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Forums / Young people / Feel empty, struggling with purpose/goals

Topic: Feel empty, struggling with purpose/goals

5 posts, 0 answered
  1. Angst19
    Angst19 avatar
    5 posts
    12 March 2021


    I just finished my third degree last year and have been looking for work for a while. Other than that I am trying to do things I am interested in, but I find myself questioning the point of doing things I enjoyed doing before and often can't find the motivation. When I think of the reasons to do something (e.g. earn money, help others, make others happy, impress others or for enjoyment) none of them interest me and I don't know what will make me happy in the long term. As a result, nothing interests me and I spend a lot of time playing games and watching movies to escape the mundanity and I feel guilty that I'm wasting time.

    I have been looking for work for a while but I don't know what I want to do and have never really known. When recruitment agencies ask me that question (and annoy the hell out of me), I reply with "Anything I can do" or "anything that matches my resume skills." My mother sometimes yells at me frustrated that I don't know what I want. I did a bit of paid and volunteer work last year at a school but have been unable to do that this year due to new COVID restrictions, but I am currently doing a bit of volunteer work on weekends as an accompanist.

    I studied an Arts degree and an education certificate mostly because I felt pressured by my parents and didn't know anything else I wanted to study. Before that I studied Music because I enjoyed performing and composing, but now I often don't enjoy it and ask myself what's the point. I guess I worked really hard to finish my degrees and feel it has been a waste of time and effort because I can't find work that uses them, and I am afraid of making another fruitless investment of my time and energy. I also had a very stressful experience during work experience in 2019 that a counsellor I saw described as "traumatic" and that I might still be recovering from.

    One night a week I have dinner with friends from school and once a week I do a morning walk with a local group but usually I can't have meaningful conversations with them because I can't think of things to say and end up just listening and feeling left out. I talk to friends on Facebook but mostly small talk and the conversations don't last long because I don't know what to say to keep them going. These friends are either interstate/overseas or are busy. I have tried joining Meetup groups but feel I can't connect with anyone because I rarely have anything to say, so often lonely.

    Can anyone relate or give any advice?


  2. sunnyl20
    Valued Contributor
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    sunnyl20 avatar
    203 posts
    12 March 2021 in reply to Angst19

    Hi Angst19,

    I'm really sorry to hear that you have been struggling. Please know that you are not alone in what you are experiencing. Finding work that gives you meaning and enjoyment can be really difficult, especially when you are not sure what that looks like for you. It may be that continuing with a combination of paid & volunteer work for a little bit is the best option for now, until you figure out a clearer idea of where you might want to pursue work long term. It might be a good idea to consider where you have worked in the past and what you liked and/or disliked about these jobs e.g. did you enjoy working at a school, what did you like about it? do you enjoy working with children?

    If you can, I would really encourage you to continue doing the things that you enjoy/used to enjoy - it can be hard when you are lacking motivation but withdrawing will more than likely leave you feeling worse in the long run. Also, what you enjoy doesn't have to have a specific purpose or point to it. Often there is a lot of emphasis in media/society about constantly doing, achieving and being productive but this can be really corrosive. We are human beings, not human "doings" - you need time to relax and enjoy whatever your hobbies are, this is not wasting time!

    I understand what you mean in terms of friends and socialising. It sounds like you are really wanting to connect with others but haven't found people you really click with (yet). It shows a lot of courage that you have continued to pursue this despite feeling unsure and finding it challenging - good on you, it can take a lot of time and effort. I know how disheartening and frustrating it can feel when you are putting yourself out there and making an effort, only to feel like you are left out and not getting anything from it. Just an idea, but would you see any of the friends from school for something other than a dinner, or see any of them just the two of you for coffee or a walk or something? Work and volunteering can be another way to meet people, as well as music groups and book groups (gives you something in common to talk about). It may be helpful to identify exactly what is causing you to feel unable to interact when you are out with others - are you anxious, unsure, nervous?

    I just want you to know that I hear you, and I understand what you are saying. Please feel free to reach out any time when you feel up to it. We are here to listen. Take care.

  3. Angst19
    Angst19 avatar
    5 posts
    12 March 2021 in reply to sunnyl20

    Hi Sunnyl20,

    Thank you for replying.

    Regarding the advice about thinking about my past work, it was actually my first job so it's hard to tell. There are some positives, but it can be difficult. It is really what I am doing, or trying to do, to earn money while I try to figure out what career I want.

    Regarding socialising, I do see some of them from time to time for other things, e.g. a coffee. Regarding when I have trouble connecting it's partly all of those. Here is what I think often happens:

    1) Nothing comes to mind/I don't know how to respond when they say something, e.g. if the topic is something I don't know anything about, because I can't contribute anything relevant - e.g. conversations about their job/field, people I don't know, shows I haven't seen.

    2) I can think of a brief response to a question but cannot think of something to say to elaborate on that response in the moment.

    3) If the conversation isn't one on one, people are always talking so I have to interrupt people to get a word in - subconsciously I think it's rude to interrupt people which makes me too hesitant to speak.

    or occasionally, 4) I do have something to say but don't say it because I think it's inappropriate or don't think it will go down well.

  4. sunnyl20
    Valued Contributor
    • A special award for members who go above and beyond to support others here on the forums
    sunnyl20 avatar
    203 posts
    14 March 2021 in reply to Angst19

    It is not unusual to not enjoy your first job, that's okay. Most people go through quite a few different jobs before they get to where they want to be, and it may take a few different jobs to find the aspects of working that you do or don't like. Have you thought about trying a few job searches with different filters to read about jobs that are out there to see what does/doesn't appeal you? Not necessarily to apply but just to see what is out there. But again, I know it is easier said than done, try not to be disheartened if you feel that you are not where you want to be right now, or if you don't know where you want to be - that's okay too.

    With socialising, I think it is important to recognise your strengths - it sounds like you have got a good group of school friends and regular meet ups with them which is great. They clearly value your friendship and enjoy hanging out with you. I know I said previously, but you are definitely not alone in finding socialising difficult. Developing friendships and making conversation can be really hard, especially if you are not feeling confident in yourself. But I think finding people with similar interests, similar sense of humour and people you click with helps. If you are not familiar with what the other person is talking about, showing interest, asking questions, and being honest helps, maybe using something they are chatting about as a segue to talk about a show you are enjoying or an aspect of your job that you find interesting. Being in a group bigger than three and getting a word in can be hard, especially if you are hesitant to speak up, but conversation is not always a neat back and forth, people speak up in between too without it necessarily being out of turn. But if you don't feel comfortable talking up, you don't have to. Have you been able to find any groups or opportunities that you might be able to meet similar people? Or could you hang out with one of your school friends one on one or see if a mutual friend wants to hang out with both of you?

    If you find the social side of things is distressing, and/or is significantly impacting your mood and functioning, it may be helpful to seek the support and advice of a counsellor or psychologist who may be able to help you to develop strategies and skills to improve your confidence in socializing and connecting with others.

    Please reach out again if and when you feel like it. Take care.

    1 person found this helpful
  5. felix mendelssohn
    felix mendelssohn avatar
    61 posts
    17 March 2021

    Hey Angst,

    Sadly I don't have very much advice to give you, but I'm happy to share some thoughts anyway. You sound like you're in a very similar situation to myself. I have recently graduated with a degree in music, but I too am at a total loss as to what to do with myself, and have consequently buried myself in distractions in order to avoid the issue. Like you, I'm afraid of making further investment in studies that are only going to provide a negligible improvement to my employability.

    I think we are of a similar disposition in that what we commit ourselves to as a vocation needs to be something meaningful and personally fulfilling, which is a really hard criteria to fill. Putting a positive spin on it, I think that this means we have the foresight and self-awareness not to charge headfirst and trap ourselves in the thorny brambles of a soul-draining and ultimately deleterious career, and it also suggests the presence of a social/world consciousness and idealistic mindset which is pretty admirable. Of course, society has a nasty habit of making us feel terrible for not conforming to the traditional route through life, and it's very understandable to start doubting one's role and worth in the world, comparing oneself to others who succeed according to the 'recognised metrics', and not having money/relying on welfare can be degrading in itself. I have no real advice to offer here, but I just want to stress that I do empathise. You and your thinking are not flawed.

    It's unfortunate that your mother is giving you a hard time about this. I am guessing that it probably comes from a place of frustration at your situation, not at you as a person. If it is actually directed at you and she's calling you lazy or something like that, then that's regrettable and she's in the wrong imo.

    Regarding socialisation, I would be interested to know what it is that YOU enjoy talking about? What are your passions and the things that you could hold a conversation about? It may just be that you have niche (but in no way less valid) interests which are hard to broach in small talk. If this is the case, you could consider linking the current subject through a related topic to something that you are more comfortable and enthusiastic talking about (as Sunny suggested in the previous post).

    All the best and I hope this helps in some small way!


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