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Tell HN: The impossibility of earning a living, being stupid
15 points by bzm 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments
I need to vent. Sorry if this comes out mangled and repetitive; emotions cloud my mind. My working life has been a failure. I’m in my thirties and I have only had a couple jobs, all between the age of 16 and early 20s. I lost them for various reasons: stupidity, clumsiness, distraction and excessive daydreaming. Needless to say, I might have missed the train to financial stability and employability. Especially so because I didn’t finish high school. I don’t know if I can change my situation or if I should resign myself to waiting for death. Time will tell.

It doesn't help that I'm overwhelmed by guilt because my partner supports me financially, making me wonder if she would be better off without me. She is the only person who cares about me and she is the kindest and most patient person I know; I hate myself for being a burden to her. I really do. I want to change it but it looks like a fight against myself.

What I do all this time? I try to do my best at housekeeping: cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, keeping plants healthy, fixing house problems...The rest of the time is spent sending a resume here and there, reading, writing and studying topics ranging from literature to mathematics. Mostly in my native language. The only thing left is curiosity, but one can’t eat with curiosity alone. For some time I even pursued the illusory and unsuccessful idea that I could create startups without having the essential requirement of ability; mental or physical I don’t know.

My only success, if you can call that, is having her get a job as a programmer, a better and stable one, after having taught her programming for a few months and preparing her for the interview. She has a university degree and decent work experience to show though; me? Not even a high school degree and almost no job on my resume. It's understandably skipped by employers.

You are still relatively young and anything could happen in the next 20 years. Sometimes you just need to persevere until an opportunity presents itself or you just get plain lucky.

A couple of good years can give you a buffer that sets you up for the rest of your life. Lots of people people live pay check to pay check all of their working lives despite living what appears to be a the opposite, so don't knock yourself down.

The one thing I would be worried about though is your partner, she may be supportive now but this isn't going to last forever. Do not take her for granted and show her that you are trying everyday. Life is a lot harder on your own and you don't want to find this out for yourself.

Do not give up, ever.

You have all the signs of ADHD. I highly recommend you find a therapist and also get an ADHD evaluation. Maybe find a therapist who specializes in ADHD.

And remember this is not a moral failing or a motivational issue. Therapy will help you see that you are not alone and you learn tools to help debug your mind.

I see a lot of positives in your post which might be hard for you to see.

1. You care. 2. You love. 3. You can teach. 4. You are loveable.

If your lack of degrees is upsetting to you, you can get your GED and even enroll in a college courses. You can skip the GED and go straight to a community college for example. There are a lot of options. You could for example take classes in psychology and learn about yourself and eventually become a therapist (if you wanted to). Or you could start a summer community ed program teaching high school kids (and others) to program for your local school district.

Anyway, it also sounds like you can program and there are a lot of non-traditional programs around. At the same time these types of programs expose you to other folks will help you build your network if you connect with each other.

You can do it! I believe in you.

I related a lot to this – thanks for sharing. It's good to vent sometimes.

I notice you're not asking for advice though... Is there anything we can help with? Just judging by what you said here you seem smart, definitely self-aware, but maybe a little unfocused? You don't sound stupid at all.

Why are you unable to get a programming job out of interest? Is it because you lack skills or something else? I'd be surprised if it's "impossible" for you to earn a living given what you've said. It sounds more like you haven't found the right thing and perhaps you're not sure how?

I'm INTP and everything you said here sounds so characteristic of someone who's INTP. We tend to be smart, curious, but overthink everything. We also tend to struggle socially and with focusing on tasks which means as a group we struggle with maintaining employment despite being quite intelligent. You might relate: https://www.reddit.com/r/INTP/comments/knnm8l/seriously_help...

Also, your girlfriend clearly loves you. Stop over thinking things and just do your best to show her how much she means to you. Having a job isn't the only way a guy can give in a relationship.

You're in a pretty good position, actually. Don't blow it. Make sure that you don't lose your partner and keep trying - you'll eventually succeed. Make some demo project (but don't get sucked into it - set a hard deadline) and keep applying to junior positions - you'll work your way up.

I think there's some valuable comments about mental health/ADHD that you should consider, but I'm not qualified to discuss that, so I'll leave that for others.

I don't know where you live, but where I live, everywhere is hiring, and every local business is understaffed and every owner/manager complains about the quality of employees.

If I really wanted to be employed and had no high school diploma or degree or employment history, I'd go figure out how to apply at the local restaurants, banks, and grocery stores. They all need people who can show up and follow instructions. If you can do that, you have a path to employability. Maybe that's not in the career field you like, but from your post, you don't have a track record, and it's hard to get hired as a programmer without any track record, holding down a retail job for a year or two is one way to get a track record.

If you have access to affordable adult education and/or community college, you might also look into starting on those paths. For many jobs, a high school diploma or equivalent is non-negotiable, and many local governments have programs to help adults get those. In many places, community college is affordable and you can take one course a semester which sets you up with a few hours of class time a week and again, a path towards a track record. Look at the courses offered, the requirements for a degree, and your interests and abilities, and pick something that can hit all three buckets. Yes, it will take a long time to get a degree if you do one class a semester, but it's still progress and a path.

That said, housework is valuable; you may contribute more to your household by being home to do housework than by being employed outside the home. An honest talk with your partner could establish what the balance is. When my partner left the workforce, it was better for both of us. You can certainly consider part-time work or education while managing a household, of course.

I think you are blind by your guilty and past actions.

You are not your past.

Now see it:

"My only success, if you can call that, is having her get a job as a programmer, a better and stable one, after having taught her programming for a few months and preparing her for the interview."

You are a natural born teacher/mentor.

This is your super power. Not doing "Functional Programming" or learning the new javascript framework launched yesterday.

Mentor/teacher/guide is your super power.

Now you must open yourself to your target and people.

Do they need volunteers to coach? Do people need your help to navigate society? Do people need your mentoring to help with things that are simple to you but hard to others? Dating, communicating, planning, etc.

Teacher/Mentoring think, be open. Volunteer then charge.

One option is to start a small business to provide a product or service. It is permissionless so it won't matter if you have a degree or not. You can also leverage resources such as capital and human talent later so that you don't need to worry too much about being smarter than average. Most rich people or business owner aren't smarter than average. You do need to be relentlessly resourceful though as written by PG.

Alternatively, it is never too late a go back to school and get a degree. Bootcamps may also work. Try to build (open source projects) or generate content (like teaching people to code in youtube)

Is there a reason why you are not dedicating some of your time to gig economy work, such as DoorDash, Uber, TaskRabbit (or the equivalent in your country).

Those should allow you to not overly depend on your partner, which is very unhealthy because you don’t know how long they will allow that to happen, while still giving you time to pursue better employment opportunities, possibly at the expense of cutting out some literature studies.

If I were in your situation (but clearly I’m not), the absolutely first thing I’d do is ride my bike for 4-6 hours a day delivering doordash meals and making at least $50/day to cover basic living expenses on my own.

It sounds like your basic needs are met, you have ample free time, and your only issue is being unfocused. Your perspectives on your personal progress aside, it sounds like you're living what most people would consider an ideal retired lifestyle.

You're already competent with programming if you taught it to your girlfriend. Build some experience with personal projects, showcase your work on GitHub, and wait for recruiter emails to come in.

Programming can be a tough career with the interviewing style, latest hot frameworks and trends, etc, etc., and startups even harder.

Why don't you just get a basic and stable job like a trade, electrician, train driver, fireman, etc... and do you programming / startup stuff as a side hustle?

Thirties is the age when I actually stopped being a child and started showing signs of maturity. You're still young although it might not feel like this to you. Do not despair, that's the last thing you should do.

You are already winning at life, but you don't realize it yet.

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