Behind a cut for mention of child abuse, sexual abuse, and abuse from a therapist. See also, bullying about weight and fat-shaming. Basically a bingo card of triggering, problematic shit and a very awesome Letter Writer trying to handle it all gracefully. ❤
Behind a cut for discussions of food & compulsive eating.
Hi Captain! I hope today is treating you gently. 🙂
Last year, I (twentysomething, they/them) moved across the country to be with my partner. The relationship is good and healthy! The town is friendly, walkable-ish, mild weather, etc. When I visited, I could see myself living here – and more importantly, working at this one specific business. (Uh-oh, right?!
I had worked in a specialized retail shop for years in my previous city. My entire life basically revolved around this particular lifestyle. I loved having conversations about shared ideologies all day and getting to explore products and methods that came up in the environment surrounding me. I’m going back to school to specialize in this field, and want to work in it for the rest of my career.
There’s only one business in this industry in my new, much smaller town, so I applied. They were hiring full-time for several positions to start in a few months and needed someone with my exact experience, so I thought I had a good chance. I had a bit of a time crunch with my lease, so I moved to this new town without securing a job first. (Yikes!)
I went through the lengthy interview process at Dream Business once and then was invited back. But the winter, repeated rejections elsewhere, dwindling savings, and not knowing anyone in town apart from my partner had really put me in a dark place, mental-health-wise. I stumbled through this interview, misspoke, wasn’t prepared enough, got so anxious I frantically emailed the interviewer in the middle of the night about a mistake I had made and had panic attacks about it for days afterward. Unsurprisingly, about three weeks later I got a curt email that basically boiled down to, “we didn’t think you were a good fit, don’t ask for feedback.” It was devastating – I didn’t see myself having any other options in town after this place.
Luckily, I’m now medicated, in therapy, employed (though not in my field), and going back to school – so things have looked up since then.
BUT. I miss this industry – socially, intellectually, ethically. Imagine you’re really into…specialty coffee. And this Dream Business is the only place in town where you can get your…organic, locally roasted, shade-grown beans, and everyone who shares your views and interests also shops here and talks about it constantly. I’m absolutely mortified at the thought of going back in. In my mind, I screwed this up so badly that I can’t ever go back! I’d rather MOVE TOWNS than go inside while my interviewers might be working, but I want to put my money where my mouth is, values-wise. And I miss shopping for my specialty goods, and this Dream Business is my only option locally.
What would you do? Do you or would any readers have any scripts, battle plans, suggestions for full-body disguises so I can go shop without panicking about having to interact with people I feel super embarrassed about seeing?
Dear Captain Awkward:
I’m a grown-ass woman who has been through a few cycles of therapy that have (along with medication) helped my stress, anxiety, and ADHD. I’ve gotten to a point where I am financially self-sufficient, comfortable in my life and community, and blessed with a strong friends network. I’m not in a relationship and have no desire to pursue one. I’m ok.
Now I’m at the point where therapy always screws me up. It’s time to talk about setting long term goals. And…I don’t know what my long term goals are.
I’ve tried career counseling and I run into the same thing. I’d like to make more money. I can list things I’m good at. I don’t understand how to translate those into a better or different job and when I try to articulate this people tell me I have a lot of options and it depends on what I want to do. And there is nowhere to go from there. I have been at the same job for 12 years with no advancement even though as far as I can tell I am dependable and do good work. (I’ve applied for other positions in the same organization and never gotten one, and my precise job description is not one that transfers to another field or organization).
It seems like trying to do something else professionally is within my reach — a general overview of my accomplishments is greeted with ‘oh there are plenty of ways to use that’ but everything misfires at the point of ‘what do you want to do?’ ‘Oh I’m willing to try lots of [soft skills, writing and communicating, etc]’ ‘But what do you want to do?’ Very quickly I feel like a fool.
This doesn’t just apply to my personal life but creative work (writing, blogging) etc. The thing is I’ve been involved in some extremely fun and fulfilling projects and organizations but they always seem to result from serendipity. They’re not things I can ‘complete or ‘sell’ in the long term. Occasionally I’m jealous of people who have creative success or large audiences but generally speaking I don’t want the payoff enough to do it.
Basically, I’ve never had long term goals in my life and I don’t know how to start now. I don’t know WHY to start now, I just know that when I talk to my therapist in a couple weeks, I will cry and feel bad because I don’t have good answers (or I will make some shit up that I don’t really want to do.)
PS this has nothing to do with lockdown, I’m actually less stressed out working from home than I have been for a long time, and even before the economy tanked I felt the same about planning the future.
-Not Ambitious and Why Should I Be
Hello! It’s Monday!
I wrote a piece for Vice about how to ride out quarantine when it means moving back in with the same people you wrote to me for advice about “surviving” holiday visits with.
It’s a good match for Miss Conduct’s column this week: “My daughter’s ‘useless’ boyfriend is sheltering in place with us: Help!”.
I love Robin’s take:
“Start assigning chores and asking him to pitch in financially. The fact that you didn’t do so before hasn’t created some sort of precedent barring you from ever doing so — a fallacy people often subscribe to. Nor does it mean any blame needs to be placed for past behavior.
And then let. It. Go. Stop thinking of this man as your daughter’s future husband. You will go crazy thinking about the future too much. He’s not your son-in-law right now. He’s a foxhole buddy, hunkered down with people he clearly feels wary of. Your goal should be to create and maintain sufficient structure for all of you to share space and resources equitably for however long this lasts. That’s it. That’s enough.”
Are some people being really bad guests and roommates during lockdown? Oh yeah. However, one person’s “useless” is another person who offered to help and was told “No! You’re a guest!” and didn’t know that there was a magic number of times he had to offer and be refused before he was allowed to help or another person’s “I’m going to go hang out by myself and give everyone some privacy.” As stated earlier, you can wait a long time for someone to both notice what you need and actually do it, so if you need something done, ask and be very, very specific.
My piece is part of Vice’s very good (independent of my own contributions) How To Stay In series, which has everything from how to handle being alone right now, ideas for safe socially-distanced date nights, how to structure your days when time has no meaning, how to talk to a partner about the future of your relationship when the future seems like a nebulous concept, and the excellent “What To Do When Everyone Needs Support But You’re Only One Person” that :checks inbox: NINETEEN of you need to read immediately. ❤ I especially like the concept of a “care budget” where you figure out what you need to be OK and function first and then figure out what you can do for others.
Are your roommates not taking the pandemic seriously? Here’s how to try to talk to them. One thing I’m noticing in the inbox is that if you are the stickler roommate (I would be the stickler roommate) your roommates might be sort of displacing their worry and anger at not being able to go out and do things onto you, like you are the barrier to their enjoyment of life, and I think this sucks a lot and it’s okay to push back. “You can’t go on ‘just a little weekend trip’ to visit your parents because there’s a contagious illness that makes people drown inside their lungs, not because I’m being mean. It’s okay to be mad – I’m angry too – but it’s not okay to take it out on me or blame me!”
Wondering why video chat therapy kinda sucks and how to make it better? (No lie, I took a break from therapy for a few weeks because I could not handle any more talking about feelings in a format that I baseline find exhausting. I’m back in this week, but I’m glad I took a break to reset).
Looking for ways to hang out with friends on Zoom beyond “how…are…you” or “just catching up”? Several people wrote in about this and the answer is: You might need time limits & structured activities.
I’m going to write about this one more, but I want to put Brandy Jensen’s excellent Ask A Fuck Up answer here while I’m thinking about it: “How Do I Figure Out What I Want In Life When Every Day Feels The Same?” :chef’s kiss:
Comments are open. I’d like to know:
- What is one link or online resource you have personally found helpful in processing pandemic manners, self-care, and/or interpersonal conflicts this week? (No medical advice or “medical” advice or medical “advice,” please).
- Please keep it to one link per comment (the spam filter and your moderator’s eyes will be happier) and please tell us a little bit about why you chose it.
- Not everything will be useful to everybody, but before you start an argument with a fellow poster about why something won’t work or isn’t useful, consider sharing something you personally find useful instead. Thank you!
My inbox has at least 40 questions with the theme “Dear Captain Awkward, how do I stay productive right now?” stacking up in it right now.
We are living through a collective trauma on a massive scale. People are dying. The right wing government in the USA is making it worse and gaslighting and abusing us daily. Every routine and touchstone that we used to count on is being upended, many of the things we took for granted to make life easier and more convenient (and free up brain space to be “more productive”) are unavailable, as in, it sometimes takes me about four days to figure out how to safely and ethically get groceries.
My executive function is sketchy at the best of times, and please know that sometimes when I open these emails about productivity I am roughly four days away from a shower at any given time and have just had to reset my email password – again – because I keep forgetting things I used to know handily. And I am a relatively lucky person who can stay home and make choices about what I do with my time and mostly in what order, since I’m not doing exhausting shift work, nor am I not trying to provide round-the-clock childcare or suddenly become a one-room-schoolhouse teacher responsible for multiple grade levels like many of you are.
I do propose a method for you to try to try to regain some control of your days, if you are willing to take advice from a naturally disorganized person. This is not as ridiculous as it sounds, since advice from competent, organized people who make goals and then make lists about those goals and then diligently do the lists to achieve those goals has never really worked for me (if any of it worked it would, like, work already?). No, I need the advice from people who are like “Here is how to maybe claw your way out of the depths of your own failure and outrun your self-sabotaging urges at least some of the time, godspeed little doodle.”
The process has distinct steps and it’s actually important that you do each step on its own without combining them or peeking ahead. You’ll need some blank paper (or a blank spreadsheet or word processing document) and something to write with.
Step 1: Make four columns.
Step 2: Label the first column “What”
Step 3: Ignore the other columns for now. We’re doing this one at a time.
Step 4: In the “What” column, write down everything you need to do, have to do, want to do, think you should do, wish you could do, aspire to do, or worry that you’ll forget to do over the next month.
It is okay to mix work, home, personal, parenting tasks up in any order. Do not attempt to prioritize tasks or organize them logically at this time, I promise you will get to do that later. It’s actually important (to my thinking) that this be a brainstorm where you have permission to write things down in the order they occur to you without having to triage or feel anything in particular about them at this stage. Work fast, you can always add more things later if you forget something.
I realize that freaks some of you out a lot, and if you are one of those people, a spreadsheet or table (vs. a sheet of paper) is going to be your best bet because at the end of this process you can add a fifth column for “work” “home” “body/health” “kids” etc. and use that to sort later.
Stop reading until you’ve done this part.
I realize it is going to make some of you feel insane to start designing something without knowing what the end product is, but I promise you that “one column at a time” is important and it will make sense later and that I will not leave you hanging with this mess.
Got your list?