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I’m a 25-year-old black women, and right now my life is a hot mess. A little over two months ago, I quit my first real job since finishing grad school. The problem is I quit before having another job lined up. I know that was a terrible idea, and I beat myself up about it every day. I’ve been aggressively applying for jobs, but no luck. This has been especially disappointing since I have been either overqualified, or met the education requirements, but lacked the “work experience.” (Why do I need three to five years of experience for entry level, low-paying jobs?) Recently, I have had to give up my apartment and move back home, and my credit that I was starting to build is in shambles because I can’t pay my bills and student loans. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to create opportunities for myself until something comes through, but my current situation has worsened my depression, and I’m just not motivated to do anything. What advice do you have for pushing through a situation like this? It feels like I dug myself into a hole that I will never get out of. I look forward to hearing back. Thanks in advance. — Sincerely, Adrift
Hey there Adrift,
While I could call attention to the fact that you’re 25, going through your Quarter Life crisis and coming up on a life-upending Saturn’s Return, here is advice from my friend, Dr. Steven Kniffley Jr., co-author of the book “Out of K.O.S. (Knowledge of Self): Black Masculinity, Psychopathology, and Treatment (Black Studies and Critical Thinking),” associate director for the Center for Behavioral Health and an assistant professor in Spalding University’s School of Professional Psychology:
“Thank you for your thoughtfulness and courage to share such a vulnerable part of your lived experience. I hear in your narrative concerns related to coping with stress, ‘getting it right,’ seeking validation and fulfillment in your career, and feeling stuck emotionally. Don’t feel alone in this experience. A survey administered by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that 49 percent of individuals reported having had a major stressful event or experience in the past year. Additionally, most individuals surveyed cited having too many responsibilities, financial troubles and work problems as the primary sources of stress. The results from this survey suggest that many of us are ‘hot messes’ wandering a sea of distress. However, even in the midst of the sea, we can be like a buoy and remain upright and float in the face of the storm. When faced with seemingly overwhelming obstacles, it is our first reaction to struggle against the waves of the sea of distress. This struggle can look like worry and anxiety. The more we struggle against the waves, the more self-defeating thoughts and behaviors can arise for us. However, if we imagine a buoy in a storm at sea, it is able to stay afloat even with all the tossing and turning of the water. A buoy stays upright because its foundation is stable and able to withstand even the toughest waves.
Over the last couple of months, you’ve been tossed around by the waves of financial struggles, career unfulfillment and emotional distress. You have tried all types of strategies to fight against the waves but have encountered even more self-defeating thoughts and a feeling of being stuck. To overcome these challenges and remain upright, I encourage you to ACT (Accept, Choose and Take action).
Instead of fighting against the thoughts and behaviors that have left you feeling ‘stuck,’ take a posture of acceptance where you acknowledge those things that you can change as well as those things that you cannot. Often times, we spend our time riding on the carousel wondering why we can’t get the ride to go straight, instead of realizing that we have the choice to accept that a carousel is a carousel, but that we also have the ability to get off the ride. Next, take a second to meaningfully reflect and choose values that are important to you. This reflection is deeper than just being happy or having a good job, but the values associated with those goals. Engaging in a reflective process can help you recognize opportunities where your values align even if a major life milestone is not met. Lastly, take action on those things you can change by moving in a values-driven direction. When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier allowing you to feel less stuck and able to stay afloat when the waves come crashing down around you.” —Steven