Hobbies and I have had a long-standing complicated relationship. My problem is not so much in their actual substance, but in the term itself. My first instinct when I read, hear, or even think ‘hobby,’ is to roll my eyes and turn away. I have found that I am not alone in this response; many young adults tend to have a negative association with the term. Hence, to uncover the reasoning behind our distaste for hobbies, we must return to their roots, and coincidentally our own. 

We have been told from a young age that hobbies are important and that we should have them, but not much else. Placed in little league soccer or involuntarily handed a heavy band instrument, these activities were understood as possible future hobbies. For some, this process works perfectly, and structured childhood activities meet passion and become affirming routines in adult life. However, most of us are not so lucky, and more often than not, these structured activities become distant memories. 

As we grow older and gain agency, we would much rather fill the precious time we don’t spend doing school, working or socializing, parked in front of the TV, sleeping, or fast-tracking time on social media. The appeal in these tempting time usurpers is that they are both mindless and entirely our own choice. No one can tell us what to do anymore; no more so-called ‘hobby-cultivating’ boot camps. To me, it’s a done deal. Grown up and independent, I can do whatever I want with my time, and never have to face the frustrating and condescending ‘hobby’ again. It’s amazing but I’ve also learned it’s not all it’s cut out to be.   

It is not that there’s anything wrong with spending time in this passive way, but I often observe that after hours scrolling through Instagram or Netflix, I am no more energized than I was before. I have come to find that I actually want to spend my time putting my energy into something that feeds me back; , especially because I seem to have more of it then I’d like these days. It is here that I have fallen in love with the term I once rolled my eyes at. 

In their essence, hobbies are meant to bring us pleasure, meant to be things we actively want to and choose to do with our leisure time. However, they are not easy to break into. When we engage in a hobby – engage in something that feeds us and makes us feel alive – we are faced with ourselves, and this is not exactly the most comfortable position. In the search for a hobby that sparks energy and joy, you might find where you differ from your social circle or even the person you believed yourself to be. Individuals must test their comfort zones, their habits, and listen to parts of themselves that are usually set to mute to find a hobby that fits with who they truly are as a person. At our age, we don’t always know who we are, and nor should we! This means spending time with ourselves can be scary, uncomfortable, and yet somehow, one of the most revolutionary and important experiences a person can have. In order to break into your hobby, you must face the entirety of yourself, and while undoubtedly uncomfortable, this is both worthwhile and necessary. 

Once this reality has been accepted, we are confronted with the next barrier on the route to a positive relationship with a hobby: the inevitable stage of being a novice. Whatever the activity, photography, cooking, golf, or even fantasy football, you must first learn the game before you can master it and play with ease; must push through failure in order to succeed, and if there is anything young people avoid as much as being faced with themselves, it is failure. There is no short cut around this barrier that I have been able to discover. It has taken me time, alone time, that I have had to get used to, and plenty of failure before I cooked a meal I was proud of or learned to read a book in a way that was sustainable for me. I had to face failure in order to make habits, and turn them from frustrating to enjoyable. 

Finally, our generation is hit with another disadvantage when it comes to our attention span. Thanks to the immediate gratification and thirty second limits on TikTok, I can barely get through a TV episode anymore, let alone a movie. I quite literally had to re-teach myself to focus and engage in order to break in my hobbies and get past the growing pains.

All this is to say that anyone who ever said ‘finding a hobby and sticking to it was easy’ was lying. It is not easy to know yourself at 19, not easy to choose failure when it is so often unavoidable in other aspects of life, and it is certainly not easy to rewire our brains or enhance our attention span. Hobbies are not the easiest escape from reality or stress. When I’m sick or exhausted after a long day of lectures, turning to Netflix or Instagram is often all I have the energy to do, and that is ok. Hobbies take energy, sometimes an immense amount, particularly when we first decide to take one up, but they are also in their very definition ensured to give it. 

Energy is the fuel that keeps us going, and it is hard to come by, especially this year. It is because of this that I decided to reassess my relationship with hobbies, decided to get to the root of my resentment and fight through the discomfort and frustration. I found Pinterest, cooking, and fiction books to name a few, and these activities have quite simply made my life better. They provide me with the energy and engagement to get through good days and bad, and to give to those around me who need it most. I am not writing this to tell you that hobbies are important and that you should have them; rather, that energy is fundamental to living, and hobbies allow us to produce it independently and within ourselves. The barriers to hobbies are very real, but they are also worth conquering.



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