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An Ode to Female Curiosity and Intelligence: 3 New Hobbies I’ve Picked Up

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about ways I can challenge myself this year. I mean intellectually — to learn something that’ll stretch the perimeters of my mind and make me a little uncomfortable. I want to feel proud that I can accomplish something that can test me.

The question was, what could that be? Ideas of language-learning apps and unread books on a library shelf come to mind. Dull, dull, dull. 

When I think of the brightest, most fabulous version of myself, she knows practical application is the essence of choosing something new to learn. She wouldn’t read for the hell of it. She wouldn’t consume information knowing she has no use for it or that it can’t be applied. 

The art is to immerse yourself in some mundane aspect of your life in a new and unfound way. For example, balancing masculinity and femininity in writing, whipping up your favourite salad, and perfecting a meditation routine. 

But from the wild, something calls for brazen, high-flying goals. Learn Chinese, it whispers, why not? It’s so inspiring to listen to that voice because it’s the guiding frequency for success. Ride that wave, and it leads you to behave in a way that enhances your quality of life. So, what has my voice been telling me recently?

1. Reading

A few weeks ago, I finished reading a biography of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. It was long and old, with the book tearing in half two months into reading it — I resolved the situation by taking the half I was reading with me on my commute instead of just taping it back together.

I think this book was an important leeway into non-fiction and a refreshing, outrageous narrative of an iconic historical figure’s life. Along with a resentfulness towards Anne Boleyn (home-wrecking jackanapes), I developed a keen interest in reading more literature about women. 

My most recent read was Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. It was just so — *sigh* beautiful. It’s so sweet to read back on the beginning of the Western women’s liberation movement and then see how far they’ve come.

Woolf carves out an intriguing discussion on the need for the female sex to earn at least 500 British pounds a year and have a room of one’s own with a lock on the door. When you recall that until that point, women only really had a communal parlour to conduct their affairs, you can see where she’s coming from.

I’ve now set my sights on this crime fiction novel by Chester Himes, titled The Real Cool Killers, that oozes a sexy, gritty tempo following two Black detectives as they race through Harlem in the 1960s trying to solve a murder. Dimly lit bars, shiny Camaros, and a pair of facially-scarred, anguished detectives — the archetype of man I am extremely attracted to. Well, now that I’m thinking about it, no wonder I like the book so much. 

2. Capitals of the World

I owe this little adventure to a man on Yonge Street. 

I was walking to Union Station one day, and a man handing out pamphlets caught my eye for some reason. Now, I am no stranger to the leaflet-handing peddlers of downtown Toronto, but his brochure intrigued me for an abstract reason bordering on the spiritual, so I stopped to chat. 

It was a compilation of writing on a few prominent Black people in North America, as well as a page on the origins of lynching. It was an interesting read for the train home, but one particular section caught my eye: a mini quiz examining my personal knowledge of certain aspects of the African diaspora. The origins of the flag of Ghana, the mission of Toussaint L’Ouverture, and more. What struck me, however, were the questions on the capitals of African countries.

I looked down at the black text, puzzled. “What is the capital of Haiti?” I wondered. “And what about Ethiopia?

It was enlightening. The next day, I tried writing down as many African countries as I could. I managed 32. There are 54. 

My mission started then and there, last December. Every day meant three new African countries and their capitals. I have since completed the capitals of every continent except for Oceania, which is testing my patience. 

3. Chinese Poetry

This venture I blame entirely on the Toronto Metropolitan University campus bookstore. 

I was in there to pick up a course reading, which is never something I do willingly. Professors that mandate textbooks are a sore on society and the reason we haven’t discovered the cure to cancer already. 

Anyhow, I begrudgingly perused the shelves to find the title, when my gaze landed on this gargantuan text titled The Shorter Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. Mind you, there was nothing short about it. One swing towards the head with it could kill a man.

I flipped to a page, and then another, and then another. “This actually seems quite interesting.” I bought it. It’s amazing. I bought the course reading, too. Not so amazing. 

That said, I look forward to transcending my own expectations and the things I’ve done so far. This year will encapsulate a pristine, abundant energy when approaching learning, and I can absolutely not wait to see where I go with it. 

Maryam Ahmed

Toronto MU '25

Asides from licking dessert bowls clean and having an addiction to scouring the Dior website, I am a full-time psychology student at Toronto Metropolitan University. I am Indian ethnically, but I was born and raised in Kuwait— a desert sweetly snuggled between the elbows of Saudia Arabia and the beach of the Arabian Gulf. I spent several happy years studying in an international school, in awe with my beloved Art and History professors whose lessons went beyond our books. My love for writing germinated along with my already burdgeoning love for reading and has never really died since. Reading had seen to the rise of certain hobbies and had become the only way to relate to the incredible charaters on paper— fencing, horse-riding, and a matronly interest in embroidery (although I'm quite good at the last one). I love painting fantastical landscapes and collecting artsy posters of cats or vintage magazine prints. HerCampus initiates an amazing circle of empowerment and friendship for female students across the world, and I am so proud to be apart of this year's writer line-up. I cannot think of a better way to reach out to vibrant, talented women than through this platform, and I look forward to intergrating myself into this fabulous community!