Tag Archives: hobbies in adulthood

Tips for Adulthood: Five Clubs for Grownups

ironing

ironingMany of us sent our kids back to school this week, so I am re-posting a blog on the  “back to school” theme.

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably just finished purchasing (or dusting off) all the backpacks, pens, pencils and athletic equipment that your kids will need for the upcoming school year. Now you’re grappling with after-school activities: which ones your kid should join, which ones to drop, and how to coordinate schedules across different members of the household.

Even if you’re not a parent, Autumn invariably brings a spirit of renewal. Just out of habit  – from all of those years of going to school yourself – you’re probably thinking about what activities you’ll be participating in this coming academic year: which book groups, health clubs or religious social organizations you’ll be frequenting on a weekly or monthly basis.

As you do that, I want to encourage all of you to join a new club. And I want you to reach outside the box. In other words, feel free to carry on with the clubs you’re already a member of. But push yourself to try something different – really different – on a whim that speaks to one of your secret interests. (By way of example, here’s a club in New York City that was inspired by members’ love of kidlit.)

Why do this? Because pursuing hobbies in adulthood is loads of fun.

To get you started on your brainstorming process, I’m going to propose some out-of-the-box suggestions I got by soliciting ideas on Linked In. Here are five “clubs for grown-ups” that sound absolutely fabulous to me:

1. Language Clubs – I was struck by the number of people who wrote to me about clubs that were organized around speaking another language. Sometimes, these took place around a meal (e.g. French or Italian Cuisine) or a wine from a particular region. Others coalesced around a film or book by a foreign auteur. But in all cases, you are required to participate in said activity while speaking a language that wasn’t your native tongue. Fun!

2. House Exchange Clubs – We’ve all heard of house swaps. Usually, someone who lives in, say, Tokyo exchanges houses with someone who lives in New York City. It’s an affordable way to have a holiday abroad. But some friends of mine are about to join a house exchange club in their own city. The idea is to meet up monthly at one member’s home while everyone else browses around to see what kinds of art, music and decor are on display. Then, over the holidays, you arrange to swap homes with that friend. I love this idea – a way to explore your own city but from a different vantage point. So clever!

3. Fix-it Clubs. One of my friends who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. wrote to me about a fixers collective that’s sprung up in her neighborhood. Here’s the website. Every Thursday, a group of people get together and place broken objects on a large, common fixing table. They then share ideas and techniques for repairing, mending, enhancing or re-purposing the objects, with “Master Fixers” there to offer support and guidance. The larger social message behind this club is to encourage people to value more things in their environment. If I had even a hint of a DIY bone in my body (and lived in Brooklyn!), I’d be all over this.

4. Admin Club. Another gem. This comes from a friend of mine in Washington, D.C. who gets together once a month with friends to tackle all those dreaded tasks that would otherwise languish on their to-do lists ad infinitum. It might be tax returns. Or a gazillion phone calls to the insurance company for a reimbursement. (Gosh, I don’t miss American health insurance.) Or writing out 25 party invitations for your cousin’s bridal shower. Whatever onerous task is dragging you down, you go deal with it…among friends, who offer both support and company. This club has my name written all over it. (Ironing name tags on school uniforms, anyone?)

5. Procrastinators Club. Finally, let me end with my hands-down favorite, which is a sort of gambler’s version of the Admin Club. Here’s how it works:  Upon joining, you kick in $20 and name a project you are working on and how much progress you will commit to making on it by the next meeting. If, by said meeting, you haven’t hit that goal, you lose your stake to whomever has completed their task and you have to ante up again. (In actual practice, the friend who wrote to me about this club subsequently volunteered that everyone in it continued to be unproductive and – not surprisingly – eventually lost all energy to keep the club going…) But hey, they get an A* for invention. What a great idea!

How about you? What sorts of zany clubs have you been tempted to join or create? Do tell…

Image: Black and Decker Corded Steam Iron by Your Best Digs via Flickr

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Why I Joined A Writing Group

I’ve started a writing group. We met for the first time last night for an organizational meeting.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Back when I stepped down from the PTA (a full month and a half ago!), I vowed that I’d take a break from organizing things. So much for that.

But this is different. First of all, it’s only five people. And second of all – unlike the PTA, which was loads of fun but fundamentally about raising money for a cause – this one’s about me. I’m doing it for precisely the same reason that I encouraged all of you to join a club this Autumn: pursuing hobbies in adulthood is fun.

Of course, I’m not only doing it because it’s fun. I’m also doing it because I think that it’s going to be worthwhile professionally. Why is that?

For starters, the people in the group aren’t close friends. I know all of them socially, but what links me to them first and foremost is that we all share an interest in writing. (Most of us are interested in pursuing fiction within the confines of this group, though there’s one TV/Film writer.)

And that means that while it’s a friendly crowd, we’re not there to chit-chat about our lives. We’re there to get feedback on our work. So unlike, say, a book club, which is – at the end of the day – a fundamentally social experience, this club feels more serious. And that suits me just fine right now.

I’m also joining this group because I think that as a writer, working across genres really helps you to stay fresh. You exercise different parts of your brain. You get out of your comfort zone. You keep yourself from getting bored. I was thinking about this yesterday when I happened to be working on two different projects that took me away from my ordinary blogging duties. One was a travel piece and the other was an interview that I did for a commercial outlet. At the end of the day, I felt really refreshed. And I think that’s because I stepped away from my routine. So I’m hoping that by adding some fiction writing back into the mix, I’ll continue to keep myself crisp as a writer.

But mostly I’m doing this because I need to confront the beast. (That would be my novel…you know, the proverbial one that sits in a drawer somewhere, only to be very occasionally dusted off and sent out to greet the world?) It’s time for a fourth down, kick-0r-stick moment with that sucker. (Forgive the cheesy football analogies. I think we all know that sports isn’t my thing.) Either I’m going to go back to the drawing board, and use this writing group as way to workshop the hell out of that thing…or I’m going to have a fancy new footrest as I embark on some new ideas. Either way, it’s time to make a move.

Wish me luck.

How do you keep yourself fresh at work?

*****

For those who are interested, here’s a piece I wrote for Politics Daily on how some people in Germany seem to be forgetting the Holocaust.

Image: Writing Challenge by Starbuck Guy via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Tips For Adulthood: Five Clubs for Grown Ups

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week’s list is inspired by the “back to school” theme. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably just finished purchasing (or dusting off and sharpening) all the backpacks, pens, pencils and athletic equipment that your kids will need for the upcoming school year. Now you’re grappling with after-school activities: which ones your kid should join, which ones to drop, and how to coordinate schedules across different members of the household.

Even if you’re not a parent, Autumn invariably brings a spirit of renewal. Just out of habit  – from all of those years of going to school yourself – you’re probably thinking about what activities you’ll be participating in this coming academic year: which book groups, health clubs or religious social organizations you’ll be frequenting on a weekly or monthly basis.

As you do that, I want to encourage all of you to join a new club. And I want you to reach outside the box. In other words, feel free to carry on with the clubs you’re already a member of. But push yourself to try something different – really different – on a whim that speaks to one of your secret interests. (By way of example, here’s a club in New York City that was inspired by members’ love of kidlit.)

Why do this? Because pursuing hobbies in adulthood is loads of fun.

To get you started on your brainstorming process, I’m going to propose some out-of-the-box suggestions I got by soliciting ideas on Linked In. Here are five “clubs for grown-ups” that sound absolutely fabulous to me:

1. Language Clubs – I was struck by the number of people who wrote to me about clubs that were organized around speaking another language. Sometimes, these took place around a meal (e.g. French or Italian Cuisine) or a wine from a particular region. Others coalesced around a film or book by a foreign auteur. But in all cases, you were required to participate in said activity while speaking a language that wasn’t your native tongue. Fun!

2. House Exchange Clubs – We’ve all heard of house swaps. Usually, someone who lives in, say, Tokyo exchanges houses with someone who lives in New York City. It’s an affordable way to have a holiday abroad. But some friends of mine are about to join a house exchange club in their own city. The idea is to meet up monthly at one member’s home while everyone else browses around to see what kinds of art, music and decor are on display. Then, over the holidays, you arrange to swap homes with that friend. I love this idea – a way to explore your own city but from a different vantage point. So clever!

3. Fix-it Clubs. One of my friends who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. wrote to me about a fixers collective that’s sprung up in her neighborhood. Here’s the website. Every Thursday, a group of people get together and place broken objects on a large, common fixing table. They then share ideas and techniques for repairing, mending, enhancing or re-purposing the objects, with “Master Fixers” there to offer support and guidance. The larger social message behind this club is to encourage people to value more things in their environment. If I had even a hint of a DIY bone in my body (and lived in Brooklyn!) I’d be all over this.

4. Admin Club. Another gem. This comes from a friend of mine in Washington, D.C. who gets together once a month with friends to tackle all those dreaded tasks that would otherwise languish on their to-do lists ad infinitum. It might be tax returns. Or a gazillion phone calls to the insurance company for a reimbursement. (Gosh, I don’t miss American health insurance.) Or writing out 25 party invitations for your cousin’s bridal shower. Whatever onerous task is dragging you down, you go deal with it…among friends, who offer both support and company. This club has my name written all over it. (Ironing name tags, anyone?)

5. Procrastinators Club. Finally, let me end with my hands-down favorite, which is a sort of gambler’s version of the Admin Club. Here’s how it works:  Upon joining, you kick in $20 and declare a project that you are working on and how much progress you commit to making on it by the next meeting. If, by the next meeting, you haven’t hit that goal, you lose your stake to whoever has completed their task and you have to ante up again. (In actual practice, the friend who wrote to me about this club subsequently volunteered that everyone in it continued to be unproductive and – not surprisingly – eventually lost all energy to keep the club going…) But hey, they get an A* for invention. What a great idea!

How about you? What sorts of zany clubs have you been tempted to join or create? Do tell…

*****

I’m told that a great place to find and join clubs of all different sorts is at meetup.com.

*****

For those who are interested, I’m over on Politics Daily today talking about recent developments in the ongoing British tabloid phone-hacking scandal...

Image: diy pinhole by (nz)dave via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.


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Continuing Education: The Importance of Experimentation

I went to a three-hour lesson on pod-casting on Sunday afternoon. It was the first in a two-part course I’m taking at London’s adult learning centre, CityLit. The course is designed to introduce beginners to the art of internet broadcasting.

I’m a big fan of taking classes in adulthood. Since moving to London four years ago, I’ve taken classes in fiction writing and acting. In Chicago, I took classes in freelance writing and memoir. And once, many moons ago, I took a class in beginning Hebrew (not to mention the continuing ed. class to end all continuing ed. classes: I’m Jewish, You’re Not.)

According to a report released jointly by the Penn State University Office of Outreach Marketing and Communications and University Continuing Education Association in 2006, up to 45 percent of colleges and university enrollment in the United States is from adult learners. Revenues for continuing education rose 67 percent at the institutions surveyed in this report from 2004.

People go back to school as grown-ups for lots of different reasons. Sometimes, it’s to pursue a hobby. You try something new (or return to something old.) You meet new people. You get out of your comfort zone. Above all, you have fun. (And yes, for the record, I’m still eyeing that course at CityLit entitled Actors Singing From West End to Broadway.)

Sometimes you go back to school because you need to re-tool professionally. From 2008 to 2018, the labor force is projected to grow more diverse and have more workers age 55 and older. Simultaneously, the highest-paying jobs – those that require at least a bachelor’s degree – are expected to increase at a rate faster than that of overall job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it’s  a good bet that we’ll be seeing more Americans – particularly boomers – sharpening their pencils and buying new notebooks as they gear up for a second or third career.

But the main advantage of adult education is that it enables you to experiment. Chris Brogan – guru of all things social media – talked about this recently. Brogan thinks about experimentation in terms of labs. (He’s currently experimenting with a new travel site called Man On The Go.)

His main point is that experimentation is crucial to growth. Why? Because you test drive new ideas. You collaborate. You enjoy the fun of failure, as Gretchen Rubin likes to put it. Above all, you create ideas of your own, rather than just reporting on the ideas of others.

Which is why I’m learning how to podcast. I’m not yet sure exactly how I’ll incorporate podcasting into my life, and whether it will be more of a hobby or something that I use in work. But I have a few ideas. More importantly, I know that if I don’t start experimenting now – creating a lab, as it were – I’ll never find out.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll be the next Cezanne

*****

Apologies that my weekly tips for adulthood post did not appear yesterday. Due to the editing schedule over at www.PoliticsDaily.com, that particular post will come out next week.

*****

And speaking of Politics Daily, be sure to check out my post today on the new Pro-Islam ads running in London. It’s kind of the UK’s answer to the whole “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign. Except that it’s “What Would Mohammed Do?” Check it out…

Image: Podcasting by hawaii via flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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