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Hello! It’s time for the monthly ritual where I answer short questions and give priority to the patrons who keep the lights on and the web-hamsters running. We’ve got twelve questions this week, I’ve written up the first batch and will post the rest later in the weekend. Topics: Passive-aggressive coworkers, celebrating a climb out of depression, figuring out fit a new job, settling in in a new town, becoming a therapist to the stars, and becoming better at conflict.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

When I was laid off from ~the first job I ever loved~ earlier this year, it caused me to put every aspect of my life under a microscope.

I graduated from my small town university about two years ago, and this job was one of the most wonderful things to happen to me. My boss was a wonderful, inspirational person who gave me the opportunity to be creative within my position, and I felt valuable and needed. She had become like a mentor to me, as I had also studied her native language in college, and we shared many interests. Completely out of the blue, I got the word from her husband that they decided to sell the small business I worked for. I had no idea that this was even a possibility, and they didn’t even give me a heads up. I got a new job less than a month after they sold the company, which was a small relief. The new job is okay, but since I live in an area where there aren’t many jobs for young people, I had to settle for lower wages and a monotonous work environment.

When I was laid off, I was more depressed than I had been in years. Although I knew the selling of the company wasn’t my fault, I still felt like the entire world I’d built up wasn’t what I’d made it out to be. While I’ve recovered a bit, in my recovery, I started to wonder that maybe my life is going in a direction that isn’t really making me happy, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

This brings me to my next point. The man I’m engaged to (I’ll call him “T” here) is a wonderful, adventurous person, but we also still live in our small hometown. I feel like part of the reason my anxiety has been off the charts lately is that it’s a toxic environment for me to live in. Many people we know have gotten into drug addiction, have committed suicide, or get married and have children very young so we don’t see them often. Every time I travel, I notice that I feel so much happier in places that are basically anywhere but the place I attended high school and college in. I was also diagnosed with PTSD as a result of my previous boyfriend’s car accident that gave him permanent brain damage, so that memory still haunts my hometown, even if I’ve moved past my former boyfriend in a romantic sense.

I keep hinting that we could find a new town to live in, but T seems set on making our hometown work, since it’s cheap to live here and we’re doing okay financially with our current jobs. The thing is, while he has a few close friends that live near us, almost all of my friends live over an hour and a half away from me. I feel lonely, even though I have T’s company (we love to go hiking and camping together, he’s all about discussing feminist issues with me, and we’ve even has a great time traveling to another country!), and not having a support system outside of my fiance, dog, and parents has been difficult.

Then, an incident happened last week that made a side of my fiance come out that doesn’t show itself often, but isn’t pleasant when it presents itself. Driving tends to trigger panic attacks for me, and it took me years to be able to ride in a car without picturing my former boyfriend’s accident (we don’t have public transit where I live, unfortunately). I’ve since learned how to drive, but it is still difficult for me. When I was in a stressful driving situation last week in which I had to drive myself, T became frustrated and snapped at me. He thinks that telling me to drive myself *every time* is making me “strong,” but I explained that when I feel prone to an anxiety attack, me being on the road is not safe for anyone. While T is usually empathetic, sometimes the way he acts toward me when I’m having my panic attacks shifts dramatically between cold, confused, and supportive rapidly, even when I try to explain to him rationally what is happening, and what he can do to help. He works with children on the autism spectrum, and for some reason, I feel like he is trying to “condition” me the way he does his students, and I’ve tried to tell him “please don’t do that. I have a therapist who helps me with this just fine. I am able to help myself, and all I need is your support.”

Most of the people I know see me as a happy, outgoing person, and even my closest friends wouldn’t be able to guess that I’m going through a crisis. I’ve internalized most of it and don’t really know *how* to speak about it without melting down, because there’s so much conflicting within me. My therapist has been great when it comes to my anxiety attacks, but I also think input from someone else would be helpful. I’m trying to get my life in gear and figure out what I even want to do (I want to get into a different career, but I have no idea where to start, since I can’t afford grad school), but I am worried my life is going in a direction that doesn’t leave me a wide variety of options.

Sincerely,

Quarter Life Crisis

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Dear Captain Awkward,

Background: I’m losing my home to gentrification. I’m disabled and receive rent assistance from the housing authority. After what I’d planned as a fun day out (I’ve been severely agoraphobic lately and trying to force myself to get out more) became an unpleasant evening waiting for buses in the cold, damp, dark, I came home to a notice on my door that my apartment complex will no longer be participating in the Housing Assistance Program”. My lease is up January 31st. I don’t have the emotional, practical, or financial resources to move. I recently had a bout of bronchitis that put me in the hospital for a few days, I’m having one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve ever had that wasn’t directly triggered by a crisis (and I’d been taking some very difficult steps to try and get help beyond the inadequate care I’m currently receiving but not making much progress), and now I have a major crisis.

Don’t worry, that’s not what I’m asking your advice on.

Some needed background: My relationship with my mom got very strained after I hit puberty. I moved out when I was 16, and only stayed with her briefly (as in, a few weeks) when I was 19 and ending a relationship with an extremely abusive boyfriend. She wouldn’t take any money for rent, even though I was working full-time then, and she’d turned my bedroom into a sewing room. I was allowed to sleep in the corner and hang some clothes on a rack at the foot of it, and I wasn’t given keys; I had to have all my comings and goings at her convenience. When a guy who was interested in me called, she made a derisive remark about how they were sniffing around already. She tried to put me in a group home. I moved in to the first cheap rented room I could find. About a year later I moved to Texas. I’ve only seen her once since, and that was less than two years after the move; eighteen years ago. She’s sort of a cross between Joyce Summers and Sylvia Noble, to use a little shorthand. Over the past few months we’ve been tentatively planning for her to visit in March, which was a Seriously Big Deal for me.

I was going to email her to let her know about the crisis and suggest holding off on plans until I’d somehow worked something out. But my mother doesn’t like email; she’s told me that computers are what she uses at work and she doesn’t like using them when she doesn’t have to. I’m fairly telephone-phobic at the best of times, but since I was hoping to catch her before she bought plane tickets I called her.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m 24 and preparing to finally move out of my parents’ house for good (I know – a successful adult, I’m not). Unfortunately I don’t have a job right now; I’ve got some money saved up from when I did have one, but not enough to be able to rent an apartment all by myself for very long. Fortunately, I have two lovely friends who have offered to let me move in with them. Which is, actually, where the problem comes in. I like Friend A a lot, and moving in with her would in many ways be the sensible decision. But I have a long-standing crush on Friend B which I have recently learned is reciprocated, which makes moving in with her simultaneously tempting and potentially a Really Bad Idea.

To elaborate further on the situation:

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Hello Captain,

For the past seven years I have worked in a fantastic office for a great company. I love my job, my coworkers are like family, and I have an excellent relationship with my boss and all of the management above me. The only bad thing, however, is that this company is located in a big city in a flat part of the country and I am done with city living. DONE. My partner and I share a vision of rural living, in the mountains, in the woods, far from urban or suburban sprawl.

It’s no secret around my office that I long for a country life, but these plans are starting to get a bit more tangible, like things might happen as early as this summer. So, how and when do I talk to my boss? Here are the things to consider: 1) this job is my only professional experience in my field, and really my only “grown-up” job, so I will need to list my supervisors as references for any new employment possibilities. 2) There is a possibility of continuing to work for my current employer after relocating on a seasonal part-time. I don’t know details, though, because it’s always been thrown around as a “oh yeah that could happen talk to me when it comes up” sort of thing. 3) While relocating could happen as early as this summer, there’s an equal chance that plans might not move that quickly. I need to either find a job (see problem one) or have a solid sense of how much I could earn from seasonal work (see problem two). I don’t want to disrupt my current professional life for a whole lotta maybes, but I can’t really get plans rolling without resolving numbers one and two.

Thanks Captain Awkward,
Fleeing the City

Dear Fleeing,

Thanks for your question.  I think the actual conversation with your boss and working things out will be the easy part of this, given the relationship you describe and given that (s)he has said “Okay, that could work, talk to me when it comes up” about the possibility of seasonal work.

What you have here is a research project, followed by a plan, followed by a decision, followed by a conversation.  Because when you sit your boss down for a conversation (this advice is for everyone), you need to have a response to the question “So, okay, what do you want?”

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