OPINION: Hobbies can heal wounds


Jessica Williams

“It is so important to be able to define yourself outside of your studies or your work. People are so much more than that.” Graphic by Claire Redinger/The Gateway

Recently, I went through a big life change. Well, I got dumped. Hard. And when that happened, I did what most people do to cope: I cried and I wallowed. During those first few days, however, I came across a video explaining the importance of doing things you loved after a break up, how doing things that bring a different kind of joy helps your brain process the loss of a usual serotonin object (like a partner). I took that to heart. I thought that was really good advice and something I thought was going to help. But as I sat and thought about the things I loved to do, I realized I did not have anything that I did simply for fun. Everything I did in my free time involved working or doing something that made me better at working. There’s something really depressing about coming to terms with the fact that you do nothing for joy.

As I sat with that knowledge, I decided to ask other people what they did for fun. Did they paint? Cross stitch? Did they cook or bake? What type of hobbies did they pick up in quarantine? Many people had the same answer to my question: “Like just for fun? Um… I’m not sure.” What I found was that while many people had hobbies, they did not do them purely for fun. Many of the hobbies they listed were side hustles, small ways to make money outside of their normal income. Well, that’s no fun. It did get me thinking though: Are we so caught up in the push and pull cycle of our 9-5s that everything we do has to be profitable? I think about the first conversations I have with people, “What do you do? What’s your major?” A lot of us solely define ourselves by our profitability. But humans are much more than that.

Since we were kids, the mentality that we should find something we love and make that into our careers has been pushed on us. While I do think it’s possible to find a dream job and make a career out of something you love, oftentimes things that should just be hobbies get turned into a full-blown income chase. Sometimes we love to do something because of the possibilities it brings, the escapism we find in it. That does not mean we can profit off of it, or that we should. When we find something we enjoy doing we think “this must be it, the career path I’ve been waiting for.” Sometimes a hobby is simply a hobby.

But that’s the problem, as well. We are obsessed with productivity and any moment we take to ourselves feels like a waste. We know that watching TV is not a productive way to spend our time. However, the thought of doing an activity just for the sake of it is also inconceivable. Hobbies should not be perfected. Hobbies should not make or break your income. Hobbies should be something you enjoy – simply because you enjoy them. They also do not have to be a major activity that takes a huge chunk of your time. If you love painting your nails or doodling caricatures on sticky notes, guess what? That is a hobby. Hobbies can be small.

In my search to find hobbies for myself, I’ve taken up some unusual activities. I’ve started skateboarding, which I really enjoy. I’ve started reading tarot cards for literally no reason. I also have tried to start writing without the idea that I’m doing it for an audience. I bought a coloring book. I have done so many things in the last few months, and even if I do not stick with each and every new activity, trying a new thing gives me a sense of self.

All of this information seems like it falls under the “self care” umbrella. However, I think it goes beyond that. It is so important to be able to define yourself outside of your studies or your work. People are so much more than that. For me, it’s about building a foundation of joy to fall back on when major life changes come your way. Do something just for you – just because it’s fun.

They say time heals all wounds, but for me it was a hobby.