Successful life, but how to stay balanced and open to new experiences?
November 20, 2012 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I have a successful and stable life now that I'm in my thirties, but I am looking to make sure that I keep on personally growing. How best to focus my non-work activities?

I just turned thirty a year ago. Given where I was in my 20s, I am really happy with where I am. Have a solid, stable government job with a excellent salary and solid savings towards retirement. I own a house (which I bought a few years ago) in a community where I love, and am on a good track to paying off student loan debt. I am glad my twenties are behind me, but those were a time of intense professional and personal growth. I moved around a lot, and I also traveled a lot. Made some good decisions and a few bad ones.

My professional career has been great, but I work in a somewhat narrow field (transportation ) and as I move forward in my career, I find that my future career paths may become more constrained and I have less growth in other areas outside transportation . At the same time, as I progress in my career I tend to focus less on broader personal growth.

My personal efforts have been to try to join a new community (whether through an activity like a art class), or to attend a conference where I don't know much about the subject.

So asking this of fellow MeFis...once you've become more permenantly settled in one place, how do you keep yourself engaged and growing personally? What things have you tried that turned out to be surprisingly useful or interesting?
posted by waylaid to Human Relations (15 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Back before I decided to stop the madness, I was subscribed to basically every single Groupon-style site for my locale. Classes for cupcake-making and fencing and juggling and all sorts of fun-seeming stuff came up with regularity.

Depending on where you are, there's also organizations that do all sorts of one-shot educational classes for not a lot of money. You're in DC it looks like, so I can't really tell you where you can find them there, but I have yet to hear of a major urban area that doesn't have such an organization. The people who give these classes are usually involved with a bigger organization revolving around that thing they're doing, and a lot of times they're there specifically to get new recruits, as it were.

If you tell us more about what you're interested in -- cupcake-making, fencing, juggling, hobbyist electronics, running, climbing, whatever -- I'm sure people will have great suggestions for you specifically.
posted by griphus at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: @griphus: Thanks! I am more interested in hearing about what people tried that was an unexpected growth experience for them! There's a lot of things I'm interested in (hands-on stuff like electronics or basic woodworking) or creative writing that I have taken a class in before or tried my hand at - but I also want to hear people's experiences with something new they tried. Relying on myself as an anchoring point can mean i don't try enough new things. But if I had to give a list - anything hands-on, anything travel related, reading, outdoor or msall group solo sports like biking, hiking and skiing.

If I can given a indicator, the last things I did this year that I really enjoyed were bikng a century, getting back into skiing, starting beekeeping in my backyard and setting up a solar panel for my house.
posted by waylaid at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2012

If I can given a indicator, the last things I did this year that I really enjoyed were bikng a century, getting back into skiing, starting beekeeping in my backyard and setting up a solar panel for my house.

If you did all that this year I think you are doing more than fine in the "trying new things department." You are in the 1% for expanding personal interests and trying new things. Relax and keep doing stuff that interests you. I think you are looking for a problem that doesn't exist. You aren't having trouble finding avenues for personal growth!

But FWIW, I have found learning to play a musical instrument, if we can call my very rudimentary ukulele ability "playing" to be very satisfying.
posted by COD at 8:50 AM on November 20, 2012

For hands-on electronics specifically, look for a "hackerspace." If the ones over there are like the ones here, there's "free" nights where you can come by and look at stuff and talk to people, exhibition nights (sort of like gallery openings,) classes that you can pay to take, and a membership fee you can pay to have open access to their space and equipment.
posted by griphus at 8:51 AM on November 20, 2012

The House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park sells a variety of musical instruments from commonplace to obscure, and can also hook you up with instructors for a number of them. I've always wanted to play… something, so I'll be turning to them at some point.
posted by Nomyte at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2012

Artisphere in Arlington and Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring have great things going on - lots of hands-on creative stuff at Pyramid, especially. The Smithsonian has a neverending list of wonderful opportunities.
posted by anya32 at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: @COD: I don't think I've been deficient in trying new things! but they all cluster in groups of things I have always done (ie, gardening/outdoor work, solo sports, and electronics/building things).

Great idea Nomyte! I have heard of them but never been.
posted by waylaid at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2012

Have you thought about taking a dance class? Joy of Motion (for instance) has a range beginner adult solo dance classes. That sounds like it might be a stretch for you.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:22 AM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: Nthing all the others who say play an instrument. I took up ukulele a few years back and I love it. In the end I actually used my ukulele when I set a bunch of Tang Dynasty Chinese poems to indie pop for my poetry class final. It was pretty fun. You could also try playing something that is somewhat obscure--just the other day I met someone who was an amateur harpsichordist.

Also, given your interests, photography sounds like something that you would enjoy. In particular, actual film photography, where you have to develop it in a darkroom if you want to really get into it. It was many years ago that I took a high school photo class, but there is something so satisfying and hands-on about the process of guiding a photograph from negative to photo that isn't quite the same with digital photography.
posted by so much modern time at 10:42 AM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: Get involved in your local community! Subscribe to a local paper, and go to the events that are listed in it. Join a local organization, like a nonprofit or activist group. Do something with a political campaign. Go to a volunteer day. You will meet so many people and learn about what's happening in your own backyard, and once you start showing up, other people who are engaged will notice and start inviting you to things or asking for help. For me, running for local public office was something I thought I would never do, but that ended up opening so many doors and helping me make connections I never expected.

Also, if there's something in particular that's outside of your comfort zone, try it! Be in a play, or join Toastmasters, or knock on a neighbor's door with cookies, or go clubbing... whatever feels potentially fun but scary.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:07 PM on November 20, 2012

Going to a rave. Much more enjoyable than I thought it would be (and I didn't even have to drink alcohol at all). But more fun if you go with a friend who likes dancing.
posted by moiraine at 1:57 PM on November 20, 2012

Friend me on facebook and then come mile running with me and my friends! We travel all over the world on weekends making a game of earning status in freq flyer programs. Most if us work for the govt and are in our 30s and 40s. How does a first class ticket to asia for $400 sound? The magic of mistake fares!

Physical development/maint: join a local hiking meetup.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:58 PM on November 20, 2012

Take an improv class! An introductory improv class will help you think on your feet, enjoy your silly side, boost your imagination, and just be plain old fun.

I found mine by looking for improv troupes to go watch, found one that was offering a class, and watched the graduation performance of a class. They did well enough that I figured the class was worth taking. :) More than a year later, I'm in my 5th class with that troupe, and have picked up another night of improv with a different group. I've performed improv in front of an audience 4 times. It's been more fun and life changing than I would have thought.
posted by booksherpa at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2012

How are you at cooking and baking? I find that wanting to make things I've tried at restaurants or friend's houses motivates me to learn a lot of new things. (Most recently, thai style chicken curry, and jerk chicken. Meat was a new challenge for me.) I don't know if these are out of your comfort zone, or just not a hobby, but it might be a fun direction to go.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:29 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: This suggestion might seem a bit off-the-wall, but: start practicing meditation. Hear me out.

I'm almost 40. Wife and kid(s), same job for over a decade, own a home, blah blah blah. All my exciting vices are behind me now. In almost all ways I am a Responsible Adult, which is something I never would have wished upon myself 10 years ago.

I've been practicing Zen meditation for the past 7 years or so, and it is more or less the most important thing in my life (after wife and daughter, of course). It's tougher to get bored by or dissatisfied with your human existence when you have some constant curiosity about what, exactly, this human existence thing, y'know, is. It's an endlessly fascinating question when taken up with openness and relaxation.

The classic starting point is a book called Mindfulness in Plain English, which you can find for free (legally) as the first result of a Google search, but you could always kill two birds with one stone and see if there's a Buddhist sangha or insight meditation group in your area. I know that my Zen Center offers beginner's courses about 5-6 times a year. Feel free to MeMaill me with questions/recommendations. Meditation WILL profoundly change your life if you can really get into it.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 4:03 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Hey! Hey! Hey! It's 4 AM! Did you know you have to...   |   NYC 1980s art scene Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.