Artwork by Mickey De Muis.
I received three questions about, mas o menos, anomie — and the desire for life to feel worthwhile.
What's the most productive way to utilize my deep longing for escapism?
As a drive to create, and as a drive to read substantial, long-form works (usually but not exclusively "books"). Happily, these activities reinforce each other. Reframe escapism for yourself as the reward constituent to creating and reading.
Downside: Involves cognitive effort. If you're asking how to be productive without it feeling like work, figure out what gets you into flow state, then do that as much as possible. Downside: Also involves cognitive effort. Sorry, ain't no free lunch. It bums me out too.
Can we do anything to alter our future in a meaningful way?
All of ours? It's possible — ripples are real — but only remotely, unless you're far higher-placed than my assumption. But ours as in yours and mine? Absolutely, and instrumentally. Read on...
After college I entered wealth management, became disenchanted with it, lapsed my certifications, and quit. I was unemployed for a year and burned through my savings. I have worked in retail for the past several years. I think that I am capable of much more. I struggled for years with a lack of motivation and direction. Now I write and I study coding, but I still lack vision and direction. I would like to spend my working hours learning something of increasing value, rather than spending my time in retail, but my resume is not competitive. I work to improve my motivation, productivity, and well-being via meditation and self-help books. Every day I experience a malaise connected to the knowledge that I am functioning so far below my potential. It weighs heavily on me and I often find myself drinking late at night and doing the bare minimum to push the needle.
I'm not sure what else to do except to keep on at it. How can I better design a direction for my life?
What you're asking me is, "How do I decide to change?" You've done it before, so you know what it entails: doing different things from the things that you're doing currently.
But it sounds like the deciding part is the struggle — committing to a particular vision or project. After all, you chose wealth management before, and that didn't work out. It led to your present satisfaction! Now you may wonder how you can ever trust your own sales pitches.
Well, tough luck, you can't. Not really. It's always a gamble, because no one can ever know what they have yet to learn. You must try — with the earnest and passionate belief that you will succeed — and fail, then try again, and fail a few more times, and so on.
After every single failure you must pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. Because next time you'll succeed? Nope — because if you stop trying, that guarantees failure, and it'll be permanent.
The whole rigmarole gets easier, in my experience, but it still hurts every time. However, you're already hurting, no? Switch it up for a new type of pain.
I think that you need to practice exercising your will. So your homework is to see how many times you can postpone your first drink of the night by five minutes. Even once is a win!
Also, join /r/stopdrinking or /r/dryalcoholics. Whether you decide to go fully sober or not, you are definitely "problem drinking" at the moment, and fixing that will make the rest much easier to deal with. In a similar vein, please speak to a psychiatrist if you have the means, especially if you haven't done so before.