I don’t think I’ve ever had hobbies. I mean, if by hobby you mean something pleasant and recreational, then nah. If by hobby you mean something frustrating and impotent, or if there is any potential involved, then that is a potential for failure, then sure. I’ve had a whole gallery of them. That is what makes me such a wonderfully, diametrically rounded person I am today.
But, apart from being one of those annoying people who crack fat jokes at their expense when they aren’t really fat (not that fat jokes are cool even if you are. Fat jokes aren’t cool, period.), I think I’m too serious to have hobbies. An optimist. An idealist. A perfectionist. Or an extreme form of an idiot.
If I pick up something to do, anything, whether it is boil water or save the world or fall in love, I have to do it as good as it can be done, humanly or with divine intervention. Some see this as enthusiasm, some as obsession/compulsion (is there a difference?) and some as futility. I suppose, it is a mixture of all three.
But, that is only something characteristic in me, whereas there is a universal impotency when it comes to hobbies. Yes, even you have some skeletons in the closet, or just a guitar that you showed off to the world when you first bought it, thinking you’d be the next Jimi Hendrix. And then tried your luck at a few Bob Dylan numbers, until you shiver in public whenever someone talks about how cleverly so-and-so shifted from Bm to G to make that particular piece of pop brilliance work. See, the dream of someday playing the guitar, the fantasy of knowing yourself a prodigy the moment you strum it, is so much more pleasurable to the frustrating reality of knowing you can’t even honestly call yourself a lousy guitar “player”.
But then, string instruments are always a pain. Surely, there are other skills that are more accessible. Surely, learning a language would be easier, considering you already know and use, at least, one? Oh no. You think French would be all sexy, and all you really want is to have a basic grasp of communicative French (and of course, read Marcel Proust in the original), until you get to conjugating verbs, and remembering how some things are male and some things are female (of course, it’s a sexy language. They attribute a sex to everything) and pronunciation is a pain in the…until you quit and try again next year. And next year. And next year. And you go on, but that’s life. C’est la vie, mon ami.
Or it could be something passive, like reading or watching films. You already have the skills needed. But, if you’re going to do these things as a serious hobby, what you’re looking to be is an expert. A collector. A completist. A nerd, as we like to accurately describe ourselves. But, it comes with its own demands. You have to be opinionated – correct, perhaps controversial, but always snappy and never accommodating. You have to read books you aren’t interested in, watch films you’re too scared to, or simply find too tedious or stupid. You can’t call it tedious or stupid, and so you go about it in a roundabout way, saying something like the cinematography does not hold up to the realisateur‘s other films.
Or you could try something more holistic, like food or exercise. Do it the 21st century way, spiritualise and technicalise it till you see yourself changing into a tighter, firmer version of yourself. And it might actually work for you, providing you with life skills like cooking, swimming, rock climbing etc., but for something that is supposed to be relaxing and “centering”, it sure is competitive. Today, I’ll meditate for two minutes, but according to my thirty-day meditation challenge, I have to meditate an hour by the end of this month. And keep increasing it till I achieve nirvana. I am allowed to slip once in a while, but if I am not steady, I’ll just lose.
Even with sports, whether it’s holistic or not, you can’t take a breather. No, you’re not Roger Federer. You know you are not Roger Federer, because you wouldn’t be signing up to play for the first time as an out-of-shape, forty-something if you were Roger Federer. But, you hit the court, and even if you start enjoying yourself, voices inside and around you tell you, “that’s good, but you could be Roger Federer….” Until you realise all you have in common with Roger Federer is the ability to hold a racket and a potential for leg injury.
What about social work? Surely, volunteering is a reward in itself, and frustration comes with the job. For you are dealing with the frustrations of humanity, but you are actually healing it. However, it’s also the worst, as far as hobbies are concerned. You have only yourself to blame for your guitar skills (or lack of). But, the basic problem with doing good is the basic problem with love – you don’t always get it back. Surely, this person in need can at least smile at you, for you did something so vital (and so gross) to help their existence. Surely, this group of unruly children can at least thank you for providing them with the golden experience of education. The least this emotionally distraught person can do is tell you what a wonderful person you are, for showing them the light on their problems by discussing your own. Even if you are reconciled to not being acknowledged for your efforts, you expect to be productive. Not being scorned at for not doing, or donating, as much as they want you to. Or worse, being told they don’t want you to do it at all, or that you’ve hurt things instead of helped them.
However much you try, a hobby can never be relaxing. Or rewarding. A hobby only works when you treat it like work. Give it all, for the bills need to be paid and there is a life for you that is better than this. That French might prove useful for that transfer, volunteering will look good on your resume, and guitar will help your soul, or at least your dating opportunities. Just don’t try to do them all at once. Or why not. Play “Les Champ Elysees” on your guitar to children who’d have said you’re awful even if you played well, and then donate your instrument to them.
What are your hobbies? What are some skills you are positively awful at?
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