Sadly op ffxi is one of the most lonely places there is now imo
I came back about 8 months or so ago, and stuck around for a few months partially because it was really interesting to see all the new changes, but primarily because my timing was fortunate and Wildskeeper Reives were really popular at the time (I'd say they were kind of essential for a returning loner with no friends like myself trying to get some decent non-sparks gear, though sparks gear is really quite good on it's own).
I'd hop on, and try to team up with some people inside of WKR (if not party, then just follow around and try to help those who need it with heals, or just function as DPS if there was a healer etc), score a piece of gear or two (usually one for my favorite jobs, one for something I might play later I'd stow away), and make some bayld/sparks along the way by completing those WKR nakuul quests (spelling I'm sure is wrong there).
Somewhere along the line people I met inside WKR invited me to a linkshell that did small social events, and was just starting to get into Delve (again, super fortunate timing on my part). I had a lot of jobs leveled up from my previous visits to FFXI, so I was fairly flexible as to what I could offer, and even though my gear at the time wasn't 119, the WKR sets I'd established and tweaked with the excellent WKR augment system, I ended up performing pretty well on Monk, which is what I attended as 99% of the time for the first three delves (later went Samurai for what is referred to as Delve 2.0, but by then I had 119 sets from WKR and Outer Ra Skirmishes, which I was mostly doing in pickup groups for fun when people weren't on in LS for events).
So there we were, a small group of friends all happy to be together and geared up with delve complete etc... and then school started back up and like half the LS disappeared for that, and the other half left the linkshell split because there weren't enough people to do events (and the linkshell sack holder was MIA so we couldn't invite more people). The effects of school starting up didn't only impact our LS though, impacted the entire server. The major cities suddenly felt like ghost towns, for litterally a month I hopped on every night after work and tried to find things to do. I joined a new LS and even though they were larger, there wasn't much "action" for events going on (at least not in the time frame I could hop on and play in the evenings). I have to say, after a month of what felt like pure, unadulterated loneliness, I submitted and canceled my account once more. What sucked most was I wasn't able to say goodbye to the good people who kept me company for the four months or so I was playing and made me feel welcomed, because they all disappeared as well. Part of this may have been the big salvage ban that was happening at the time, it's likely a lot of the people I was playing with were removed for that because they mentioned partaking of it a few times in LS, and the bans probably took a chunk of our server with them (though I don't know if they were permanent or not, perhaps they are all playing again today, I don't know for sure). Destiny had also just come out at the time, so it was taking MANY of our FFXI players (they'd talk about it in game a lot, so I know it at least factored in... We had one LS member who would log in 100% of the time, but never play, he was just online watching for shouts while he played Destiny). I thought it was my imagination for the first couple weeks, but by the end I'd do a /sea all and get less than 1000 people on a regular basis, one time I even did a /sea all and got like 300~ something... that's less than free to play private wow servers by a long ways, FFXI is unplayable like that in my opinion. I left the game again at this point and haven't touched it since, though I may revisit once school is out again in the hopes those people I played with are again on and interested in exploring new events together, even if it's only for a month or two.
Long story I know, but my point was that with good company this game is an absolute pleasure to play, it makes me feel better as a person and I truly enjoy both helping others in game (as well as getting the help I needed when I needed it most). But at the same time, when people aren't online in massive amounts the game can be the most empty, soulless experience a gamer can participate in. I don't drink, but I imagine it's akin to slamming beers at a bar alone, day after day, for a month straight... eventually it's going to wear on you.
I'm not a huge fan of server merges because of what it can do to the economy etc, but this game really needs to intelligently re-partition servers again. So whether this means the game needs a massive merger (perhaps by moving to newer, stronger hardware, to create higher population support in one big server, which we DO have the technology for today vs 10 years ago), or switching to allow for some lesser-form of free-to-play alongside the pay-to-play-premium sub, it definitely needs some kind of life breathed into it, because while I've never been one to say "ffxi is dying!", I do feel it's at least a little short on breath these days.
As for the original OP's problems, I was stuck there when I first played the game as well, I even came to these very forums to ask for help (cry and beg for help, really, I was whiny as all hell after all my failures - was on the verge of quitting FFXI right then). I eventually did get help from a higher level friend (who to this day is my best friend IRL from our adventures in this game), and without that friend, I don't think it would have been possible for me to progress further. Today things are a little different, as you have trusts, and trusts are incredibly powerful if used correctly. I would wager that if you put some time and effort into perfecting the use of trusts, you'll have little effort completing things. As an example, I was able to solo many jobs up to 99 from lvl 1 (geomancer is one for example) without a single death nor any even remotely-close-call fights by using good trusts. Half the time the trusts would do most of a 'tougher' fight for me (harder hitting notorious monsters for example), I'd just keep my distance after initially engaging and let them do the heavy lifting so hate stayed on the tank etc. I'm not sure if any of this advice helps you or not, but keep asking around on the server, and I'm sure someone will lend a hand otherwise and get you through the difficult block. Otherwise, if another free to play weekend pops up and you are on asura, contact me on here and I'll hop on and lend a hand. Edited, Jan 13th 2015 12:29pm by FUJILIVES