Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Having a Hobby That You’re Bad at is a Good Thing

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

This past summer, I started June off with a bang by being down for the count with COVID-19.

As the second line on my at-home rapid test came into view, I hit send on the “Hey I have COVID— sorry!” text to my boss and locked myself in my room. I had a good run, but two years into the pandemic I had finally fallen.

As I am sure we are all aware by now, COVID self-isolation is not fun! I have to admit that feeling horribly ill and being bored out of your mind at the same time is not a very ideal situation. In an effort to make quarantine a little less insufferable, I did my best to entertain myself inside the confines of my bedroom.

During this time alone I read, “I’m Afraid of Men” by Vivek Shraya and “Conversations With Friends” by Sally Rooney (I highly recommend both), and watched “Blue Jasmine,” “The Shape of Water,” “Carol,” “Hidden Figures,” and many episodes of “New Girl.”

I journaled, wrote a poem or two, chronicled my isolation despair to my friends over FaceTime, made myself quarantine playlists and spent a copious amount of time on social media. In addition to all of this, I was also set on the idea, for one reason or another, of re-entering the world with a new skill/hobby/talent/etc. After taking note of what I had at my disposal, I knew what I wanted to devote my quarantine time to next: painting.

A fun fact about me is that visual art has never been my forte. All of my siblings can draw and paint quite well, but I guess I did not get that gene. However, in light of my COVID-19 diagnosis, I decided that it was time to teach myself how to paint a picture that doesn’t look like it was made by a toddler. I borrowed my younger sibling’s art supplies and got to work.

Not long into my artistic endeavors, I realized the paintings I was working on weren’t all that good. Some might even say that they were bad! But a more important realization I had was that I didn’t care.

I am typically a very self-critical person. I tend to beat myself up over perceived flaws and stress over my work being as close to “perfect” as possible. As I put my paintbrush to paper, however, it dawned on me that even though my paintings were less than stellar, it didn’t matter to me because I was having fun.

I’m not a very skilled artist and I’m not all that concerned with whether I improve or not. For me personally, painting is purely a hobby. I derive joy from the act of doing it, and of course, it is lovely when I am able to produce something I think looks good, but that isn’t everything.

When I draw or paint I am giving myself total freedom to pump out absolute garbage. I’m not trying to get my art hung up in the Louvre — I am doing it for me and no one else!

It can be freeing to be bad at something you enjoy doing because the pleasure you gain from it is not inextricably attached to getting it “right.” We all have things we excel at and things that we’re not so great at. Being “bad” at something does not mean you should give up on it.

An unexpected lesson quarantine taught me is that none of us are under any obligation to be brilliant. So please, by all means, sing off-key and dance with two left feet. Give yourself permission to be imperfect and have a ball while doing it — you owe it to yourself.

Lucy Martin intends to graduate from Penn State University in 2025 with a BFA in Acting and a minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.