My dad stole the title “24” on my actual birthday, so I have to use the words for the numbers, instead. Guess that’s a consequence of not posting my birthday post on my birthday, but let’s not dwell on it.

Anyways, I turned 24 a couple days ago (thank you all very much for the birthday wishes), now I’m here to write my thoughts on the matter. Before I do all that, have a song:

Athena ScalziWell, that just said everything I was about to say. But in a more fun way.

It’s not every day you hear a song that is able to perfectly describe not only your situation, but exactly how you feel about the situation, but this one does that for me.

Specifically, I’m 24, still live with my parents, sleep the entire day away, have absolutely zero plans for not just my life but for literal dinner, all my friends are getting married and having babies, I’m tired all the time, I don’t know how taxes work, and I don’t know how I ended up like this. And most of all, it feels like yesterday when we were kids.

Where did the past decade go? Why am I not about to enter my first year of high school? Why am I not passing out party invites into my classmate’s lockers and picking out homecoming dresses? Why am I not trying to sneakily text under my desk on my first iPhone or hoping the seating arrangement puts my crush right next to me?

And the answer is, I already lived all of that. I did the dress shopping, I did the whole hanging out with your friends at basketball games thing, I decorated my locker with magnets, I anxiously awaited to see my ACT score, and thanked the lord when there was a snow day. I had that life. And now it’s over, and it has been over for several years.

I should be okay with that, shouldn’t I? It’s just how life goes. One chapter ends and another begins. So why am I stuck flipping through the pages of the first half of the book?

Why do I look at my friends in their wedding dresses, or holding their baby, or buying a house, and see them as thirteen year olds with braces and overly straightened hair?

I miss being twelve and spending the night at a friend’s house and getting so excited I could drink a Mountain Dew because my parents didn’t let me have caffeine. Now I’m an over-caffeinated iced coffee addict.

I miss being fourteen and playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II on my PS3 with my friends and having to take turns because I only had two controllers. Now one of them is stationed in Hawaii and the other works twelve hour days in a factory.

I miss being sixteen, when it felt like my heart would burst with joy when the guy I liked wrote me a poem to ask me to be his girlfriend. Now, I have a whole book’s worth of breakup poems.

I miss my youth. And I know I’m still “young”, but it’s not the same. And it never will be. And I don’t feel okay about it.


46 Comments on “Twenty-Four”

  1. I too wonder when the inside of my head will match what I see in the mirror. I’m sorry you aren’t ok with where you are.

    Did you post a link to your song? I’d give it a listen.

  2. Hello Athena,
    I am sure there are people closer to you, and smarter than me, to give you better advice than I ever could, if advice was even needed today. (Probably not)
    Still, if I must write, then let me say that I like how you have honesty. Like my friends do. Honesty is a big virtue in my eyes.

    Today I read on social media (yes, I still do that stupid rabbit hole time sink) where a guy said the biggest common denominator he saw between folks with a better life and folks with a worser crazy life is… whether they can keep their word and be reliable. Again, a form of honesty.

    I see you as worth a comment. I wish you well, and a happy new year.

  3. Athena, that video is, ah, trenchant.

    I’m not quite 29 years older than you; my birthday’s the day after yours, I just turned 53.

    And due to crazy things happening at the turn of the millennium, I watched my career I’d built through my 20s get torched. I reset and started working with people in their 20s in the early aughts.

    The situation worse for them in their 20s than it had been for me a decade earlier.

    After 2008-2010, when I was doing financial journalism in my late 30s, it wasn’t just worse, it was a literally a case of ‘pulling up the ladder of financial prosperity after us’ by the trailing edge of the Boomer generation.

    Because everyone knows buying distressed housing is the best way to get a passive income as a landlord, and changes in the tax laws as part of the Obama-era bailout to keep banks solvent made it better to keep rapidly appreciating investment properties empty than to sell them, let alone earn an income on them with shudder tenants. Who’ll, y’know, live in them and run their property values down.

    So, no. It’s not your fault. Even with the narcolepsy and the difficulties with self-directed academics.

    It is truly hideous out there for people of your generation, and the fact that you can live with your parents and not be a burden on them is lovely.

    Please explore in this time. Find something you’re passionate about, practice that, get good at it, and then worry about making a living at it.

    Much empathy, and cheering from the bleachers:

    A GenX-er who’s rooting for you all the way.

  4. You remind me much of my 22yr old daughter going through much the same issues you are.

    I wish I had some sage advice but the best I can offer is to say “Don’t worry about it.” Keep trying, keep putting yourself out there and eventually you will get somewhere. Don’t let your expectations keep you from enjoying life.

    After all, I’m 54 and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up but have a pretty good life all the same.

  5. Comparing yourself to others is like comparing a giraffe and an anteater. You’re a wonderful giraffe, but you make a terrible anteater. Don’t worry about not figuring it out. Be you, follow the dreams you have and the world will fall into place.

    Or Elon will have blown it up in a week. Either way, everything works out the way it works out.

  6. Holly Knight:

    The song is in the YouTube video embedded in the piece. If for some reason you can’t see it, it’s called “24” by the band Sundial.

  7. Athena,
    Happy belated birthday, and best wishes to you for when you are ready or able to find your way. No advice here – just appreciation for everything you share with us on the blog!

  8. The fact that there is a song that matches how you feel (and reading the comments off YouTube) and you’ll see you are not the only one feeling the way you do. You are not alone.

    It’s interesting to watch my nieces and nephews (most young adults now) finding their own way onto the path of “adult” life. Believe me, each is charting their own course as they go.

    Since I have no real answers all I can suggest is, are there things that interest you to try? I know that is not easy. So don’t look for the “perfect” career. Most people change within them anyways as the decades pass.

    I know school didn’t work for you as well as you hoped, but is community college an option to take targeted classes to try something out? (Would their career councilors be of use?) I’m not even talking about going for a degree, just testing the waters. If not, there are specific classes that give certifications. One of my nieces much later got more interested in marketing so got a certificate in that which then led to a better job where she had worked, and slowly she’s finding what she wants.

    I’m probably (since I really don’t know you) really talking about what I would tell my younger self since sometimes I spent too much time over thinking something looking for the perfect answer before I started, when I should have just jumped in and tried stuff. Twenty-four is young and believe me, this is the time to test the possibilities.

    I’m sorry I can’t give you a better answer. Definitely chat with others. Your parents, friends, your parent’s friends, others you age, etc… and just listen. They might give you some clues on where to start putting your effort.

    We’re rooting for you. Don’t think where you are is an easy space. It’s not. Just don’t give up. Be willing to try various options. (Which from your other writings we know you are. So that’s a great first step!)

  9. Oh Athena, I wish I could tell you that it stops but sometimes you look back and think those were the days. I spent a whole year this year thinking that. But I know I can’t go back and I better start living presently for my own sake before I cry all the serotonin out of my body.

    I won’t tell you what to do. I hope you’ll love Athena Scalzi, 24, Iced Coffee addict.

  10. Happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.

    My kids are 25 and 22 and they have had problems and failures and heartbreak, and also moments of joy and success.

    I think the most important thing I would wish you is that you give up any idea that there is a YardStick of Adulthood Accomplishment that Must Be Met On Schedule.

    Because THERE IS NOT. Despite what the culture tells you.

    If you can figure out what’s important to you, what you love, who you love, and some way to make a living, (or part of a living, wow, what a shitty 21st Century for western capitalism so far, amirite???), that’s about it! Success as the media presents it is not realistic for 98 percent of the actual people on the planet.

    It’s not about Finding your Dream Career, or Making A lot of Money. Or even Achieving Fulfillment.

    The moments you remember with joy were created by people ,for the people they love. In adulthood we just see the mechanism and figure out how to create it, instead of simply enjoying the event without thinking too much. That ability to see the mechanism doesn’t ruin it at all. Spontaneity is overrated. Those moments of uncomplicated joy can be achieved in adulthood — just in a different way.

    (But Nature, in my experience, is not overrated.)

    I wish you peace of mind and blue skies. And remember that overthinking is also overrated.

    Happy New Year and all the best from a random internet fan of you and your dad’s.

  11. Dear Athena,

    First and foremost, the notion of what’s “normal life,” for you and me, was dispelled long ago, probably while we were still in our cradles.

    The only one who actually knows with any certainty what your “best life” is, is you. All of what you’ve described are echoes of times shared with friends, and that, you still have. Maybe different friends, maybe different shared experiences. As life goes on, we each seek our own paths. One size does not fit all. Remember, you have a friend who invited you to Santa Monica to babysit their cat. That’s pretty cool.

    When I write a screenplay, I send the Character (and the Writer) on a hidden journey to better get to know themselves. That’s the quest we are each on. While mine is well on it’s way, yours is barely beginning.

    Savor the journey… To share with friends, to play, to do worthy work, to discover anew every day, the world, and your place in it…

    And don’t overlook the fact that your dad writes books for a living, and has a six-necked guitar in the basement. “Normal” has an entirely unique perspective to draw on.

    Happy Birthday! Many happy returns!

  12. I hear ya. Everyone tells you “don’t compare yourself to others,” but you literally can’t do that. You can’t ignore that most people are at other life stages–the ones they’re “supposed to” be at, while you are not. And you can’t not feel weird about it.

    I don’t really have any words to make you feel better about not matching the rest of the world, because I don’t either. (Even more fun at my age.) All you can really do is just live with it, and realize that even if “most” people go through the life stages at the right age and in the right order, there’s a few outliers that don’t. Not everyone is going to sort out the career thing, or the relationship thing, or whatever else, “on time.” It’s not really under your control to be able to match everyone else, unfortunately. Some of us are just going to be…off.

    You have my sympathies across the Internet. Sorry 24 is bumming you out.

  13. I don’t know how I ended up like this.

    Here’s one way of looking at it: you haven’t “ended up” yet. You’re still very much on your journey. A lot of parts of the journey are shitty. I read today that instead of trying to completely change your trajectory with massive adjustments, try to make a 2° course correction. After 5000 miles, a 2° course correction will have you in a completely different place.

    I imagine you’ll read all these comments by well-meaning strangers and still feel like crap. But just know we’re all rooting for you and wishing you the best. Good luck.

  14. Athena, my heart goes out to you. I have a daughter who struggles, as well. However, today I’m pulling the doctor card. You are depressed. Maybe you know this already. If I heard this from a patient, they would walk out of my office with a referral. I can’t begin to tell you what will help, but there are people who can help you sort it out.

  15. When I got out of high school (6 months early) I was sure of 2 things: 1 would never join the military, and I would never go to college. 2 years later I was in college.

    My 20s were spent full time work, part time college (ended up with 2 degrees). Early 20s all my friends were getting married, late 20s all my friends were getting divorced.

    Also late 20s friends with trucks were complaining of back pains due to helping us all move every time the rent got raised. But I digress (How is Mr David doing today? Oh my, please help)

    Most of my 30s I was an independent consultant (embedded software) making more money that I ever thought I would make (but compared to your dad, I was the shoeless guy at the intersection with the “please help” jar).

    Met my wife when I was 38, bought a house, things were good, until they weren’t. She got the house, I got the cats. Then I quit work to take care of the parental units, when the 2nd one died my resume had a 10 year hole in it I don’t seem to be able to recover from (e.g. Walmart calls back for a greeter job, $TechCo gives crickets).

    I’m 64, never had kids. I’m fine, don’t worry about me financially. And I suspect putting your career on hold to take care of mentally challenged parents won’t be an issue for you.

    Is this the life I thought I would live as a teenager? No.
    Is this the life I thought I would live in my 20s? No
    Is this the life I thought I would live when married? No
    Is this how I though retirement would be? No.

    So you do you, maybe follow me but not recommended (Doesn’t sound like writing software is your thing).

    My only regret? I wish I could have overcome that 10 year gap in my resume, cuz I did love what I did but I can’t even get an email back today.

  16. Your post reminds me of a line from a T.S. Eliot poem:

    “Our beginnings never know our ends”

    Right now, you are in the process of becoming somebody new. You won’t know until later what choices or experiences you are having right now will end up being important to you. I remember who I was and what I was doing when I was 24, and those were not my best times. But if I hadn’t lived them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

    I only know you through your writing, but you seem to be observant and kind and decent. Try to be gentle with yourself.

  17. I don’t have advice for you. I will say that my son turned 21 yesterday. He is, as he often says, homeschooling college. He’s living with us and he’s not doing any of the things that are supposed to signify becoming an adult in this culture. He’s living with his parents. He’s not working. He’s studying and working on projects.

    And his mom and I love it. We’re happy to have him with us and hope he stays as long as he wants.

    I was also still living at home on my 24th birthday, way back in the long ago. My life now is a happy one. It’s a pretty common situation.

    Best wishes. Take care of yourself and good luck.

  18. My youngest turned 26 in November. She still lives with me. She started her first full time job earlier that month. (And nothing glamorous or easy about graveyard shift as an entry level lab tech in a medical lab, but it’s the experience in a lab she needs for the sort of stuff she does want to do.) While working on resumes and applying for job after job, she was down on herself about not being “self-supporting”. I pointed out that at no point in her life had her mother ever been self-supporting or ever worked a full time job for very long. There’s no particular goal or standard to how your life goes. Then after she started working and realized how much time it took she beat herself up for not working on projects she wanted to do while she was looking for a job after graduating. I pointed out there was a global pandemic and a host of stressors, personal and universal. She got through it. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

    She knows my story, of course, but I point out I wouldn’t have wanted any of my children to go through what I did. There’s no benefit to pain and suffering and poverty. It’s something you survive if you’re forced to do so, but that’s about it. I like her company and helping support my children (and being able to do so) is a privilege, not a burden, to me. I’m sure your parents feel the same. I certainly know they like you as a person and don’t seem to mind your company.

    Take care and happy birthday!

  19. So, some questions, just because they’re what my friends group asks each other if one of use is having a hard time: have you had any water today? Like, an actual tall glass or a bottle of Dasani or whatever your bottled water of choice is? And have you eaten? Like, more than just a couple of Christmas cookies? Have you reheated any Christmas leftovers, or put a couple of slices of lunch meat, a slice of cheese, and crackers on a plate (or napkin, or in your hand)?

    Doing those may help you to at least not feel like hell, physically.

    As for mentally and emotionally? Oh, girl. I’m so sorry that you’re having a rough time. Life is hard, even when it’s not, and it’s perfectly okay and even normal to feel like you’re stagnating when you look at your life and compare it to your friends. (Ask me how I, a 40-something still living with her parents and underemployed, know this!)

    I’m not a doctor, but I agree with Cindy above and want to really encourage you to seek a referral for counseling or therapy if you aren’t already doing that. Nope, don’t tell me that other people have it worse! That may be true, but we each all have our own struggles and traumas to work through, and it’s all a heavy load that we’re carrying. Take care of yourself. You are worth it.

    I wish I had some piece of advice that will magically make everything better, but all I can offer are the immortal words of Dory: Just keep swimming.

  20. I totally understand what you’re saying, I lived at home and took care of my mom for years. Even now, in my late 40s, I still wonder how I’m not still 16? Sending love and hugs.

  21. Athena, I think I may know something of what you’re going through, but in a different manner.

    As you may know, I’m transgender. I only really started coming out to people about ten years ago, and have been legally Amy for about 5-1/2 years. I’m 54 chronologically, but in terms of “feminine experience,” using a popular formula ((age + years since transition) / 2), I’m the equivalent of about a 30-year-old woman.

    Yet I feel a lot younger than that. Part of me feels like I’m making up for lost time, for all those years I couldn’t be a young woman because I didn’t yet know who I really was. So I’m doing things like going out and singing karaoke till 1:30 in the morning, and going on fun trips with friends, trying to find myself a girlfriend (yes, “a girlfriend,” I’m a lesbian), and generally not acting like I’m 54. It also helps that I don’t really look 54, except for the gray streak that shows up in my hair when it’s been too long since a visit to the hairdresser. (People have routinely expressed an opinion that I’m 20 years younger than my actual age.)

    Does this give me a little bit of mental incongruence? Sometimes. Does it make me out of step with my “peers” (women my age), many of whom have families and all? Kind of, but, on the other hand, who are my “peers,” really? Compared to a lot of other trans women, I’m doing pretty well for myself. Do I regret not being able to be an actual young woman? Sure, but I can’t change that now, I can only make the most of the life I have.

    We’re both “offset” in our development. Does that make us less valuable than anyone else? No. We’re both unique, and we can bring great value to our lives and to the lives of others no matter where we are on the “development” graph.

    Anyway, thanks for listening. And carpe that old diem, ‘cos it’s the only game in town.

  22. Speaking as an old who went through a similar phase in my 20s, be careful with your thoughts around marriage and children, it might be the right path but for most of the people in my peer group it was not and has frozen their lives in amber until the children graduate from college so they can get divorced.

  23. Clicking on that band’s song led me to another one of theirs about a quarter-life crises where many comments talked about feeling the same, feeling the same fear.

    Meanwhile, on social media the other day, war veterans reported about Saving Private Ryan that secondly, the real thing was worse, and firstly, the actors just weren’t scared enough.

    My point is that our culture truly downplays the extent of fear in normal everyday life. Which means that for many people energy is locked up denying it, fighting it, feeling bad about it.

    At the group level, as a chairman, I have watched groups blossom and have new energy to devote to their group task after everyone finds out that others are just as anxious too.

    As you know, getting a job is an urgent thing. Well, someone once got very excited after I shared that (before computers) after going down to the unemployment place, and copying down job addresses and info, I was just too drained to follow up until the next day. “Me too!” But that is not something society ever talks about.

    So, Athena, maybe your honesty is a service to others. Meanwhile, I am probably still unaware of how much I hold myself down by over-pressuring myself.

  24. Hey kiddo…thanks for sharing, it is refreshing to see someone sharing their experiences and feelings about them.

    As a dad of two early teenaged girls who is approaching 48 I want you to know that though from outside so much has changed for me since I turned 24: graduated college, began my (apparent) career, married friend from high school with whom I had no prior romantic relationship, 2 kids, 35 marathons, bought a house, buried my father, etc. etc., on the inside I really don’t feel all that different from 20 y/o me.

    Your friends and family and future friends who might still be in grammar school all have their own life paths. Don’t get caught up in their stories or become overly concerned about what is “normal” or “expected” in our current society. It seems that your parents aren’t trying to toss you out of the nest to force you to fly or die, embrace that love.

    You don’t need to have all of the answers, but it does help to keep asking yourself questions.

    Good luck in the new year

  25. Virtual hug

    I don’t have any answers but also, note that there are other points of comparison… you’re not in jail, you’re not a drug addict, you’re not talking with the FBI (Caroline Ellison apparently had her dad do her taxes even though she’s reportedly a math genius).

    You don’t post racist/homophobic/classist/etc. rants anywhere.

    You’re a good person.

    Also, you will figure things out. Life is a journey, not a destination.

  26. Look at the bright side — you are not committed to a life style / career choice that you don’t even know if you like yet. Our society does a huge disservice to ALL youngsters (everyone below the age of 25-30) by assuming / encouraging them to essentially choose their entire life’s path in their late teens or early twenties.

    This is insane biologically speaking. Look around. As people learn about the world and how it operates, almost everyone changes their priorities and perspective on life as they are growing up.

    Experts say that the brain isn’t even fully developed until about age 25. So it is not surprising that so very many adults wish they had made different choices in their younger years. It is often difficult or impossible to make life or career changes after you already have “obligations”, e.g. spouse, kids, mortgage, student loans for the “wrong” degree, etc.

    You’re doing fine. Use your youth to learn about yourself and discover what you want to do with the next chapter of your life. But take your time. You won’t know until you know.

    Try different things and various jobs. Do each thoroughly and well for as long as it takes to learn about it. You will learn which things you don’t want to do, but you’ll also get hints about other things to try that might be closer.

    Eventually, (on your own time), you’ll find something to give you the sense of accomplishment that you feel you are missing. But you must decide what that is — not ‘society’ or anyone else.

    Don’t feel as if your goal has to be Pulitzer Prize winning author (or the equivalent in any other field). It can happen, but it is extremely rare, and is often just as much luck as anything else.

    Often, the best accomplishment (and the most personally satisfying) is to simply be the kind of person that other people want to be around. If you try to do everything you attempt as well as you possibly can, and try to be an honest, supportive friend to those around you, almost everything else will follow naturally.

  27. I am sorry you feel in such a rut. When I was a freshman and sophomore in college I went through depression. I failed at my major of being an engineer because while the physics made sense in high school the next level stuff in college didn’t. My roommate ditched me and I was living alone in the dorms with no social life, a growing weight problem, and finances were going to be an issue soon since scholarships would be ending. At that point what worked for me was work. I decided I could be depressed, fat, and closer to broke doing nothing but playing FF7 or depressed and fat but more financially secure so I went to work at UPS from 5-10pm loading trucks. It was a stupid job but I did my best at it. I worked hard, got my scanned unit count up, made secure walls of packages in the trucks for transport, and was reliable so my managers often offered me second shifts. The act of working all the time helped with my weight and helped with my finances which kept my in school. The best thing it did was help me with my self confidence. Getting praise from supervisors for my output made me feel like I was good at something and therefore must be good at other things. I don’t know if it will work for you but it sure helped me out. Best of luck in whatever you do!

  28. When I was 24 (23 years ago), I was failing out of college, had tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and weighed too much for the Navy to take me. Everyone thought I was smart, but it wasn’t enough.
    I got second chances though and I had a dad who loved me and helped guide me through it. I consider myself successful now.
    You’ll get help and second chances too. Just know you deserve them.

  29. When I was in high school, my mother warned me that it was going to get rough in my 20s. She said that everyone that age feels adrift, at sea and clueless. She hit 21 around Pearl Harbor which was like climate change now except with fewer denialists. I lucked out, but I’ve known so many people, young and old, who faced challenges in their 20s. It’s a rough age, and it’s rougher because you are an adult.

    I’m hoping what you are facing is just the usual stuff that hits people in their 20s, man, woman, other and society stuff and not something more serious. I assume you have good enough medical care to find out if you are just down and in a rut or actually depressed. If I am wrong, talk to your doctor or, better, a psychiatrist. There’s no magic cure for depression, but there are things that can help. The fact that you have narcolepsy may be part of a broader syndrome.

    It may also make sense to talk to a cognitive psychologist, someone trained to help you figure out ways to get unstuck. Cognitive psychology doesn’t care much about finding root causes. It’s about what you are thinking and doing. It’s very nutsy-boltsy like the old Allure in contrast to Vogue.

    It makes sense to wallow in it a bit. Develop and learn to enjoy your routine even if it is just waking at noon, not doing much of anything, eating something stupid that tastes good and going back to sleep. Own it. It’s your routine.

    Have an adventure or two. I enjoyed your account of your Santa Monica trip, but you have a narrow envelope. It’s harder now with COVID, but I’ve known people from Ohio who managed to have adventures. Besides, Indiana is right there. You are interested in writing. Maybe go somewhere and imagine setting a story there. Be very conscious, observe and write down what you see. You don’t actually have to write a story, though your dad we’ll remind you that this is bad advice when facing a deadline.

    My mother was right that the 20s can be rough. That’s not really advice, but sometimes it is easier to get through things when you know you aren’t the only one.

  30. I just turned 67 Sunday. When I was your age I was reaching rock bottom with my alcoholism (started when I was 13) even when I got sober I struggled for years to find my way. I suffered from PTSD not knowing that is what was happening. It took me a long time to “grow up”. Is my life perfect now? Hardly, but I am at peace with myself and I managed to find work that I loved and was good at. You will find your own way. The one thing I had going for me was that there was a part of me that would never give up, no matter what. The part that would say “It’s not always going to be like this”
    You got this.

  31. I’ve been there. It sucks. The 20’s can be a really hard time.

    A lot of people need the structure of work or school to make them stick to a routine, get out of the house, and interact with other humans in person on a regular basis. Working even a crappy low paying job that makes you follow a schedule and meet people could improve your mood. If money is not a major issue, volunteer work would be just as good as long as it makes you talk in person to people who expect you to be there at a certain time. A hobby that involves regularly scheduled in person meetings might also work. A job or hobby that involves a little bit of physical exercise is even better for mood lifting.

    If you want to pursue writing or some other freelance work, great. Maybe get a half time day job, volunteer job, or in person social hobby. Even people who do not have ADD often struggle to focus on writing or other creative mental work for more than half a day. Having a part time day job makes freelance projects go better for some people.

    I hope that you feel better soon and find some fun and interesting things to do. I love reading your posts, which are very insightful and honest and relateable for so many people.

  32. Psssssst, Athena, guess what? EVERY “adult” thinks exactly the same thing!

    Your self awareness is greater than what an awful lot of so called happy/successful/functioning adults display, so don’t worry about what other people are doing (marriage and kids at 24? HELL no!), concentrate on your own mental equilibrium and you’ll get there.

  33. Given the other things going on in your life that you’ve written about, you might want to schedule some time to talk with a therapist or other professional. It can be really helpful to talk with someone who is invested in your success and who will also be as honest with you as necessary. Friends and family sometimes hold back because they don’t want you to get hurt.

    I’ve been sober in AA since I was 29, also somewhere “on the spectrum “ as they say, and also very adhd. Took me awhile to figure out how to navigate life.

    Finally, my standard advice to undirected twenty somethings: Have you considered enlisting for a 3 year hitch in the military? It’ll get you out of that small town.

  34. Dear Athena,
    Happy Birthday and many more of them!

    It tends to get better in time. Keep keeping on. I wish you all the best that this world has to offer.

    I know that it gets better because I’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. PS: I’m 81, for what it’s worth.

    With best regards, Stephen

  35. Happy B-Day! I have been a lurker in your Dad’s column since the internet – lol. I have never commented, but your post touched a chord because my son is 19 – no college yet, still at home. My daughter is 15. Secretly, I hope they both live at home until they’re at least mid 20s… I enjoy them that much! I know that just like you, they are smarter than their parents and will overthrow our oppressive love at some point! You may feel bad now, but they know you will be ok too. I hope you can find a way to enjoy the time there. I would give almost anything to have a redo of times like that with my family. Hoping you have your best year yet!

  36. I didn’t get the job that now pays my pension till I was 28, and if you don’t want to clean human shit for a living, it might take you longer.
    When I’m not trying for shock value I will say that I took care of retarded people. And while I disliked my job for 30 years, I never disliked the people in my care. I hated the bureaucracy—the same bureaucracy that makes sure I get my pension every month. Cleaning actual human poop didn’t bother me, and I’m not ashamed of it. It’s a very dirty job, that SOMEONE must do.
    Maybe you can find a dirty job that needs done and that doesn’t bother you, and you’ll be set for life. But OMG from here you look incredibly young, and I don’t see what your big hurry is. :)

  37. “So why am I stuck flipping through the pages of the first half of the book?”

    You can definitely turn a phrase. You hit me right in the heart.

    Folks posting above me have already given excellent advice. I can’t add anything other than emotional support.

    I’m sending you a virtual hug. <>

    You’re going to figure it all out, and be better for it. All of us here want you to find your way, and we all think you can do it. We might be invisible voices on the internet, but we’re on your side.

  38. Dear Athena, I’m 72, and finally living the life I always wanted, working on my book, having enough money to pay the bills, but it did take 40 + years hard labor to get here. I’m watching a K-drama for the second time that features a family of children in their 30s living at home, unmarried, without job satisfaction, “My Liberation Notes.” The oldest wants love, to love someone. The second needs to find his proper work. The youngest is a philosopher, who wants to know what, why, etc. These people are all avoidant types, rather than being motivated by power or pleasure, so the show works through their slight overcoming of avoidance in order to actively engage with the world. Being honest is part of it. I see myself in the youngest child, the philosopher. No market for that in the real world, but she will achieve personal satisfaction. You mention notstalgia for the days when you could just go with the program. Now the world is saying you get to design your own program, but there aren’t any real rules to it, and everyone has to find their own way. Figuring out your motivation might be a place to start.

  39. My 20s also were pretty dismal and hopeless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I struggled to keep myself fed and taken care of.

    I found (and I hope you find too) that even in the deepest darkest depression there are little sparks of contentment here and there.

    I got my masters this year and I’m 48. Nothing wrong with taking your time.

  40. you are seeking a direction, hmmm…?

    get your free downloadable copy of final #J6 report!

    a fully documented coup attempt! what a delightful, essential research source for wannabes…

    authors struggling to write political thrillers as well coup attempters

    whichever better suits your dreams! dictatorial overlord or second generation author!

  41. Athena

    The other thing to remember is that not having an answer to life’s directions is not a bad thing. As sometimes you need to just drift whilst you you work out what you want.

    And being with your parents is no bad thing it gives a safe place to launch from or retreat to !

    Just take the time needed to find your direction. Once things gel you will be surprised how quick things move !

  42. Also, to be fair, from here your father also looks pretty young. But maybe he’s so old and feeble he only had the energy to type 24, whereas you are still young enough to manage all the letters. Yes. Let the young whippersnappers do all the hard work!

  43. I am so sorry that you are going through this. I sincerely hope that you are in counseling of some type.

    That said, the decade after age 18 is one that includes a lot of dead ends. You cannot know what it is you need to do with your life until you try things out and, unfortunately, usually fail at a bunch of them. This is totally normal. You are SUPPOSED to try things that don’t work out and all that this means is that it was a poor fit for you, not at all that you are a failure. Your job is to figure out WHY it was a poor fit which will help your sort of random and crabwise progress toward what does work for you. You need the poor fit experiences because you won’t find the right fit for you without them.

  44. Well ya know, I’m not even ten years older than you and I did everything the “right” way with college and marriage and kids and it’s not all daisies and sunshine on this side either. So don’t beat yourself up about your failure to launch, if anything I’m kinda envious of you.

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