Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: After being overweight and exhausted constantly for the past 10 years, I've recently started losing weight, exercising and generally taking better care of myself. And while I have a long way to go, I've been seeing results. I used to oversleep every day, and yet was still tired all the time. Now I sleep less and have way more energy.
And time. Having more time is, in theory, a great thing, but my problem is, I have no idea what to do with it. And it's making me anxious so I wind up right back on the couch staring at the TV. I live alone and don't have a significant other, although I do have a good circle of friends. I volunteer on a regular basis, and attend grad school part time.
I have a few hobbies I enjoy, but even with that, there's too much time on my hands, and into the void slip worries and what-ifs.
I realize I have an amazing opportunity to do something, but I don't even know where to start. Any suggestions?
I can almost hear people thinking they wish they had your problem - that and "Hello, museums, books, music, foreign languages, art ?"
But I think that's actually part of why you struggle. There's a sense that you should be doing more.
Yet it's hard to think of anything more personal - as in, less suited to the viewpoints of others - than how you use your free time. For example, I immediately thought to suggest becoming a Big Brother/Big Sister, or fostering homeless pets, but if you don't enjoy kids or animals, that's not only a non-starter, but possibly also guilt-inducing. If you don't want to rescue kids or puppies, do you now get to wonder whether you're a bad person for that?
So the only advice that feels right to me is turning the question back over to you: What do you have a knack for, what are you passionate about, what brings you joy?
Or simply look around you: Where do you see the greatest need that is also meaningful to you? In those questions there might be the seed of something that can grow into a unifying purpose for you.
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