What do you tell someone who asks you what your interests or hobbies are? Do you awkwardly talk about your job while trying to think of actual things or activities that you do on a regular basis?
As millennial adults, we typically throw ourselves into a day job that leaves us with very little time during the week to do anything else. We finish work and scroll through social media while we stream something on the TV for background noise. On weekends we often spend time with friends and loved ones.
I have personally struggled with curating my own (admittedly many) interests, and wanted to share some tidbits that have been incredibly encouraging to me when doing so.
1. Make Time For You.
Technology is constantly stimulating our attention; it draws us in hypnotically as we are exposed to visuals of the best artists, the best clothes, the best places to eat out. It’s a showcase of other’s lives and interests, and it leaves very little room for our own creativity and growth.
With the level of visual and technological accessibility that we have, we often forget about our own hobbies and interests. It’s simply easier to hop on Instagram and spend hours distracted by other peoples’ lives. But spending time doing things we like outside of our work is not only important for our mental health, it encourages continued learning and personal growth that will undoubtedly move into professional growth as well.
In a world where there are so many things you can do to “tune out” and watch the hobbies and lives other people are enjoying, pursuing our own hobbies has become something we have to do with intention. Having a hobby requires time and dedication; it might require less sleeping, brunching, and Netflix-watching. But the value they can bring is well worth the effort!
2. Don’t Pressure Yourself to be a Prodigy.
I don’t know about you, but I watched High School Musical way too much as a kid. I watched Troy Bolton, basketball in hand, belt out an incredibly well-sung and choreographed musical number right there on the basketball court – allegedly as he “discovered” this new talent that he’s suddenly very good at.
Our culture loves the “rags to riches” stories about those that discover they have some sort of hidden skill that they’re so naturally good at that they can instantly earn the lead in their school play or win the game for their team. The lesson the Disney Channel and so many others failed to teach us is the existence of (and value in) all the time that ACTUALLY goes into being good at something.
For so long, I personally bought into the idea that if I wasn’t immediately talented at something that I shouldn’t do it at all. Sure, some folks are more naturally capable of doing certain things better than others. You may have to work harder and practice longer than someone else that is doing the same thing as you. But that’s okay! The value lies in the knowledge you gain, the experience you get, and the fun you have in the meantime!
Our culture also puts a lot of pressure on us to be in constant competition with others, and while this fosters a progressive environment, it can also create fear of trying new things – and then failing. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. If it’s something you enjoy doing, that’s a good enough reason to do it.
3. Do What You Like Even If You Don’t Like What You Do (or something like that).
I think it’s hard for our culture as a whole to separate our hobbies with our work, and there are a couple of reasons behind this. The competitive environment that’s held in most of our education systems forces us to find and pursue things we are the best at, regardless of personal interest. On the other side of the coin however, we are encouraged to “love your job and never work a day in your life”. Where do you find the balance between pursuing a career that you’re naturally gifted at and actually enjoy doing? What if that’s not a lucrative option for you?
Perhaps I sound like a jaded artist, but I think being able to pursue your favorite talents and hobbies as your main form of work is reserved for those who are incredibly blessed or incredibly privileged.
Most of us have bills to pay and mouths to feed. We need health insurance. We work because we have to. Many people find value in their work simply because it sustains their life, and that’s it. Pursuing a hobby as a career takes time and often money. So I’m definitely not here to tell you to quit your day job and “Just do something you love!” because frankly, I believe that’s an incredibly ignorant suggestion to make in and of itself. However, I am suggesting that you find a hobby or interest outside of your day job that gives you room to grow.
Regardless of what you do, you are still learning something! And this goes for the lucky bunch that are able to make a career out of a passion. Find something else that you enjoy and take time to explore it when you’re not working. If your “hobby” has become “work”, find a new hobby! You are aggressively limiting yourself by not trying new things.
4. Hobbies Don’t Have to be Expensive.
Here’s an example: I love horses and would love to get better at riding. But riding lessons are expensive, and I would have to ride very consistently in order to be considered “good” at horseback riding. It’s a hobby that I have an interest in but not one that I have the time or money to intentionally pursue. I think many others push out the idea of hobbies because of the added cost they could bring.
You may be surprised what hobbies you can enjoy with things you have already paid for. Find some old crafting supplies that you haven’t used since college. Make something in the kitchen with ingredients you already have. Dust off your bicycle. Go to your local library – your tax dollars paid for those books!
Or, grab the smartphone that you’re paying for each month and do some research. Technology can be incredibly crushing for creativity, but when used proactively can actually benefit it! Look online for free or cheap resources that could help you pursue your hobbies. Many outlets have started to offer free online classes in light of the pandemic. You could start there and see what piques your interest. If something excites you enough, perhaps investing a little money into your well-being and entertainment could be worth it!
I recently signed up to begin volunteering at a local rescue ranch caring for horses. Maybe it will lead to bigger opportunities for me to learn more about horses and to get better at riding. Maybe it won’t and that’s okay too! I’m happy to continue to enjoy other things I love on a regular basis, and try to treat myself to a horseback ride at a local stable at least once a year.
5. Hobbies in the Context of our World.
Just six months ago, nobody could possibly imagine a world where we couldn’t dine in at a restaurant, or go to the movies, or go window shopping. Our current global environment should be a wake-up call that the unexpected and unprecedented could happen at any time. Many people have either found themselves completely out of work or are attempting to navigate the new frontier that is Working From Home. Many of us are feeling lost, confused, and empty right now as we adjust to the new normal. Many people, who may have once considered going to brunch as a hobby, now feel like a sheep looking for its shepherd.
So then what do you do with this extra time you inevitably have? You could journey down the rabbit hole of social media, where at worst you will get sucked into a wind-tunnel of comparison and self-doubt and at best you will get a glimpse of activities and hobbies that others are doing. Or, you could learn or hone a new interest or skill.
Humans will never fail to search for meaning in the context of any situation, and hobbies are a great way to bring real and lasting meaning to our lives. I sincerely hope that when we are looking back at COVID-19 from a historical context that we will be able to say that one positive thing to rise from the chaos was a rebirth of explored interests, talents, and hobbies. To refresh your memory, historians credit the Bubonic Plague as one of the factors that ultimately led to the Medieval Renaissance. Just sayin’.
6. Hobbies Don’t Need to Serve Others.
Goodness, I have to remind myself of this on a regular basis, and if that’s you too, I encourage you to remember:
You. Can. Do. Things. That. Are. Just. For. You.
And better yet, you don’t owe an explanation to anyone! Many people don’t know that I love to sing, and that’s because I don’t share that with people. Seriously, I only sing either when I’m completely alone or in the shower. I’m also not naturally amazing at singing. Singing was one of my own hobbies that showed me that practice is the only way to get better at anything.
I will never have the natural talent that say, Ariana Grande has, but I directly notice how good old-fashioned practice really does help me improve. I could always take this hobby a step further – I could dust off the old vocal drills I used to do in choir as a kid. I could take singing lessons and learn more about the notes that I’m actually singing. I could eventually be “good enough” to sing publicly and volunteer to sing holiday songs at an assisted living facility or something. But I have no desire to do that. Nobody is entitled to benefit from your hobby except for you. And unlike a career, you don’t have to pressure yourself to continuously improve (although over time you surely will). Hobbies can simply be things that you do because you like them. And you can keep them all to yourself!
Perhaps there is a piece of you that is fearful of exploring something new. We are exposed to “the best of the best” day in and day out via television and the internet. Why bother trying to do or learn those things if there will always be someone better at it anyway? I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be as good as someone else. You don’t have to be good at all! You don’t even have to tell anybody about it. You just have to enjoy it.