but there's SOO much downtime in between PVP fights
I reopened my account a little under a month ago (originally quit when Diablo 3 came out, THAT game was a waste of time and money.). After two weeks back with my old alliance, spinning ships, AFKing in station, I joined a new one. Night and day. I have seen more action every day in the new alliance than all 2 weeks with the old one. The problem for me was that the old alliance had largely faded from glory and the remaining members are 80% people in a 12 hour different time zone, and located way out in the middle of where there was nothing for a lone player to shoot at. The remaining 20% were insulated in their own system 15 jumps away and own teamspeak server. They invited no one else to come with them. The new one is right in the sweet spot for my time zone, and in a much better location for PVP and quite active. There is so much PVP going on I haven't had as much time to try out the new exploration mechanics as I would like, and best of all I don't feel like I need to be on all the time so that I don't miss what little action there is.
Ultimate lesson: A new corp solved your situation in my case.
I felt barely competent after 4 months of play.
But competent nonetheless... Mastering a game ultimately makes it boring. Four months would be quite a short time scale to master any decent MMO. The deeper the game, the longer it takes.
The curve is just too high for people looking to have fun and not turn the game into a way of life
I assume you have seen this, but I will post it for the amusement of others: EVE Learning Curve
Unrelated comment: I have only recently come to realize that EVE is only cosmetically a game about space ships. Its true nature is more a game of risk versus reward. You can mine in 0.5 space and make money faster... but those suicide gankers are 2 jumps away, or you can mine in 0.9 space and make less. Make your choice and live with the consequences. Trust no one, and never undock anything you cannot afford to lose.