Dear Red: I Need Hope

Dear Red,

I am at a loss on what to do. I'm in my early 30s, have a good job and am currently single. I live where I grew up and have never felt like I fit in here - not with my family, not with most people around me. I have been trying to move to the big city for nearly a year now but with little success due to crazy visa rules. I got really depressed for a while after I would get my hopes up about a potential job only to get rejected...repeatedly. I got very depressed and, frankly, I kind of lost my zest for life. At the start of this year, I decided that I needed snap out of it - I gave up on my big city dreams and tried to find some happiness in my small town. I joined a local sports team and created an online dating profile - I really put myself out there. I met a great guy within weeks. For the first time in many, many years, I felt amazing.

Then things started to crack a bit but I held on. After a whirlwind courtship, the great guy turned out to be more enamored with dating multiple woman than just me. This was discovered after a friend stumbled across his dating profile on another online dating site. I very quickly removed myself from that unhealthy situation. It has become more and more apparent that I have very little true talent for my new sport. I still haven't made it out of the training phase. Regardless, I still held my head up and plugged along.

About the time I started to get bummed out again, I stumbled across a fantastic job posting in the big city that I was perfect for. Turns out, I knew the person who would be my boss and he was thrilled to hear I would be interested. My excitement was barely contained and I applied. Interviews are scheduled for this coming Wednesday but I still haven't heard back if I've even made the cut. I called HR on Friday and they said anyone who gets to be interviewed would be notified over the weekend. Its now past deadline and I haven't heard a peep.

So my fragile state is held in the balance by this potential job. I kinda feel like this is make or break for me. I am trying not to pin too many hopes on this position but at this point - its the only positive thing in my life. I'm so unhappy with my life and can feel myself falling into a depression again. I just need to get out of here. I truly don't know what I'll do if I don't get even an interview for this position. I know everything happens for a reason but come on! I feel like I can't get a break. So how do I overcome this urge to give up, hide under my bedcovers and mourn my pathetic life?

Thanks for your help!

Needing Hope

Dear Needing Hope,

Oh lord, I've been where you are...where the entire universe seems to be conspiring against you, no matter how hard you try. And seriously, it seems like you're really trying to make things better for yourself, which I'm a huge advocate of. I'm so impressed with how you're trying to put yourself out there and better your life.

BUT, the other thing I'm learning to be an advocate of is quitting. Yes, quitting. When I was a little girl, my parents squelched any signs of "quit" in me...I had to finish EVERYTHING, including my cold vegetables from dinner the night before that made me gag. I had to finish sports I hated, projects I despised, even stick with unhealthy friendships, just because, "WE ARE NOT QUITTERS."

And while there is a huge part of those lessons that have been amazing character building exercises, there is also some inherent danger in that, because it took me a hell of a long time to realize, "I really don't have to do this."

It was scary at first. I think the biggest one was my marriage. If I wasn't "allowed" to quit on my vegetables, I certainly wasn't allowed to quit on my marriage. But I did. And it was scary, and sad, and awful. It was also freeing, and beautiful, and one of the best things I ever did for myself. I learned through that time that the only person who has the power to make my life better is me. Scared shitless, bull-headed, not-always-the-sharpest-decision-maker, me.

And from that point on, it got easier. I quit theatre for the most part...not because it didn't make me happy when I was on stage, but because it was a HUGE time suck, and it often distracted me from taking care of other little things in my life. And quitting that showed me that I can get my jollies from other creative outlets, like blogging or public speaking...two things that have infinitely more potential for growth in my city.

So I guess my advice to you is along those lines. Except it would be awful for me to tell you just to give up, right? So here's what I've done when I'm miserable to help change my state and outlook on life. 


Clearly, I don't mean that you should quit trying to better your life or that you should give up on hope of getting out of your city. But I do mean that if your sport is frustrating you and you don't feel like you're manifesting talent in it, quit. You'll find something else to occupy your time (who knows...maybe you're more suited for an art class? A book club? A writer's group?). I also mean that if you're not finding dudes online, quit that too. Instead, find those weird, out-of-the way networking events (they exist!), or join a different online group, or really start working the shit out of Twitter (the old Bird Wire has been a hugely successful way for me to meet new people in my area).

And your job...well, I totally get that. I get what it feels like try and try and try and have no one notice your efforts, or to get shot down repeatedly. It sucks, and it's hard not to take it personally. So, maybe you need to...

Change Your Tactics

What have you been doing so far to look for jobs? Are you only perusing the paper or online postings? Are you only looking for jobs that are on your same level of expertise? If it's been about a year (and you already have a good job) what do you have to lose by trying something else? How about...

1. Instead of only looking online for jobs, how about sending your resume with a chirpy letter to your dream company? Relish the challenge of finding and researching the perfect person to send it to. And then, when you've done it...forget about it. Your work is done, and the ball, as they say, is in their court.

2. Setting up a Twitter account and following your top ten dream companies. Watch how they're talking to their audience, and join in the conversation. Offer helpful tidbits, ask questions, suggest improvements.

3. Aiming higher (or lower)...what if it's the right company, but the job's not quite right. Maybe apply anyway? You never know...maybe HR is looking for some experience, but really wants to train the right person. Maybe even check out jobs that are a level or two below your expertise, or a level or two above.

4. Offering your expertise through a blog...for free? Free is scary, believe me, I know. But what if you selflessly gave away your knowledge for anyone who would read or listen? Suddenly, you're building up an online resume of awesome content, and building a community of people who look to you as an expert, to boot.

And finally...

Let it Go

Letting it Go is not the same as quitting, fortunately. Letting it Go means that you go to bed each night, knowing you did your absolute best for the day...and that's it. There's your satisfaction. I always think of my actor friend who once told me the secret of "making it" in New York. He said,
"You have to get to the point where you're just doing your thing. You can't think about which role you want more, or which director you hope calls you back. You have to be doing your thing so much, and with such passion, that it gets to the point when you do get that phone call, it's simply a bonus to what you've already been doing."
Here's the're pretty amazing. You know how I know this? Because most people would not be nearly as self aware as you are. Most people would feel that horrible, soul-crushing feeling and just live with it. But you? You're not putting up with that shit, are you. You have the wherewithal to say, "Hey, my life as it is isn't cutting it. I'm going to make it better." Do you know how many people never make it to that point?

But're a fighter. You're going to get through this, but you just might need to start fresh. Throw everything out the window. One of the reasons I love improv is because it allows you to, within the confines of "the rules", find infinite possibilities for success through creativity. Pull out a piece of paper, mind-map, brainstorm, think outside the box of everything you've done before, because that's what fighters do.

I know you can do it. You can do it without that phone call you were hoping to get. You can do it without the perfect location to live, and you can certainly do it while you're single. Because you're awesome, and you get that your life is yours to make better.

So get out there and do it. Take a day or two to feel shitty if you need to, but then get up and go. I'm happy to be your cheerleader across the pond should you need one. :)

Update! Our reader here is doing much better! She didn't get the job she was hoping for, but used some of those guts she has to ask the recruiter to critique her application and resume. The recruiter gave her great feedback, and she is inspired to get moving on the next step. Now that's what I like to hear!