Hobbies for Adults? It’s Not Blasphemy.

Ask anyone old enough to vote (damn—it’s still too soon to talk about voting, isn’t it? Fine. So ask anyone old enough to set up a [legal] online gambling account) what their hobbies are, and they’ll either look at you patronizingly like you’re a child who just asked how much pudding they get to eat for breakfast every morning, or they’ll look all vacant and empty like Puddy on the plane in that Seinfeld episode.

The rite of passage into adulthood– chock full of Responsibilities (yes, with a capital R), bills to pay, and a “work’s getting done around here” stern-faced ethos– indubitably killed the hobby. Pardon me– becoming a responsible adult caused us to negligently abandon our hobbies, maybe not officially kill them.

  • We shelved the books we used to make time to read and sometimes even take a stab at writing.
  • We closed up the violin case and packed it up in that tightly-lidded container under the stairs, far out of sight and even father out of mind.
  • We donated the figure skates, thinking wistfully that “someone will have so much fun in these”– just not us, though. No time for triple axles in responsible adulthood!
  • We sold the pasta roller in a garage sale (to a guy who paid with a $2 bill, but that’s a story for another post).
  • We let the paint tubes dry up and the paint brushes get all frayed on the edges (damn, they were expensive).
  • You get the idea.

I get it– many of our hobbies had to shift to the back burner because we didn’t have time. We got busy climbing the corporate ladder, raising kids, trying (in vain) to stay sane in a pandemic. We prioritized other things and lost sight of how fun and recreation is a necessary component in a life well-lived… that people with hobbies pop up in study after study as having less stress and depression, and are more satisfied and engaged with their lives.

It’s time to bring the hobbies back to life, friends. 

The books? They’re still there, waiting to have the dust blown off them and their spines cracked open as you settle into chapter one with a big cup of hot chocolate. Your old draft is waiting for you too (unless it’s on an old floppy disc, in which case good luck with that).

The musical instruments are right there where you left them, or can be purchased all over again because I’m not sure if you’ve heard the news that Amazon delivers EVERYTHING now? So many ice skates, so many pasta rollers, cameras, violas, sketchbooks, bowling balls, swimsuits, sewing machines, tarot cards, cross-stitch stuff, beer-making-everything… all ready to Add to Cart and land on your doorstep before the weekend.

The good news is that many of us are experiencing the gift of found time that Covid has handed us on a disinfected silver platter. Your two-hour commute time gone? Look who has time for macrame! Finding yourself reprioritizing what matters in life (a quarter of a million causalities from a pandemic will do that), and reshuffling your activities to reflect the way you really want to spend your time? A friend of mine used her furloughed summer to get back into gardening, piano and trombone lessons. One client got back into digital scrapbooking and got to relive the early years of her relationship and the days when her kids would give her the time of day. A bored client is learning how to speak Latin (um, still boring, and I openly make fun of him for it), and another picked up birdwatching (but for real: birds are booming! Apparently there is a 22% spike in binocular sales because we’re all watching birds and wishing we too could fly the f*ck away for the winter). Hey, if it takes a wee bit of Covid-cabin fever to reignite a hobby, I’m all over it.

So now what?

How to ignite the embers of hibernating hobbies: 

  • Reincarnate an old hobby. You got to green belt in karate in 2003 and yearn to return? Slam dunk. Stop reading and go look up online karate classes.
  • Dream up a new hobby from scratch, and dabble in it. Curious about knitting? Buy a starter kit. Wonder about geocaching (don’t we all)? Read up about it. Interested, even mildly, in cake decorating? Let YouTube do the heavy lifting and learn about the joys of fondant, then go make a celebratory single-tiered cake for yourself. (Money can’t make you happy, but spending money on things that support your hobby can help you like your life a little more.)
  • Copy someone else’s hobby. Your friend won’t stop droning on about making her own soap, and the idea doesn’t revolt you? Try it. Your partner is into axe throwing and you want to risk your life too, give it a go. You’re likely to like things that people you like, like. Use their hobbies as inspiration.
  • Just register already. Commit to something before you talk yourself out of it. Years ago I made an appointment for an archery lesson and showed up only because I’d made the appointment and didn’t want to bum the old war vet of an instructor out by no-showing on him. I loved it! For like 4 months.
  • Abandon underwhelming hobbies swiftly. Be careful not to listen to the voice that says you have to “follow through” on your hobby because you paid a lot of dough for top-of-the-line golf clubs or whatever, because “it’s the responsible thing to do.” Hobbies are supposed to make us feel happy, not obligated and trapped. Donate the soap-making stuff if it’s not for you, and find something new that you actually look forward to doing. Oh, and maybe you need to skip the judgment about a waxing and waning commitment to your hobbies. You are allowed to like a hobby and then lose interest in it. It doesn’t make you flaky or fickle. It makes you curious and open to experience if you’re always up for something new. (Just maybe don’t get the best bow and arrow that money can buy if you tend to fizzle on your interests in a hurry.) (Not that I’m speaking from personal experience.) (But I am.)
  • Carve out time. Even an hour a week—that’s all it takes to spend time on an activity that might spark joy, take your mind off the circus going on around you, maybe make you feel like you’ve accomplished something or made something or scored something (like maybe that elusive 1914 stamp for your collection).

Our time is finite, but our energy and experiences can be expanded while we’re above ground. Hobbies have never been easier to get into, if we’re willing to give ourselves permission to make the time, see that there is a well-being ROI (ugh, sorry to get all businessy about leisure, but it’s true), and live a little wider. Let’s find fun, engaging, captivating, challenging-but-not-buzzkillingly-hard hobbies. Let’s go gongoozling*!

*I found this ginormous list of hobbies on Wikipedia and obviously double-clicked on gongoozling. And herping. To each their own, friends.

Jodi Wellman

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