When Hobbies Turn into an Obligation

hobbies as obligations


I just read an essay by Steve Edwards titled On the Experience of Entering a Bookstore in Your Forties (vs. Your Twenties). It’s about how our meaning of books change as we get older. While I didn’t ponder the question “Who do I want to be?” when going to the bookstore, now that I’m thirty and realizing that my life will change, my question when going to the bookstore is “Do I have time to read all of these books?” I always find more than one book while browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble, and I know there are probably more waiting to be opened and read that I haven’t found yet.

Then I go home, find the list of books that I’ve been meaning to buy off Amazon, and that same question enters my head.

Do I have time to read all of these books?

Then I get scared that I won’t reach my goal of reading 15 books a year (making that up) and go do something else. I don’t want to fail.


Maybe I need a new approach to my hobby of reading–one that doesn’t make me scared about how old I am, and all of the books I’ll be missing out on. And perhaps not look at it as a task I have to do, but WANT to do.

Do you treat your hobbies as obligations? Something that HAS to get done rather than doing it for fun?


Diary Writing


I watched a cute and funny video on The Atlantic about David Sedaris and him keeping a diary in today’s age.

I have half a bookshelf filled with my diaries, which I began keeping in 97/98. Every notebook is filled with my experiences growing up. It was how I released emotion. I wasn’t one to talk about my feelings (still learning to do that), but I didn’t want someone to talk back to me and give advice. I yearned for someone who would just shut up and listen. I found that “person” in notebooks. I wasn’t judged, and I felt free to write about anything I wanted.

But as I continued writing in my adult life, the entries weren’t imaginative anymore. They became sounding boards for the frustrations I was encountering. And the positive. The log time between entries grew too–I wasn’t writing as often. As the saying goes, “Life got in the way.”

However, watching this video made me proud to be a diary keeper and not an oversharer online: you know the person on Facebook who shares everything from health issues to photos of their children to relationship woes. Isn’t it tiring to see that? Where’s the discrection? If you share your life with the world, what do you have to hold onto? Your Facebook feed becomes your diary, when a diary is supposed to be private. As Sedaris said, “More people are documenting their lives now. The difference is the degree to which they’re sharing. And there’s a lot to be said for not putting things out there.”

Like handwritten letters, keeping a diary is old school. But putting pen to paper is intimate. Note taking doesn’t count here. Anyone can do that (and required for class!). However, writing a letter or your thoughts out takes effort. There’s no delete key, and the handwriting isn’t going to be legible to everyone who reads it. If you make a mistake, scratch it out or white it out. Or throw it out and start over.

While the computer’s great (Microsoft Office!), keeping a diary is still valued today. I won’t stop doing it.

Thought Purging


In the waiting room of my therapist’s office, there are three stacks of handouts, each dedicated to a different disorder and the benefits of seeing a therapist for help with them. One is for sleep disorders. I picked it up, not because I have a disorder, but for the tips on how to unwind and get ready for bed. Some tips were to limit exposure to screens and don’t eat close to bedtime. Obvious ones.

Taking that information with me into my session, somehow we ended up discussing sleep. I brought up the handout and how I have a difficult time getting to sleep because my mind is active.

My therapist suggested that I do “thought purging,” which is exactly what it is: get my thoughts out on paper before going to bed. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and write or type whatever’s bugging me. An example is “I’m thinking about my job and how I have to finish A, B, and C.”

Once the timer goes off, put the paper–or Word doc–away. Don’t read it.

I tried it and am amazed. I didn’t have 10 minutes worth of thoughts to write about, but after I was finished and shut my notebook my mind felt lighter. I felt lighter!! That feeling stayed with me while I was getting ready for bed, and once I was lying down. Did I immediately fall asleep? No, but it occurred faster than before. My mind was blank, and I felt relaxed.

It was great!

How do you unwind before bed? Let me know in the comments!

I Want Attention!

The newest issue of WIRED Magazine caught my attention. I had never read their publication, but the headline about pain piqued my curiosity. I noted the key words on the cover so I could find the article and read it later.
It was an interesting piece, but afterward I found other articles on their site worth reading. I felt tempted to email the site to myself and bookmark it. That’s what I do when I find a site that has good content.
And there lies my (our) problem: over consumption.
It’s my inattentiveness or curiosity but I read a lot of articles on various websites. My bookmarks tab has food sites, music sites and lots of articles. Sometimes I tend to stay on one site and read whatever looks appealing. After doing that time has flown by!
But spending my time on the internet like this is not good for my stress level. I say stress because I look at my bookmarks and start to feel anxious. It’s a lot of information saved for later.
But here’s the real problem: So many publications are covering the same topics. So the questions become, which site do we go to for news? Which publication is best for business? Every website is competing for your attention, but how do they get you to ONLY go to their site and trust them? Do you choose the all-inclusive site like The New York Times, or a specialty one to read about science? And if you do the latter, what makes you choose Scientific American over NPR? Or do you read both?
How do we choose where to focus our reading on topics that interest us? What makes a website good enough for us to keep going back to it? I wrestle with the answers to these questions whenever I catch myself spending a few minutes too long on a website.
The internet can be a great learning tool, no doubt. (And a distraction!) Google can find anything you’re looking for in a second. But whose information do you trust?
This reminds me, I should clean up my bookmarks.