bootstraps for hobbyists
February 20, 2014 9:08 AM   Subscribe

My life is calm. I live in one place. My house is clean and decluttered. I have free time. And now I am bored...

I am a 29 year old female and I live in NE Phila. Since I was 22 life was running my balls off between working several jobs at once always crazy hours, unpredictable schedules, living between my own place and various couches to get to work, living between places for 2 relationships, breakups, a stint in the hospital for some virus thath knocked me out, and more work, getting rid of a complete excess of stuff from my possession (things i'd held onto since childhood for sentimental reasons, housefull of stuff) and even more work.

Last week I had a normal 40 hour work week for the first time in retrievable memory. I have one this week too. And I'll have one next week...And when I get home, I'm so bored. I just do not know what to do with myself. I don't really have any friends and I do have things I've always wanted to explore "when I had time" but now that I have the time, I can't seem to get the focus to sit down and explore without the pressure of needing to do it for a paycheck or some other external force complelling me to do it. This applies to things like art, knitting and sewing, and music, which would be my biggest sendentary interests.

I've had more luck doing some physical things like ice skating, working out, and more doggie playtime, but i still feel scatterbrained and like I'm forgetting to do something more important. I just can't get my mind together to have the motivation to do thought intensive hobbies or be in teh present for physical hobbies without some alarm, emails, bosses, coworkers, customers, phone calls etc telling me what to do, when to do it, and how they want it done. How can I learn to chill out during my own time and still have the motivation to pursue these things I haven't had time for in years?

Random possibly relevant details - I already cook for myself and I consider thath just a life skill, so I'm asking more about motivation to do unecessary things. I don't have too much money to through at the problem, $100 max, so in person courses may or may not be available (welcoming specific suggestions). For whatever reason, free online courses don't trigger the same attention and sort of get grouped with "browsing the internet" in my mental toybox of time passers thath aren't really productive or personally satisfying.
posted by WeekendJen to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a local organization that holds auctions for donated items? Knitting something for a cause, and with a deadline, might prompt you to get your needles out. Might be a reasonable transition step toward knitting just for fun.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:16 AM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why do you feel like you need to dive right into an external hobby that's going to require time and effort? Reading the list of the things you have been subjected to in the recent past, if I were you, I'd sit down and re-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer straight through from the beginning. Or something like that. Start going to the library, and split up your evening between a fun TV show and reading books. Maybe throw in 30 minutes of yoga or a long walk. But just take some time to hang out for a while! You're probably exhausted, which is why you can't get motivated to take on anything new right now.
posted by something something at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

...without some alarm, emails, bosses, coworkers, customers, phone calls etc telling me what to do, when to do it, and how they want it done.

I'm a lot like you in that "hobbies" were something I only had time for pretty recently and they've always felt like something I was procrastinating from "real" work with rather than something to be done for its own use.

I haven't totally gotten over it, but there's nothing wrong with regimenting your hobby-time. Right now my main two things are a bi-weekly podcast and a bi-weekly D&D game (on alternating weeks). I have the "luxury" of having to have something to show on Sunday, but I still have to put "make notes" or "plan session" in my to-do list. At first I thought "I shouldn't have to remind myself to do something fun" but then I just didn't do it and, fuck it, if I have to put "do step 1 of fun thing" between "pick up Windex" and "file taxes," then that's what I have to do.

So I suggest pick a hobby where you're responsible to someone or something. I've found that keeping a scheduled blog for the hobby helps, especially if you can pass it around to a few people (or post it on MeFi Projects!) That way you can think "okay people expect me to have something to show every Saturday so I better get working and take some photos of what I've done."

A hobby should be fun and if you have to get serious about having fun, then do it. It's rewarding even if it feels weirdly backward.
posted by griphus at 9:22 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, sounds like you've had a really rough, busy go of it for a while. I'm glad things have slowed down for you!

Your mental processes may not be the same as mine, but when I've had a really really hard time of it for a long while, I need to spend some time doing absolutely nothing to recharge before I start tackling other projects, even self-paced ones. I think of it as my emotional hibernation period, or my spiritual winter, or my Persephone-in-the-underworld phase. It's not bad or scary or dark, it's just... quiet. It did, however, take me a really really long time to accept that these phases are okay, that a little boredom can be healing, and that I'm not required to be "on" all the time.

If last week was the first 40 hr work week you've had in a while, you might still be in recovery mode from the stress of what sounds like several hard-working years, and readjusting to the idea that you don't have to be doing something all the time. And that's okay! You've totally earned it. I find this is a great time to do small, indulgent, self-care based stuff I've been meaning to do for a while: like finally learn to use all my new makeup and put it on every morning, or read that one Really Long Fantasy Series I've been putting off because I know I didn't have time and didn't want to put it down, or catch up on favorite movies and TV shows. Sometimes I think of it as my 'culture' time, because watching the entire Criterion collection or whatever still feels productive, but it's much less taxing than, say, learning martial arts. Do you have some goals like that (finally reading Moby Dick, or watching all of Teen Wolf, etc.?) that you could pursue for a while, something sort of intermediary between "total vegetative rest via Tumbling all day" and "let's get really into rock climbing"?

Lastly, when you are feeling chipper and energetic and ready to go go go again, I suggest taking up hobbies that involve other people now you've got your evenings free. If you've always wanted to learn aikido or volunteer for an animal shelter or take painting classes, now's a great time, and even though the deadlines aren't "hard" like job or school deadlines, I find that I progress much more reliably when I feel a little bit beholden to a group. Even if you have a generally solitary hobby like long-distance backpacking or something, have a look around your area and see if you can get some like-minded folks together every few weeks to touch base and talk about it with ( is sometimes recommended.) It'll give you an opportunity to enthuse with other folks and make new friends, which in turn will help drive you to keep going in your new hobbies.

Best of luck! It takes some time but I think you're going to be able to put together a new life that you really, really like, and have a wonderful time doing it.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:22 AM on February 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

This gets better with time. I am so good at being lazy now, it's not even funny. I can sloth like a professional. But it took a while after college for that nagging sense of constant impending doom to go away for me. It takes time for your brain to fully realize that free time is actually free time and not "time that should be spent doing other things" when you've been living like that for so many years.

So I totally agree with something something on this--just embrace the ability to waste time for a while and sit with it until that nagging dread goes away.

After that, I highly encourage you to find a regular volunteering project, even if it's just a small one. Having something outside of myself and my own needs that I feel I should be accountable to helps me to self motivate my downtime.
posted by phunniemee at 9:24 AM on February 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't know what to tell you to do, but I can tell you that I've talked to many people that shared my experience of graduating college, going into a job, and spending a month or two with that panic-y feeling of, "Wait, am I forgetting to study something? Is there an exam coming up?"

"i still feel scatterbrained and like I'm forgetting to do something more important" is exactly the feeling I'm talking about.

You've just spent years in a certain schedule. It's totally okay that your brain is not immediately prepared to be calm and sit still for a few hours. Give it a month and you'll probably find yourself willing to sit and browse Bandcamp for two hours to find your next favorite album, or learning to papier mache for some crazy Halloween mask, or whatever else it is. I don't know what it will be, and it doesn't matter. Just give your body and mind a little time to adjust.
posted by komara at 9:24 AM on February 20, 2014

Something I always think about (...but have never gotten around to) is volunteering at a local food bank. My workplace sponsored a public service afternoon a while back so I had the chance to try it with coworkers, and it is TOTALLY something I'd enjoy doing on my own during a weeknight. Sorting boxes of small food items had a wonderfully soothing effect, and the whole "helping others" thing is good too.

This particular food bank offers weeknight shifts in 2-hour blocks, so if you wanted to commit to the 6-8:00 slot every Tuesday (for example), that could be a good way to spend free time in a semi-structured way. I'm sure other such facilities operate similarly.
posted by magdalemon at 9:41 AM on February 20, 2014

You've had a solid paycheck and normal work week for the first time ever LAST WEEK?

Cut yourself some slack and take a bit of a mental vacation for a little while. There is nothing wrong with just spending a month enjoying the fact that the ends finally meet and you can just watch olympic figure skating without worrying that you're supposed to be somewhere else.

You should ideally keep cutting loose and enjoying your freedom until those feelings of "OH SHIT WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING???" calm down.

When you're done with that (which is maybe already happening?), it's time to find a hobby.

Volunteering would be great! It would also be good to find some organized activity that might help you meet more friends. Find a knitting circle. Start writing for a local music review blog. Find a group of people who are already doing one of the things you find hard to concentrate on, and let that group give you some structure so that it's not always, "ah, I'll start sewing this thing tomorrow, because Hannibal is on tonight..."
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on February 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

It's Ok to do nothing for a while. Let yourself be bored and let your subconcious do it's thing. Don't be scared of being quiet and unstressed. Honestly I'd take up yoga or meditation if I was you and increase the calmness during those quiet times, most towns of any size of classes you can go to if you need more external stimuli to keep you motivated (I know I do). If you have to be doing something then go to the gym and keep your body busy and let your mind drift while you exercise, don't drown out your thoughts with music or tv. Bike riding or going for a walk is also good for this.

Your motivation will return, but right now it really sounds like your brain and body are going shhhhh it's time to sit still and recover.

If you have to do something I'd suggest volunteering as doing something for someone else is a whole different set of motivations than doing it for yourself.
posted by wwax at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hi me :)

For years I had the same sort of life-load - and I went through the same wth-do-I-do-with-myself-now time when life stopped being insane.

It took me a while to realize that a big part of my brain enjoyed being on the edge all the time - a friend tells me I am deadline driven, but "adrenaline junkie" is probably closer to the mark.

You've trained your brain to be constantly solving problems; it's not surprising that now there is nothing to juggle, it's feeling a bit lost. Part of the problem I had in figuring out what to do was in having too many choices that didn't HAVE to get done - it sent my brain into overwhelm because it's hard to prioritize when there are no deadlines. The trick is to make your own - and to recognize that now that you get to set the deadlines, you can miss them if you want to.

Some of this takes care of itself as time passes and your brain decompresses into the new normal. What I found that helped a lot was finding a niche that gave me the same adrenaline kick from time to time. NOT full-time - just once in a while I needed to stretch into an arena that used all those skills I developed in juggling all the different aspects of my life. A challenge, not a lifestyle. Picking one thing that continued to challenge my brain enabled me to start to focus on what I wanted to do with the rest of my time - whether it was increasing my social circle, learning a new language, knitting socks or hanging out and doing nothing much at all.

And trust me, as you start filling your life with other, not-insane things that you enjoy and that feed your soul, somewhere down the line you're going to wonder what happened to all that 'free time.'

Hope that helps - good luck.
posted by faineant at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Didn't read all of the suggestions, but mine is the usual: VOLUNTEER! Knit bonnets and bootees for a charity that helps women in unsupported pregnancies. Dish out food at a soup kitchen. Did your nearby library get its money cut and need help? Are you capable of helping AARP do income tax returns for the elderly? Can you coach a children's sports team? Can you rock babies who can't go home yet in a hospital?There are so many things that need doing, find something that interests you.
posted by Cranberry at 10:56 AM on February 20, 2014

I, too, need some motivation to focus on hobbies. And I also enjoy my hobbies more when I'm accountable in some way. I take an art class (I have to go, because it's a class), keep a list of all of the novels I read (I'm in a competition with myself to best last year's number of books), and volunteer (the folks I volunteer with hold me accountable).

For your interests, and since you also mention you don't have a lot of social activities going on right now, maybe doing your hobbies with other people would help. Some ideas:

- Find a weekly stitch 'n bitch and show up every week
- Join a community (or church, if that's your thing) choir
- See if there's a community art space in your city where you could go on the same day every week
- Find a Meetup or other local club related to any of your interests
- If you want to, get involved in some volunteer work (but since you've been so busy, if I were you I'd put a hold on that... you might not want another heavy commitment right now.)

Regularity is a key point--look for weekly commitments, because they quickly become habits, and also give you something to look forward to on a regular basis. Scheduling your physical activities for the same time each week might also help you to turn off that "you should be doing something else" mental voice... if it's Ice Skating Time right now, then no, you should not be doing anything else!
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have also been looking for a new hobby. I used to find an acrylic painting group that is free/cheap and I also just ordered a wool felting kit for $20 from etsy. I'm trying not to spend too much money while trying a variety of things.

Volunteering is also a good idea.
posted by michellenoel at 1:56 PM on February 20, 2014

Actually iam in suburbs philly with similar predicaments. Here are some suggestions.

If you want to cut some slack : join meetups esp in NE Philly, there are tons to hang out (Cosmopolitan philly/Free in philly etc) and have a drink with other people.

If you want to learn: Try studying for grad school exam ( this kicks your ass!, I am going through this now)/ You can enroll in community college if online courses aren't your thing. Cheap and can learn a new skill.

Hobbies/sports - what are you interested in?Philly has tons on groups dedicated to all kinds of hobbies. Voleyball/Soccer pick up games happen all over.

Volunteering - One brick philly is a great site to get started.

Anything else mefi mail
posted by radsqd at 10:29 AM on February 21, 2014

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