Finding things to do with myself on evenings and weekends
January 10, 2012 8:16 PM   Subscribe

What are some things I can do during evenings and weekends?

I'm a 30 year old guy in the Chicago area. I work a standard 9-5 and I've found that I have absolutely nothing to do on weeknights or weekends. I end up just surfing the web and then going to bed. I don't have a significant other and I live in an apartment that doesn't allow pets unfortunately. I also live in a pretty bad neighborhood so I can't really just walk around, which is something I like to do.

I guess what I need is a hobby. But it has to be something that doesn't require much money or a car. I know there are lots of questions similar to this and I've scoured them for answers but I haven't come up with much that appeals to me. I haven't yet found a hobby I've enjoyed just to do it; I think I'm very goal-based so hobbies without a point or outcome don't really appeal to me. I also get hung up on how the hobby might or might not make me money someday as I dislike what I do for a living and am trying to find some other activity that I could enjoy and make money from. Maybe I need to get out of this mindset to feel satisfied, but I don't know how.

I've tried guitar, writing, and drawing. I don't have a "knack" for any of them and I find myself frustrated with my progress, even after months & years of practice. It's just not fun for me. I'm also a bit of a loner so social activities don't really appeal to me either. I've gone to things through and find it to be awkward...I have trouble relating to people sometimes and hanging out with people doesn't really fulfill me in the way that I feel I need to be fulfilled.

I know some people might jump to 'depression' as the root of this. I don't know. I think I feel this way simply because I don't have anything I can really focus my energy on. It's easy to feel low when you don't have something you can take pride in, you know?

Any ideas for activities that meet my admittedly restrictive criteria? Please don't recommend knitting or anything involving computers. I'm on the computer enough as it is. Thanks guys.
posted by allseeingabstract to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
What about something creative that doesn't depend on a skill? What about reading, watching movies, keeping more up to date with current events, or learning about some aspect of life that interests you? What about a craft with low correlation to career prospects, like woodworking or knitting or something?
posted by Sara C. at 8:28 PM on January 10, 2012

I kind of feel the same way as you so I will be watching for answers. I think people will say the usual "cook things" (I love cooking but find cooking for one totally depressing), or learn a language, or grow plants? Actually, what you should probably do is look for a new job, if you don't have constraints preventing you from doing that (I do). Anyway, just responding to let you know you are not alone. Weeknights, anyway. Weekend days give you more time to branch out, you can public transport commute out of your neighborhood and head downtown. Walking around can be interesting on its own or your can also check out independent films and/or museums if you can find good deals on entrance fees. You can also eat cheap interesting foods, maybe check Time Out and find some places to go. So weeknights, I feel your pain, weekends, time to check out downtown Chicago or whatever neighborhoods are safer and more interesting that your weeknight digs.
posted by bquarters at 8:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Learn how to sell things, online or otherwise. Then you'll have an excuse to get 'out of the house' and buy things from flea markets, thrift shops, book sales, etc. You can fix/mend/repair them, then sell them on for a profit.

Tell people about what you do, then sell some things for them (on a commission, of course).

It's amazing how much your attitude changes when you go places and keep an eye out for interesting pieces that you can learn about, hear about their history, and determine if there is a market for that type of item anymore.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:32 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Question: Do you have a bike?
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:34 PM on January 10, 2012

I've tried guitar, writing, and drawing. I don't have a "knack" for any of them and I find myself frustrated with my progress, even after months & years of practice

Try classes in these things or if you can't afford classes, like really can't, try an online group, especially for the writing but even for the guitar. This can help keep you motivated. Don't talk yourself out of it because of not having a "knack." Everyone I know who is good at these things (writing, drawing, guitar) is good because they did it a LOT. In fact, I do these things and am not as good as those people, but I just need to do it more and I know that.

BTW, I didn't "jump" to thinking you were depressed when I read this. Is there a reason you brought it up? Is it something that concerns you? If so look into it.
posted by sweetkid at 8:36 PM on January 10, 2012

Cooking for one can get old quickly, but mastering something is always good, absorbing, and may introduce you to others who are into, say, artisan bread or charcuterie. Also you can give away the fruits of your labor and become "that amazing friend who gives me cheese."

So I vote "specialty cooking."
posted by cyndigo at 8:46 PM on January 10, 2012

Huh. I could have written this exact question a couple months ago. Like weirdly the same. I'm also 30, live in Chicago and recently found myself with nights/weekends free.

Unfortunately, I don't think you'll get an "answer." And, actually, it appears you kind of already asked this question. Anyway, I went back to a hobby I had back in high school / college, which is racing r/c cars. It combines competition, gadgetry and an active online community. It's also expensive and inconvenient if you don't live near one of the racetracks in the area. But I'm not trying to sell you on my hobby, just using it as an example. For you it could be bicycling or cooking or hunting or golf or just about anything. Maybe you should go to a hobby or sporting goods store and see if anything strikes you as interesting?
posted by mullacc at 8:55 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

AFOL? (Adult Fan Of Lego) Make some nice Lego things, display them at you annual city's AFOL exhibition, and inspire the kids all want to get into Lego robotics or whatever. Lego isn't free, but it lasts forever, so acquiring a little each month tuns into a huge amount very quickly.

Have a look through Make magazine or Make Blog - does anything appeal? Plenty of opportunity for money in stuff you make.

Design yourself a makeover in your personal style and attire, which might first involve learning a more detailed understanding of style and your sartorial options, and how to rock things - and how to figure out what things to rock. A few months working on that kind of project could pay off handsomely long-term for anyone's future.

I hear a lot of tradespeople make a nice income these days now that everyone is trying to get white collar jobs - perhaps look into a trade that might interest you and see how much free or low-cost education is available, and how far can you get in your spare time towards whatever certifications apply? Use your time to directly upskill.

I also get hung up on how the hobby might or might not make me money someday as I dislike what I do for a living and am trying to find some other activity that I could enjoy and make money from.

For what it's worth, I'm in the opposite situation - I sort of do a hobby for a living, and because it's interesting to do that, everyone wants to do it, so there is lots of competition and it's tough and not so fun any more. People of similar capability working less desirable jobs make a lot more money than me and work fewer hours. So I want to get out of the fun work and into the dull work.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Work out, several times a week - I'm having some sucess with Couch to 5K. All you need are some decent shoes, although an ipod is also helpful.

Go to museums. Enrich your mind.

Go to live performances - music, theatre, stand up comedy, improv. Plenty of places have mid-week performances.

Since you hate your job, use the time to look for a new one. If you need more training, use the time to get that training.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think I'm very goal-based so hobbies without a point or outcome don't really appeal to me. I also get hung up on how the hobby might or might not make me money someday as I dislike what I do for a living and am trying to find some other activity that I could enjoy and make money from.

Then it sounds like what you need to do is take some classes on skills that could get you a better job, to meet both the 'goal oriented' and 'make money' objectives. You also say you want something to take pride in. I would think earning a certificate or learning a new skill would do that, too. You could even take an online course, if the social aspects of a class bother you.

I'm a bit introverted myself, but I do think you have to be careful not to isolate yourself too much, if you do want an SO down the line (sounds like you might). Sometimes it's a good thing to venture out of your comfort zone.
posted by misha at 8:59 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just looked through your AskMe posting history, not to be all stalkerish but because I've been where you are (and still am, to some extent). I think that you might consider seeing a counselor or therapist, too.

This is NOT because I think you are crazy or anything! I just have this sense that you are drifting, and having trouble focusing, and that this has been going on for quite a while. It might help to talk to an actual person about that. I was pretty organized as a young woman, but felt like I lost that as I got older, and I was recently diagnosed with ADD, which might be something you should look into.

But not everyone who is unfocused has ADD, and that's not the only reason I suggest seeing someone.

What really concerns me is that I feel like you are looking to get "really good" at something, and make money doing that, because you feel this external validation will make you feel better about yourself. And, honestly, external validation is not going to help with that.
posted by misha at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about volunteering for a cause that you are interested in? Can help make your life feel more meaningful too as a bonus, and you probably won't have an issue with getting hung up on feeling like you ought to get paid for doing it. How about Big Brothers/Big Sisters? Great organization providing role models for at risk youth. I've seen it turn kids' lives around.

I think you might find that if you took some hobby you loved and suddenly it was your job to do it, it might not be so great any more. If you want to test this theory, try selling something you made on Etsy. There's little commitment to doing it and you can do it as much as you want, and you might find you like it, or you might find you can't stand it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I found myself in the same situation, I took some continuing education courses at a nearby community colleges. There are no grades so no pressure. I took French to brush up on it, and a Thai cooking class. It was fun, got me out of the house, meeting people.
posted by la petite marie at 9:20 PM on January 10, 2012

Exercise. I used to have nothing to do but stress about all my stress, but now I do Crossfit four to six times a week, and I'm a totally different (happier, more confident, more able to set goals, more outgoing, more resilient, a little less stressed) person. If you feel like you might be depressed at all, exercise is a great place to put in some time.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

What are some things I can do during evenings and weekends?

I don't know, what are some things you like to do in general?

I also get hung up on how the hobby might or might not make me money someday as I dislike what I do for a living and am trying to find some other activity that I could enjoy and make money from. Maybe I need to get out of this mindset to feel satisfied, but I don't know how.

I definitely think that getting out of this mindset is going to help. As for how: someone else has suggested therapy, and maybe that would help; "therapy" isn't just for people who are depressed, sometimes it's also for "talking something Major and confusing through with an impartial person who'll help keep you from ducking your own questions."

But if you really are dissatisfied with your job, maybe that's something to fix first -- not like "go get another job," but at least come up with an idea of what you'd rather BE doing, and then once you start figuring that out you can start figuring out whether you need more training, volunteer experience, etc. And then maybe some of that is something you can do a couple times a week -- and that can help free up brainspace to help you figure out what you want to do the rest of the week. And sometimes, "surfing the web" really is okay to do (not every night, as you've learned, but sometimes it really is okay to just chill out -- we all need that).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on January 11, 2012

What about homebrewing? A bunch of my friends in their 20s and 30s brew their own beer as an evening/weekend hobby. It seems fun, and you get beer at the end of it. Win!
posted by JannaK at 5:24 AM on January 11, 2012

The idea of socially meeting with people whom you may have nothing in common sounds depressing but how about meeting up with people with whom you share an avid interest? There are plenty of groups for guitar or drawing enthusiasts in Chicago. San Google can help you there.

As far as learning these things, have you taken classes or are you just going the old "self learning" thing? In general self-learning sucks unless you are super motivated. Head to your local guitar store to see what is available. Drawing classes are available many places in Chicago.

Getting interested in other things is easy once you become open to exposing yourself to new activities. Pick up the weekly papers and see what is going on that you have never gone to before. Pick things at random but don't be judgemental until after you have tried it. Keep a sense of humor about it all. Definitely volunteer but that doesn't mean animal shelters or nursing homes. Volunteers are needed for theater ushers, historical tours, libraries, and an unlimited number of events. Experiment.
posted by JJ86 at 6:27 AM on January 11, 2012

Go to live performances - music, theatre, stand up comedy, improv. Plenty of places have mid-week performances.

Being a live comedy fan, I would absolutely have to second this. Chicago has pretty damn good improv and stand-up scenes, and they're cheaper and more accessible than I think most people realize. There are tons of free shows as well. Check out an iO show sometime just to see if you have a taste for it.
posted by gregoryg at 7:49 AM on January 11, 2012

Go to live performances - music, theatre, stand up comedy, improv. Plenty of places have mid-week performances.

Thirding this! I have a work schedule that precludes going to events on weekday evenings, and it's one of the things I dislike most about my job.

You'd be surprised how much interesting stuff happens between 6-9 PM on weeknights. Readings, art openings, performances, lectures, film screenings, group meetings, classes... A lot of this stuff is free and/or super cheap, too.
posted by Sara C. at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2012

When I was living in Chicago I would often exercise on my own during my downtime. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I always tried to do things that were as anti-wnter as possible. In lean times I swam at the indoor Park District pool across the street from my Ukranian Village apartment (Chicago has a surprising amount of indoor pools-- check out the park district or local Y, and there are lots of outdoor pools for summer).

Eventually, I got a health club membership and let me tell you, swimming laps in the pool/sitting in the steam room is loner evening/weekend paradise. For under a hundred dollars a month it really is a bargain to be able to have these amenities. There's probably a health club like this near your work if nowhere else.
posted by devymetal at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2012

If you are alone, taking care of someone or something could be emotionally satisfying. Try growing tomatoes, or some other vegetables, or get a pet.
posted by leigh1 at 9:23 AM on January 11, 2012

I've found birding to be very rewarding. It helps to have good observational skills but I wouldn't say that birding "requires" practice. Careful: may be addictive!

Get some binoculars, though, even if you want to do it on the cheap. You can get a decent set of starter binocs for ridiculously low prices on Amazon (google "travel binoculars"). If you like doing it, you can move up in optics quality from there.

Also, everyone uses the Sibley field guides these days; if you have an iPhone there's a Sibley app. I have a National Geographic guide and my dad's old Peterson's from the '40's.

You can even get social about it if you want to; a lot of places around the States have local birding clubs or Audubon chapters that have birding walks, trips, etc.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2012

If I had weeknights free, I would love to take classes at a local junior college. Classes are cheap, and you can take all kinds of things to explore interests and possibly expand your job skills -- web design, Spanish, all kinds of art classes -- and maybe make some new friends in the process. Check out City Colleges of Chicago. You might still be able to register for the spring term.

You could also teach yourself a foreign language or computer skills. I've been wanting to re-learn my college German and teach myself Access 2010 but I'm too lazy... Again, they might help with getting you a new job.
posted by jabes at 2:17 PM on January 11, 2012

You mentioned writing, but you didn't say what kind of writing - so I'm going to suggest some focused, exploratory journaling.

Give yourself a medium-term goal: say "I will write every weeknight through the end of March."

Then give yourself weekly assignments - maybe:

* week 1: imagine a complete life for yourself. Picture yourself 5 or 10 years in the future. Write vivid, detailed descriptions of where you live, what you do for money, who you spend time with, and what you do for relaxation. Each weeknight gets a different fully-imagined scenario. So, if you like living in the Chicago area, each weeknight, imagine your future self living in a different neighborhood or suburb. Fully imagine five different jobs you could have, and so on.

* week 2: each weeknight, write a detailed paragraph about (1) something you're grateful for, (2) something you feel good about having done, and (3) something you're looking forward to. (I think I got those three things from another MeFite - I wish I knew who and when, so I could link... )

* week 3: each weeknight, write something about your relationships with time, money, accomplishment, and status. Maybe write about how it felt to tell your best friend the last time you got a raise, or about the three months you watched your savings dwindle when you couldn't find a job, or how great you felt when you bought your first batch of comic books with five weeks of paper route money.

By the end of week 3, you'll probably have a number of other topics you'd like to explore. If not, make yourself come up with some. (Or repeat any of the first few weeks.) Commit to continuing until the end of March.

By the end of that time, you'll have filled a lot of evenings and a lot of pages, and you'll have given yourself a lot of time to think about what you do and don't want, and what you do and don't like, and that may give you the raw material to decide how you'd like to spend your evenings for the three months after that.

As an almost completely different alternative:

Go to the library and check out a bunch of books on anything that's of interest to you (ideally, several different topics each week).

Take them home.

Do NOT read them. Instead, skim them, and write summaries of anything that's of interest to you. You don't have to write a lot if a book turns out to be boring, but each one should get at least a paragraph before it goes back to the library. If it's interesting, it should get five or ten pages.
posted by kristi at 5:39 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

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