Note: The following is a guest blog from my wife, Andrea.
I need a hobby.
To be clear, I have a few hobbies, but I need a few more fun things to do with my time, particularly at home at night after my son Jacob goes to bed, and on the weekends. I also need to focus more on my hobbies and doing things that I enjoy.
Let’s rewind a bit. If I reach waaaaaay back in my memory to before Jacob was born, I think I had more hobbies, and more time and energy to do them. I used to read more, knit, call friends on the phone, play games with my husband, go out with friends more often, etc. When Jacob was born, I was understandably a “little” busy and tired for the first while, especially since he had some health issues to deal with.
When he was about 18 months old, I thought it would be a great idea to start my Master of Education program part-time while working 3-4 days a week. It was brutal, overwhelming and stressful. I did very little in the way of hobbies during that time and my overall quality of life and level of happiness were very low.
So, when I finally finished my M.Ed. in December 2015, I found myself with more free time but not a lot of existing hobbies and I certainly was not in the habit of doing a lot of fun things in my spare time.
In the evenings, I usually feel like there are things I “should” be doing, like washing dishes, making lunches, cleaning my desk, filling out forms from school, registering for activities, dealing with finances, etc. But I don’t feel like doing them, particularly since I’ve been working all day doing things I “have” to do, and then been busy doing stuff with my family for a few hours when I get home. So, I tend to procrastinate on those things by engaging in time-wasters like social media, YouTube, playing games on my phone, etc. I got into this habit when I was doing my Masters (i.e. procrastinating on doing things I “need” to or “should” do by wasting a lot of time and not doing much that I enjoy) and I need to change this habit. I would say this is particularly true when I’m really tired and/or stressed from work, as I have been lately. And it doesn’t help that Jacob is going to bed later now that he is older – I’m usually pretty fried by 9:00. And no, I don’t want to go to bed at 9:00 because a) I wake up too early and b) it’s usually the only time I get to myself all day.
I know that a) I shouldn’t feel that I need to be productive every night, b) many of the things I’m procrastinating on don’t take much time so I should just get them out of the way, and c) if I’m not going to do something I feel like I “have” to or “should” be doing, then I should just get on with doing something fun instead of wasting time. So why am I still wasting time? Maybe I’m in a rut, maybe I’m lazy. But I think the main issue is that I’ve come to realize that I don’t have many FUN hobbies or pastimes to occupy myself or look forward to.
When I look at my husband, he does many home-based hobbies: astronomy and astrophotography including processing photos, processing all the photos we take as a family (and re-processing them on different platforms every few years, as he’s doing now), until recently he was organizing star parties, he reads a lot and watches a lot of TV and some movies and reviews them, he blogs, etc. These are things he enjoys doing.
So what can I be doing that I would enjoy?
First, I made a list of the things I currently do:
- I read, though I tend to do that in spurts. I find it hard to get anything else done when I’m engrossed in a book, so I sometimes take a break between books. I’m participating in a reading challenge that Paul created, as an added incentive to read regularly.
- I’ve been a consultant with a direct sales company (Epicure https://andreahorton.epicure.com/en-ca ) since 2014. I consider it a hobby, rather than a business, since I don’t work it (or side-hustle, as they say) enough to make money from it.
- I’ve been taking skating lessons for about 4 years, which I enjoy. I also enjoy skating at our local outdoor rink.
- In 2017, I joined Toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org/ ), which I also consider a sort of hobby, or at least an extra-curricular / non-work activity, despite the meetings taking place at lunch time at work. But the effort I put into it takes place on my own time. For the past year and a half, I have been on the club executive, which requires some additional commitment.
- We bought a piano in 2016, but I’m not in the habit of playing it much; it’s mostly Jacob who plays it. I should focus on learning a new song.
- I used to be involved in the school council at Jacob’s school, and I participated in an “accommodation” review run by the school board, but since Jacob changed schools last year, I haven’t gotten involved in the new school council, other than attending a few meetings and events. And I haven’t started volunteering anywhere else yet.
- I have more time to spend with friends than I did when I was doing my Masters, but that tends to be irregular.
- Paul and I go to see quite a few concerts and plays around the city and sometimes I go with friends too. I have many things already scheduled for the year, including Ottawa Little Theatre (http://www.ottawalittletheatre.com/ ), National Arts Centre (https://nac-cna.ca/en/ ) and Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe (https://meridiancentrepointe.com/ ).
- As a family, we play a lot of board games and watch some seasonal TV shows, in addition to other activities. Jacob and I do puzzles occasionally.
- Decluttering – I don’t know if it’s a “hobby” but it’s something I do, and it’s included on several online lists of hobbies. I would like to do it more regularly, rather than letting things pile up and having them become overwhelming.
I feel that Epicure and Toastmasters are not pure hobbies, since there are some things I’m “required” to do at certain times, and they’re not always “fun”, though they often are. At the same time, they’re not things that I need to or want to work on every night or several nights a week. On the other hand, if I did them in a more organized, structured and intentional way, rather than always waiting till the last minute, I think they would be more enjoyable and I would get more out of them.
Next, I googled some ideas for hobbies and asked for input from friends on Facebook.
These are some of the considerations my friends suggested (shared with permission):
“What’s something that has always interested you, or that you wish you could do? Or think you should do? Because if it isn’t one of those, then what’s the point? Ok, you could try something (say, a paint night with friends, or dance lessons) and fall in love, unexpectedly … but the best options are things that intrigue you, that you wish you could do. And don’t rule them out because you think you’re no good at it. Who cares, if you enjoy it? You’re not looking for extra income, just something to relax and enjoy doing.”
One person suggested ideas to keep my brain healthy as I age (learning to play an instrument, learning to dance, learning to knit or crochet), and to start doing activities before retirement that I can continue after I’m retired. “All the retirement planning workshops we took said that if you hadn’t started doing hobbies LONG before retirement there’s a very high likelihood that you won’t stick with anything new you try. You need to have developed the neural pathways and the habit for many years if you want to stick with it in retirement. You’ll stick with something you know and love because you have more time BUT learning anything new is very hard the older you get so you get discouraged when you struggle, and many people eventually quit. When you’re older, you’re used to being good at things, but losing your career and work/social network is hard on the ego- even if you feel ready for retirement. It’s a drastic life change. So, starting something new and sucking at it for a long time is even MORE discouraging. Statistics simply show people don’t stick to new hobbies in retirement.”
I found these suggestions helpful, and they definitely gave me some food for thought, particularly for activities in the medium-long term. I have less than 12 years until I retire (unless I win the lottery…). Maybe I’ll reflect more on these suggestions later, but in my next post, I’ll share the hobby ideas I’ve come up with.