Linux it well developed and stable despite what you might read in these forums. I'd suggest that you step back and you take a look at the MagPi - http://www.themagpi.com/
- which covers a wide range of the possibilities for the Pi.
For me the Pi was a about physical computing i.e. getting it to do real stuff. Ok we all want that all-singing, all-dancing robot but take it small steps at a time, try lighting a few LEDs in a sequence. Try out a few of the scripting languages; some simple lines of bash will get you going for a LED or two and its there, pre-installed and waiting for you to play with. Then add a few more LEDs, or change the sequence, and maybe you'll find that bash is not such a good idea and you'd like to move to another language. Or you could re-work your bash to make it easier to extend to do new things.
Maybe install Python and have a go with that doing the same simple tasks, hopefully in a more productive fashion. Get a general feel for what you can do, in the time you can afford to invest but get a few small successes under your belt.
If that leaves you cold, then maybe a project such a slideshow of your photos on your TV. This is more of a software project, might be something you could accomplish and find satisfying with XMBC, or you you install of more general distro and try out some other ways of doing the same things. You could start with a few pictures on your SD card, so you're not fazed by the network, remote file systems and who knows what. You might then drag in some music, video but at least you can do these things in small steps, at your own pace, with a defined goal; each one a minor success but building to a body of knowledge.
And in a few months be wondering what all the fuss was about. Or put it in the cupboard, so as to take advantage of the blazing summer we're going to have (or not).
At least the system doesn't reset when you lean a little to heavily of the RAM pack of your souped-up ZX81; they were not the good old days.