Bringing awesome back.
January 30, 2012 7:02 AM   Subscribe

What are some everyday ways I can awesome-ize my life?

I've got a bad case of late 20s / early 30s restlessness, and would love nothing better than to quit my job and go travelling around the world in a hot-air balloon while having a ton of affairs.

Of course, I can't do that, because I have a job and a mortgage, but there must be other, smaller ways I can make my everyday life just a little more bright and interesting.

As it is, I see my friends and family a lot, participate in activity-specific meet-ups, and write (although I am sorely feeling the lack of inspiration). I am also interested in cooking, baking and photography and I do a fair bit of these. I live in a reasonably big city with a lot of cool cultural things going on, which I make adequate but not excessive use of. I have a job which quite frankly I hate. But everything else in my life is pretty good. Having said that though, I still feel a little bit as though the awesome has gone out of my life.

Anyway so my question is, what are the little things you do everyday that keep life from being boring? Little joy-injections, I guess.
posted by Ziggy500 to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 151 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't know exactly why this synapse is firing, but -- try out some experimental travel ideas That's just a fancy word for "weird ways to explore" -- things like, "walk out your front door and walk for 10 minutes, making all right turns, and then see where you end up and check out what it's like." Lonely Planet has a whole book of ideas like these (some of them are on the link); I'm toying with what they call the "K2 voyage" - get a map of your city/town, find the part that corresponds with coordinates K-2 on the map, go to that spot and explore. You may end up on a beach you never knew existed, you may end up on a block of warehouses, you may end up at a funky VFW hall.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on January 30, 2012 [32 favorites]

Best answer: Do you volunteer? I ask because you don't specifically mention it, but I find it adds lots of awesome to my life. Even just donating blood is an adventure! But other things you can try -

Tutor a kid
Volunteer as a big brother/big sister
Volunteer with a literacy or GED program
Beach Cleanup (or park, or roadside, or whatever)
Collect or make things for charity (for me, it's toiletries and knitted items for a homeless youth shelter in NYC)
Hold babies at the local NICU
Lead tours at the local museum or historical landmark
Answer phones for a hotline
yes, some of these things sound kind of depressing, but they add so much value if they're a good match for you. It might take a while to find the thing that fires you up. But keep searching!

Also, grab a copy of What Color is Your Parachute so you can work (however slowly) on escaping this job that you hate and moving into work you love that pays even more. Or find a way to get paid to test out hot air balloons for sex-worthiness. Or something.

As for the house, because it seems very important to you. Things I would do:

Area rugs
Frame and hang photos of loved ones - friends and family and places and pets from years gone by
Other art type things that you would like to see a lot
Good quality lighting and maybe a puzzle that you can work on for a few minutes here and there
Host a board game night (this isn't daily, but it can be something that you organize over time. Who's bringing the beer, what snacks will you have, will there be a movie in the background, etc)
Join an online challenge for a picture a day, or a bake-along (everybody makes the same thing and reports back on their blog with the experience notes - did you forget to buy eggs and have to run out midway through creaming the butter?)
posted by bilabial at 7:23 AM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

...and write (although I am sorely feeling the lack of inspiration)

As you do the research for your new novel about travelling around the world in a hot-air balloon while having a ton of affairs, you may discover things that you do explicitly want to go do when the novel is a success and you can quit your day job.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:25 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I get obsessed with things. I chase them until I'm exhausted or they are.

I noticed this thing that awesome people do, about ten years ago when I was reading Borges for the first time. All his little self-referential stories about infinite libraries that are mirrors that are labyrinths that are the exact size of the universe. He's obsessed with something that he's trying to capture in these images.

Then, in a bookstore, I saw a coffee-table book on Man Ray's Ray-o-grams, his photosensitive paper exposed with slinkies and springs and things on top of them. One of these had a hand-cranked egg-beater instead of a slinky and -- even though a hand-cranked egg beater doesn't look like a spiral or a helix, the way his exposures of springs do, I saw the spirals anyway.

What I saw was that Man Ray is obsessed with spirals in the way that Borges is obsessed with labyrinths, and that these ideas were in a weird way fecund enough to inspire a whole artistic period in each of their lives.

And I thought, "There's Treasure Everywhere!" It was a discovery that I keep having to remind myself of because that kind of wonder gets grinded down by life.

I don't think you need to quit your job necessarily -- you might need to, and I'm not ruling it out -- but if you can find ways to make your job define your life less so that you can go treasure-hunting more that can help. If your job leaves you totally emotionally drained at the end of every day or every week, that's another issue.

But get obsessed with something: apprentice with a local cheesemaker or learn everything you can about dinosaurs or start foraging medicinal herbs from the state park, and take your obsession as far as you want to take it.

Make an iPhone app that solves a problem only you have, and then put it online and see how many other people have the same problem.

Rack up $40 in fines at the library because you're into a dozen books on anarchism and the political and property structures of indigenous North American people groups, because you're writing a research paper that nobody will ever read, just for you.

Start rock climbing or parkour-ing and never look at a wall the same way again.

tl;dr: Basically, make your lifestyle something that supports getting your geek on in as little or as much depth as you can stand. And give yourself permission to stop these things when you're tired of them. They are there to serve you, not the other way around.
posted by gauche at 7:29 AM on January 30, 2012 [42 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with gauche - it is the little obsessions that allow me to go to work and believe that work is important because it supports my pursuit of those little obsessions. None of these obsessions would support my life or have much meaning to anyone else and ultimately I will put one down to follow another. I also know that this is very much based on my personality and that others around me may not be able to see or experience the tiny bit of joy these diversions brings me.
posted by JXBeach at 7:43 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

"getting your geek on in as little or as much breadth or depth as you can stand"

One cliche took the place of another there. This is more what I meant to say.
posted by gauche at 7:49 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: Music~ Just having music going injects joy into my life...I'm pretty happy right now, but sometimes when I'm feeling blah, and I can't figure it out what is wrong with me, I'll realize, DAMN it's too quiet in here! Music blasts this feeling for me right away. Music, music, music.

Make your own controllable home and work environment as pleasant as humanly possible. Whatever that means for you.

Find a different job, seriously. Right now you have the luxury to make the most kick ass resume the world has ever seen. This will be part of future awesome.

And music.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:56 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: Learn to ride a motorcycle.
posted by beau jackson at 7:59 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try to find the awesome in some of the things that are tedious. Like, if you're at work and hate it, what are the tolerable parts? Can you make them awesome? Do you have a friend at work with whom you can find some awesome things throughout the week to do? Can you make your cubicle awesome? Can you simply be the Awesome One In The Office?

Having one life at work and one outside of it is mostly necessary, but there are ways to make your workplace closer to awesome than it was.
posted by xingcat at 8:02 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am also interested in cooking, baking and photography

Bread, and the making of it, is one of life's small joys. It can be absorbing in technique, complicated or simple in its ingredients, and satisfying in its results. Go on: learn to make a wild yeast starter. Send away for a sourdough cake that was begun in 1847. Pay attention to the temperature of water, to the feel of different doughs under your hands. Treat yourself to a research binge by joining and reading The Fresh Loaf online, and by curling up with a copy of Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." Practice, practice, practice. Wonder in amazement that something so delicious could come from your hands.

Bring loaves and baguettes and English muffins to your friends and family, and ask them to come over to sample whatever you're learning to master. Give a loaf to a street person in need of a small kindness. Bake for the volunteers at your favorite library or local non-profit (the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls, while perhaps not *strictly* a bread, are guaranteed to make people happy).

Bread is a humble but potent joy, and I commend it to you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:22 AM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Something that might help is giving your writing a boost. In Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit, she talks about one writer friend's regular (and fruitful) creativity exercise. Every time he leaves the house he reminds himself, "don't come back without a face."

His mission is to find one person that he finds interesting and study them. He records their physical characteristics in a note book, then spins a back story for them. Where they might be going right now, what's their job, do they like it, do they have a family, what are their eccentricities and quirks, what was their childhood like, etc...

Since he does this every day, he has loads of decently fleshed-out characters all ready to draw on when he sits down to actually write.

This seems like a great way to keep engaged in everyday life, to notice things you might not have, and to energize your writing. Perhaps it would also increase the awesome.
posted by jenmakes at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I have three things. One, I have a huge supply of handmade soap from various Etsy sellers, and it makes me happy every time I get in the shower. For real. Two, I really like coffee and I buy good coffee. Even the mornings when I'm dragging my arse, I think "Oh! Coffee!" and am excited. Three, I own a Kindle and I gather things up to read in bed with enormous pleasure.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 AM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Find an awesome physical activity that you enjoy, if you don't have one already. You'll get a workout and a sense of accomplishment. Maybe you'll overcome some fears and make friends and discover hidden talents! And you can be all like, "yeah, that's my hockey stick/unicycle/punching bag/surfboard over there" and people will be like "oh neato" and when shit gets you down you can be like "well, whatever to these jerks, I'm a unicycling boxing hockey surfer and therefore a badass."
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:36 AM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

This Book Will Change Your Life.
posted by knile at 8:40 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can you start a meetup group? Or start some kind of group/club at work, such as a running club, or a movie club, or hiking/outdoor trips club or anything? Try some martial arts classes.

Why not register to run a half marathon while raising money for a good cause, with Team in Training, or another similar group? You can find one in a location you want to visit, for example, I did a Napa-to-Sonoma half marathon to raise money for the Crohns and Colitis Foundation, and all the expenses (hotel, flights) were paid for after I raised a certain amount of money for the charity. You'll have to start training for the run, which will make you feel like a superhero the first time you are able to run 10 miles and not be tired, and you'll also have to organize fundraising events, which will give you a purpose in life outside of work.

Pick up the guitar and learn to play a couple of simple songs, then find an open mic night for beginners, or a local music school that has open mic nights for their students, where you'll get the thrill of playing in front of people, and the support of other students as well, you might even make new friends if these people go out for a beer after their open mic nights.

Is there a climbing gym near you? Start rock climbing. Climbers live for climbing, and they are super friendly and helpful and inviting. It can become a serious passion in your life, and before you know it you'll be planning your weekends and vacations so you can go climbing outdoors with other awesome people.

Learn a new language with the goal of traveling to that country for your next vacation in a year.
posted by at 8:46 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: One thing that I have pledged to do is start using my vacation time to travel. No, I can't do a backpacking round-the-world trip in that time, but I can pick a new place to go every year and see the world that way, without having to upend my whole life to do so. This year I'm going to Peru for 3-4 weeks in November - I just started planning and it's been really fun and exciting to think about this trip.

I do agree though that the job you hate is a big deal. I've never been able to be happy with my life with a job I hated, but the really vicious thing is that I usually don't realize how much it's impacting my life until after I leave the job. Something to keep in mind.
posted by lunasol at 8:49 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: Keep a list of the "little joy-injections" and review it regularly.

It fuels the fire!
posted by jgirl at 9:01 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: And yes, as lunasol said, traveling somewhere new and exciting for vacation is good. I know so many people who just go to North Carolina every single year, or go to their family cabin 2 hours away from where they live every single year, or only go to all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean for vacation where everything is the same from resort to resort. Do something more exciting. Planning a trip in advance gives you something to be excited about for months, and you can plan to stay in hostels and meet people who are traveling the world, who will give you ideas for new adventures.
posted by at 9:05 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: Planning a trip in advance gives you something to be excited about for months, and you can plan to stay in hostels and meet people who are traveling the world, who will give you ideas for new adventures.

In addition, spontaneous trips for outrageous reasons and fools' errands may also work too. One of my favorite stories about one of my best friends concerns her spontaneous road trip from Eastern Connecticut all the way up to Quebec, solely because:

"I got a new car and was excited to drive it, so I thought I'd go out and get some soda, but the store was a block away so I thought I would at least drive to another town, and then Canada was a lot closer than I thought it would be, so I decided to see if the Coke cans were written in French there."

And thus she drove all night to the US/Canadian border, picked up a 2-liter bottle of Coca Cola "Classique", and immediately turned around and came home. It was ridiculous, it was unplanned, but it was also awesome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on January 30, 2012 [13 favorites]

And thus she drove all night to the US/Canadian border, picked up a 2-liter bottle of Coca Cola "Classique", and immediately turned around and came home.

Yes! The "Run for the Flag" game is awesome.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:27 AM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: Make it your goal to get a dog to wag its tail at you.

Every day.

Any dog. Yours. A friend's. Your neighbor's. Just make a dog wag its tail. Your life will change.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:36 AM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I would pursue all of these outside activities and passions that others have mentioned, but at the end of the day also pursue finding another job. I've had jobs I absolutely hated and they slowly consumed my attention away from the good stuff. This is assuming you really do hate your job as opposed to "meh, it could be better" You don't have to hate your job forever - maybe tolerate it for awhile to pay the rent - but you can find something that isn't soul-sucking.
posted by fromageball at 10:28 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another voice to say that a bad job is an awesome-vampire. I'd suggest sitting down and figuring out what you'd have to do to switch from a job you hate to a job that maybe you don't love, but at least gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment for the 8 hours a day you spend there. Then, take your restless energy and put it toward accomplishing that plan.
posted by psycheslamp at 10:56 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

"walk out your front door and walk for 10 minutes, making all right turns, and then see where you end up and check out what it's like."

Empress, am I missing something here? I would be walking around my block for 10 minutes...
posted by sfkiddo at 2:33 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: These are all food related:

Brew beer!

Learn how to butcher a pig. Make sausages, lard, cured hams, etc.

Garden/ learn how to can/preserve.

Construct a wood fired oven for baking bread, pizza, smoking meats, etc.

Make a cold cellar in your basement to store all of your cured ham and ferment your beer.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 2:43 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: So many awesome answers. Thank you all. :)

Re: the job - point taken!
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:08 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

am I missing something here? I would be walking around my block for 10 minutes...

You don't need to make a right turn at EVERY corner you come to. You can go straight when you feel like it too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on January 31, 2012

Best answer: Don't underestimate tourist traps! I love tourist traps! You say you live in a fairly large city. Go to the toursity areas and look around, see what visitors to your city see. It can be eye opening - and awesome.
posted by patheral at 10:23 AM on January 31, 2012

Best answer: Overcoming a fear to accomplish something in a way noone can take away from you ever is my advice, and in that vein I agree with Metroid Baby's "do something physically challenging." It is crazy how much it can boost your morale and general ease in your skin throughout the day walking around knowing "hey, I can do X, and X is hard and took time and effort and strong will to achieve, and I will always be someone who worked their way up to doing X." In the words of Henry Rollins, "I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say shit to me."

Also totally agree about the geeking out and allowing yourself your geeky obsession, as far as you want to take them. That indeed helps a lot when you slog through other stuff, as a reminder you do it all so you can have that moment to yourself later where you're all deep in your private passion.
posted by ifjuly at 11:21 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Every time I spend 3+ weeks in another country, surrounded by new people with new ideas, I inevitably come home with fresh ideas and energy. It is invigorating. Spending a year studying and planning for the trip keeps your mind excited and engaged in a fantasy future of your making.

But I love some of the above ideas for making your day to day an adventure too.
Every time I come home I wonder why I don't treat my own city as though I'm travelling. There is so much to explore here!

Food can be an endless obsession: baking, making foreign cuisines, eating out, learning artisan methods as beepbeep said.
Travel and food fill my life with goodness.

And liquor. Make all forms of that too. Easy to find communities into this, or start a meetup group to make wine, mead, beer, or even bootlegging!
posted by kturner at 9:00 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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