Help, I'm a lost millennial!

I can't keep living in my parents' spare room and then flying off to Prague and Bolivia. I need a life. How?

Published August 28, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I write to you as I sit in an airport departure gate, ready to board my second one-way flight in a week. I am bailing out on a city that I had intended on making my new home just a few days ago. I feel like the biggest flake in the world.

I am a hopelessly directionless millennial with no idea what to do with myself. I only seem to derive happiness from hopping to exotic locales, a sadly financially unsustainable hobby. Last week, I packed a suitcase and flew across the country to a city where I don't know a soul just to give it a shot. I guess I tried to see if I could get a job and apartment here. A whole five days later, I am leaving because I don't like the feel of the place. So it's back to my parents' spare room where I can sleep for free until I come up with the next spur-of-the-moment plan.

I have very few friends in my hometown and my love life amounts to a series of sometimes cringe-worthy one-night stands. While I wish I can just keep running off to Bali or Prague or Bolivia, I am sadly running out of funds. I have absolutely no idea what I want to do in terms of a "career." I don't know how to carry on a relationship, romantic or otherwise, that involves any more thought or work than ordering another round of local whiskey at the hostel bar.

Please tell me how I go about getting a big-girl job and a gaggle of friends and sweet significant other? I have a useless bachelor's degree and no career aspirations. It's time for me to settle down because I can't carry off dilly-dallying around the world anymore.

Hopelessly Spontaneous Girl

Dear Hopelessly Spontaneous Girl,

Your methods are not suited to your objective. And your objective is not what you think it is. Your objective is not to get a gaggle of friends and a big-girl job and a sweet significant other.

Your objective is to stop feeling like this.

Like what?

Anxious. Nervous. Insecure. Flighty. Jealous. Worried. A little compulsive.

Once you stop feeling this way, then you can start thinking about where to live and what to do for a living and whom to be friends with.

So the first thing to do is take some deep breaths and sit up straight. Seriously. Take five minutes right now. I'll bet you have an iPhone or a smartphone that has a timer on it. Right now, set the timer for five minutes. Find a place to sit comfortably. Just sit and breathe in and out and watch your breath until the timer stops.

When it goes off, then you can stop and read the rest.

You're reading, aren't you?

Don't read any more until you've found a place to sit and have set your timer and have sat for five minutes just watching your breath.


There. I've done my five minutes. Now. You have, too.  You are a little calmer now. You find it easier to concentrate on what you are reading. You can hear the noises nearby but you're not fixated on them. You're in a good state. You know you're going to be OK. (You did stop and sit first, right? If not, stop reading and go sit.)


So. Welcome back. Now what comes to mind? What are your desires? Let your desires come into your head. What do they feel like, these desires? Who is there? What do you want? Write these things down in a journal. Just make a list. You don't have to explain. If you see vivid images, write them down. Describe them. But you don't need to explain why you want these things or what they mean to you, unless you really feel inspired to do so.

Your desire for a gaggle of friends, a big-girl job and a sweet significant other is important but it is also symbolic. It stands for something -- most likely what we would call a need for status and security in your social group. I say that in order to point out that this something can be achieved in a variety of ways. You might end up as a law-enforcement officer (what we used to call a "lady cop"), or a person who catches fish for a living. It might be that you need a vocation that keeps you moving around a lot, maybe in a jeep or on a dog sled. So be ready for surprises. Open yourself to the things that are in your heart and your memory. It may turn out that you will find other ways to achieve security and status in your social group. Also keep in mind that this value is only one of many that you will achieve in your life; you will also want emotional and spiritual peace, and intimacy, and connection with the earth.

It will be necessary to remember some peak experiences. Think about moments in your life when you have been very happy. What were you doing? Where were you? Whom were you with? Then think about this: Suppose you were to be informed today that you have an inoperable form of cancer and you have from six months to one year to live. What would you want to finish? Whom would you want to see and what would you want to tell them?

Make this your project for the next few weeks. Sit for five minutes every day just breathing in and out. Let thoughts and dreams come into your mind and pay attention to them. If you sense the presence of some other being, address it. Ask it to guide you. Ask it to protect you. If you become upset because of some recollection, let that pass and return to sitting, or go out for a walk. Write things down and carry your journal around with you. Do this every day for a few weeks. After a few weeks pass, keep doing it every day for a few more weeks. After that, keep doing it every day for a few more weeks after that. Keep doing it like that. Eventually it will become a habit if you keep doing it every day. Don't talk to anyone about it. Just do it. You will notice changes. Things will clarify. You will realize what you are here for.

By Cary Tennis

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