Sad Young Literary Man Seeks Advice From Cary Tennis

Today's question for incomprehensible Salon advice-giver Cary Tennis comes from someone who writes "I am 25 AND I HAVE A HARVARD DEGREE!" So what is the problem?

Dear Cary,

I am a week shy of my 25th birthday, and I am back living in my parents' home. I have a degree from Harvard and a year of grad school under my belt, but lifelong depression and social phobia have crippled me such that I can't capitalize on my achievements. There's never been a problem getting good grades, but I've never been good at setting my own goals and following through with them. Only too late have I realized that one has to get good at something (besides passing tests) to be able to make a living. Everybody just assumed that because I was book-smart, I would be life-smart, and nobody pressured me to plan out what I wanted to do with my life.

I've also been so sheltered that I can't give directions to my own home, nor do I keep track of how much money there is in my bank account. Basically, I haven't had to learn the ins and outs of daily independent living and it's driving me insane, because I am 25 AND I HAVE A HARVARD DEGREE!

Since I've dropped out of graduate school I've made some attempts to get a job, but not wholeheartedly. I was fired from a fast-food job a couple of months ago, which has shot my confidence for getting a higher-paying, higher-status job. I'm scared to death of getting one, because I don't think I'll put in the effort to do well. I don't have to worry about paying the bills (my parents take care of it all) so there's no external motivation to get serious.

Besides my lack of ambition, I have trouble maintaining relationships. Never dated. Friends come in and out of my life, and I either get bored with them or I get so annoyed that they have ambitions and passions that I feel uncomfortable sticking it out. I have no loyalty to anyone and even my family says that I am duplicitous and hard to read.

I spend most of my days sleeping or surfing the Net, away from people, tuned out from the world. Whenever I try to tune back in, I feel self-conscious due to all that I've missed out on. This again makes it hard to connect with others — what the hell can I talk about?

I know I'm smart, but I'm lazy, and am nowhere near to approaching my potential. The separation between my ability and my actions is driving me crazy and has brought on suicidal thoughts.

I wouldn't mind being isolated or having a low-status job if I were independent (not relying on parents). But "settling" for a "McJob" while under their roof seems to be the very example of slacking off because there's no pressure to do better, and I feel embarrassed doing that.

I know there's a way out of this — maybe finding a different set of friends; a mentor; making a plan and not caring what other people think of it — but getting out of bed to do it is the trick. I've even thought of running away to California (I studied film) but I don't know how the hell I'd survive.

Thanks for reading.

Stalled

Ha ha ha ha. First, yes. Definitely run away to California. That will work out really well for you. Second, ha ha ha again. Third, learn where your fucking house is, Jesus Christ. Fouth, as a lazy, unambitious, clearly kind of dumb person, thank you for basically confirming most of our negative stereotypes of Harvard and Harvard grads.

No, seriously, you are just a lazy rich kid. Deal with it, maybe? Or maybe you just can't, because your parents, who are clearly still enabling you, have fucked you up beyond repair. In that case, whatever, keep mooching until they die. While you're mooching, try starting a literary journal or writing a novel about a young man who graduated from Harvard but still can't figure out "women" and "not being a tool"!

And for godssake learn where the hell your house is.