I used to spend lots of emotions panicking about whether or not I had any legitimate hobbies. Attempting to make a list of my unique collection of hobbies was hard. The task was an insecurity minefield. Somehow I had breezed through including some on college applications. I don’t even remember what I put back then. But the real pressure came when I was trying to demonstrate just how dateable I was.
My Online Dating Profile
The first time I worried about defining hobbies was when I was getting into online dating. I would create a profile for myself and then agonize about what hobbies to include. I definitely didn’t have any nunchuck skills, medals that were not merely for participation, or weekly club that I was attending.
Did I have any legitimate hobbies? Was I pouring time into one single activity? Was I good enough to make it count or call it a skill? It made me question whether or not I was really good at any specific activity or extracurricular. I mean, sure, I had momentary interests.
I did ballroom dancing club in college, but we never competed. I also did a few months with the school hip hop dance team, but we only had one performance.
I liked running, but I never did any serious races, improved or went very fast. In fact, I did more of a light jog. Could I say walking? Would that count? Is neighborhood walking even interesting compared to a passion for long walks on the beach?
I knew I had to have some athletic hobbies for online dating (and to be a well-rounded, not too round person). I did yoga periodically, but stuck with the basic vinyasa. I never became extraordinary limber or even tried one of the sweaty, hot yoga class the hardcore yogis rave about. I feel confident saying, “namaste,” but my “Ohms” are pretty awkward.
I really enjoy wine and paint nights, but that couldn’t possibly count. My interest in painting mostly centers around blending to make new colors. Should I write “Paint Color Creator”?
Then there is food. I love baking and making sauces. This mostly centers around cookies and spaghetti. So amature hour. I mean, having a basil plant to give it authentic taste is pretty cool, but if I list this as a hobby, people might expect me to take souffles, stuffed chicken or beurre blanc. And I just can’t. I can get noodles right, but rice is always a toss up.
The one hobby I am proud of is writing poetry. I have lots of it, I always add to it, and some years of study gives me a hint that I have the knack for it. Still the inner negative nancy nags and tells me I was never poet laureate and I don’t have a poetry collection published.
How do I justify, account for, take pride in, or even simply list the things I do in my free time?
Battling Free Time During Depression
The mocking voices really took a toll once I had a spell of depression, many years after struggling with the online dating profiles. My depressive state of mind was filled with taunts of not being good enough. This time it went past my hobbies and even into my vocation. I was not in a state of mind to focus on work, so I would have hours of the day to fill with this negative thinking. During that time I would ask if I had the ability to make money, if I was able to do my job well.
My counselor would ask, what do you enjoy doing? At that point my answer was nothing. Then in another depressive episode, the answer was the same. While I had trained enough to run a 10k since the last episode and my hobbyless dating, I didn’t keep it up. Sometimes my podcasts weren’t even enough to do much of a walk in the Florida heat. Surely I had painted my nails enough time to call that a hobby, but I didn’t have the desire to express myself with color when getting out of bed took all my energy. I love reading, but that’s such a passive hobby. It’s like a way of participating in the writer’s hobby – the author who actively created the story.
Some of this is my perfectionist tendency. That desire to be the best at everything. I have to battle with the myth that it’s not worth doing if you are not the best at it. Then there’s the myth that it is not worth doing if you are not extraordinarily talented or really good at it. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to delight in something you don’t excel in. We see this battle in children often – that fast give up instinct that ignites as they learn each new thing whether it be a game, activity or art. As young adults and in that 20s phase, we question whether or not we are good at school, our jobs, or using a gym membership.
In life, we constantly ask, if I am not good at this, is there a point to doing it???
The answer is confidently, yes. Stumble. Fail. Fall. Get real good and muddy while you are at it. Try something new until you are so embarrassed you vow to never do that activity again. And maybe you don’t. But the point is the journey, the exploration of life. And you get to participate in being ordinary.
You get to be in the community of ordinary. Of other people trying hard, getting by, messing up, falling behind, missing the mark, and looking absolutely silly attempting to swing a golf club for the first time. In these places, we can learn to laugh. We can sit in that feeling of being outside our comfort zone, not liking the skin we are in. Inside we all still in the haven’t quite-filled out, braces and bad hair stage of existence. We know there is something more ahead of us.
During my last depressive episode I tried to further one interest, playing piano. It kept my attention for a very short time but then felt like a learning curve I could never conquer. Negative voices taunting me and interest lost, I stepped away from the keys. I had free-time again and tv couldn’t be my only hobby.
I learned a brand new skill. A hobby that required so much attention there wasn’t room for voices to slow me. My mother-in-law taught me how to knit. Much of my interest grew because she was supporting me, because I felt her rooting for me. I love learning from other people instead of books or video lessons. And I was able to work just a little bit at a time at something new.
Now, I officially say it’s a hobby. I’ve made 6 hats, 2 scarves and 4 headbands. I think it’s official. Socks and sweaters are in the distance, but if I keep going this direction, I will reach that horizon.
I like chess and poker, even though I am not that good at them. I love baking, even if my granola bars are mush and not crunchy. I love writing, even when I can’t grammar, spell or syntactically succeed.
It’s okay to be okay.