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Here Is My Life—Some Advice, Please

JPS

Serving humanity by counterexample
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I hope to write a summary of my present circumstances. After reading it, you can give me as much advice as you'd like. I'd appreciate any at all.

Here goes. Note that the first five paragraphs are exposition.

I live in one of many small towns that orbit Washington, DC. Much of my time there I spend walking. On my walks, I frequent several coffee shops in the area. If I'm feeling especially moody, I'll go to a blues restaurant and order a cheeseburger. My cousin works as a waiter there, and we often talk about future plans, family, and the like.

My household includes my mother and her fiancee, a social worker who dabbles in local history writing. My mother has three kids including me. The other two live with us as well: my sister of seven years, and my brother of fifteen. My sister is my half-sister—my mother had her with her then-boyfriend, who lives in another nearby town. My mother's fiancee also has a boy of thirteen who lives with us.

Across the street, by coincidence, live my father and his wife, who married last year. I and my brother often visit. My cousin lives there too—he and I both graduated from high school last month. He is enlisting, though he had originally planned to enroll at a local university. I am not going to college this fall. Rather, I’ll apply to local and nonlocal colleges for next spring. I did apply for the fall but was ultimately rejected everywhere.

I turned eighteen last month. I went on vacation in late June and have since been looking for a job. My passions include math, writing, and music. Come college, I intend to major in cognitive science, a rendezvous between logic and intuition. But lately I’ve been doubting my prospective major—nonfiction writing, too, holds great appeal for me. I also have several pet projects, all of which I’ve been developing in spurts. If any of these were to launch, I might delay college.

During high school, I did theatre, where I met many of my friends. But because school ended, I’ve lost touch with most of them. Lately, in consequence, I worry I’ve had too much time to myself. Out alone long enough, I wander into a disagreeable frame of mind—my thoughts become insular, bleak, and hollow.

My life, I think, has reached a sort of crossroads. While most of my peers will preoccupy themselves with college come fall, there are still acres of empty space left over from my childhood that I’m troubling to fill. Moreover, I rarely ever stick to one idea or course of action owing to my manifold interests. Without the structure of formal education, I’ve become something of a nomad. I’ve fettered myself to my own liberty.

Still, I doubt my ability to perform well in college. High school, to say the least, was an abject mess of poor grades, inattention, and depression. For much of it, I felt inhibited by all the structure and all the expectations, which seemed arbitrary and unfitting. I’m grateful I graduated intact.

So I fear stagnancy just as much as freedom. I feel I’m making a choice of drowning in life or merely skirting along its surface. I’m lonely, too, and I worry I’ll remain lonely until spring, when I start college. My gap semester has turned into a dire soul search.

Any comments or suggestions?
 

Turnevies

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I'm not entirely familiar with the US educational system, but I think I can give you some hints anyway.

If you are going to study a scientific field (e.g. cognitive science) in college, you will not only learn this very specific field, but also acquire a lot of different transferable skills. Thanks to this skillset, you can get many seemingly different jobs with your degree. These skills can include e.g. programming skills, but also problem-solving, time-management and also writing.
Academic writing is not exactly the same as popular nonfiction writing, but it shouldn't be too hard to make a popular book if you have written a scientific thesis before (getting this published is a different story o fcourse).

Furthermore, try to enjoy life as it comes, instead of worrying too much. I used to wory too much at your age as well, more than useful.
 

Tannhauser

angry insecure male
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Do you have a vision about your future self?
 

Interdimensionist

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Turnevies has some good advice, especially the part about not worrying too much.

My two cents is this: comparing yourself to your peers can be both a good and a bad thing, it can inspire you to strive to do better but at the same time it can also dishearten you to see so many of the people you grew up with overtaking you in certain aspects of life i.e. college, relationships etc. The key is to remember there is a difference between keeping busy and being productive.

In my own life I've reached a stage where I've worried so much about where I'm going to end up that it has actually been liberating in a certain way, I know I've wasted a lot of time being inert yet I'm also confident I have the innate ability to do well if I put my mind to it, my peers got off to a better start getting their degrees in business management or whatever, finding a partner, having kids etc. and I can see that most of them will settle into a career and just sort of be content with a steady job, house, kids and curry nights on a Friday whereas I now have no fear, I know I can change any aspect of my life at any moment be it career-wise, social circle, interests, location. I'd much rather be a nomad who can dabble in whatever takes my fancy than have a ball & chain although a partner or steady group of friends would be nice, these things are not necessary, besides an average lifestyle has never interested me much.

It is far more important to me to be happy with what I'm doing, be that writing, learning an instrument or language or whatever. Go to college, buckle down and get it over and done with because you will be capable, and reluctantly join the system in order to be able to get yourself into a position where you can start bringing your ideas into the world and create change or whatever you've gotta do. You might end up discovering that you just have your sights set a little higher than most hence why it's taking longer to launch.

It was hard for me to accept that you can't rail against the system forever because you'll just get shut out, the key is to work your way into it whilst maintaining some distance then once you get where you need to be you can start doing things on your own terms.

Make a plan, don't worry too much about sticking to it as no plan is perfect and you might dismiss/overlook something important otherwise and on a final note, don't pay too much attention to what other people brag about. Most people's lives are shitty they're just better at putting on a fake smile and making sure the shit doesn't seep into their instagram pictures.
 

JPS

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Thank you both for the advice. I like to think I don't waste time comparing myself to others—but sometimes I do. This is unhealthy.

You each recommend I go to college; do you have any recommendations for what I should do in the meantime? Half a year without school, for my part, is unprecedented.

Even though I was miserable during school, the misery gave me something to do. Now I worry I'll drift off like paper without a weight.

Do you have a vision about your future self?
It seems I have too many. Chiefly, I envision a career in research followed by one in writing. I would go to college, earn a degree, and then pursue my field. Afterward, I would retire to a quiet place and write.

But I've also been working on numerous projects, some about music. If any of those were to turn out a success, then I wouldn't need to study cognitive science at more than an undergraduate level, if only for a degree.

Should neither college nor my projects work out, I must find a stable job. I have an internship next year at a company that does radio signal detection. The work might suit me, and I can do it in place of college.

You might have been asking a deeper question, however, in which case I'll mention my desire for spiritual development. I've been reading Montaigne's Essays, and I realize I'd like to achieve a similar understanding of myself—at least as much of an understanding as my capricious life permits.

Therefore I'm wondering if any of these paths I've traced truly fits me. I have a poor memory, and I'm not very prudent—perhaps I'm not cut out as a scholar. If so, I'll need to rely more on writing or on my projects.

In addition, I want to experience the death of the self at some point, though not by way of psychedelic drugs. There's more to life than the little box made of skin I call "me"—I don't end at my fingertips.

In sum, I envision my future self as a nomad. But nomadism runs just as much a chance of failure as of success. The sort of spiritual settling encouraged by society guarantees at least some security, if only in peace of mind.

Still, I've never adopted a unified system of thought, because I see systems as wishful thinking. I'm not religious—after death I'll be a stopper for beer kegs.

Death itself scares me—whenever I can, I avoid thinking about it. My fear of death, I imagine, is the best analogy to my present situation that I can conjure. On one hand, seeing things the way they are—nameless, formless dust—is noble and conducive to truth. On the other hand, it's terrifying.

That is my dilemma—choosing between numbness and pain.
 

Interdimensionist

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Take the six months you have free to do some thinking outside of the regimented and restrictive education system, these years are quite turbulent ones for an INTP, at least in my case they were, and you'll probably be introduced to a myriad of new things, ideas, concepts & experiences that you'll want to sort out in your head so they make sense to you.

People will start to challenge the things you say and do causing self doubt, develop confidence in your ability to think analytically and objectively about things and come to your own conclusions without letting others manipulate and mould your opinion, that's not to say you should discard everything, just keep an ear out and appropriate what you agree with, question everything else. Basically in a less long-winded way, just spend a few months figuring yourself out and what you want to do.

Also the best thing about being INTP, or at least in my case it was considering I always thought myself a worthless thick turd, is that people start out underestimating you but if you keep doing your thing they come to realise there's something going on behind the gormless expression and truth be told, it scares the shit out of most of 'em.

Also if you're still scared of death you haven't thought about it enough, grab that bull by the horns and penetrate its asshole while staring its ugly twat wife in the eye, if you do you'll find it will be one of the most liberating and motivating things you ever do.
 

Turnevies

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You could find yourself a temporary nonskilled job, or even better do volunteering.
It 'll keep you busy, gives you a feeling of accomplishment and forces you to interact with people.
 

Vrecknidj

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I'm guessing that you know things about who you were five years ago that have given you insights about errors in judgment you made back then. Also, I'm guessing that some of your interests today are different from what they were five years ago.

Five years from now, the same thing will be true. This will continue for a while yet.

It's okay to not know for sure what's coming, what to do with your life, etc.

And, it's okay to have multiple interests.

I teach philosophy, I serve as a consultant for one private and one public firm in the research industry, I help organize and administer a labor union, and I write, edit and design content in the RPG field. You don't have to do one thing. Feel free to do multiple things. It's your life.

:)
 

tamsin

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I wish I could tell you it gets better, but I'm a 30 year old female INTP and just as indecisive about my future as I was when I was 18. My advice is to get a part time job-anything...and please, please, please go to college and finish your degree. Just pick something you're interested in and can stick with and finish! I was accepted to a very good university, but hem and hawed over my major, dropped out to "think things over." I got married, got myself knocked up and never finished. Twelve years and 3 kids later I am finally going back to finish my degree...but I really wish I had finished before letting life and kids happen to me. Now I work a customer service job I hate until I'm done with school. I wish I had just picked something-literally anything-and just finished.

This is my first post on this forum, but your story struck me. I was also a theater kid in high school and indecisiveness has screwed me for many years. Even at 30 I still get stuck in my head and become depressed when I'm bored and have nothing to do. I think the idea to volunteer if you can't find a job is great. If you like animals, you can walk dogs at animal shelters. Maybe even audition with some local theater groups or offer to help with the sets and props. Just do something to get out of your head a few hours a day so you don't become depressed. Good luck!
 
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