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Lost 18 Year Old Looking for Purpose

Dear Harlan: I’m 18 years old and went off to college this past year. I felt miserable, lonely and confused, so I came home and have been doing therapy since. I have interests, although I’m having trouble pursuing them due to my overly concerned parents. Part of me knows I want the change and responsibilities, but part of me is terrified of going after it and is stuck in old habits of blame. It’s especially difficult because I feel as though my family is holding me back, even though I know it’s out of a good place. I feel stuck and just want to find a sense of purpose and excitement in my life, while surrounding myself with people who feel the same.

— Lost boy

Dear Lost Boy:  Congrats, man. You’re living life. You experienced something. Now you can experience something else. What do you want? There’s no wrong answer. There’s no losing. You win or learn (I stole this from Nelson Mandela). Identify one thing you want to do that excites you. Get a part-time job where you can be surrounded by people doing what you want to do. If you can’t get paid, work for free. Put yourself in places that excite you. Surround yourself with people who are excited about what they do. Give your parents permission to be concerned, but don’t let that stop you. They love you. They don’t need to understand. You just need to have more experiences. These experiences will inform you. This will lead you to a life that is driven by what you want. Take classes at a local college if that’s important to you while having these experiences. Lean on your therapist. Don’t do it alone. Find one thing to do. Commit to it. Experience it. Then decide if you want to keep doing it or want to do something else.

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