Dear Amy:

I have a problem when it comes to keeping a job, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

My husband has encouraged me to speak with a counselor, but I don't know who to talk to.

If you were to look at my resume, you would see a person who has had what appears to be a successful, 15-year career in one field, complete with graduate degree and a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom. However, I have not liked my last three jobs and I am hard-pressed to find recent references from anyone I got along with at work. I have only stayed at each of these jobs for two years or less.

After I begin a new job, I find things to complain about almost immediately.

I have never really enjoyed my chosen field and am considering making a complete career change. However, I don't have the energy or drive to go back to school, and I change my mind constantly about what I might like to do.

My husband is tired of listening to me, which is understandable, and he has told me it would be okay if I just quit and stayed home.

When I have had periods of time when I've stayed home, however, I become anxious about not having an occupational purpose in my life and spend hours every day looking through online job ads.

I have pondered Oprah-like questions like, "What would you do if you could do anything?" I have read books about finding my "purpose," but I still don't have an answer.

I have come to realize that a steady job might never happen for me. Fortunately, other aspects of my life are wonderful. However, I know there must be something wrong with me. Do you know how to fix this?

Not Working

This isn't about finding the perfect job. This is about your life. You don't need to find out what color your parachute is. You need therapeutic help in order to treat your anxiety. Your jobs aren't causing your anxiety; your anxiety is causing your unhappiness with your jobs.

Anxiety will put you on a hamster's wheel, and no "Oprah moment" or self-help book can cure this disorder because it is a medical condition.

Definitely get a checkup; thyroid problems can sometimes cause anxiety symptoms such as you describe. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist. Various Web sites (such as www.psychologytoday.com) also list therapists and their specialties.

Dear Amy:

I'd like to pick your brain about something.

Last night I spoke with a friend whom I haven't been in touch with much lately. When she and I talked last, about a month ago, she had a new guy in her life and it was going great with him.

Last night she tells me that she's engaged. The wedding is in a year.

I'm a bit ashamed to say that my first reaction was one of shock/concern that she just met him.

In fact, my first response was, "How long have you been dating?" (Two months.)

I keep thinking about that Chris Rock quip: "In the first three months, your representative is dating my representative."

I'm sure that there are many long and happy marriages with the same short dating time span, and yet I'm very concerned. Should I be? By the way, I've yet to meet Mr. Wonderful.

Mike

You can't pass judgment on your friend's choice, at least to her face. The reason you can't pass judgment is because your judgment won't make a whit of difference to her. She hasn't asked you if you think she's being foolish, and until you meet her guy and she asks you what you think, there isn't any point in volunteering your Chris Rock quip (which I love, by the way).

Thank goodness for long engagements. In a year's time, both she and her fiance will have dismissed their representatives and they will know each other better.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.