To Hobby or Not To Hobby

I think Shakespeare said that?


While driving to get coffee, I heard a talk show host say she didn’t have hobbies and that it was okay not to. She confessed that she went to gym but only because she “had to,” and I learned she shopped a lot, but it “didn’t count.” In her opinion. When her co-host asked if she read, she replied with a clipped “no.” This sent me into about three serious debates in my mind — three too many considering I was still stoplights away from Dunkin’ Donuts.

The first debate: is it okay to be hobby free? The second: is the gym obligatory and should I maybe go back to one because of wedding season? Third: why aren’t we reading nearly as much as we should be, in some cases not at all?

Hobbies, man.  Am I the only one who recalls “What are your hobbies?” as one question I felt prepared to answer among strangers? My favorite color and I were in an open relationship, but my unyielding interest in drawing (and eating fruit-roll ups) remained steadfast. Kids are programmed to explore the things that they like.

Then we grow up and time becomes a luxury and nobody cares if you can draw a photo of yourself in bell bottoms riding a skateboard with a kitten on your shoulders. Before you know it, I should take a shower turns into No time for shower turns into This dry shampoo sample should work turns into Shit now I definitely need to shower turns into Late for meeting. That’s life. It’s valid to consider how one might actually be too busy to take up a cooking class.

But I’m torn. As someone notorious for quitting things (ballet, running, church, my sorority, relationships, How To Get Away With Murder), I’d like to give credit to all the quitters out there for having started something in the first place. Shouldn’t we all carve out sacred space to do whatever it is that brings us joy? It is a privilege to learn a skill we don’t find necessary. That experience becomes necessary. MTV’s Made was literally about making dream hobbies come true. People tuned in to watch.

I wasn’t on Made, but I had hobbies. If I hadn’t dedicated afternoon after afternoon to reading Elle Girl magazines as a preteen, my life would not look like my life. And I wouldn’t always subconsciously be wishing Mischa Barton well.  I’m grateful for those hours because it lead me to other things. Like knowing what I wanted to be, and maybe showing me a way to get there. If you think about it, pretty much everyone you admire got to where they are because they had a hobby. Something pulling at them. Asking for attention. Would poke them on Facebook if they could.

How we choose to spend our time is the most important decision we make in the day, and we shouldn’t deprive ourselves from creative growth. Learning is fun. Hobbies are good for you.

Shopping counts. Reading definitely counts. And there’s plenty more to go around.

Hiking? Gardening? Competitive dog grooming?  Let me know where your past hobbies have taken you and where your new one does or might.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.


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  • Lina

    I love this – great writing!
    While I’m a person with quite a few hobbies, I go through phases of not liking anything at all or even just not taking care of them. In my opinion, hobbies are just things I do to make me feel good, whatever that may be 🙂
    mine currently are: reading, hiking, cooking (and eating), the occasional pilates class and life drawing.
    As a teen I took singing, ballet and flute classes but only the singing stuck somehow. I do feel a little guilty for neclecting my instrument the past years, is that normal??

  • Akiko Surai

    Great article!
    As a kid one of my “hobbies” if you an call it that was scavenging for interesting plants and flowers on the way home from school (not too infrequently from neighbors yards along the way). Other than wondering if that aesthetically driven petty-theft segued into me habitually coming home from school with a pocket-full of art supplies I never gave it much thought until I starting taking a floral design course this year. Not only did I ace the class and have a lot of fun, I found a new way to engage my 3D design and sculpture background without taking myself soooooo seriously as a contemporary artist. I’ve already started doing some freelance work on weddings with a local shop and who knows, maybe I’ll open my own place in the future.

  • dk

    I like puzzles and do the Microsoft Solitaire Daily Challenges every single day. I love seeing that “perfect” at the end of each month. I re-discovered my passion since Windows 7 (hint: I am not a Mac user :D). I used to do the solitaire back when I was a pre-teen. And now, the same thing brings me as much joy as when I could walk under the table standing. It’s the simple things. Also, I count scrolling through Instagram and watching Youtube as a hobby. I try reading a book a month, which is not enough if You ask me. But Netflix…

  • Tania

    too many to count. Experimenting new hairstyles on family and friends – makes for great side income and bonding. Consigning old clothes from my closet and those of my friends and relatives – again, side income and also it helps build my eye for style – gotta sell the potential for an item that is 8 trends ago…cooking – I hope to know you well one day. Religiously reading fashion and health blogs like MR 🙂

    Hobbies are like seasoning to life. They make it taste interesting and often times better.

  • I have always been a painter and I never considered it a hobby — I HAD to do it.
    I sewed as a hobby, I ended up getting my BFA in Fashion at Otis (Because Art wasn’t paying) and then was a “professional” in the business for several years. Finally had to quit that, was too miserable not having the time to paint.
    I’ve gradually made my peace with fashion through my latest hobby — BLOGGING! Yes, I blog as a hobby, and sew for myself. I couldn’t be happier.

    • did you like Otis? Just curious. I considered going there once upon a time but chose a different school.

  • Jaclyn Levy

    I think going to the gym can count as a hobby. I recently got interested in powerlifting and am working through a weight lifting program. I’m loving it and thinking about it constantly as my form improves and I’m starting to lift more weight. As a mom with 2 littles is hard to hold onto hobbies but I try. We go hiking when we can and someday I hope I can paint again.

  • Lucie Evans

    Thank you for writing this! Despite being an obsessive reader and shopper and going regularly to the gym and enjoying it for the most part, I feel like I don’t have any hobbies or interests which makes me feel like a really uninteresting person. Sometimes I read my favourite blogs and get inspired to do a DIY that I never end up doing, or the time I finished reading Wild and was like heck I want to start hiking! But have yet to do. In this age we live in I feel like everyone is too exhausted to have any hobbies other than binge watching Netflix. I just want to be good at something and have a hobby!

  • I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon this weekend, so my new-ish hobby took me to Coney Island.

  • Commenting on MR is my only hobby. JK!!!!! I’ve been writing a lot lately with hopes of being as articulate as ya’ll MR people (is it working?). I go to art school so HOBBY IMITATES LIFE IMITATES ART IMITATES HOBBY – it’s a vicious cycle

  • Kelly

    I totally feel like people don’t have hobbies these days outside of gym and shopping. A lot of my friends are like this, but they seem happy and content with it so I think that is the most important thing.
    I have too many hobbies sometimes and recently had to cull a few to re-prioritise my life. I read, volunteer, take a language class, equestrian lessons, paint, go to the cinema/theatre and I like to go to lectures/talks about design/art. I guess the thing is finding the time and energy to balance it with your other priorities, that’s why it’s so easy to fall back on the no hobbies thing.
    Plus, some of these hobbies are so expensive! Or time consuming! You have to be really committed to commute an hour each way to pay a lot of money to ride a horse around a ring for an hour, trust me.

  • Jesse Kadjo

    This article definitely speaks to me. I’m always trying to “allow” myself the time to relax and make space for doing things I love. Not because I have to but want to. Sometimes planning to read more, garden, take more pictures, color, can feel so overwhelming I forget to do it. But relaxing long enough to actually do it feels so good.

  • Sarah McMillan

    It’s totally OK not to have a hobby, but the amount of satisfaction I get from mine (knitting) is huge. It’s a creative outlet that produces something tangible, which is huge for me, as well as something to occupy my ever-fidgeting hands. Plus it’s an approachable way for me to live out my childhood fantasy of being a fashion designer. PLUS I can multitask it with my other hobby — Netflix

  • Holly Phillips

    I love this! I love to read, cook, blog, and I recently joined a dance studio to burn calories and have fun. I find that many other adults and coworkers are shocked that I do things outside of work, or that I go to dance or blog instead of “relaxing”, but these activities are relaxing and fulfilling to me in a way that my job is not. I thing it’s important to expand your horizons in as many ways as possible!

  • So writing this out makes me realise how much of a geek I really am but……Ultimate Frisbee and a cappella. Both are fun and have worked as great ice breakers for every new place I’ve moved – be it in the US or abroad. UF is an especially good one because it’s such a tight-knit community on a whole. You’d be surprised how a conversation with a guy from France, both of you 3000 miles away from home, can lead to the realisation that you both know a few of the same people in Maryland or Philadelphia. You’re also forced to overlook cultural divides because the rules, for the most part, are similar around the world.

    And, I mean, it’s a pretty hardcore workout…?

  • BK

    my hobbies are all sewing-related and tend to change as I complete one project from the next. Eg at the moment I’m relining that designer jacket I found in a thrift store with red satin, before that I was making a quilt, and before THAT I was DIYing an Olympia Le-Tan clutch (see below). I like having a hobby, especially something so productive and rewarding, and feel a bit sad for people who aren’t interested in diversifying their skills or anything, but ultimately its their choice so whatever floats your boat, I guess (just don’t come crying to me when you realise how expensive book-shaped clutches are. Lol jks ill help you learn to help yourself).