A friend recently shared with me that she thinks she needs more hobbies, perhaps to expand her social and professional circles. She felt that maybe something was missing, that if she found more hobbies, it would make her more interesting in her dialogues with others. Truth is – the only real hobby you can ever successfully have is you. You are your most worthy, most interesting, most relevant subject. The more you learn about you, the better off you are and the more of service you can be to others. I’ve picked up hobbies from salsa to time management. I’ve endeavored to paint furniture, learn html programming and write comedy. I spent one summer learning how to run and another beating a video game. (I beat you Super Mario Bros. 2. Oh yes I did!)
Hobbies lead us to great revelations about our abilities and open up – in some cases – a world of fellow tribe-peeps who all jive on the same subject or ideas. Hobbies are not bad, most of the time. It’s when we endeavor to do things with no direction, no purpose, or no understanding of why that we fall into the dreaded trap of doing something just to do it. We end up seeking, searching endlessly for some revelation, some big AHA that will make us believe it was all worth it. Too often, we don’t.
When I took violin lessons, I believed that mastering it (ha, mastering…that’s a laugh) would somehow bring me the fulfillment that I needed. I took selfies of me and my violin and plastered them all over my social media. “See? Look at me. I’m cool. I’m interesting. I play the violin." I could barely play the thing, but, I thought, if I could learn to play this little wooden bastard, then all things will be right in my world. They weren’t. I thought the same thing about book clubs, cooking classes and countless other hobbies. All these things undoubtedly expanded my world and my thinking. I enjoyed them tremendously and still do some of these activities today. The question that always haunted me after I mastered each one, though, was – now what? Now I find another hobby?
Hobby can be another word for distraction, a way to lose oneself in the art, desire, lure of something else. We believe hobbies to be a way in – to ourselves, to a world of greatness, a sense of accomplishment and peace. But they aren’t always. They are often a way out – an escape to an idea we have of ourselves, something greater that we are supposed to be. Then we go to cocktail parties and networking events and try to share that vision with others…try to sell someone else on this worldly or busy view of ourselves when we don’t even believe it because we know that we are only doing these things to avoid getting to the real thing we are seeking: ourselves.
The greatest hobbies I’ve under undertaken are ones that show me more about myself. About what I believe, what I’m connected to. Gardening – my favorite hobby of all time – connects me with something greater. The earth. Life itself. Digging my hands into dirt is like plugging into some kind of awesome socket. I feel alive when I’m covered in mud, listening to Kool & the Gang and playing with plants and shovels. When I’m out snooping around garden shops, there’s always a knowing glance from fellow gardeners. “You too?” we ask with our eyes. But, when I garden, I garden for me. I learn about me. I dig into the earth and I dig into my thoughts. Planting, weeding, watering both at the same time. It’s a beautiful exercise in clarity.