Dear Wendy: “I’m Having A Quarter-Life Crisis”

I graduated from college earlier this year and like so many bright-eyed 20-somethings, I believed I was about to start on a grand Real World Adventure. Four months post-graduation, in the worst employment market since the Great Depression, my world view has dulled considerably. I’m working (for pay) and interning (for “work experience”), and with student loan payments starting soon, I gave up my apartment to move back home. My social circle, which was sizable as an undergrad, has taken repeated blows — my best friend just started med school, four others moved out of state (or out of country) for jobs, and the ones who are still around have (understandably) fallen in step with work friends or are still in school. I feel disconnected and lost, like everyone’s moving forward with their lives and I’m stuck in place. I’ve joined dating sites and sports leagues in an attempt to meet more people my age, but nothing seems to click. My mom keeps assuring me that when I get a job everything will fall into place and my Grand Adventure will begin. In the meantime, how do I regain my sanity and my social life? — Real World Weary

Here’s something they don’t teach you or tell you in college — and when I say “they,” I mean everyone: professors, mentors, parents, older friends, that cab driver who waxes philosophic when he gets a car full of impressionable early twentysomethings — life doesn’t suddenly come into focus once you’re out in the “real world.” In fact, it doesn’t come into focus once you get a real job or turn 25 or find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. The thing is, life is always a little confusing. Feeling disconnected and lost, while perhaps a larger symptom of people your age than older, is something everyone has to fight from time to time. It’s just that as you get older and gain more life experiences, you begin to recognize the feeling a little sooner and you know it’s just temporary and you hold on until it passes. Because RWW, it will pass, and the only way around it is through it.

So what does that mean for you? It means it’s all going to get better in time … and then you’ll have periods when it gets confusing again, and then it will get better again. And it will keep doing that over and over like a cycle because that’s just how life is. It’s like being on a long road trip and sometimes you have to slow down for road work and sometimes you can go miles and miles without any traffic and sometimes you get a little bit lost. But eventually, you get where you need to go. So keep doing what you’re doing — join groups, reach out to people your age, call up your friends who have moved away and stay connected with them. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts. And realize four or five or six months from now when things inevitably are better because that’s just how things go, you can look back at what you felt when you started the journal and realize your mom was wrong. The Grand Adventure didn’t start when you got a real job. You’re already living the Grand Adventure right now. You’ve already started that road trip. You just happen to be on a stretch of the road that isn’t as pleasant as some of the other parts of the trip. But you’ll get through it. You just have to keep on driving.

I met a guy recently who was temporarily subletting from a friend of mine. We hooked up at a party, and started seeing each other regularly. We’re both incredibly broke so we never really go anywhere, and generally end up drinking together, talking and cuddling and eventually hooking up. We hang out with people and without, he invited me to a BBQ with a bunch of his friends. Whenever we’re together he’s incredibly sweet, and tells me I’m gorgeous and is generally an incredibly sweet guy. However, he is constantly drunk. I don’t mean when we hang out late at night, but at 3:00 in the afternoon he’s already a couple beers in. I can’t figure out if this guy actually likes me or is just into me because he’s drunk. I consider him to be more attractive than I am, which is where this insecurity comes from. What do you think? — Punch Drunk Love

So, let me get this straight: you’re dating a guy you’ve basically never seen sober and you’re worried because you can’t figure out whether he really likes you or not? What about figuring out whether you like him? How can you be sure what your feelings for him are when you’ve never even had the chance to get to know him when he isn’t drunk? Frankly, I’d be a lot more concerned about that little detail. I’d also be concerned that you’re starting a relationship with an alcoholic, which has “drama” written all over it. Ditch the drunk and find someone who’s fun and sweet and complimentary without the aid of booze.

Follow me on Twitter and get relationship tips and updates on new Dear Wendy columns!

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”}.