I'm looking for a new skill to learn.
October 25, 2022 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to learn a new skill, to exercise my brain/body or expand my skills base, but also, importantly, to expand my community. But I can't think what. Seeking ideas. Parameters below.

1. I don't want to learn a new skill primarily on my own. It is fine if it's something I can practise alone at home, but a key motivation of mine is to meet new people while learning. So it needs to be something taught in a group setting.

2. I am not interested in learning anything that requires too much physical strength or coordination from the get-go, as I lack both and feel self-conscious about this. If I do decide on something primarily physical it has to be extremely inclusive and beginner-friendly.

3. I would like to meet people of all genders, races and ages. I would also like to learn something which is likely to attract the same people every week, which makes it easier to make friends.

4. I am creative but all my creative pursuits tend to be quite solitary.

5. I don't want a thing that requires me to shell out too much money on expensive equipment right from the start.

6. I am motivated by being able to improve rapidly at a thing.

7. I find learning to do things with my hands to be rewarding.

So far I've been considering a language; pottery; or a cooking course. I have participated in many writing workshops etc, but I do not really enjoy them.
posted by unicorn chaser to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever organized an event? That's a skill.
posted by aniola at 10:29 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Maybe birdwatching, if there’s a local Audubon chapter or other group near you that leads a class or weekly birding outing! I’ve done these before and it was a lot of fun with a really diverse and interested group of people. All you’d need is good shoes and an inexpensive pair of binocs.
posted by stellaluna at 10:30 AM on October 25, 2022 [5 favorites]

Improv or theater (includes acting, props, stagecraft, possibly lighting, maybe costuming). Probably tends to be more white, but with mixed ages.
posted by NotLost at 10:31 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Community gardening? Huge range of ages and often income levels and cultures, often a very inclusive gift based mini economy (trading of seeds and starters and advice), physical but only in short regular bursts if you start small, directly rewards regulars, well known to enhance neighborhoods.
posted by Mizu at 10:36 AM on October 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

If there’s any good in-person ASL courses near you, that could be a fun option! (Or if you’re not US-based, whatever is the local sign language in your country.) Look for courses with a Deaf instructor.

I just started learning ASL and I’m really enjoying it, and picking things up faster than I expected. My class is virtual so it’s harder to make social connections, but even so, I’ve enjoyed spending time with the other students in the class and I look forward to seeing them each week.
posted by mekily at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2022 [5 favorites]

Community-taught bicycle repair and maintenance. Assuming you own one, you can’t lose.
Also, YES to the community theatre suggestion. They *always* are looking for help, and will gladly train! This is how I found my people.
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

As a beginning potter, I will say wheel classes have been largely unsatisfactory in terms of meeting people - you're somehow very solitary during the class, and the noise and focus means you're not interacting much with others. Hand-building, on the other hand, includes a lot of chatting and hanging out with people as you all work, which I love.

I did not have any luck meeting friends in my Alliance Française classes - everyone was nice, but we were largely there for work purposes and most people were in and out quite quickly.
posted by quadrilaterals at 10:54 AM on October 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Local Thai Chi class? I haven't taken one but would love to. Very gentle exercises.
posted by Glinn at 10:56 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Joining a community choir would fit all parameters, aside from working with your hands. You would learn repertoire, and, gradually, how to sing better. What's appealing about a choir from this perspective is that everyone is working together on the same goal, week after week, where diversity is a concrete strength. When it all clicks together, it can be super satisfying and powerful.
posted by rollick at 11:00 AM on October 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Pottery has been this thing for me in the last few years. I agree that wheel throwing is a bit more solitary as you have to concentrate on what you're doing and you sit alone, but hand building happens at a work table and allows for chat. It's so nice to talk to classmates about what they're making! And to see what people think to do!

I have been community gardening but that's also a bit less convivial than you might think. Everyone is in the garden on their own schedule unless it's a group work day, which happens maybe once a season in my town. I do enjoy talking to folks about what they plant and there's a lot to share and learn together if you make a connection with one or two of your fellow gardeners.

A friend who was widowed has started birdwatching. She takes cooking classes and has been sewing her own clothes. All those things offer a chance to meet people and learn skills.

My mom holds babies at the local halfway house. She loves it. I don't know that it's a skill exactly, although they train the volunteers in what the role and expectations are. Babies are endlessly interesting - watch them become people!
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:09 AM on October 25, 2022

Might want to check out local maker-space options, too, if there are any. (Varies quite a bit by region.)
What classes they offer can vary widely, so I can't really be more specific.

Volunteering might be another option; it's often possible to start with one task, and learn others as you go. And of course, you'd potentially meet a great variety of people.

Browse your local community college for non-credit classes, too.
posted by stormyteal at 11:12 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Curling. You don't have to be coordinated or strong, it's very friendly and welcoming to newcomers. Competition is friendly and focused on having fun.
posted by Enid Lareg at 11:38 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

depending on where you are a knitting/crochet group could be the way to go. when i lived in philadelphia i met lots of great people that way some who turned into friends. local yarn stores often have group nights, and there are knitting groups to be found on facebook and maybe meetup.com. many yarn stores offer beginner knitting/crochet classes for a reasonable fee, and that could be your "in" to the local scene.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:40 AM on October 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

For several years I attended an evening course in bookbinding in the basement of the university library. So satisfying to repair the clatter of reading copies I'd acquired at yard-sales.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2022

Join a Masters swim team.
posted by jgirl at 11:44 AM on October 25, 2022

Square dancing or Scottish dancing (ceilidh) are strangely popular in my part of Asia, and they seem to occupy the same activity space as tai chi, only these are more commonly available for weekends and evenings (tai chi is morning activity usually). Low impact and not a lot of moves to remember, there always seems to be a group, organized along the lines of your local community group or YMCA.
posted by cendawanita at 11:57 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Sign language.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Are you comfortable sharing some level of where
you are? A given hobby/activity scene being welcoming/accessible/dynamic or not can be super geographically variable.

(For example, for a certain activity I do, if someone asked me about getting into it in Current City, I would say unreservedly yes. If they asked me about Former City, I would say that if they're queer like me and hope to be able to bring their whole selves they may want to consider a different hobby.)
posted by dusty potato at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2022

Theater (especially around tech aspects) is always needed and can cause you to make fast friends. Improv classes definitely foster comradery.

In the realm of practical skills, how about First Aid/CPR/etc. type classes.
posted by mmascolino at 1:15 PM on October 25, 2022

Mah Jongg! It checks all of your boxes. You can meet many others and play as often as you like. The skill is higher level play with several moving parts (not unlike chess) but with a social aspect that is not found in bridge or Poker.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 1:40 PM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've heard looking for mushrooms is a good community.
posted by lookoutbelow at 2:09 PM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Habitat for Humanity do building-and-fixing-things events near me, and call for volunteers on their website. They will take anyone, with any skill level, but (a) you should meet people and (b) assuming this is not in your repertoire you'll probably learn something. (NB: keep promising myself I'll do this, haven't yet, so this is not from my own experience.)
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 2:24 PM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you'd like to be fit, but too scared because every sport activity seems to have a bunch of really skilled people? Maybe fencing!

My kid wasn't competitive and the soccer leagues and other sports ended up being not interesting because other kids were so good and so serious about the sport.

So I got him into fencing and he loves it. It's filled with lots of people that look like -- well, they look like they weren't the jocks in in school.

It sounds expensive but at my son's club they just lend you every thing.

There are so many adults at all levels of ability. All ages and shapes. You only fence with people that are your level. In addition to conditioning, fencing bouts, there's fun looking competitions that are little parties.
posted by beccaj at 2:24 PM on October 25, 2022

Foreign or sign language seems like a good bet. It is inherently interactive and requires speaking about each other and ones' ideas and opinions. No equipment needed, obviously, and folks tend to be regulars rather than dropping in and out of classes. And it feels really good to expand your ability to communicate each week! Also my dad met his wife in a language class so there's that.
posted by exutima at 8:13 PM on October 27, 2022

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