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Help! I Left My Job; Now I’m Nostalgic for It

Dear Bintel Brief:

A few months ago, I decided to leave a very demanding job in television production. I had been there for five years and I was, quite simply, burned out. I felt like I needed a change of pace and direction in my life.

Ever since quitting, though, my anxiety about what to do next has been paralyzing. I’ve had some informational interviews, but, during them, I have had a hard time articulating why I want to work at one company or another because I’m not sure that I do. These interviews always leave me feeling nostalgic for my old job; sometimes I wish I was still there. But when I’m honest with myself, I know I need a fresh start — maybe even in a different field. How should I go about finding something that will make me happy, when I feel so directionless?


Mayim Bialik reponds

Dear Lost in Space:

Next time can you ask me something easier, like why is existence so phenomenally complicated or, better yet, does G-d exist?

In all seriousness, the question that you ask is an excellent one, and one I hear again and again, especially from people who have worked in show business. The schedule, the personalities, even the subject matter that permeates the industry can make for cumulative overload for many. You are not alone.

Many people who experience the burnout you describe often learn a lot about themselves and their potential for a future career from volunteering for a cause they like — be it a women’s shelter, an animal shelter, a soup kitchen or something where you can see selfless dedication by individuals who choose an alternative career to the “rat race” many of us know of. And it is also profoundly humbling to be of service to those who need help so badly.

My mother taught me to make lists. Getting your thoughts and ideas onto paper can help you gain perspective. Your answers might surprise you.

1). Make a list of things you enjoy doing/skills you have.

2) Make a list of things you do NOT enjoy doing/are not cut out for. (Don’t be excessively self-critical; that’s what the rest of the year is for. Just be descriptive.)

3) Make a list of the things you could see doing that would make you excited to go to work and happy to be part of.

4) Make a list of the crazy jobs you never thought were within your reach, and don’t hold back; it’s just a list, it won’t bite.

Finally, do you know anyone who has a life you want? It doesn’t have to be exact, but let’s try and get close. If so, take them to coffee and be honest about your struggle. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have had it, too. If you don’t know anyone who fits the bill, look harder and make a connection with them. If someone has something you want; let’s find out how to get it.

You get one shot at this life, and I commend you for realizing you were stuck. Very few dreams are too big to conquer. If you always had an artistic streak but never realized it, now is the time to work on it. If you always wanted to work with kids with special needs, you can do it. If you find that your passion is vegan kosher organic cuisine, that dream is attainable too (and seriously needed in my neighborhood)!

Medical degree in pediatric neurosurgery from Harvard? First Jewish President? Who knows?!

I’ll be waiting to see where life takes you!

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