, to setting complete sections ie: cosmetics or grocery. I’ve done a bit of all of it, and now I mainly just do zoning, (straightening shelves) putting up signage and some light stocking. The pay is not the most wonderful. The company I work for now only pays $12.00 an hour (no raises) and mileage, but they also give paid holidays, sick leave, vacation days and personal days if you’re full time.Also insurance. Even part-time workers get some PTO but no insurance. Other companies pay better but not all provide benefits. If you do what they call “pit crew” work you travel with a company and they put you up in hotels and give you a perdiem for food. You stay active and you’re working in different places all the time so the variety might help keep you more engaged.

  90. Emi.*

    Since a lot of people have thrown out suggestions for summer seasonal jobs, I’ll add that USPS hires extra workers around Christmas, in case you need extra winter income.

    1. Veronica*

      All the shipping/courier companies, retail, restaurant, and hospitality usually hire extra help for the holidays.
      I remember from my temping days, January was the slowest time of year. It caught me by surprise… save some of your money for January – February in case you can’t get temp work.

  91. Koala dreams*

    The job market is going in the direction of more companies prefererring to hire short time workers, so you absolutely can make a career while job hopping. However it’s stressful for employees, so it’s great that you are doing your best to take care of yourself. Make sure to find time for positive activities (seeing friends, exercise, watching TV in pyjamas) even when times are tough. It’s stressful to only focus on getting the next job, and you’ll need breaks.

    You might want to look into accomodations when you find a good employer where you’d like to stay on. Of course you can do that for a short time job too, bit I guess employers would be more happy to make accomodations for longtime jobs. That could be a flex schedule, a napping room, time off for medical appointments or time off for periods when your illness is extra bad. An occupational therapist can help with suggestions for accomodations and resources for helping you remember things. You can also see if there are any local nonprofit organizations that help people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to manage job searching and accomodations.

    Good luck with your career!

    1. Koala dreams*

      I see upon re-read that your current employer is sympathetic. It’s worth trying to get accommodations at your current job since they already know you and value your work. That could be less hours a week, or more frequent breaks so that you can go for a walk or to the gym during the workday, or some equipment like a height adjustable desk so you can switch between sitting and standing. There might also be technology that helps with concentration and memory, but I’m not knowledgeable in that area. Even if you chose to change industry, it could be valuable to keep this part-time job and get some extra income while you study and look for more suitable work.

  92. Denise*

    Ooo, I sympathize! One suggestion is to consider a technical role where you can work remotely, contract, or in a part-time/temporary capacity with nonprofits or companies. For example, I’m a Salesforce Admin. Even though I currently work full-time for an organization, there are tons of contract, temp, and temp-to-perm projects for Salesforce professionals if I ever decide the 9-5 office life isn’t for me! Not to mention it is much easier to find remote working opportunities, and this line of work can pay well since it’s so technical/database administration.

    The other nice thing about Salesforce is that there’s a vast community of professionals behind it. I go to user groups, attend webinars, and generally get the chance to engage with professionals in a way I found impossible to do in previous roles. That sense of community is nice, not to mention the actual learning of Salesforce has become much more accessible in recent years (you can sign up for a free account, participate in any of Salesforce’s FREE online training modules, find affordable e-courses to get certified, and even find volunteer opportunities where you can start getting hands-on experience). I accidentally happened upon this line of work, and appreciate all of the perks it affords.

  93. Beast from the East*

    Sounds like contracting work is a good option for you. I have been doing contract work since 2011, not by choice but those are the only job offers being made and I have bills to pay. I have had contract jobs last from 4 months to two years. When I first started contracting I was making $19 per hour and my current one in a six month contract making $31 per hour. Some of these job come with benefits, some don’t, it depends on the company you are contracting with. I live in Washington state and have been kept pretty busy the last eight years.

    My longest stretch on unemployment was six months but that was on the tail end of my life imploding (health crisis involving my mom) and I was focusing on my physically, mentally, and emotional recovery after mom’s health crisis was over. My shortest stretch between contract jobs was one month. is a great place to look for contract jobs, they often list as a staffing agency Your local unemployment office is also a great resource for temp and staffing agencies. Keeping getting 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th opinions. Don’t stop looking until you get an answer to your medical issues. Good luck.

  94. Xandria*

    I admittedly did not read all the comments before posting.

    Have you looked at technical theater work? Depending on where you’re located it can be full time sustaining and its all contract based.

    For context, I worked this summer, took about two weeks off in September, have worked sense then, and will through the middle of October, and then I’m taking all of November off, and then working from early December through the end of February. I set my own schedule in the sense that I pick and choose my contracts, not in the sense that I set me own hours. I’m a freelance stage manager, which is a fairly specialized position, and I did go to school for it, but I know PLENTY of SMs who didn’t.

    A lot of people work on a work call basis though, taking calls that are a day long, or one or two days long, or sometimes a couple of months.

  95. Anonymouse*

    Court reporting can be a good option, if you have quick fingers! It’s varied work with flexible hours.

  96. NomadatHeart*

    If you are interested in the seasonal job route, take a look at Cool Works website ( They specialize in job postings for seasonal jobs. You can search by job type, location, season, etc. I looked into it for myself as I am a bit of a nomad at heart.

    Best of luck!

  97. TM*

    I don’t know if this was mentioned yet (I’m still scrolling) but I believe the census is starting to hire. Not a long term solution, obviously, but perhaps a good stop-gap while you figure stuff out?

  98. papadias*

    This will require a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, anthropology, cultural resource management, or history, and an archaeological field school (generally available at the university as part of the bachelor’s degree), and, ideally, an interest in the field.

    Archaeological field techs sometimes make a career of “shovel-bumming,” that is traveling around to different job sites and working on a temporary basis in the field. These jobs usually range from a few days to a few months and are definitely non-sedentary. You would mostly be digging small-ish holes in the ground all day in the eastern half of the country, or hiking miles a day in the west.

    Check out archaeological fieldwork dot com for an idea of the jobs available.

    Pay is kinda low and usually no benefits, but travel is covered, and a per diem. The major drawback for most people is the lack of consistent work, but since that’s actually what you’re looking for, there ya go.

  99. Blisskrieg*

    3 thoughts :

    1) Do you have expertise in an area where you could consult or freelance on particular projects? (rather than longterm consultancy agreement)

    2) Speaking as someone who has been through the process of securing disability for a family member–it is very, very rare to be approved first time. You up your chances significantly if you secure a disability attorney. (Their fee is a percentage of your award IF they secure it, so you don’t need to worry about payment). If you haven’t gone that route, you might want to consider.

    3) Pennsylvania has an “Occupational Vocational Resource” program that helps match job seekers with disabilities to positions that work well for them. I don’t know if other states have the same or similar, but might be worth checking.

  100. BuildMeUp*

    OP, I’m sorry, this sounds so difficult!

    I do a lot of brand ambassador/event staffing work – think the people you see in branded booths at festivals, convention staff, etc. Most gigs range from $20-30 an hour and can be anywhere from 1 day events to 1+ week festivals.

    The summer is definitely a busy season, with tons of festivals going on. If you work a bunch of events, you can definitely make enough to at least coast during the winter months, if not take a break entirely.

    There are many marketing/event staffing companies that book people for this kind of work. Companies I’ve worked for include Across the Nation (ATN), Assist, Paradym, and 8 Days a Week.

    If you’re interested, my advice would be to register on as many sites as possible and make profiles. Make sure you have a nice, smiling picture with a plain background (like a corporate headshot) and a resume/bio that focuses on jobs you’ve had with lots of interaction with people – retail, customer service, etc. And then respond to event notifications as fast as possible!

  101. char*

    I used to temp as an IT technician, which wasn’t particularly sedentary, actually. A lot of what I did was physically setting up computers and other equipment. Some of the assignments were very short – like a few days to a few weeks moving computers around for a company that was restructuring.

    My favorite was probably the couple summers I worked for a college IT department. Summers are a good time for schools to update their infrastructure. I got to go all over campus setting up computer labs, installing printers, running network canles, etc. It was pretty fun!

  102. Spcepickle*

    Surveying! It is a job where you get to spend lots of time outside, it something easy to work part time at, and because there is a professional licence it can pay really well. If you get a licence it would be easy to work for yourself and only take on a few jobs at a time.

  103. PookieLou*

    30-year old job-hopping narcoleptic here! Whatever your own diagnosis is, your story sounds similar enough that almost everything you wrote made me think “Same!” I don’t have much work-specific advice that’s any good because I don’t have this figured out either. Whatever it’s worth to you, you are not the only one going through those same struggles.

    Are you involved in any support networks? For example, I’m part of several facebook groups for people with narcolepsy. It’s a great place to get advice from others suffering from the same specific challenges as myself about how they make things work. A lot of them do well with shift work that keeps them on their feet, or working as a contractor with their own schedule. I’m working on a freelance career (which is very common in my field anyway) but keeping a productive schedule has been hard when I have so little control over my energy levels. Anyway, Whatever your actual diagnosis, there are support groups put there. People with sleep disorders like to help each other.

    In my case I also realized that my sleep specialist sucks. It took a while because I didn’t know better, but it’s become obvious after thinking about it. And some sleep specialists are better with some disorders than others. (Many are great with apnea, but may not be as skilled with other issues.) If you are questioning your quality of medical care and have insurance, looking into other sleep specialists or treatments can make a positive difference, maybe even enough to make working full time more bearable. (But that of course is a massive “if” because I don’t know the journey you’ve taken this far. Maybe you really have exhausted your options here.)

    I hope you can find a solution. I’m rooting for you!

  104. san junipero*

    So this is 100% an assumption and I’m sorry if I’m wrong, OP, but I’m guessing either narcolepsy or IH?

    If so, two things:

    1) There are excellent groups on Facebook for both N and IH, so definitely check those out for advice.

    2) There are new treatments available — one called Sunosi just came out and one called Wakix is about to launch. For IH there’s also something called flumazenil, if you haven’t tried that, although it’s VERY hard to get a hold of (I haven’t tried but I keep considering it because my diagnosis is very borderline between N/IH).

  105. Extra anonymous and on the DL today*

    Working as a house director for a fraternity or sorority might be suitable. The work is incredibly varied, day-to-day you set your own schedule,
    and since you live on site you can rest as needed. There are occasionally events or tasks that have a hard deadline or require a very long day and STRESS and the ability to be flexible and “role with it” are key. You also need to be very good with people and interpersonal relationships. Patience is paramount! On the flip side it’s a live-in position that often pays quite well, has a one year renewable contract, comes with tons of vacation (well, sort of depending on the house) and many HD’s change houses every two to three years.

  106. Extra anonymous and on the DL today*

    * stress is not key it is……an occasional way of life. Darn interuptions.

  107. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I keep hearing the title of this post in Chandler Bing’s voice. “Can job hopping BE my career?”

  108. Bemmy Lover*

    Forgive me if you’ve considered this but I had similar issues for years to the point where I would fall asleep driving. There was no discernable medical reason. Through trial and error I found that diet had a significant impact. Eliminating sugar and timing carbohydrate intake during the work day has made all the difference.

    1. Just Elle*

      I suffer from reactive hypoglycemia (basically I am REALLY sensitive to carbs and fluctuations in blood glucose are so extreme that I can get the shakes/hanger/pass out after a sugary meal). After going on a strict ketogenic diet (working with an endocrinologist) virtually all of my problems, even ones I didn’t realize were related to glucose swings like migraines, magically went away. Obviously a super extreme approach and for some people just the sugar watching works. For me full keto ended up being the only solution and well worth it.

  109. Just Elle*

    An executive assistant at my company recently told me she suffers from narcolepsy. She said that the short-term/immediate nature of her tasks really worked well with her condition.

    She isn’t really a traditional executive assistant, basically she supports a group of about 4 execs and is responsible primarily for scheduling meeting requests, assigning locations, ordering office supplies, etc. She also meets visitors and escorts them, and goes to get lunch, which gets her moving around on a fairly regular basis. And if she needs to step out for a nap, its not a huge deal, since our phones automatically email transcripts of voicemails and nothing is really *that* urgent.
    She also showed me her pretty rigorous email sorting system to ensure that nothing fell through the cracks, etc. She has been working pretty hard on organization and that has been a huge benefit for her quality of life.

  110. NB*

    When I was in college, I had a classmate who was a blackjack dealer at a casino. She worked only weekends and earned enough to pay all her bills.

  111. Heidi*

    One of my friends worked part time during graduate school by proofreading romance novels (the kind that you buy in the checkout line at the grocery store). We found out when we visited her house and found hundreds of them.

    I also worked part time proofreading travel guides. The plus for these jobs is that you do them on your own time at home.

      1. Heidi*

        Not sure how she got the romance novel gig, actually. The travel guides would advertise in the university newspaper. Virtually all their proofreaders were students, so the pay was not great, but enough to buy books and incidentals.

  112. Random Thought*

    school bus driver? you’re out and about, it’s not a full day, and depending on the laws where you live, you may be able to collect unemployment over the summer (which you could supplement with a part time summer gig, maybe as a lifeguard or at a theme park?)

  113. irene*

    I’m really grateful for the discussions and suggestions here! I always had a suspicion that I would hate office work, but my family pushed me towards it when I was in school, partly because I didn’t know what other options were available, and when I tried something on the fringe that I genuinely loved, I couldn’t pay the bills. So now i’m in an office and doing okay, but knowing I could be happier, and also still not knowing how to find other options.

    (I have long wanted to be a long-haul trucker, train driver, or electrician, but some of my health issues make trucking or trains bad ideas, and every time I start to talk about electric work, my electrician relatives are brought up and I’m told how hard it is to get into and how unreliable the pay can be and it’s discouraging. But I think i would do well at it! I just….have no real idea how to get started in the modern days (my relatives are mostly retired or have changed careers) or if there might be something that’s an even better fit out there. I like the sound of crane operation…)

    The struggle is needing good health care, and having an aborted attempt at grad school hanging over my head, because I picked the wrong program for what I wanted and ultimately realized the cost of school wasn’t worth it.

    1. Beast from the East*

      I would start by reaching out to legitimate trade schools and community colleges to see what help they can be. Reach out to driving schools that focus on truck driving instructions or reach out to a trucking company. For electrician, you are better of going through the electrician’s union and trying to get an apprenticeship… will learn and get paid at the same time. How much work you can get as an electrician will depend on the job market in your area. I live in the pacific northwest and the construction business is booming I have a friend who is a master electrician who has been consistently working for the last several years. Also try reaching out to your local or state employment office, they will be a big resource as well. Google searches your your friend!! Good luck!

      1. irene*

        thank you for the encouragement!

        i live in a navy town. it’s a logistics/transport hub, and there’s a lot of development. so i definitely have a lot of options if i wanted to go into a trade. i work at a university now, and we have certificate programs for several of them, and there’s plenty of demand for our students in the relevant companies. some of my closer relatives are still contractors or in related work, so i’m sure if i called them up, we could brainstorm. it’s just not something i thought was feasible to switch to in my mid-30s with a grad school student loan needing to be paid, etc., until i saw so many options in this thread! :)

        i need to get my neuroatypicality checked out by a neuropsych and update my diagnosis so i can get appropriate accommodations or otherwise figure out how my brain works, so i can find the right match. i enjoy the work i do now, but i get burnt out really easily because of how cognitively demanding it is. i am much happier when i’m moving around, with different scenery day to day, and working with my hands. my happiest job was receptionist in a museum, and i helped out with a lot of different tasks, had a lot of different things happening every day, got to look out a giant window onto a park all day, and only worked about 30 hours a week. Too bad it didn’t pay the bills, and i still had trouble curbing my wandering impulse.

        1. Just Elle*

          It can absolutely be done!

          My husband switched to the trades when he was 29. He went to school for history never wanting to be a teacher?? And got sick of office politics pretty quickly. He went back to trade school for welding, graduated top of his class (probably in part because of his greater maturity at 29 and appreciation for what options waited for him if he failed), and landed a union job where he makes more than me (an engineer) and has much better healthcare.

          Its true that the trades can be hard to break into, there were a few pretty rough (physically and work-condition-wise) jobs where he ‘paid his dues’ before he got the union job. But its much less true than it used to be. The median age for trade workers is shockingly high. I just looked it up – the median age for electricians is 55. There are a lot of people nearing retirement (especially since many have pensions) and not nearly enough people to replace them.
          Another trade to look into is CNC programming. Not many people with the technical expertise to do that kind of programming who are also willing to work in a machine shop and get their hands dirty. I know when I went to college for engineering, I had a class where I got to try out all different kinds of trades. That might be a great class for you to take and try to find your fit.

        2. Just Elle*

          Oh, and PS, husband is now going back to school (paid for by his job!!!) for his MBA. With that combo he will qualify to be a trades supervisor, which is his ‘back up’ in case his vision/hands/etc ever fail him, or he just plain gets bored and wants to make a bit more money. So the trade could be a stepping stone.

  114. Red 5*

    So, I think it’s likely that you and I have the same sleep disorder. I also went undiagnosed for decades and let me tell you that was not useful for my resume either. I was always a high performer who fizzled out dramatically after about a year. I ended up working retail part time because it felt like all I was good for before my diagnosis. Burned out on that but slower because of fewer working hours but hopping retail jobs is expected.

    I did try the temp and freelance life for a while, but lack of a steady schedule and known routine was actually really, really horrible for my disorder. That was when the cognitive problems started for me.

    That’s not saying that it would be that for you, but it’s a very important thing to consider. I’m lucky that the primary drug treatment for this works well enough for me (to a point). But it absolutely doesn’t work alone, I have to be incredibly vigilant about my routines, including sleep. One late night finishing a freelance job and I’m a mess for a week.

    Also none of the places around here wanted a permanent temp, they only wanted me on their list if I was interested in temp to perm. That could be a location based issue.

    What I’ve ended up with is a mix of freelance, where I get paid really well but it wears me out faster because of the mental load, and a part time job that is mostly sedentary, challenges my mind in ways I love, but doesn’t pay as well. If I’m having a bad week, I can take less freelance work, but can always count on the steady schedule and paycheck from my part time job. But I have to be strict with the office job that I can’t work afternoons because that’s when my brain just stops functioning well enough and I’m useless to them, meds or not. I’m super lucky that they support me with that accommodation.

    But anyway, there’s a lot of things to consider in this kind of situation, but this is the solution that’s worked for me for almost ten years now. Steady schedules and routines have played a more important role in symptom management than the medication, so I’d just be careful not to discount that when you are considering options.

    For the work day, there are a lot of coping mechanisms I use to combat the cognitive difficulty that comes with the disorder. I nabbed most of them from suggestions for working with ADHD. Coming up with go to strategies for these things will help no matter what career path you end up taking.

    Also, if you just want to vent to somebody dealing with similar stress, reply here and I’ll give you some contact info. I know all too well how easy it is to slip into depression with this, especially when the diagnosis is fresh. I’m happy to listen and/or talk. It gets isolating when nobody you know actually really _gets_ it.

  115. Jackie*

    Sole-proprietor consulting. Basically freelance and temp work but instead of a lot of temporary employers you have lots of temporary clients.

  116. Won’t someone think of the librarians?*

    My sympathies! I have narcolepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome.

    Lots of great suggestions already. If you’d like another, have you considered librarianship?

    Im sure balance could be found in different kinds, but I’m a clinical librarian; I provide point of need research help in several different departments in the hospital. It’s sedentary in that I spend a lot of time sitting in meetings, but have to move around between several buildings throughout the day to get to all of those meetings. I have relatively consistent hours, but what I’m actually doing every day is different. The regular spacial and subject transitions really help me, without being so physically demanding that it’d wear me out.

  117. Sleve McDichael*

    So I haven’t read all the comments above, but my suggestion would be to become a teacher’s aide:

    – Part-time
    – On your feet most of the time
    – A new class every year will bring completely different challenges, it’s pretty much a new job
    – Often you don’t have to concentrate for much longer than an 8 year old
    – Summer job is completely different to winter job (planning, setting up classrooms etc)
    – Career path progression into actual teaching if your focus gets better over time

    Whatever you choose, I wish you good luck!

  118. History Geek*

    Big things you need to do a) get a disability lawyer b) get in touch with your states workforce commission. You are more likely to win a disability case with a lawyer advocating for you and the workforce commission can figure out if there is supported employment you can do and if so how much or if your disability removes the possibility of supported employment that is fessable. And during all of it never describe your condition and ablities as what they are on your best day/week but on your worst of worst days/weeks.

  119. Cascadia*

    Ski resort in the winter as a ski lift operator or working in operations? Summers as a park ranger, trail work, construction?

  120. nora*

    Back in the day I was a temp at a company that built power plants. They hired a lot of welders to do seasonal repairs in the spring and fall, off in summer and winter. The pay was very good, but they had to be certified and my understanding is that the certification process can be difficult and takes a while. You gotta figure if they only need welders part-time, they’d need other folks on the same schedule, though.

  121. Tech guru*

    Cruise ships do this. You can work at a casino for example, $10/day, they guarantee a minimum in $1000 in tips per month and food/board is covered. You work for 6 months during busy season and then are off for 6 months.

  122. Leaving for Paris*

    I had a coworker who did pet sitting om the side and loved it. The company she worked with was local. It looks like there are a lot of options online. That might be a nice option to supplement between seasonal and temp jobs.

  123. E*

    If you are otherwise healthy and like the outdoors you could look into wildland firefighting. It’s tough work, but you max out at sixth months a year and can support yourself for a full year if you’re frugal.

    Alternatively there are non-fire range and forestry aid jobs through the DoI agencies and the forest service. You also max out at six months. You don’t need a physical, but you’re not going to get the overtime you would with a fire job.

  124. FairPayFullBenefits*

    Just throwing out some ideas – substitute teacher, driver’s ed teacher, SAT prep teacher, ESL teacher, ski lift operator, trail clearing, teaching English online, nannying/babysitting. Or gig economy jobs, like dog-walking, Uber driver, TaskRabbit. Or if you’re interested in traveling or moving abroad, look into WorkAway, working holiday visas, teaching English, working on sailboats. A lot of tourism-related jobs can be seasonal too, like tour guides and most outdoor activities (depending on where you live!). I hope you find something that works!

  125. Rewe*

    my BF is an accountat that does contracting. They are usually about 3-6 months. Agency places him somewhere where they need help. Usually the places are not great places to work (that’s why they need a contractor) but the pay is significantly better than to a permanent employees. This similar contracting is avaiable to other jobs aswell but it requires there to be a demand for it.

    There are different opportunities at ships where you work there for 4-6 months and then have 4-6 months off. Also seasonal jobs in the winter such as ski resorts. There are restaurants, hotels, ski, afterski, walks etc. Maybe a tourist guide in a holiday destination?

  126. Megan*

    If you’re outgoing, I’d consider working as a brand ambassador and then moving towards tour management once you get enough experience. These jobs are either event based for 1-5 days at a time for BA’s or months for tours. Also pays well. Fairly easy work and you move around a lot. You might also comsider working at a resort or seasonal job in the entertainment/tourism industry in your area.

  127. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

    Petsitting, kennel tech, vet assisting – I guarantee you falling asleep will not happen. I have chronic fatigue syndrome, and have worked as a petsitter, kennel tech, and vet assistant for 15 years – and have never fallen asleep on the job (well, once or twice, with the petsitting, with the last dog of the day who didn’t want me to leave, or whatever.). This field offers plenty of mental engagement, with petsitting being the least exhausting of the three. It doesn’t make a ton of money, unless you go with a larger company, or go into business as a petsitter for yourself, where you can set your own fees (this works out better in a larger city, as people with more disposable income tend to pay a little more) and pick how many dogs a day you’re willing to walk. You DO have to be a reasonably confident dog handler, though; some dogs are easygoing, some are basically Crash Bandicoot on steroids, and others are the Tasmanian Devil to deal with. Or you could go all cat, as there aren’t many people doing exclusively cats. I have a couple vet tech friends who decided to go full time cat care, and they’re making a decent amount of money at it… come to think of it, all my retired vet tech friends are petsitting and making money at it.

  128. Shoes On My Cat*

    Road Construction! I used to live in Wyoming and Colorado and quite
    a few people did flagging for the crews. Some then switched to being “lifties” at the ski resorts for the winter. Road crews get paid really well (yes, dangerous), but you might also get tired enough from moving all day that your body might actually learn to sleep? Also, as above, high end/ four star or higher …..hotel banquet staff. They split the tips and work tends to slow down seasonally, so there’s your rest time. One of our regular guys (11 years) just bought his SECOND rental house for retirement income one day! They make $$$ at the good hotels (be sure to ask about quantity of corporate events & weddings (corporate tips more & hours are better, weddings are fun and the stories are great!) Good luck!!

  129. Kathryn*

    There is a lot of seasonal work options around national parks. I spent four years through college working in Alaska during the summers (there were many other young people, but many not so young.) Some wilderness lodges offer free room and board during your employment, and there’s really not a lot to buy, so you leave with a healthy savings you can travel on, live off, whatever you want! The work is usually not sedentary. I had various roles including groundskeeping, hosting guests, and working in the kitchen. Most of the work isn’t glamorous, unless you are a qualified to be a guide or something, usually they are cleaning and service jobs, but done in some of the most beautiful places on earth. I got to meet a lot of interesting people, living very non traditional lifestyles, many who has traveled all over the world. Some even spent the northern summer in Alaska, and the southern summers working in Antarctica! The trick to to find a place with a good culture, some can be very party or hook up oriented (no shame if that’s your thing), or run by mega corporations and pretty exploitative (bringing in a lot of staff from foreign countries), but the place I worked had a great reputation and overall was an incredible experience. My life is much different now and people can’t believe when I tell them I used to live in the Alaskan backcountry. The other perk was it’s where I met my husband!

  130. Noah*

    It’s worth nothing that even though OP (apparently) does not qualify for disability benefits, she is almost certainly protected from discrimination by the ADA.

  131. Tiffany*

    Getting to this late, but wanted to say: cruise ships! I work 7 month contracts and then take a vacation for a few months. The pay isn’t great, but you have no rent and no food cost, so it’s really easy to save a significant amount (about 5-6k per contract, if you manage your money well).

  132. Aly*

    I don’t know if someone’s suggested this — but university conference centers employ people during term time a lot and then you have long periods of breaks! I know someone who works at one near a famous national park and she works September – November, and then again from February – May, rest of the year off. Free room and board while you’re there; it seems like the dream to me!

  133. Lilpadfoot16*

    I recommend working for an inventory company. I used to work for RGIS, and they’re international. I don’t know much about the competition, WIS. But if you don’t mind crazy odd hours, you can work as little or as much as you want taking inventory for stores who don’t want to do it themselves.

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