I'm depressed and need a better social life, please help.
August 11, 2004 6:14 PM   Subscribe

I am bored to tears, need a life, please help [OMI].

I am a 34 year old, single-with-no-propects, professional, living-alone, single woman without children in Seattle. I have a few close friends but they’re all married/older/with children and aren’t particularly available for “socializing”.

I go to work, come home at 5:30, look at the 4 hours between that and bed, and want to cry. Hence, I sleep a lot.

Weekends are good for not working; nightmarish for anything else. I get up in the morning and look around my apartment and try to invent ways to amuse myself til I can sleep again. It ain’t easy. I’m not into hobbies-for-hobbies’-sake

I read a lot, and watch a bunch of TV, am not a hiker/biker/camper/jogger/, like to drink but am sick of going to bars alone, and can very well do things by myself….BUT, I find that most activities to do here are, well, really dull when alone. Go away for the weekend? Super, if I had someone to go with. Go to Europe? Awesome, but I’ve done it alone and would like to travel with someone next time.

So, what do you do? You have 4-5 hours a night and 48 hours every weekend completely alone to entertain yourself….what do you DO? Money is not really an object. (Bonus points if you don’t say “take a class” or “do yoga” or it involves meeting other single old people.)
posted by tristeza to Human Relations (56 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Things that work for me:

Cook yourself a really involved dinner. It takes time and you get to enjoy the results.

Make a mix cd. With themes. Bonus points if you add video and make mix DVDs.

Take a bubble bath. A great time killer and I know I always feel better about life in general afterwards.

It's a hard thing, to entertain yourself, I know. I wish I were better at it...but I guess that's why I have a computer.
posted by amandaudoff at 6:21 PM on August 11, 2004

I don't know if this is the sort of answer you despise in advance, but you are depressed. The good news is that this is an early stage depression because, as you say, you want to cry. If you were cripplingly depressed, you wouldn't have the energy to want to cry.

Get help. I know a good shrink in Seattle; you can e-mail me at the address in my profile.

It hurts, very much, what you're going through, and I'm sorry.

But do please notice that you've rigged your question so that there may be no answer. Look at the restrictions: No hobbies; no suggested activities; no outdoors; no meeting other single people. (And besides, everything in Seattle, and possibly the world, is boring anyway, so what's the point).

No one would set up such impossibilities without a sucking heart wound at the core of the problem. Please; take this seriously and reach out for some help.
posted by argybarg at 6:23 PM on August 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

On preview: I agree with argybarg.

otherwise: Get involved in politics.

Meet some gay men. They'll take you out and you'll have fun.
posted by gramcracker at 6:26 PM on August 11, 2004

Camping GOOD. TV - not so good, no offense.

Physical activity is thought to help ameliorate the, er, tristesse.

Also, I have a non-psycho friend facing some of the same problems... We've started taking him camping and he's all for it. We're by no means hardcore hikers or anything though. We've been encouraging him to join The Mountaineers to meet folks, which he claims he will do real soon now.

And you know what? Blogging has definitely proved to be a great way to meet people. You read a lot? Write reviews! Link to others that do the same, and arrange to meet at Twice Sold under the V2.

I can suggest at least two extremely friendly bloggers (both f) who regularly reach out and develop social connections online. One's having a party in late August.

Or, in other words:

1. start a blog
2. ????
3. Profit!

(email me at profile address sans "_mefi" for the blog URLs)

Just a few suggestions. I understand, generally, that people around our age that live alone often find this problem a real challenge. Hope my ideas might be of use!
posted by mwhybark at 6:27 PM on August 11, 2004

Argybarg, I read her as saying you get bonus points for suggesting ways to meet other single people? "Bonus points for not doing this, or for doing this".

Amandaudoff, the problem with cooking yourself an involved dinner is that then you get to sit down and eat it ... alone. Dinner alone is even worse when you've just heated up a can of soup, or something, but the fun of cooking nice food is lessened considerably when you can't share it with anyone. (Not to be negative or anything—really, I'm in a similar boat to tristeza's, just 12 years younger—but the answer to being bored when alone isn't more stuff to do when alone.)
posted by kenko at 6:31 PM on August 11, 2004

The words I'm trying to live by; I'm not sure if they might speak to you:

"The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only strength that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your extremities, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love... there is only one thing for it then - to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, and never dream of regretting."
- T. H. White
posted by vers at 6:32 PM on August 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

If I want to stimulate my social life, I typically look for something outside work to do. This might be a part time job, volunteering opportunity, or something completely different. Let's see, the last couple of things I've done in this regard were: auditioning for a play at a community theater group (and playing a role in it), volunteering for a local film festival (still going on that front) and I've been looking recently at putting in a few hours at the Berkeley Free Clinic (a community health services collective).

In each case, I sniffed around a bit first and decided there were people I wanted to meet and get to know better in each situation. Having a common goal to work with the group on gave me (usually a little shy) the time I needed to develop friendships. None of these activities would necessarily interfere with having a job. Nor does any of them cost a red cent to do.

People really overlook community theater here in the US. When I lived in the desolate armpit of the world (Kuwait) a place devoid of entertainment of any kind, the number of community theater groups was phenomenal, and getting involved with one was a good way to have fun.

I know, I know, you're too awkward to act on a stage. Sure, sure. Whatever. I'm a horrible performer. I had all of 3 lines, I butched them every time, and forgot one of them entirely once. I was only given the role because the production was way behind schedule and needed people immediately. Anyway, it worked out well and I got to be part of the fun despite being an absolute shit actor. So save the excuses!

sucking heart wound at the core of the problem

It's called life, and it happens to the best of us!
posted by scarabic at 6:34 PM on August 11, 2004 [2 favorites]

(likes Scarabic's idea - and notes that community theaters also need people for stagecraft, props, light and sound... even ushers. And theater people are fun.)
posted by vers at 6:39 PM on August 11, 2004

Get a dog--use PetFinder.com to browse your local shelters and rescue some poor pooch. Then take the aforementioned dog to the local dog park or to obedience classes or just walk down the street with it, and meet your fellow dog-lovers and show off your pooch. But please, pick the already-housebroken older mutt, not the puppy.

Or you could do what unmarried women have done all throughout history: good works. Charities, fundraising, reading to kids, helping at the local homeless shelter, teaching teens about AIDS prevention, that sort of thing. It's a good way to meet people and feel like you're doing something productive. Make it an every-Saturday-afternoon-at-the-library sort of thing.

Also, you may have no prospects at the moment, but I highly recommend that you keep pushing onwards to find a nice guy/gal; try match.com, maybe? The whole process of dating sucks donkey balls, but actually finding someone and making a life with him/her is pretty great and worth working towards, even when you're tired and depressed and don't really want to make the effort.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:45 PM on August 11, 2004

please keep this coming - you don't know how much i appreciate the community here.

yes, i said if it HELPS meeting single people that's good. thanks for noting that, yes, i do want to meet folks.

yes, i am also depressed - -sigh -- but not debilitatingly at all, and i'm totally willing/able/wanting to help that, hence, my questions. :) you're all great.

i used to be an actor in the old days - never thought of getting back into it! seriously, this helps so much, you guys.
posted by tristeza at 6:45 PM on August 11, 2004

I am going through EXACTLY what you are going through. Here is my advice:

Manual labor... make sure you are always doing something if you don't want to fall into the hole of depression and excessive sleeping. When you have no alternative, sleep seems like the best thing to do... you have to snap out of that. I am going through exactly what you are going through, but am at a disadvantage because I don't have a car or even a bike, so the motivation to go anywhere is even worse than most people because it involves not being lazy and walking outside. You probably feel like you don't want to leave the apartment and do anything. Find a way to work outside. Make sure you leave your apartment, or you'll be trapped forever. Don't take up any hobbies that involve staying indoors (TV or Blogs or METAFILTER!). In my particular case, I am obsessed with a few web projects and have alienated all other people. Until I finish them I am trapped in my small room with my computer. I also sleep a lot, but have not yet become depressed because I have a goal. Good luck, and see you on the other side.
posted by banished at 6:50 PM on August 11, 2004

Hey that was me a few years ago! And in Seattle even. I found that all my friends my age with my life were either chronic alcoholics [nice people but not really how I wanted to spend my time], uber hipsters, or like you said, married and/or older. Here is what worked for me [besides yoga, which also worked] before I quit and moved to Vermont

-- signed up on a couple of mailing lists for big events that were going on in the Seattle area [or checking craigslist] and tried to at least get out of the house to read someplace other than my living room. Just the small bit of exercise and stimulation from seeing new things and people was useful and different. There are cool places to read down by the waterfront, in the Arboretum, by Lake Washington. Meetup is also pretty good for this sort of thing and I know the Seattle Bloggers are a really nice bunch; ask Anita what is going on
-- developed certain haunts like a certain coffee shop, a certain library branch, a certain park bench and made a date with myself to get out of the house and go there [you may be noticing a theme here], tried to at least say "hi" to people I'd see around. I didn't make friends but there were at least people I was sociable with.
-- similarly, found a habit. In my case it was going to Temple Billiards every Wednesday for ladies night, improving my pool game and just hanging out. I'd invite everyone I knew. Sometimes people would show up, sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they would bring friends that I would then get to know. It was a good excuse to talk to people at work and invite them to something very obviously not-a-date and yet a pleasant way to socialize that wasn't just sitting at a bar and talking. Having a Wednesday night gig also made dealing with nothing to do on Monday and Tuesday much easier. Other good habits include seeing authors at Elliot Bay, local Art Walks and open mikes, to name a few.
-- volunteered for local event-type stuff that needed people [theaters that needed ushers, Folklife that needed greeters, that sort of thing] both because I was forced to hang out with other people and also because if I hated it too much I'd force myself to find something else I liked to not do it anymore
-- also, I know that sitting at a computer is often seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution but I've found some of the social software networks [friendster, orkut, tribe] have gotten me in touch with people interested in the same dorky stuff I am [libraries, books, rural places] and it's a safe way to interact with people from a distance plus maybe learn about stuff that's fun to do.

Things that I have not tried that other people like: random "just friends" personals ads, sultry IM encounters with strangers, using my blog to meet people, joining a body art group of people and getting tattoeed every weekend, etc. At some level you have to figure out what works for you. Have you always been sort of a stay-at-home-and-read type? Or did you have friends who slowly moved away, had kids, whatever? Do you like being around other people or do you just want to find ways to entertain yourself [subscription to readymade, knitting, helping out at a senior citizen's home, fitness regimen, learn to gourmet cool, home electrician projects, day trader, etc] with your free time? Plus, I would try to differentiate what's being stuck in a depressive rut and what's just needing some sort of change in social scenery. Start by saying "hi" to strangers and go from there.
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 PM on August 11, 2004

I serioulsly love you guys. Jessamyn's webpage was one of this first I ever read and followed, and now look. :) These are such great motivators, for real, THIS I will bookmark. I love the wisdom here, and the candor, thank you. Not to keep future coments from coming, of course.....
posted by tristeza at 7:04 PM on August 11, 2004

The consistent thread in your question is that otherwise enjoyable activities are not, because you are alone. You also sound like a pretty practically orientated person. So my suggestion is that you treat your lack of companionship as a problem to be solved, and try and be really pragmatic about it.

I note from your user page that there are a squillion people "near this user". So organise a meetup. If you don't like big events, why not email one or two congenial-seeming people? The worst thing that can happen is that they'll tell you to get knotted.

I must echo the concerns about depression above. In my case I found a dual approach of self-help and a counsellor worked really well.

Also, you say you don't want to take a class. You don't say what your reasons are, but I urge you to reconsider them. If you want to pursue any activity, and you want company, taking a class is the easiest route. There's a reason why so many people recommend it: it works.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:07 PM on August 11, 2004

Ditto on the cooking. I moved to a small college town a year ago to get my degree, only intending to stay for 16 months, and so there's no point in putting down roots. I don't like college kids, on the whole, so I don't care to socialize. I find schoolwork pathetically simple, and I spend very, very little time on it. Although I'm more than busy in life with web work and political involvement (to say nothing of visiting my girlfriend each weekend), not a whole lot of the keeping-busy M-F things are interesting. So, shortly after moving here, I decided to become a good cook. I spend at least an hour and a half on the dinner process each night, and I've become quite a decent chef along the way. Lunch and breakfast, too, I often make involved deals, for the same reason.

The good news is that when you do have somebody over, you can cook like a fiend.
posted by waldo at 7:19 PM on August 11, 2004

Anita was one of my URLs, and Jessamyn's right on with the suggestion. Furthermore, I can even suggest the coffee shop for you, Ms. 98122: Victrola on 15th. Hit it reglar and make friends.

Jessamyn is the info help desk of the internet.
posted by mwhybark at 7:20 PM on August 11, 2004

I'll second the suggestions involving just getting out of the house/apartment/other dwelling. One thing that I've found helpful is just finding an interesting part of town that you're not familiar with, and walking around. Exploring is a great cure for the blues, I think. I could stand to do more of that myself.
posted by Zonker at 7:39 PM on August 11, 2004

I don't know your religious afiliation (or if you even have one), I would strongly reccomend joinig some Church activities. Before you balk, my local Church is all about the community and meeting people factor. They have gatherings for all adults and meetings for single people in given age groups and countless other gatherings. If you look around and are you willing to go that route, you will find a Church of some sort that caters towards community.
Also echoing what others have said, community service is a great way to hang out with other people. Even if you never chill with them outside of the service work, you'll have a great time there. I've done habitat for humanity, and it is some great stuff. Highly recommended! Plus, people tend not to do that kind of community service because they're assholes.
Lastly, along the lines of comminity service and if you're willing to take a week or two off from work, consider a mission trip. I've done a few, and a good mission trip will build bonds for life. It is an amazing thing.
posted by jmd82 at 7:46 PM on August 11, 2004

I was in your same position a few years ago, and I got out of it by volunteering at a local radical bookstore. Adjust that to suit you politics and interests, but seriously, volunteering for nonprofits is a great way to make friends.

In the meantime, you might want to learn the fine art of sitting in a well traveled public place watching the world go by. It's a great way to pass the time, and people will come up and talk to you. And walk a lot to random parts of the city.
posted by cmonkey at 8:03 PM on August 11, 2004

As someone who no longer has the time to cook, I'd recommend combining people's suggestions, and look at taking a cooking class. (A practical one that focuses on the basics.)

It may or may not turn out to be a good place to meet some new folks, but no matter what, you'll be laying the foundation for a great hobby--this is the _perfect_ time to follow waldo's recommendation and learn how to do it right. (Again, I don't think good cooking isn't about getting all fancy...it's about mastering the fundamentals so that you can consistently cook really tasty meals.)
posted by LairBob at 8:04 PM on August 11, 2004

Also: perhaps consider doing some volunteer work at the local library -- you will surely meet people there, and given that you're a MeFite, I'd wager that you're pretty smart and well-read, and hanging out in a library is likely to yield some pretty smart and well-read folks to interact with.
posted by davidmsc at 8:18 PM on August 11, 2004

i know, i know, i lose points for saying this - but classes can be really cool. i've found evening classes at a nearby art college to be a great way to waste time and learn some cool things [screenprinting? foundry? fuck, yeah!] art doesn't have to be "doing something for the sake of doing something"; it can be functional [i.e., murals to decorate a house or designing one's own clothes], purely recreational, or even thereputic. if visual arts aren't your thing, maybe dance, music, or theatre are. the point of taking art classes - or joining dance/theatre troupes or whatever - isn't to get a grade, or whatever. it's a chance to investigate something new, meet people with similar interests, maybe find an activity that'll ultimately prove to be really rewarding.

but i seem to be preaching. beyond doing something arts-related, i'd have to third jessamyn. i tend to be pretty solitary, and getting out of the house - even if i do nothing but walk around aimlessly for a few miles or go get a cup of coffee - is always a big relief. and sometimes you find cool places/things/people.
posted by ubersturm at 8:45 PM on August 11, 2004

I know I have thrown this advice out before, but it could genuinely help you here: Go to a gym and get a personal trainer. Meet men (women?) that you would like to go to a bar with. Excersize.... wait for the punchline.... can reduce depression by the transmission of dopamine.

Makes you feel like you are getting something done too.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:10 PM on August 11, 2004

I second/third/fourth some of the comments: volunteering and community arts are fabulous, since they bring you into contact with others and focus you on doing something. Doing manual labor or exercise that makes your body dead tired and exploring are good too.

But it's worth noting that what you're talking about is one of the fundamental problems of human existence: What do you do to make life meaningful and fulfilling? And I think one of the hard truths underneath this is that there is very little you can do that will guarantee a positive outcome. There's only a number of things that you can try that *might* have a positive outcome. This is true for any number of other important life goals: meeting new friends, finding the love of your life, making it in your career. No action or category of actions guarantees success, it just increases your chances.

I mention this because of the danger that you might try something once for a week or two or three and feel it's not helping, when it really may be you just need to do it for a few months. With some things, it's what you do every day (or at least, pretty regularly) that changes your life.

Finally, I know this isn't popular on MeFi, but if you have the least bit of religious inclination, spend some time regularly cultivating it. If nothing else, go for something quasi-religious, like the artist's notebook in The Artist's Way or some other practice where you're grounding/talking to yourself and writing down reflections. I'd make other suggestions, but this probably isn't the venue. You're welcome to email me if you're curious.
posted by weston at 9:23 PM on August 11, 2004

late to the question, late to once again affirm jessamyn. she's dislodged many the stuck soul, no?
sounds like you are well rounded and like to drink. how about combining the two by going to a trivia night at some local watering hole? i always saw some folks show up on our trivia night, and they usually ended up filling in for someone or making a team themselves.
one additional thought: be public about what you are doing. you don't have to explain your motives, but when someone asks what you are doing this weekend (which they may need to get into the habit of doing), blurt something out. Checking out the EMP. Taking a Swahili class. Buying a Lomo. Writing all those letters you never remembered to write. Whatever you say, you have given a life to, and your Mondays might become more of a conversation starter than you realize.
Some of your circle may also take a vicarious interest in your actions, and suddenly your small drop in the water gains momentum for everyone around you.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 9:37 PM on August 11, 2004

Quit your job, sell everything, travel the world on the cheap. For several years, at least. Do crappy jobs occasionally, like picking fruit or washing dishes, but in gorgeous places.

You will meet better, more interesting people, and will become a better and more interesting person yourself, and will find things out about yourself and others that you could not have dreamed before.

You'll thank me later.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:16 PM on August 11, 2004

Spend time on Metafilter?

Seriously, the "organizing a meetup", "playing bar trivia", and "hanging out a particular coffeehouse" suggestions are all wonderful, as are many of the others I've read.

And the Victrola is a wonderful place that I would haunt if I lived in Seattle.

Go to Uwajimaya or Archie McPhee to explore. (And Uwajimaya has nifty-sounding classes, even.)

Take walking tours. Hang out at Elliott Bay. Get some counseling for the depression. (It helps, believe me.)

Have fun!
posted by Vidiot at 11:00 PM on August 11, 2004

Coffeeshops are ideal for this. In my experience they tend to be much better for going to by oneself and having serendipitous encounters/meeting people than bars are, especially if you can find someplace you like and go regularly.

I moved to this town never really having had any friends — I had my girlfriend for a long time and nothing else; to this day when I visit my parents in the town where I grew up I have literally no one to visit aside from family — and found myself meeting people entirely by accident because I went to a coffeeshop every night for a couple hours purely out of practicality, since I lived on a boat with no heat and it was winter and I didn't want to shiver on my boat until I could fall asleep.

Volunteering can work well too, if you can find something you'll enjoy for its own sake; I suspect if you go into it hating the work and doing it only to meet people it won't help much. But you'd be surprised at the interesting organizations that want volunteers; I got my current job volunteering at the local historical society because I thought it would be fun to poke through dusty old papers (it was). In the past I've worked on tall ships where we couldn't have functioned without volunteers; there's plenty to do along these lines besides the social work/feeding the homeless that most people seem to think of when they think of volunteering.

I entirely understand your distaste for hobbies-for-hobbies'-sakes, and classes, and other organized social situations like that; for me things have always worked much better when I simply let myself wander around and fall into things than when I tried to plan things out.

Lastly, I don't think this is any kind of clinical depression, which is to say I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling like this. It sounds more like plain old loneliness to me, and something that would be better solved by changing your situation (as it looks like you're trying to do) than with pills or psychoanalysis. (I am not a shrink.)
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:32 PM on August 11, 2004

i used to be an actor in the old days - never thought of getting back into it! seriously

Wooooooooooo! Score!

It's unfortunate you're in a backwater town like Seattle, where there's nothing going on in terms of arts and entertainment ;)

I think the only other thing I can mention is: use your city. You don't pay those urban rent prices for nothing. There've got to be theater groups nearby, etc etc etc. Get your money's worth!

I'm very very familiar with the kind of depression you describe. The most important thing is to just get out of doors. Really. If it takes a friend to make it happen, so be it. If it takes signing up for a commitment to show at a certain hour, so be it.

But drag yourself out, lady. It will hurt. You will dread it as the hour approaches. You'll think about bailing out. But save yourself at last and GET OUT.

As Belle and Sebastian say: "do something pretty while you can," and "there's a lot to be done while your head is still young."

Oh - and that reminds me: listen to Belle & Sebastian. They have a hell of a way of lifting the spirits and getting you going.
posted by scarabic at 11:38 PM on August 11, 2004

Maybe there should be a separate Ask Metafilter question re: how to get involved with community theater. If you're in a big city, does that mean all the actors are really good and the competition is too harsh? Or what? Where do you look? Besides Craigslist that is.
posted by inksyndicate at 11:53 PM on August 11, 2004

I'm pretty much in the same demographic as you (mid-30s, single, professional, live alone), though with what sounds like a few more connections through work and family. Being that this is L.A., I find it shockingly easy to feel socially isolated, more so than in any other city I've lived in. So the number one thing that's kept me active and social -- and here I guess I lose points -- has been taking classes (in my case, writing -- not screenwriting -- and language) and joining a writers group.

Besides the obvious results (I've improved my writing and my German while meeting some other people), they've also helped me learn how to be productive and focused even when I'm feeling bored or despairing or lonely, and the easier thing to do would be to watch TV. I've got a short play that's being produced and a couple of short stories being published, for example, that I probably wouldn't have written otherwise, and then never would have gotten them to the stage (or printed page) without the contacts I made in those same classes and writers group.

So those "activities for activities' sake" have actually paid off significant creative and social dividends. Emotional dividends, too -- my general sense of enjoyment has increased, my confidence in my work has gone up, and I'm less afraid of rejection letters when I send out my work. And the times I actually do get something accepted, I have a network of people to share that with. In turn, they invite me to to their plays and readings and suchlike -- and thereby I have the chance to meet more new people.

It's hard. There are still plenty of times I sit around the house and don't have the foggiest notion who to call to do something. There are times I go to readings and don't know anyone else, and come home still not knowing anyone else. Sometimes I'm still lonely -- but I've also made some sort of peace with those times. And I keep going out, taking classes, going to writers group. I email local writers whose plays and stories I like -- and I've become good friends with a couple of them. I just keep reaching out. It doesn't always work -- but so far it's beat the alternative.
posted by scody at 11:58 PM on August 11, 2004

Further on the fitness kick, join a local coed sports league. If you are athletic at all, joining a soccer league and finding a good group can be a great way to exercise and meet people to run around with in the local scene. I use soccer as an example, but any sport could do. Bowling, softball, whatever!
posted by jopreacher at 12:04 AM on August 12, 2004

Take pictures.
posted by azul at 12:08 AM on August 12, 2004

I second stavros' suggestion. If you can, sell all your stuff and travel. It's remarkably easy to make friends as an expat, where all the english speakers quickly bond together to survive in a foreign country. You'll meet interesting people, and the friendships you make will last for years.
posted by gd779 at 12:35 AM on August 12, 2004

Stavros, thirded. Worked for me - I had a great salary, no time, no life, so quit it all and wandered around.
posted by Pericles at 1:41 AM on August 12, 2004

If you're in a big city, does that mean all the actors are really good and the competition is too harsh? Or what? Where do you look? Besides Craigslist that is.

I wouldn't worry much. The bigger the city, the more groups there will be, and the more groups there are, the more disorganized, willy-nilly groups there will be that are happy to have anyone who's not a complete idiot/flake.

Exceptions are possible if you live in a major film/theater town that attracts lots of fancy actors. And I would advise choosing the group carefully if you're an absolute beginner. You could in fact wind up over your head at an audition if you use your Sunday paper's Entertainment top-page as a starting point.

That said, the biggest thing holding the average person back from getting involved in local theater, music, poetry slams, etc, is that other people are better that they are, and that they really have no business even trying out for such a thing. All it takes is one visit to the local poetry slam, though, to see people even more witless than you making a go of it. Idiots they may be, but if they can do it, so can you.
posted by scarabic at 1:45 AM on August 12, 2004

I should say "the biggest preconception holding the average joe back"
posted by scarabic at 1:46 AM on August 12, 2004

Learn Tai Chi/Chi Kung (Qigong) - there's bound to be classes somewhere nearby - you can participate with others, meet people, and you can practice while alone.
posted by Blue Stone at 4:24 AM on August 12, 2004

Here's what my father would say: buy a house.
posted by sleslie at 6:10 AM on August 12, 2004

Thanks for the good words, mwhybark!

tristeza, we do have a good time at the Seattle weblog meetup and you are welcome to join us. I can't tell from your profile if you have a weblog right now, but you could always claim to be thinking about starting one! Next meeting is Wednesday August 19.

I didn't know many people when I first moved here, and my social time was limited since I was primary caregiver for my parents at the time. I joined a bowling league (the Sons of Norway) because someone I knew here invited me and my sister could do respite care for my folks on that evening.

Later I found local science fiction fandom, which has turned into the core of my local connections. I did that by going to Clarion West readings and hearing about a monthly mostly-open social gathering. Cacophony was a big part of that also.
posted by anitar at 6:15 AM on August 12, 2004

my recommendations: discontinue the cable. do your reading in the park/local coffee shop/art museum. do not go straight home from work (or go home, change and leave again). don't look upon your apartment as a place to avoid, but don't spend so much time there. don't drive your car if you can avoid it. walk places, take the bus. you'll have small, meaningless interactions with all sorts of strangers that will help reduce your sense of isolation.

in addition to everyone's recommendations so far, i suggest being a tourist in your own city. as you wander around with your camera and guidebook, people will want to be helpful, pointing out good restaurants, points of interest &c. then when they ask you where you're from, you say "right here! i just think it's important to explore my home, to appreciate what's great about it!" then you've started a conversation and possibly met someone new and exciting.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:41 AM on August 12, 2004

Try entertaining. Have people over to dinner, or for some simple wine and cheese parties. This has a snowball effect. Once you have invited other people to your place, they have a social obligation to invite you to their events. Then you'll meet their friends, whom you can then invite to your gatherings. And so on.
posted by orange swan at 7:32 AM on August 12, 2004

I'm in your demographic. I've had similar troubles and found the weekends difficult. And to be the average MeFi member: be careful with the television. I remember some Saturdays watching two EPL football matches, hockey, the news, hockey and wondering what the hell just happened to my day.

The university library or big downtown library, besides the books, likely have an AV section where you could view documentary films or old news reels.

Out of town or out of country newspapers, if the news is your thing. Mix that with a cup of coffee and you have a night out for five bucks. (Email me if you want. I have more suggestions.)

Maybe moving (within Seattle) would help, depending on what kind of building you live in. I live in a smallish, four storey building in the city centre: I know about half the tenants by face if not name and we chat sometimes. My sister lives in huge twenty/thirty storey building in the far suburbs; she doesn't know anyone in the building.
posted by philfromhavelock at 7:38 AM on August 12, 2004

It's unfortunate you're in a backwater town like Seattle, where there's nothing going on in terms of arts and entertainment ;)

What a bewildering thing to say.
posted by Skot at 8:00 AM on August 12, 2004

First of all, your situation is not abnormal. There are lots of people your age (not old) who find themselves without friends, wondering what to do with themselves.

I would recommend approaching your problems constructively and practically, but to do that you will need help. You should see a counselor / psycho-therapist. Psychotherapy is not for people that have something "wrong with them" - it's for everyone. Going to a psychotherapist is paying to have someone listen to you (paying to listen to yourself). This activity is treating yourself in the same way you would a nice dinner or a massage.

Basically, your pyschotherapist will ask you what's on your mind, if you have any issues, and then what you think you should do about it. Going someplace an hour a week will help you commit to putting your plans in action. I certainly don't see how it can hurt.

If you are against hobbies for hobbies sake, how about a class related to your job, or a career move you would like to make? How about a degree? (a majority of the people in the classes I take are around your age and I am in graduate studies).

Most importantly, everything you want: friends, a better job, interesting work, all can be yours. Write down what you would ideally want. Talk to your therapist about how you plan to get it. Your problems won't dissapear overnight, but neither are they anywhere near as dire nor as insolvable as you think.

When meeting people, if you can discern their interests, tie those to an event you think they would like. "You're into theatre - blah troupe is doing blah show... would you like to go with me?" Find interests you share.

Finally, I would date online. Like psychotherapy, this is something a lot more people do than you would think. I just went to a wedding for a couple that met online. She's a model with an MBA from an ivy league school, he's similarly a great catch. If you want to be in a relationship, again, treat this problem practically, set up "interviews" with people, meet them, and find someone.

I can't determine whether or not you are depressed, but there are signs in your post that you may have locked yourself out of some avenues and are stuck with certain thoughts that simply are not true. I suggest you talk out your feelings with someone on a regular basis for a while. The easiest way to do that is to see someone regularly. I promise you will not be dissapointed.
posted by xammerboy at 8:01 AM on August 12, 2004

On the other hand, I may have missed some enormous sarcasm tags.

This is why morning posts are bad.
posted by Skot at 8:02 AM on August 12, 2004

Sounds like three inter-related issues here: nothing interesting to do, nobody to do it with, and a general sense of depression. Fortunately, many of the suggestions made so far could help with all three.

Re: nothing interesting to do. I understand you don't want to do a hobby or a class for the sake of just doing a hobby or a class in general. But there must be something in life that you always wanted to do or know or understand or be good at. Haven't you ever wanted to play the flute, write songs, understand higher math, know how to survive in the wilderness, take great photos, build robots, write stories, square dance, give great massages, speak another language, sail a boat, be a karate expert, build your own furniture, scuba dive, paint portraits, perform on stage (aha - you did mention acting), etc, etc, etc? I always feel like life is way too short to do more than a small fraction of the things I want to do. Pick some area that always fascinated you, but you never thought you could do anything with it. The less naturally talented you are in the field, the harder you'll have to work at it, the more hours it can take up. If you find yourself getting burned out on the first area you pick, find a second area and alternate.

Re: nobody to do it with. Many of the areas you could pick to devote your time to (such as theatre) will automatically give you a social group. If your area of study ends up being something more solitary, make sure you find something else that exposes you to people. Volunteer organizations are good, as church groups can be if your beliefs are inclined that way. Otherwise, find a group doing something fun. Back when I was first out on my own and learning basic social skills (I was a late bloomer), I hooked up with the Society for Creative Anachronism. Officially the SCA is a non-profit group dedicated to re-enacting the middle ages. In actuality, it tends to be more of a social group where people can have relaxed fun in a bit of a fantasy setting. I'm too busy to have time for the SCA these days, but I give it credit for providing a supportive environment where I was able to improve my social skills. Also, I still keep in contact with a few of my friends from those days.

Re: the depression. If your depression is strictly situational, than taking care of the first two problems should sort it out. If not, don't forget to keep some type of physical activity in your schedule, which often helps. If that still doesn't help, be sure to find a good counselor.

Good luck!

p.s. What do you mean "...it involves meeting other single old people."? Are you trying to imply that you are old? at 34? Listen, young'un, you're just getting started.
posted by tdismukes at 8:12 AM on August 12, 2004

Feeling Good and The Feeling Good Handbook, despite their cheesy titles, are really exceptional. Psychologists recommend them. They made a measurable (literally, my depression self-test scores went significantly down) difference with me. It's a lot easier for a reader to get the motivation to read this book than it is to go to a therapist, so I think it's a really good place to start.

Also, yes, unfortunately, kill your cable. Rent a couple movies a week instead, if you want. Or better yet, go to the theater. T.v. feels soothing, but it's really not more of a solution than putting yourself in a temporary coma whenever you're bored. It's better to sometimes to do things we ordinarily do in private-- reading, watching movies -- in public, even if you do them alone. I used to go to B&N almost every day to read.

Exercise is good, too.

As is online dating. Worst case, assuming you take safety precautions, is a boring date. If you do something you really want to do on the date, the fact that you don't like the person might not preclude you from having fun. Typical case, a decent evening out. Good case, a good evening out. Great case, someone you really like.
posted by callmejay at 8:37 AM on August 12, 2004

I strongly second Asparagirl's suggestion to adopt an adult dog and I'm not a dog person. It will get you out of the house, get you exercise, help you meet people. I think it could also help with depressive feelings--it's someone else to think about, take care of, teach, give a good life to. You will meet people on your walks, but I really recommend taking your dog to one of the many off-leash parks around Seattle. Magnuson is a really good one. People like to talk about their dogs and ask about yours. There are lots of single people there too and they're not all on the prowl, in case that's off-putting to you. My husband and I take our dog together and we almost always end up chatting with someone(usually single) about our dogs. You could even go to the dog parks without a dog. We used to go before we got our dog to walk and be entertained be all the dogs. You could also meet people by taking your dog to obedience lessons. The Humane Society has classes and I can recommend someone who used to teach classes there and now has their own school.
posted by lobakgo at 8:59 AM on August 12, 2004

Look around for a community sport to play. My wife was having the same problem (all her female friends moved away and she realized she had no "her-only" friends left) and was feeling a bit depressed about it too.

So she joined Sistas for Soccer, a women-only soccer league. She has a great time (twice a week, including practices) and she gets a bit more exercise too.

A quick Google for the Seattle area turned up ArenaSports. They have various levels of competitiveness, including recreational for the non-athlete to enjoy. Since all you need to do is own a pair of running shoes and shin guards, it's a cheap sport to take up and lets you interact with lots of people in a friendly manner.

And then you can go drinking afterwards!
posted by grum@work at 9:46 AM on August 12, 2004

Yes, definitely come to the blog meetups and the occasional local MeFi gatherings. I usually go to both. Good people.

Going against the grain a bit, I have found that time spent learning to be comfortable with yourself in solitude is never wasted. In looking for things to do, are you addressing the true cause of your malaise, or just treating the symptoms with socializing? In other words, is the problem merely that you're lonely and bored, or are you fundamentally unhappy with your life? In the latter case, introspection and change, perhaps assisted by some pharmeceuticals and/or therapy, may do more for your happiness in the long run. (I mention this only because your handle suggests that this may be a longstanding issue.)
posted by kindall at 10:53 AM on August 12, 2004

Get more exercise. It will help resolve the depression. Seriously. Best thing you can do for yourself.

Big Sisters is always looking for help.

IMO, you are suffering debilitating depression: you aren't going out, aren't active, aren't social. Classic symptoms.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:02 AM on August 12, 2004

Bless you, tristeza, for asking a question that not everyone would have the guts to ask.

And Bless you, AskMefi, for answering with such care.
posted by donnagirl at 12:25 PM on August 12, 2004

From what I read, you're not necessarily depressed as simply lonely. It sounds like you are open to perhaps meeting someone, not just in the "bar pick up" way? First of all, take a second and really think about how lucky you are to be a well-paid young professional in Seattle, to boot. One of the best cities in the country for so many things.
Then, think about what do you LIKE to do? Live music is a personal favourite of mine, and you're in a tremendous location for that. Live shows are a great place to meet like-minded people. Not to "hook up" per se, but just to make friends. Or maybe friends first. What about independent cinema? Here in Dallas we have several indie theatres that host discussion/get together groups for people wanting to discuss films. Informal/night-weekend college classes? Learn something useful and interesting, while perhaps meeting others that are trying to keep their minds vibrant. Language classes, art classes, it doesn't have to be anything major. Volunteer, politics, all the stuff other people have recommended. I think the key is to get out around other people. You will meet others who are out there doing something. It could lead to friendships. It could lead to a relationship. You never know, but at least you're around people working for something more substantial than just trying to get laid and/or get drunk. There isn't the pressure of looking for "forced romance." Sometimes the most unexpected things can happen if you are open to it and don't close yourself off from the world.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2004

Try out swing dancing. It's an easy way to socialize with lots of people without having to make smalltalk constantly (like at a party) or after hours of silence (at a movie). There are lot of Seattle dancers around your age and many very nice folks.
posted by turbodog at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2004

I was there a few years ago, tristeza. You've gotten lots of great suggestions here.

Two things I'd add. Are there any things about your home you don't like? Change them. Get nicer kitchen tools, higher thread count sheets, hang curtains, clean out your old papers, whatever. The nice thing about changing your physical environment is that it can make for fast, obvious rewards. It's a realm where, generally, we enjoy more control over our lives than in most areas.

Surely there are some things you enjoy... eating strawberries, playing with kittens (shelters need volunteers to keep the kitties human-socialized), watching old movies, whatever. Go ahead and do them. I know this sounds like the stupidest, most banal advice in the world: do stuff you like. But I also know what it's like to be in a rut, when inertia makes everything seem more trouble than it's worth. But if you get over that hump and go ahead and do silly-sounding self-indulgent things you already know you enjoy, you'll probably have fun in the end.

And to echo some other things people have said... talking to a therapist could probably help. Regular (responsible) exercise tends to make people feel better, and almost everyone who sticks with it learns to enjoy it for its own sake. Eating well tends to make people feel better, too... Andrew Weil's _Eating Well for Optimum Health_ is a pretty good guide.

And, finally, don't try to follow everyone's suggestions at once. Pick a couple of things and stick with them for a while, like weston said.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:01 AM on August 13, 2004

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