Some conventional wisdom suggests we should have three hobbies: one that is a side hustle, one that makes you move and one that flexes your creative side. I have not found those three key hobbies yet, and maybe I never will—it seems like a little too much pressure to make a hobby out to be something bigger than it needs to be, which is simply an avenue through which you can decompress and feel simultaneously excited and relaxed by. In any case, in the course of searching for a hobby—after lacking one for many years—I've experimented with many different hobbies to varying degrees of success.
This is the totally-unasked-for, never-before-seen story of all the hobbies that I've tried my best to love, but never really fell in love with.
[bf_image id="kwtqtkqzbsxppn2qspkjstg"] This story starts the summer after I graduated from high school. It was a hot and rainy summer that marked the lull period following two years of religiously waking up at 5:50 AM and sleeping at 1 AM, grinding towards obtaining perfect academic results in the national examinations. Apart from embracing earlier bedtimes, I was struck by the terrifying recollection that I'd never really gotten into any hobbies during high school; my days were consumed exclusively by eating and sleeping and studying, sneaking in some hangouts with my friends, then rinse and repeat.
So, the natural response was to cram as many potential typical hobbies as I could into the span of a few months.
I also touched everything that was completely irrelevant to my life, such as an Architectural Guide to Madrid: Buildings and Projects Since 1919 by Valle Robles, Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton and A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. I bawled in my bed for different reasons while finishing Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and two essays in The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan.
Jumping back into reading allowed me to feel so deeply, happier than ever to be completely in touch with my emotions, instead of blanking out unhealthily for weeks on end with an empty smile and meaningless gestures.
[bf_image id="q7kmyw-d3fd4w-a7qjlj"]But it was also time to move onto things that would allow me to stretch out my stiff joints and expel the lethargy from my body. The reasonable thing to do was to pick up a ClassPass package (no, this is not sponsored, and I actually would not recommend it as a long-term strategy even for trying out new activities—you're probably better off hunting down the individual free trials amidst the list of studios that use ClassPass).
In any case, my last memory of rock-climbing was back when I was nine. Due to some awful comments made by a friend then, that memory had been completely claimed by the paralyzing fear of looking fat from the perspective of my belay partner! I set out to recreate positive feelings to associate with rock-climbing, and it worked. Going to a rock-climbing studio with someone I knew well and trusted made the experience an insanely fun one, and one that left my arms like jelly and compelled me to repeatedly have faith in something else—my belay partner or the auto-belay system. But, it was an expensive hobby, and I needed to build my core strength in other ways before I could make the investment—that was what I told myself, but perhaps it was the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness that bullied me out of the idea (I could not lift my pasty arms above my head the day after).
I also finally did something that the vast majority of people had mastered by age 6. That's right, I got onto a bicycle and learned how to start riding it and making very gentle long turns without freaking out and pulling it to a halt. My need for control kept getting in the way of traveling for more than three seconds! No amount of explanations of the mechanics of moving bicycles and how they absolutely are unlikely to fall on their side could talk me out of it, so I moved on.
[bf_image id="jpqh5pvfkbnvsbcmq4sg6k4j"] Other things I attempted: caring for plants (two years on, my pink nerve plant is still alive today but I haven't found the motivation and resources to repot it like I should), clay shaping (I made sickly-looking fruit and shell-like trays that are holding my gold and silver jewelry), dressing up, spinning, barre pilates, hitting escape rooms while buzzed on watermelon Soju, hiking, museum-hopping, roller-blading, kayaking and—embarrassingly—brunching, which is less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle.
[bf_image id="sqbpsst6q8tbcx9gvbj687"] By the time I reached college, I had to find hobbies that would hurt me and my wallet less. So I cross-stitched with cheap thread and simple hoops while eating strawberry yogurt bars and watching BBC's Sherlock approximately 200 times. I also documented the many strange but welcome changes college life brought to me through bullet journaling. During the COVID-19 pandemic, like every other person hoping to introduce a spark with a little food chemistry and all-purpose flour, I baked a zillion desserts. And finally, armed with rusty scissors and non-stick paper from baking, I picked up sticker-making while, you guessed it, watching BBC's Sherlock another 200 times. Late last year, I started attending fitness classes regularly to work on my strength and because they make me feel rejuvenated.
The story ends here: I am lucky to have stumbled onto things that I love doing over the last few years. Like some relationships, I don't expect them to necessarily stay the same in the years to come. In fact, I think it's a good thing to be open to the reality that as we grow and change, we come to enjoy doing different things to accomplish the same restorative and revitalizing effects. Perhaps one day I'll love creating coasters out of recycled materials, or learn to rappel down the face of a cliff to calm myself. Regardless, I am willing to let my love for my hobbies change me as I have changed them.