Sitting home at night is slowly killing me!
November 17, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

How can I find stuff to do instead of staring blankly at the computer at night? (special snowflake details inside)

I moved to Davis, California with my SO about two months ago from Michigan to attend graduate school. I realized yesterday that I have no idea what to do with my free time. She is working part time as a bank teller and I've been quite busy getting used to being a graduate student. Up until now, I've been working most evenings and weekends, so my lack of a social life or activities I enjoy hasn't really been noticed.

Things are starting to calm a little, and so I've had a little more free time in the evenings and weekends. Instead of doing enjoyable activities, I find myself sitting in my house on the internet, looking at the same websites over and over. The SO has been writing with a lot of her free time, but is otherwise in the same spot.

Back in Michigan, I would have spent most of this free time with friends. I also played organized sports that took up a lot of my time (softball specifically) but that isn't an option right now, given the season.

I haven't really made any friends here yet. I've been pretty good about being patient about the whole thing and I am still in touch with many people from Michigan, but it's made it difficult to not have a local person to spend time with. There are some people in my program here that I could spend time with (and do occasionally), but nobody I really have a personal connection with yet.

How do I set about finding things I like to do so that I can get out of the house more? I like outdoorsy-type stuff and would love to take advantage of the gorgeous CA weather to get outside more. I also enjoy events and festivals, but not really live music or movies. I would love some suggestions of activities you do that can be done solo or with the SO that will get me out of the house.
posted by zug to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
My stock advice is to get a bike, let the wind get through your hair a bit, and explore your new home. Once you start it's not hard to keep it up.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:43 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My stock advice is to get a bike, let the wind get through your hair a bit, and explore your new home. Once you start it's not hard to keep it up.

That is an excellent idea, but I'm already biking heavily. I haven't had a car pretty much since I got here, which means that I bike everywhere. Unfortunately, it also means that pleasure biking doesn't seem like so much fun any more.
posted by zug at 7:47 AM on November 17, 2010

Get a hobby? You could learn to play the guitar, or learn conversational Korean, or take up jogging photography.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2010

Wine. Davis has quite the dept of Viticulture. I'm not suggesting you start drinking heavily, but you might think about learning about wine, going to tastings, vineyards, making your own......
posted by Ideefixe at 7:58 AM on November 17, 2010

Invite your grad student acquaintances over for dinner or group study or to an event. Ask them to go to talks at the school and then take it from there. Believe me, when you get older it just gets harder to make friends.

Until then find some group activity to get involved in. Take lessons: like chess, etc.
posted by xammerboy at 8:03 AM on November 17, 2010

Join a book club? That'll use up some time in the evenings (to read the book) and introduce you to some new people. There are often specialty book clubs for genres like science fiction. Check Meetup or local neighborhood websites.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:17 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

All the suggestions so far are really good - books, languages, music, etc.

Once you've found what you think is the right course for you, try installing one of those programs like Freedom or SelfControl to lock you out of the computer during certain periods. That should go a long way to making the switch easier.
posted by colin_l at 8:23 AM on November 17, 2010

Probably the best way to do this is to put a bunch of local blogs in your bookmarks or RSS reader so you can find interesting local news/classes/events while you're blobbing around on the internet.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:24 AM on November 17, 2010

Seconding a book club. I went to my first one recently and it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought. Also check out the live music scene in whatever genre you prefer -- the same artists and attendees will keep showing up and you might make some friends that way.

There were also a few really great threads on here recently about fun things to do with an SO to beat sitting around the house in a rut; maybe if you two do some of those together you'll also make new couple-friends.
posted by motsque at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2010

Get a pad of paper and a pen. Put away the laptop and sit with the paper and the pen. See what happens. Write down your life plans, doodle your dream house, write where you want to be in a year's time, write a poem or an erotic story for your SO. At some point during this process you'll probably think up some things of your own to get you outside (or inside) in the evenings.

Improve your garden.

Take a book and go and sit somewhere public (coffee shop, park) and read it.

Volunteer to walk a dog belonging to a busy neighbour.

Take a walk around local small independent grocery shops and bring back the fixings for a long and involved cooking session.

Go to church if that's at all your thing; Quakers and Unitarians may be more appealing if organised religion is not your bag.
posted by emilyw at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite] The Davis Wiki has an event calendar. Or you could try organizing a Mefi meetup - although previous attempts have failed. :(
posted by elsietheeel at 8:32 AM on November 17, 2010

Rock climbing. Here's a facility in Davis. Chances are, they'll have a board where you can post a flyer saying you're looking for a climbing partner. You can boulder (low climbing without ropes where you don't need a partner to belay) until you find someone.

(I find that I enjoy climbing most when I go in a group of three: when any given person is climbing, the other two can chat while one belays.)
posted by ocherdraco at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2010

People are probably getting tired of me recommending this in response to this sort of Ask MeFi question, but:

Join a community service (Lions, Kiwanis) or fraternal (Freemasons, Odd Fellows) organization - it's an excellent way to meet people and make friends (young and old, from all walks of life) and establish a sense of connection to your new community, and it's also a very good, all-purpose way to get yourself out of the house that's not tied to a specific hobby or interest. Clubs catering to a specific hobby are good, but what happens when your interest in RC cars/Anime/basket weaving/whatever wanes? There goes your very specific circle of acquaintences.

Many of these groups are enjoying a revival; younger people are joining because of the exact feeling of social/communal isolation that you describe... so you don't necessarily* need to worry about being the only young person among a bunch of old farts, which has been the stereotypical notion of these groups for a long time (mostly because so few baby boomers joined.)

As a strongly introverted person, the idea of joining a club specifically for generic social interaction was very curious to me when I first encountered it (I learned that a 25 year-old coworker just as geeky as me was in the Elks.) After years of post-college social isolation, though, the more I thought about it the more compelling it was. I wound up becoming a Freemason, and wish I had done so years before. People used to do this all the time!

*Stereotypes have their origins of course, and sometimes you will encounter a moribund club comprised of a bunch of old farts that would not be much fun to join... take your time, visit open houses or go to public dinners and check them out until something clicks.
posted by usonian at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2010

The SO has been writing with a lot of her free time, but is otherwise in the same spot.

Have sex.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I went through a similar experience, and in the end I think I'm a better person for it.

I recommend a combination of independent hobbies and group activities.
Find something you can do when you're stuck in the house. There's all the typical things like writing, art, reading, instruments, and so forth.

Meanwhile, find a local group to get involved in. Regional Historic Societies, Martial Arts clubs, sports clubs, hobbyist organizations, or whatever. They all encourage visitors and you can go for a while, check it out, and leave if you don't like it. The idea is to meet people and stay busy, and once you get involved in one or two, doors start opening.

Good luck, and I hope you figure something out.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:14 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: Heh, now that you say it usonian, I do remember reading this before.

I like your advice, but I think it would be more useful if a lot of these clubs didn't require religious belief or being a specific gender (almost always male) to join.

I just looked into the 4 specific clubs you mention, and none of them could work (two I don't meet the gender/belief requirements for, one doesn't exist here, and the last doesn't appeal). Any other clubs you suggest an atheist female should look into? Actually, the freemasons look awesome, except for the whole religious belief and men-only thing.
posted by zug at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2010

I hear you zug! A lot of times it's hard to tell gender and/or beliefs based on a post or profile, so I hope for the best and throw it out there. It is frustrating how many of them have a belief and/or gender requirement!

Perhaps E. Clampus Vitus? (Found in this question from a few years back.)
posted by usonian at 9:30 AM on November 17, 2010

Zug, Rotary doesn't have any gender/religious requirements. Here are clubs in your area.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:34 AM on November 17, 2010

(And specifically the Davis Sunset club, which meets Wednesday evenings.)
posted by ocherdraco at 9:37 AM on November 17, 2010

I'm not suggesting you start drinking heavily

I am. Bike powered pub crawls are one of life's great pleasures.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:51 AM on November 17, 2010

Clampers don't allow women. They're also a bit...well. Yeah.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:19 AM on November 17, 2010

You're in graduate school! If anything, that makes it far easier to make friends than if you had moved for work: You've instantly got a large community of people whom you interact with regularly and have stuff in common. You don't mention your classmates at all. Start talking to them, start inviting them to the bar after class, get an event together on the weekend, start a study group. Just start talking to the people sitting beside you.
posted by unannihilated at 10:57 AM on November 17, 2010

Take up Minecraft! You'll still be staring at a computer screen for hours but it'll give you something constructive to do.

Play Pinball! After you get good it's a pretty cheap way to spend a few hours.

Drink Whiskey! Preferably while doing one of the other two things on the list.

These are how I get through my days off.
posted by Jawn at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2010

Zug, you should get involved in community theater.

I know it sounds weird, but hear me out. You don't have to be onstage, if that idea terrifies you.

Community theaters always need people to build sets, sew costumes, play in the orchestra, design the marketing, whatever, so any capabilities you have, believe me it will be utilized. Often you can learn a bunch of new skills by working in community theater, back when I used to do it, I taught myself photoshop to make posters for shows.

Or if you like the attention, try acting (or singing!) and being onstage. Either way, you will instantly meet a bunch of people since it takes a fair number of people to make a show happen. In general most theater people are very friendly, inclusive and non-religious. Usually rehearsals happen in the evenings and on the weekends, so that fits your time requirements. And you'll get a chance to be part of the process of making art!

And lucky for you, Davis has a community theater.
posted by geryon at 2:59 PM on November 17, 2010

Intramural sports. Ski or Snowboard Club. Catch the train to Sacramento and walk around downtown. Davis does get old after a while. (I spent 5 years there...)
posted by shinyshiny at 3:06 PM on November 17, 2010

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