Stressed. Lost. Scared.

I’m stressed out. That is the simplest way to sum it up. I wake up and before my feet hit the floor, I’m stressed. Maybe some of it is legitimate, and maybe some of it is me over thinking. I’m an engineer and perfectionist, with anxiety, and a touch of depression. It’s the perfect recipe for overthinking.

I’m stressed about my job. I graduated college in 2010 but I was stuck in retail for three years afterwards. For another three years after that, I’ve been struggling to get into a solid engineering role – taking entry-level positions as they open up because I just can’t advance; either the economy causes budget cuts, or office politics. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up and that I should be making up for lost time. I know – for a fact – that I’m actually doing alright and that things could be a lot worse. But I’m a perfectionist, an overachiever, and a big dreamer. I want to get in to an engineering department and just wow them with something: a design or cost savings or a business plan. I went to school for a reason. I was hired for a reason. Let me do that job. Bring me on board, turn me loose, and let me get shit done.

I’m stressed about my finances. My head is above water. I’m paying my bills. I have a little bar money leftover. All my debt combined is less than $30k. Once again, it could be a lot worse. But all things considered, I have a negative net worth which means that an emergency or accident could completely wipe me out financially.

I’m stressed about my family. I won’t go into the details – the important things to know, though, are that A) I have a small family and B) the dynamics of my relationship with them are changing and not all of it for the better. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m realizing some details about my childhood that have influenced me as an adult – some of which has not been positive. In addition to that, recent events that have upset the tightly knit bond we had.

The most recent addition though… Whilst discussing plans for my 30th birthday (stressor #4) later this month with girlfriend #2 (yes, I’m polyamorous and dating 2 people – the only aspect of my life that doesn’t stress me out), she mentioned that I should focus on what I want for a celebration of MY birthday, rather than trying to crowdsource ideas. The thing is… I don’t know what I want. I passively mention it at as stressor #5 but to rank them, it should be #1. And not just a “I don’t know what I want to do for my birthday” type issue but a general “I don’t know what to do to have fun.” It’s as if the part of my brain that recognizes feelings of fun and being social and doing fun activities just doesn’t work anymore. Things I used to enjoy now feel like a burden or don’t interest me at all. I see groups on MeetUp or events on Nearify that sound fun but I don’t commit. I can’t commit. I’m frightened of the idea of interacting with others even though I want to. I want to go out and be social and make friends but I’m frightened; scared of being judged or ostracized.

All I want is a group of guys like the fraternity in college. Get together on Sundays to watch football, eat junk food, and roast each other about fantasy teams. Find a usual watering hole for after work on Friday night and get a little rowdy. We’ll rotate hosting summer grill days; bring your own meat and beer. Everyone chip in on traveling for a 3 day weekend golf trip. I see it. I hear about it. And I want to live it. But I don’t know how to get there.

Part of having friends is doing stuff, but I don’t have stuff that I do. Even my old hobbies just don’t seem to interest me anymore. I feel like I have no sense of self. Nothing that defines me. On the rare opportunity that a coworker or stranger asks what it is I do, I don’t know what to tell them. “Just a piece of shit millennial paying bills.” I can’t put my finger on what changed or when it changed. It was so easy in college. I suppose because most people bond over whose party you went to or your major. I look forward to every weekend but I end up doing nothing, except playing homemaker because cleaning is my only means of constructive stress relief. I have passing interests but nothing that (I interpret) to be hobbies or activities worthy of developing meaningful friendships over. Combined with the anxiety, I feel completely hopeless; a loser with nothing to offer or talk about. It’s taking its toll on me and I feel utterly lost because of it.

I don’t know what to do…

What is a person to do?

I don’t remember exactly when I started this – just that it was a long time ago. And like damn near everything I attempt, it was started with good intentions… and now falls into neglect. I never once believed I could change the world. Maybe just reach someone – anyone. But then what? I’m not one to proselytize because I don’t like it when people try it on me. I think I was tired of fighting cliches; empty statements regurgitated from HuffPo or memes shared blindly. It’s all virtue signalling and I had the ego to take it personally.

Without even realizing it, I’ve developed my own bubble. It’s easy to write off libertarians as nihilists and I’ve even embraced the joke. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. But was forming a bubble necessary to be a libertarian, or is it just something that correlates? And is this bubble an actual bubble, or is it something more? Has my anxiety and depression flared up again under the guise of cutting myself off? Or was I just looking for a name for it?

I’ve never been one to conform or fit in, despite the details – if you’re paying attention – that should indicate otherwise. Dude, you do the typical American thing: you went to college, joined a frat, studied engineering, drink copious amounts of beer, and play Fantasy Football. Yeah, I get it. I’m aware. I’m seemingly normal on the outside. But something else separates me… A bubble? Anxiety? Depression? Being a society hating nihilist? I feel as though I’m bearing the weight of shackles that manifest as some sort of scarlet letter. A warning to those around me. I’m not some prince of the dregs of society. If anything, I feel that I lack some sort of calling – despite directly contributing to the production of goods.

Hi! What’s your name?
What do you do?
What are you into?
What brings you joy?

What do you do to disconnect from the 9 to 5?

An exchange that rarely happens – but when it does – proposes the biggest road block. I look at my life and I feel empty. Blank. Floating around, avoiding some unseen fear. Fears of judgment, ridicule, and mockery. So I hide like a hermit, in my bubble, looking to the world around me… hoping… wishing for an extended hand. A hand I would happily extend myself.

Is 30 too young for a midlife crisis? Or is this the chosen path for millennials? I’m 29, going on 21. What I want is different than what is expected. Deviation is applauded, so long as you deviate in a way that is acceptable. Everyone wants to be a hedonist until it comes time to do hedonist shit. So let me be a hedonist. I just want to know I’m not alone in this pursuit. To know maybe there’s something out there. People to revel with who have the same expectations (or perhaps the lack-of).

In the meantime, I don’t know what else to call it.