I don’t know about you, but I feel like the culture I grew up in bred me to think of hobbies more as boxes on a checklist to get into college or for the utilitarian purpose of each hobby, rather than any inherent internal value. My mom tried to instill in me the light-hearted aspects, that sports we did were for fun first, and health second, but the cultural competition and need to use it for the resume always loomed in my mind.
As a result I am now a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t remember what it is like to have a genuine hobby for the sake of nothing more than enjoyment. I tend to think of what I do as some extension of a future career, a monetization plan, an improvement goal. I have always read a crazy amount in an obsessive manner, but for some reason reading has never felt like a hobby. I do love writing; mostly blogging which I began doing in my pre-teen years, and dabbling in poetry again lately, but the latter was bastardized for a while with this drive to BE a blogger. Blogger with a capital B. This made me think I needed to do the Amazon affiliate program, to constantly use tagging, track followers and cater to get more, and to obsess over a host of other SEO stuff. It really ruined the initial intend of blogging for me, which was just to get my thoughts out and if I was lucky find some like-minded people to chime in and have conversations with. You know, making that virtual (and hopefully later in-person) community. I’m slowly coming around to that original intent again.
Lately, I have had the desire to play video games again. I was pretty much a casual Nintendo gamer as a youth. I liked the community-esque multiplayer things like Mario Kart and Smash Bros, loved (love) the Zelda franchise, and was also always compelled to get the next Animal Crossing game. I recently wanted to get back into AC as the new one is coming out in a month (!!!) and it looks amazing (but they all do to me). I feel like a lot of the world in AC was inadvertently formulative for my early inclinations about what a community could look like. Yes, I know it’s a fantasy game about humanistic animals doing relatively little each day besides chatter endlessly, but oh my gosh does it feel cute and homey. It feels like it is the extreme opposite of how busy our days get. In the game you basically have nothing to do but walk around talking to neighbors to see how they are doing, figure out if they need errands done, or chat them up until they engage you to a challenge, give you a gift, or give you some interesting gossip. Depending on the game (they have gotten more involved in newer versions) you can have more influence over the town itself, changing its infrastructure, being mayor, etc, which opens up how involved you can get to a crazy level.
Anyway, video games have never been a hobby for me fully because it was always something that was distracting me from what I should be doing. It always felt like, if I was playing video games, especially alone, that the pressure came down to “you should be doing X instead”. It was likened to binging on Netflix before Netflix existed, and so over time I let it go bit by bit. I know a lot of people think that playing video games is avoiding real life, and I get that view, for sure, but there is something magical about investing in a virtual world and having the patience to finish a game (if it is finish-able) or commit to something and see the rich creation of the world developed in a game. On the extreme end, I found a gamer who consistently kept up 4 different Animal Crossing games for YEARS, which is an achievement in itself not to get bored after the new releases come out.
Andd I lost my train of thought. Hobbies. Right. So in a nutshell, I have found it increasingly difficult to develop a hobby without trying to apply it somehow into being a future career. For example, lately I have been huge on getting my little bug outside every day, and teaching myself everything from naturalism, permaculture, herbalism, foraging, gardening, and more and trying to mix those all together to make a world in which my little one is sparked by her outdoor adventures, and as a result always feels happy and comfortable going back into nature, even if it’s just a smidgen of urban non-landscaped plots in a city, to feel a bit freer. This is also self-serving because I was given a similar framework in my childhood and as a result find immense happiness in just digging in dirt, walking in the woods, or being surrounded by plants. I’m getting a bit more radical in how I want to see plants around me (I sorely wish I could become a living version of the DC comics’ Poison Ivy), working my mind through how I feel about non-native invasives, landscaping and humans’ obsessive control of nature for no reason (I currently am hating grass when it’s planted in plants that literally get no foot traffic, but requires a huge amount of natural resources and energy and money to maintain). I’m also trying to start a chapter of the Free Forest School in my area… which is a cool organization that helps train parents and caregivers to get together and help get their little ones ages 0-6 outside in nature and playing more freely (with adult supervision but no adult-led focuses), to allow the children to develop their own relationship with nature with their peers.
I suppose all these things would be hobbies… the reading, the specific studying and enacting of nature related activities, the writing, the sporadic video game playing, etc… but none of them feel like hobbies. I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but it still feels like they are all just stand-ins for what could be a career if I was driven enough to follow any of them (though I do NOT have the attention span to become a youtube gamer. Love watching them, especially the horror gamer content from youtubers like John Wolfe), but that life is not for me). But overall, I don’t know how to do things as hobbies. Can daydreaming be a hobby? I’m great at that. Eternal idea formulating?
I suppose my obsession with certifications, courses, and what have you would be a hobby, if I didn’t regret most of them almost immediately. I just consistently yearn to collect more knowledge. I’m naturally curious, to a fault. I want to absorb all the information I can and spin in around and reshape it to come up with new ideas about life and how it all fits together. But all that just leads me back to thinking as a hobby. So there we have it. Catch me sitting there pondering things on my free time (or in the middle of the night when the insomnia sets in), looking like Rodin’s infamous statue, The Thinker.