How many times have you been asked to list your hobbies and interests? What have you answered? I ask because this matter sort of stumps me. In considering the millions of ways people could and do spend their free time, there seems to be something different between a “past time” or “interest” and a “hobby.” I mean, there are things I enjoy doing… I enjoy reading. I enjoy painting (walls, not pictures). I enjoy babytalking to my cat (see Louis’ post from yesterday). But to say something is your hobby, how much of your life does that activity need to occupy? Does one need to identify oneself by hobbies?
Five years after graduation, my high school class held an informal reunion. It was the day after Thanksgiving when most people could be expected to be back in the hometown where we had graduated, and it was held in the upper room of a local bar. It was nice to see old classmates I had lost touch with, but a little anticlimactic, since most of us had only graduated college a year earlier and didn’t have much career chatter to fall back on. Conversations with me went like this:
Random Classmate: “Hey Kat, it’s nice to see you again!”
Me: “You too, how are things treating you?”
RC: “Great. So, what are you doing now?”
Me: “I live in San Diego, and I’m a producer for a nighttime radio show.”
RC: “Wow, that’s awesome! What else do you do?”
My thoughts: “What do you mean, what else do I do? I work part-time at a radio station, and I supplement my low income with temp jobs. What are you getting at here?” then I thought, ohhhh, they mean hobbies.
So I’d respond, “Oh, not much. There’s this bar I frequent, I hang out with friends there, you know- the usual.” They’d respond with a strange look and an awkward pause then say, “Well, it was great seeing you! Good luck with things!” and back away slowly. It dawned on me later: they thought I was a lush. Not true! But when you get off work at 11 or midnight and you don’t have many local friends since you’re still new in town, what are you going to do, go home and sleep an hour after getting off work? No, you’re going to go sit at a bar and make friends with the staff while you drink Diet Coke. At least, that’s what I did. But when I thought about it later, I thought about how else I might have responded. I could have said how I loved making music mixes, loved exploring my new town, was into trying out making up my own recipes, but I didn’t. Why not?
I guess because I didn’t feel any of these interests, these hobbies, was all-consuming enough that I should identify myself with one. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all met someone who describes themselves as a “foodie,” or someone referred to be others as a “wine aficionado,” or someone so into hiking and camping and sports and extreme outdoorsy-ness that every piece of clothing they own (yes, even formalwear) wicks sweat from the body.
Well, I’m not and have never been one of those people. I do identify strongly with my work, as my career now is in planning events and advocating for people with diabetes, a condition I also happen to have. My job requires that I work a lot of weekend days, and my still-not-a-morning-person tendencies mean I go into work late and leave much later, so I don’t have a lot of time in the evenings free to take classes or do crafts or sniff wine corks or do whatever people do. (I’m too cheap to buy lots of materials for projects, anyway.) And six years after that reunion I’m still wondering: what are my hobbies? Is being a workaholic what’s holding me back from realizing my true hobbyist potential?
While I’d love to blame this crisis of leisure on my work, maybe I don’t need an activity to identify who I am. I can just use my free time to do whatever seems fun at the moment. It could be enough to casually experiment with a recipe now and then when I have a day off, or to have scaled back to just making mixed CDs as gifts for friends to commemorate special occasions. Perhaps my main hobby, my all-consuming passion, is just spending time with and doing things for those I care about, my family and friends. Closely followed by my second favorite hobby, intense introspection.
Maybe I’ll have an answer by the time the next reunion rolls around.