People fascinate me, and not often in a good way. I’m always trying to figure them out and therefore I ask questions. “Where are you from?” Is a nice starter, but one question I’m fond of asking for a variety of reasons is “What do you for fun?” I find this is a pretty normal question – and I ask it to discover what the person is interested in, to watch them talk about their passions and honestly to see if there’s anybody in there.
More and more these days in return for this question I am receiving The Blank Stare. Why is this? Are they simply unused to someone taking a mildly nosy interest in them? Or is the thought of doing something for fun becoming an endangered concept?
Let me clarify what I’m talking about here. I’m not talking about 19 year old fun that is really just a lot of energy expended and blurry recollections the morning after. If you can’t remember most of the event it’s not fun. Neither do I mean your workout. You may love your workout and even consider it fun. But it’s your workout.
I mean hobby I guess. A handy definition of Hobby I found is:
1. An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.
I like this definition because I think every word counts. Activity. As in, something you do, participate in, are active about. Regularly. As in, more than once, over time. Leisure time. As in, spare time, time not allocated for work or chores. For pleasure. As in, something that makes you happy or gives satisfaction.
What they are missing I think is that hobbies have an inherently creative element. Even reading, which may appear passive, requires imagination, thoughtfulness and intentionality that say, watching tv or skimming tweets does not. We’re missing out. We can hear all the reports of busier lives and shorter attention spans… but what does that really look like? A better question is what does that really feel like?
For starters, I think it makes us a lot less interesting as people. Having a hobby means you’ve taken the time to discover what you like. That’s huge. You just don’t pick up a crochet hook or book of stamps one day and say “Yup! This is my thing! I’m a philatelist now!” I think there is probably literally something for everybody, and I’ve met people who make chain mail for historical reenactments, who use gps to hunt for ‘treasure’, and do slam poetry. Are we really staring at our phones in public because we’re busy or shy? Or do we just have nothing to say?
For nexters, I think it makes us generally less satisfied as people. Hobbies are satisfying. When we engage regularly in an activity we learn things, we discover things, we acquire skills, and we might even produce something we’re proud of. Having a hobby to look forward to, even once a month or seasonally creates a personal space in the world. I am inundated all day and everywhere with people around me posting self-affirming trite about how they are ok with their body, their family, their faith, they play by their rules, they don’t care what anyone else thinks… People? If you have to shout that all day every day – newsflash… you’re not that comfortable.
And lastly, I think having a hobby (or twelve) makes us more intentional people. Discovering what we like, what satisfies us, what we’re interested in, carving out time to do it, honing skills, learning new things – takes work. More work than you’d think. Hobbies are often more exhausting than our work sometimes physically and sometimes just in the self-awareness it takes. The effort it takes to be firm in protecting that chunk of time, the thoughtfulness of project planning, quiet moments alone and experiencing something new.
Our world seems fixated on flashy stimuli. Whatever is quick, whatever is new, whatever everyone else is into. We are missing out on whatever is us.