Show of hands: How many of you spend more time socializing with TV characters than you do with real people? After 8+ hours sitting in your cubicle, do you get home from work and never want to leave your bed again? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. We totally get it—the real world is exhausting, and Netflix is just SO good.
But in order to avoid becoming a couch potato/cat lady, it’s important that you make time for friends and social activities in the few free hours you have each day. The graduate life has a lot more to offer than just a steady paycheck. This is the time to catch up with our college besties, meet new people, explore our surroundings and even learn a thing or two about adulthood.
So, the next time you find yourself in bed before 8 p.m. bingeing on One Tree Hill, we dare you to try one of these activities. Your Netflix account will still be there for you when you get back, we promise.
1. Shake it like T. Swift at a new workout class
These days, there are more exercise options than there are lululemon leggings in the world. Whether you’re down for some booty-poppin’ cardio at a Beyoncé-inspired dance class or pumping iron at a hardcore CrossFit class, your muscles will love the attention after a long day at the office. Plus, the endorphins will help you stay awake long enough to watch Scandal live.
Groupon, along with phone apps like FiTMAPPED and BurnThis, are great resources for finding classes in your area depending on where you live. Graduates in New York City, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C., should also check out ClassPass for access to over 1,000 different fitness classes—everything from pole dancing to rock climbing. Grab a few friends and go sweat it out!
2. Host a TV viewing party to avoid Netflix-ing alone
There are certain shows that are just better to watch in groups (The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Pretty Little Liars and The X Factor, just to name a few). Evaluating best and worst dressed at the rose ceremony is a lot harder when you’re the only judge, so get together with a group of friends to view the latest episode. Grab a bottle of champagne and a bowl of popcorn, and you’ve got yourself a partayyy. For competition-based shows, you can create brackets (à la March Madness) and pitch in for a final prize.
3. Share food with friends at a potluck dinner
Cooking is an important adult skill (and making a bowl of cereal does not count). If the idea of preparing a whole meal gives you anxiety, offer to host a potluck dinner for a group of your friends. Each person brings one dish, along with instructions for how to recreate it. One friend can even play bartender and mix up a round of cocktails for the group. You can also attend cooking classes (in person or online) to build your skills in the kitchen and cook up something delish.
4. Attend local get-togethers and networking nights to meet new friends
Making friends in a new city is no small feat. Unlike college, there’s no “Real World Orientation Week” to set you up with a clique (and permanent meal partners). However, networking nights are great ways to find people with shared interests or career goals. NYC-based graduette Rebecca Shinners attends networking events through Ed2010 to form connections in the magazine industry.
Apps and websites like Meetup, Nearify, Badoo, MeetMe and Tea With Strangers can also help you find groups or individuals in your vicinity who are searching for their next BFFs. Hundreds of other graduettes are in your same position, but you’ll never cross paths if you don’t make it happen. You never know; your future bestie may be right around the corner.
5. Take a break from reading BuzzFeed and join a book club
We know the phrase “book club” probably makes you think of your grandma, but there’s no reason why twentysomethings can’t partake in this intellectual activity as well. You really should be reading more than two books a year anyway.
Chances are you called your BFF sobbing when you finished The Fault in Our Stars and texted her rampant “SOS” messages when you got to part II of Gone Girl, so you’re already used to discussing your favorite reads. Get a few friends together and create a Facebook group or Google doc so that everyone can contribute titles to your reading list and vote on the book for each month. You can take turns hosting and leading the meetings where you’ll chat about the latest bestsellers or whatever books you choose. iPad editions welcome.
6. Show off your artsy side at a group painting class
The class name may vary depending on your location (e.g., Paint Nite, Sips n Strokes, Bottle and Bottega), but one thing is for sure: Amateur art goes great with wine. In fact, we’re starting to think that a little booze brings out the artist in all of us. Everyone (even the bro-est of guys) leaves these classes with a semi-decent looking canvas—it’s the Eighth Wonder of the World. Visit sites like Gilt, Groupon and LivingSocial to search for deals before you sign up, and be sure to bond with everyone else taking the class! You might end up with some new friends—plus new decoration for your living room.
7. Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you
After staring at an Excel document for nine hours a day or completing constant busywork for your superiors, it’s easy to feel like your life lacks real meaning or purpose. Give back to your (new) community and remind yourself of how good you have it by signing up to volunteer. You can brighten a sick child’s day through an organization like Project Sunshine, become the ultimate role model by joining Big Brothers Big Sisters or get your puppy fix helping out at a local animal shelter.
New-York-City-based graduate Beth Armstrong volunteers at Gilda’s Club, an organization that supports cancer patients and their families. “I love volunteering at Gilda’s Club events and getting to know all of the amazing members,” she says. “If I can bring joy to them for even two hours, it is well worth it.”
Yasmine Scott, who also lives in New York City, helped to organize a service day through her office that brought hundreds of employees out to a Special Olympics tournament, soup kitchens, book drives and a school in need of repair.
You can check with your HR department at work to see if your company has any similar opportunities, or volunteer to head up a service committee if they don’t have anything in place. You’ll take your mind off of whatever’s stressing you out by devoting a few hours to a rewarding cause—and you’ll probably have some fun, too.
Whether you’re aiming to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, get to know your neighborhood or just get out of your wine-and-Netflix-in-bed rut, these activities are sure to spice up your workweek. And now that you’re done reading this article, we give you full permission to shut down your computer, pack up your fave purse, swipe on some lip gloss and get out there! The real world is waiting for you.