When we were kids, we were experts at finding new hobbies.
We would invent a sport, a game, a foreign language, we would sing and compose, collect various cards, or maybe dream of a small lemonade business during the summer vacation.
Over time, however, we learned that it is important to have a balanced life (textbook schedule, organised in tables of hours and activities), so we gave up dreaming, spontaneity and cheerfulness. We told ourselves that after a certain period of total dedication and sacrifice, we would be able to enjoy the results, rediscover the forgotten beauty of our world, and will return to the passions we once had. Today, there is no time for that. We’ll take care of ourselves tomorrow.
Code name: Sacrifice
We often hear life stories in which at least one parent has sacrificed their time and energy for their child. In most cases, the child seems to carry the burden of parental sacrifice. This turns into a feeling of guilt, and the child will try to either get rid of this unwanted guilt, or to revolt, or sacrifice themself as well, to reward the efforts of their parents. Sacrificing for their children is one of the ways in which parents can no longer have a life of their own.
“If such children were asked what they wanted for their parents, they would simply say, ‘Let them be happy.’ Later, as adults, they would give anything to turn back time and see their parents living happily and without sacrifices,” says Monica Bolocan.
Workaholic for life
Still, some of us make sacrifices for work or business, out of loyalty or desire for success. Tony Schwartz had been working for almost 30 hours over the previous two days. His life was a constant race. After a meeting with his Florida business partner, he flew back to New York. He worked on his laptop during the flight; on his way home from the airport, at the wheel of his car, he talked on the phone about business.
At 4 pm, he arrived home and locked himself in his office, replying to emails. At 6 pm, he changed clothes, got back in the car and went to an important business dinner. He stayed until 10 pm and, on the way home, called his partner to inform him of the result. He was still talking on the phone as he pulled into the driveway. He had intended to end the conversation in the car before going inside the house. At one point, he lost the signal and the call was interrupted, so he got out of the car and started pacing up and down the driveway, trying to re-establish the connection.
His car caught his eye, as it was rolling down the lawn, heading straight for one of the stone walls in the yard. He had forgotten to secure it before getting out. Terrified, he began chasing the car, which was destroying the azaleas, hydrangeas and rose bushes. At the last possible moment, he managed to get in the driver’s seat and pull the emergency brake. The car stopped inches from the stone wall. When he recovered from the shock, the message seemed inescapably clear to him: he had been on the verge of an accident due to carelessness caused by his very high workload.
“Overwork is this decade’s cocaine, the problem without a name.” Bryan Robinson
Tony attended meetings of an association called Workaholics Anonymous, which was founded to help workaholics find balance. He had noticed that he did not remember other aspects of his life, except those related to work. As a result, he began to gradually reduce his time at work and replace it with nature walks with his family and regular sports activities. He even takes his 15-year-old daughter out for dinner once a week.
Because of his addiction to work, Tony believed that he would never be able to have a hobby but he soon discovered that the classic definition of this term—often erroneously associated with wasted time or procrastination—revealed new horizons.
It’s not too late
In the spring of 2018, Caitlin was on the plane with her husband, returning from a never-long-enough vacation, when she caught a glimpse of her husband’s focus on the phone. She initially thought he was either solving crossword puzzles, watching one of his favourite British history videos, or checking baseball scores—any of the many activities he did while travelling. Instead, he was engaged in a Google search, and seemed fascinated by the results.
The word he had Googled was “quilting.” Caitlin was “horrified.”
“Are you going to start quilting now?” she gasped, causing several passengers to turn their heads.
“Maybe,” he responded casually. “Maybe quilting will be my next thing.”
So many questions raced through her mind: Were they going to buy a sewing machine? How much would it cost? Where would they put it? Can you make money doing this?
“Relax,” her husband told her, sensing Caitlin’s mental list of all the ways his casual quilting hobby was going to destroy their lives. “I’m just thinking about it. Could be fun,” he reassured her.
Caitlin analysed this short conversation and realised that at 34, she did not know how to have a hobby. She didn’t even know if she should have one. Her fear of failure made her need practical reasons for taking on a hobby, but gradually Caitlin discovered the benefits of doing something just because she wanted to. She has started playing the guitar, and she is very excited about her progress.
Caitlin finally understood that a hobby doesn’t have to turn her into the next Ed Sheeran, but it will help her become a better person.
Flaviu Tereșneu believes that, in the equation of a fulfilled life, a creative hobby, born from a personal interest, can offer the dose of balance so necessary for mental health.