Life changes: No longer “drowning without a purpose”

Anna Weggel
Analyst
Public Insight Network

Editor’s Note: We’ve asked a lot of questions in 2012. And you’ve shared a lot of stories with us. So many of them are about change — of one sort or another. So we’re marking the changing of the year with stories of people actively making changes in their lives that are affecting their physical, emotional or communal health.

This is one of those stories, told by Public Insight Network source Joseph Sicheneder himself. It’s about navigating life post-college, a situation that the American Psychological Association warns can be “a time of loneliness and sadness.” Read Sicheneder’s story below, and the rest of our stories of change here.


After graduating from the University of Michigan I felt lost. Since I was born, there were always certain expectations for me, a path to take. First stop, pre-school, then to high school, then to college. I finished college, and instead of having the next step laid out, I found myself in the middle of the woods, with no trace of a path ahead and the one behind closed off.

Last year I was drowning without a purpose. Every other aspect of my life suffered because of the aimlessness and pointlessness of drifting. When I was unmoored, the road bumps of life became smaller weights that only added to the gravity of the situation. Stresses begat more stresses and I was trapped in a vicious cycle of circular self-loathing logic: “I can’t find a job. Everyone else I know has moved on to something. Why am I here still? Am I loser? I must be a loser, because I can’t find a job. Maybe I’m stupid too. If I was smart I could find a job. Therefore I’m an idiot. And a loser.” I had friends going to medical school, getting jobs in their career fields, going with purpose into other graduate programs.

Joseph Sicheneder

Joseph Sicheneder

I didn’t really try applying for jobs, because none of them interested me. The degree I had didn’t interest me enough to continue. With no where to go, I was at a dangerous standstill. My alcohol consumption was through the roof. If I was still where I was a year ago, I’d be a pitiful wreck. Instead, I decided to finally follow the voice inside which had been whispering ignored guidance.

At my brother’s graduation party midsummer, a serendipitous meeting set me once again on the path. I saw the mother of my now deceased oldest friend, and we talked for about an hour about a fledgling program she was running in Urban Education through the UM-Flint. I applied, got in, and rediscovered my purpose.

I applied for a Master’s program in Education through the UM-Flint, and now I am working to be a teacher in the Urban Environment. My life has purpose and meaning beyond myself. It’s work that spiritually resonates with my core. 2012 is a breath of fresh air, a year of renewal. This year I can look forward to the new year with excited anticipation rather than trepidation. Liberation.

It’s like waking up from a nightmare to discover that the sun is shining, birds are singing, and the air that fills your lungs, that first breath is so reinvigorating that your whole perspective shifts. Immediately physically the change is noticeable; not drinking so much at night eliminates a lot of calories (I’ve lost around 10 lbs. without working out, just from not drinking as much). On a deeper level, I stopped following the spiraling hateful monologue and eventually silenced it altogether. It’s hard to define exactly, but there’s just a general feeling of contentment and satisfaction, even if on a daily basis I’m not necessarily content or satisfied. Road bumps? This too shall pass.

>> We want to hear your story. What’s the biggest change you made in 2012?

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Anna Weggel Analyst
Public Insight Network

Anna Weggel is a Public Insight Analyst, which means she spends her time crafting questions about upcoming story topics to send to sources in the Public Insight Network and then produces web, audio and video content featuring those sources.

Before finding her home at APM in 2008, Anna received her B.A. in journalism, was the editor in chief of The Minnesota Daily, and internship hopped through Mother Jones, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and the Downtown Journal. Anna's non-work life is held hostage by the stage -- where she performs improv comedy and shows with her lady bluegrass band.