“Sometimes I forget I have a black belt. I think I hated it so much, I’ve blocked the memory”, says Kanksha Raina, 29, about her childhood hobby. She doesn’t need a second thought when asked if she liked taking karate lessons. She dreaded the experience, she still dreads the memory.
But why would someone hate a hobby? The whole point of pursuing a hobby is to have fun, right? Wrong.
Every time we come across a discussion about self-love, there is at least one mention of taking up a hobby. And rightly so.
The need for a hobby
When we’re kids, we tend to partake in a plethora of activities — we dance at the dinner table, we study sometimes, we colour up the walls, we sing in public, and we play any time we want. Basically, all of life is playtime. But as we grow up, we start to indulge in things that are more important to our growth — education and career take up the most of it. Naturally, when life starts getting stressful, we look for outlets.
According to numerous studies, every individual needs a hobby. It is what centres us back. Indulging in a creative hobby enables our mind to concentrate better; we are able to dodge unnecessary thoughts because our brain recalibrates itself by slowing down. Being part of a fun, constructive activity also boosts our happy hormones including serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.
So, you’re more likely to concentrate on your presentation after spending an hour watering your favourite plants or messing up a perfect recipe, than by tediously zoning in and out of work.
While we’ve made the ground-breaking discovery that hobbies better our lives, why are there so many adults who want to look away from their kiddie hobbies?
I might have some insight on the same.
Let’s face it, we don’t need to ace it
Every time I tell someone I like to dance, they ask me what form I practise, if I’m taking classes, whether I’m any good at it, if it is something that looks at all promising, and if I think it has a future. To my dismay, no one ever asked me if I enjoyed it.
I am a terrible dancer. I miss the beats, I’m pretty sure what I do can’t be called a dance form, and that if Ashneer Grover were to see me dancing, he’d say, “Bhai tu kar kya raha hai?”
But amidst all these questions, I have only one to ask: Why is there so much pressure to be good at my hobby?
In India, almost every parent wants their kid to have a hobby. I remember lugging my kit to my art class after school, two days a week. My brother had abacus, my cousin had piano lessons, my best friend had swim class. No, these weren’t fun times. The whole point of taking up a hobby was acing it.
The two hours of learning to shade using pencil colours or understanding perspective and dimension were fun in no way.
What was supposed to relieve me and revive me only added to my pressure. I expected to perform well at school and in my extracurricular activity as well. If I wasn’t any good, I was made to switch. This extraneous pressure that parents lay on rearing a child who is an overall achiever is one that I can never understand.
To want the best for your child is one thing; to want them to be the best is another. Unsurprisingly, Indian parents are obsessed with both.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you’ve ever been enrolled in an activity over summer vacations, you know you can’t enjoy one day without worrying about the impending exam. You have to pass even at an activity that was supposed to help you pass your time.
Life tests you every day, they say. Indians take it a little too seriously. While kids in the US have ballet recitals and art exhibitions, we have assignments and exams. How successful a particular hobby depends on how well one has performed.
But this is the deal with parents. What about adults who take up hobbies outside work?
To hobby or to hustle
When I was old enough to decide what hobby I wanted for myself, I was nudged to pick up one that would reflect highly on my academic background. If I decided to study abroad, they would appreciate my additional skills. If not, a few certificates and medals would do no harm when looking for a corporate job.
The social pressure to be good at more than just one thing takes away the pleasure of enjoying things.
I can’t pursue gardening because I’ll never be able to show for it in an interview, but my chess accolades will be highly appreciated.
While we’re talking about social pressure, what is with everyone trying to turn their hobby into a side hustle? Why can’t your hobby just be a feel-good activity? Why does it need to be honed enough to become a skill? Arjun Rampal was once a guest on a TV show where he talked about liking painting. The host of the show took a dig at the actor’s work, saying it’s good he left trying to paint when he did, for he could have never become an artist.
This is where lies the bone of contention — who said he needs to become an artist? He is an actor and that is all he needs to be good at. He can enjoy painting without being good at it.
Not every activity needs to become a skill. Not every skill needs to be monetised.
We live in a world where taking a break to catch a whiff of fresh air becomes questionable. We are all puppets at the hands of capitalist culture — every minute that isn’t spent on making money or hustling for it is a waste. Don’t even consider kicking back, for it can get you admonished.
Overturning the overrated debate
If you constantly kick yourself up about not having a hobby that is good enough, stop! The whole point of having a hobby is to have something to relax with. It doesn’t have to be something you can turn into a prospective career, something you’re good at, or something that can make you money. That is what skills and careers are for.
While the whole ‘work non-stop’ culture is tossing the concept of 'learning for fun' into the bin, I’m making a case to bring it back.
Maybe it’s okay to take up a pottery class even if you are lousy at it. Maybe the world won’t stop spinning if you put a spin of bhangra into ballet at your dance class. Maybe you won’t t fall face down if you want to solve a sudoku in the weekly newspaper instead of enrolling for a new marketing course.
If you’re considering taking up a hobby but are still unsure of how to look for one, here’s the push you need:
- Don’t make time per day, make time per week. If you work for 60 hours a week, you can take 3-4 hours to indulge in your hobby. It doesn’t have to be something you do every day. Spending time on a mindless activity for a few hours every week can be equally helpful.
- You need a hobby as much as you need your job. It helps sustain your mental health, boosts your mood, and replenishes your energy for the week to come.
- Your hobby has to be something that is either fun for you or something you can look forward to like I look forward to dessert after lunch. It can be a sedentary activity or a physical one.
- It’s better if you don’t perform well in the beginning. If you don’t set any expectations on your hobby, it won’t feel like work. Once you start to do better, you sense a growth that is conducive to your emotional well-being too.
- Don’t stick to just one activity. For a lot of people, novelty is exciting. The thrill of trying something new and being good at it is unparalleled. So even when you zero in on something you enjoy, don’t stop experimenting.
That’s all the gyan on hobbies, folks! As Geet says in Jab We Met, “Aap convince hog aye, ya main thoda aur bolun?”
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