The underwhelming 20s

There’s so much to unpack here and I’m a new user so I figured I’d put it all out there and see what happens: I graduated high school in 2016 and ever since then I’ve had extreme lows and then the rest just seems to be regular. I haven’t had any genuine longterm happiness since then. I started college in the Fall of 2016 and that made me want to die, I hated all but one of my classes, I could not for the life of me make any new friends (and I actually tried this time), I couldn’t stand a lot of the professors, and my classmates were ehh, some were okay others I’d rather not spend time with. My only solace was my engish lit class and even that only happened twice a week. I also worked part time to fund my education, so I was constantly rushing out of class to get to work. I was absolutely miserable and on top of it once Winter break came around a very close family member ended up in the hospital and I lost my shit (for lack of better explanation). She was in the hospital for over a month and her condition was deteriorating, I took one look at a syllabus for only 1 of my 5 classes and immediately broke down in tears. I gave up a week later and I dropped out of college with only finishing one semester I felt (and still feel) like a failure. School had always been that one thing that I was consistently good at and now all of the sudden I couldn’t do it anymore? I didn’t tell any of my friends, even the ones I had from high school that I went to the same college with. I kinda just pretended like I didn’t exist. I avoided contact with them like the plague and eventually they confronted me and they were supportive but it didn’t help change the way I felt about myself. Acutally it’s two years later a a lot of people have no idea that I dropped out, definitly avoiding the criticism there. On the other hand dropping out was a huge weight off my shoulders. And I could actually work enough to save my money instead of throwing it at a university when I didn’t (and don’t) know what I want to do with my life. The rest of 2017 was looking up until my friends told all their parents that I dropped out and I would get bombarded with questions about when I’m going back and what my plans are. I still always reply with the fact that I work full time and I just don’t know. 2018 is a complete f’ing diaster. I had my first real(ish) encounter with a relationship and it was awful. He made me feel stupid all the time and he was a complete asshole and everyone told me but I was blinded by my first whatever we were and didn’t realize it until I had just decided to stop talking to him. Those 4 months of bullshit were just that, complete bullshit. I was used and just ugh I hate even thinking about it. Since then my job has just been getting progressively more and more on my nerves, I’m losing patience, and my best friend and confidant just quit in July. I went from seeing her 4 times a week to twice in the last month. It’s been a struggle to cope without her being around. Apparently I was so angry and upset at some point last week that a co-worker (and friend) of ours called her and told her what was going on. Honestly I don’t even remember what I was upset about because everything is a blur. I just want to stay in bed all the time, I’m indifferent about being alive, I’m very aware that something isn’t right with me but I don’t know what to do about it. I work at a local family owned business (which means it’s a deadend job) I just got promoted to a manager (the highest level of employment at this place) so I need to quit soon. I don’t know what I want to be, I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t really want to go back to school, I’m miserable, and I honestly just don’t want to be around. I have no idea what to do with myself anymore. I don’t really know why but when I was younger I never saw or imagined a future for myself past high school, I really didn’t think I’d live that long. And now I’m 20, all my friends just went back to their junior year of college pursuing their dreams and I’m either at home or at work feeling like a loser and a waste of space.


Well, I experienced something pretty similar. I had to drop out at the start of my second year due to a bunch of crap and when I was able to Finally go back to school, I had to drop out again due to stress and not being able to manage working full time and going to school. I’m working for a family owned company myself but it’s a technical writing company and I make pretty good money. Honestly, college isn’t the route for everyone and that’s okay. I was a brilliant student with a great GPA and people said that I would be a brilliant this or that but honestly? College is a waste of money in this day and age. If you want a sure way to be successful in life without the financial stress and emotional stress of college - get certifications. Look into Comptia if you want to work with computers or HVAC or something. You don’t need a college degree to be successful. And if your stress is that high then I would recommend talking to a doctor or checking out st john’s wort or rhodiola rosea to help reduce your anxiety

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Wow, talk about a cascade of disappointments…

First college being a disaster…subject matter uninteresting, social life non-existent – despite your best efforts – work being overwhelming…

Then you dropout and MAN what a relief! Followed by a bombardment of presumptive comments from others assuming that “success” is going to college and insinuating that you’re a failure because you don’t have plans to go back…

Then a HORRIBLE relationship…let’s stop talking about it there…

And then work slowly getting less and less awesome…your best friend leaving…feeling more and more alone…feeling less and less motivated to go to work…feeling like life is heavier and heavier…it’s at the point now where life just feels like this massive anvil on your chest, and each morning you struggle to get out of bed, and sometimes when you wake up, you just want to lay right there and let the day crush you and let life pass you by…

And to be honest, foggymel, I remember that feeling on my 22nd birthday – I actually sat down with Sledge (another guy here at HS), and told him…man…I just feel like my whole life is crashing down…I’m nowhere I want to be…I feel like a complete failure…and I feel like my opportunity to fix things has come and gone… (It was like I had my midlife crisis…but I like the way you termed it as “the underwhelming 20s”)

So first let me say – you are certainly not alone.
And let me also say – I’m so sorry you’ve felt judged and used and forgotten…that sucks man, and I’m really sorry.

I wish there was an “easy” answer to the problem “MY LIFE AND EVERYTHING IN IT SUCKS…CAN I JUST LIGHT IT ON FIRE?!” But sadly, as I’ve learned over the past three years since my “breakdown”, there’s no easy fix. There’s two things…

–> #1 is the process…honestly, dude, this is a tough one to swallow because we’re so used to expecting things to be solved now…but even more than that, I think we’re used to having social comparison give us this blueprint that we SHOULD BE BETTER THAN WE ARE…right now!! Because everyone else and their dog is cooler than us on social media, and there’s this unimaginable and unspoken burden placed on us to be everything, everywhere, to everyone. But here’s the truth: where you are honestly isn’t bad. You’ve learned the value of hard work, you’ve stayed consistent with your job, you HAVE made friends (which stands to reason you can again!), and you’ve made some epic failures (dropping out and having a flunking relationship) – which even though it might not feel like it, is SUCH A GOOD THING!! What it means is that you’re _learning…_and thank God for that man…the worst thing in the world is to get stagnant…and even though learning is painful, you’re still growing. Point here is – if you can drop the expectations of “arriving” and focus on the “journey”, you can give yourself the grace and patience to be exactly where you are…which is in the “not yet”…life, in general, is a constant and never ending space of “not yet”, and so getting comfortable in that space is really valuable. It’s okay your life isn’t perfect – no one’s else is either even though it might look that way…and so allowing yourself to be in process is huge.

–> #2 is perspective and attitude…you can view your relationship as a major regret, or you can view your relationship as a major learning point…you can view your dropping out of college as a major failure, or you can view it as a major turning point – realizing you’re not going to be in 160k of debt when you get out working for the next 30 years in a job you probably would feel the exact same about to the one you’re in now, except you’re going to be clawing through this massive load of student loans that you can’t stand to bear…right? It’s all about perspective…the fact that your best friend doesn’t go to your job anymore could either be a deal-breaker, or it could be an opportunity for you to learn to make new friends, for you to get out of your comfort zone…and depending on what perspective you take determines your attitude…a “deal breaker” is depressing, while an “opportunity” is an encouragement. Because your life actually isn’t “behind”, and you’re in the “not yet” (and always will be), and you’re on the “journey” – great news is all of the stuff you’re facing is learning about yourself, uncovering your passions and your purpose, figuring out people and things you do and don’t like…you’re in a period of SELF DISCOVERY…and dude, embracing that, is HUGE…just holding onto that perspective alone gives you a totally different feel to your life…if you don’t like something, it stops being this representation of your worthlessness or hopelessness and becomes a data point on the map of your life… “don’t turn left here because you’re going to hit a pothole and feel stuck forever…instead, try turning right – the road over there seemed to be well paved”…like, if it turns out you don’t like that type of guy, don’t date that type of guy again! Or if you don’t like your job, what can you do to make it more fun? What can you do to feel more engaged? Or what opportunities can you find or create to do something DIFFERENT?!

Everything’s okay, friend…and everything’s going to be okay. You’re in self-discovery season…you’re on this journey…and things are supposed to be messy – that’s just the way life’s always going to be…when it gets too clean, you’re going to get bored! Embrace it. Learn to love it. You’re doing better than you think, and you’re in a better spot than you realize. Thanks for the courage to open up :slight_smile:


Thank you for the reply! And it’s really nice to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t/didn’t go to school, because I swear it feels like it. I was never really told that alternative routes for success were an option but hopefully (sooner rather than later lol) I figure out my niche and can stick to it. I definitely will check out those suggestions for my stress, I’m not too keen on going to a doctor to be honest. Thanks again!!

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Thank you very much for your reply, it was insightful, dead on, and even made me laugh so very much appreciated. And yeah it definitely feels like a 2 year long mid-life crisis :woman_facepalming:. I’ve always been so obsessed with being prepared and always having a back up plan for just in case something goes wrong, that when things seemed to start going down hill I just didn’t and still don’t really know what to do about it. But an attitude adjustment is for sure something that I need to work on. It’s just weird and frustrating when you see all of these other people excelling, I feel that I should be too but I’m not (or at least not in my opinion). This is a path I wasn’t expecting to take and I’ve definitely been hitting some deadends. Such is life I guess :slight_smile: Thanks again Nate!


No problem. I am 27 years old (bday was yesterday, lol) and most of my friends are engineers. It used to be super intimidating because I felt like such a failure at 23/24/25 when they l had degrees and I didn’t. Well when I went back to school around that time it felt great, like I was finally doing something. After two years of going back to classes, burning myself out, getting sick from stress repeatedly, getting on anti-depressants (nothing wrong with seeing doctors, you are just anxious and I understand completely); I realized that I was wasting my life pursuing a degree that I didn’t really care about in a field that didn’t really interest me. And that was after working at an engineering company (technical writing - that place is a long, miserable story) and changing my major because I no longer liked engineering (it’s glorified customer service, most design jobs are) and I was Still feeling like everything was wasted effort. My logical thought process was: why put myself in a shitload of debt for a career that I don’t know if I will like and a job that I don’t know if I will get it. I would rather make what I am now, without student debt, than make twice as much and having half going to student loans. Only two of my friends are done paying off their loans because they had help. The rest can barely afford to live because they are making only enough to survive and cover their loans. And these are engineers. Other people are working $10 an hour jobs because they can’t get anything in their field. One of my friends minored in computer science and he is only able to find jobs in that field because his internship was a computer science one. He should be making twice what he makes but he can’t get any jobs in his field.

Tl:dr; the job market never stops sucking, even with a degree. Beating yourself up over something that is wasted money for most people is not good for you.

Find a hobby, do something you suck at until you get better. Don’t measure your life by your job. My engineering friends used to hit me for that all the time because they would tell me that I was brilliant, smarter than them, but because I was so smart - I realized what a waste it was to kill myself over school. They wished they had my foresight. After I told them I had to drop out of school because I couldn’t take it anymore, the stress was literally killing me, they all took that as inspiration to reduce their own stress in their lives and get better jobs and spend more time not stressing because they respected the difficult choice that I made. Surround yourself with people who lift you up when you are down.

I felt so ashamed when I was your age because I was surrounded by so much brilliance it was blinding. I was an alcoholic, my body and mind were broken, i couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel because it was too bright and I could only gaze at the darkness. I surrounded myself with people who only wanted to be my friend to feel better about themselves, people in the same boat as me but they Liked it. Once I started doing better, those people refused to associate with me. When I quit drinking, I stopped Wanting to hang out with them because I realized how toxic they had been to me.

You are strong and brilliant and capable. It may seem bleak now, but you have something going for you. There is going to be something that you will find interest in, a spark, and you will look back five years from now and wish you could hug yourself and tell yourself it will be alright. I think that to myself all the time. You are past me, its gunna be more than fine. Never stop fighting for better, you deserve it and damn it, you are going to get it. Never stop fighting. Never stop striving for better. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed, and surprise yourself with how far you have come.

TL:DR; you will be fine

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Yeah dude I feel you. I think part of the journey, too, is breaking up with comparison…

Considering the different backgrounds, upbringings, parental influence, genetic makeup, social circumstances, neighborhoods, friends, extended family, interests, etc, etc, etc – I realized comparing my story to someone else’s story is like comparing someone crab walking a marathon to a Kenyan sprinting a 5k. It’s just not the same. There’s no way to do it! In that sense, it’s more “FALSE comparison” than anything else. Break up with that junk!

You’re right on time for your story, Mel.


Sorry I’m a little late to the conversation. I just wanted to add a bit of perspective if I can.

I also graduated in 2016, and am headed back to college for my junior year, and I’m struggling to decide if there’s even a point to being there still. I’m also struggling with feelings of having no idea what I want to do cause I just decided in a major and have no clue what I’ll do with it. Even those around me that have wanted to be insert profession here since they were young are struggling with not really knowing what they are doing as well. I honestly feel like I’m just wracking up debt most days, and the only reason I didn’t drop out on some days was because I was too scared to not follow the “set path” out there for me.

Even though it wasn’t your first choice to not go through with school, I’m proud of you for navigating your life as it has been for you. You’ve done things I haven’t - I’m scared out of my mind to try and find my first full time job, and it’s still years and thousands of dollars of debt away. I’ve made so many mistakes with failing grades, mistakes at my part time job, and almost flunking out of college that I felt for years like I’d lost any sort of path I was supposed to be on.

As I tried to reach out to people over the last 4 years of struggling with depression, I realized that even the wisest adults I know still feel just like I do and don’t have anything figured out, and many of them live their lives wondering if one day the people around them will suddenly realize that and disown them for not having it figured out. The funny thing is though, no one does. I have yet to get used to this myself, so I feel bad that this is my only advice, but here it is. No one knows what they are doing, and the beauty of life comes from the same autonomy we have to do virtually anything we want with our lives that can be so overwhelming sometimes. I hope this helps, I see that there is already great comments above.

Hold fast,


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It seems like a lot of us in our early 20s are going through this ‘i don’t know what my direction is and i don’t know how to find it’. I know i am! Just know everyone goes through it at one point of time and its ok to turn on angsty music and scream, and make mistakes. Thats how you figure out where to go next. <3

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Hello Mel, thanks for reaching out.

Feeling lost in your 20s is pretty common, and I know a lot of people who did. And I did too. It’s pretty hard to imagine your future, but the best thing is taking one day at a time and follow little steps which will lead to your success sooner or later.

Also you shouldn’t feel worse than others: they just do different things than you do. I’ve seen all of my high school mates going to university, travelling a lot and always being out with their friends, while i was failing my first year at engineering university and almost never hang out for a year because of that. That lead me to thing I was worthless and pointless, but after two years I finally found my way and feel better than ever. I still study at university, and I have to work to afford that, but that’s not a problem: not everyone has the privilege to attend classes without doing anything else, and I’m ok with that. And you should be too.

Do I know what I want to do in the future? Yes. Do I know how to do it? No. Most of people don’t even know how to answer to the first question, so you’re not alone. I suggest to make a list of schools/jobs you’d like to apply, and then make a further list of pros/cons for every single option.

Wishing you the best for your future, love you

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