Sometimes the purpose of hobbies is not the actual project. As fall 2022 hands off to the season of ALL HOLIDAY ALL THE TIME, I wanted to share a hobbies round up. As I started to write up the recap, I realized I was talking about more than the hobbies. I was talking about the purpose of the hobbies.
For those of you new here – or a refresher for Sustainable Productivity veterans – hobbies are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. If you never unplug, your mental, physical, and emotional batteries drain until you don’t have energy to give yourself and your people.
In order to help keep myself accountable, I share regularly about what I have in progress. Hobbies are not just something to pass the time. They each have a purpose or lesson or maybe even job to do for me. During this literal and proverbial season in my life, hobbies fall into a few categories that I wanted to share with you. Maybe you have not related to the hobby itself, but you can relate to what I am getting from the hobbies.
“Art is to console those who are broken by life.” Vincent Van Gogh
I am a card carrying member of the sandwich generation. We parent two young adults, and although my dad is 700 miles away, I am involved almost daily in his life as his health is declining. This is a hard spot to be in. I see mistakes I made with my own kids – wishing it could be different and trying to accept what is. I see my dad not being the robust, sharp man he used to be – wishing it could be different and trying to accept what is.
It is enough to break me some days. But art gives me solace. This particular project I’m working on now uses my dad’s old ties. When we cleared out his closet prepping for a big move last year, I pulled them out of the donations box when he wasn’t looking. This was a purely sentimental, selfish move. And I am not sorry about it. I am creating Christmas gifts for the girls in our family from his ties and will have plenty left over for a quilt project in the coming years.
Immersing myself in the art of this hobby is a way to wrap myself in whatever feelings I have. Acknowledge them, feel them, sometimes process them. But sometimes I want to do the opposite and ignore them. Which is where the next purpose of hobbies comes in.
Learning a new technique, hobby, or skill requires me to pay attention to what I am doing. No multitasking with Netflix or audiobooks. I can’t field text conversations about Medicare donut holes while I am in a class with other hobbyists.
This is what I love about learning – a reprieve. Also a chance to fire up a different part of my brain. Here is a photo of a pillow top that I recently made in a class at my local quilt shop. There were dozens of small pieces that came together to make the pillow top – easy to mix up. The pattern was complex – a show stopper to mix up all those small pieces. Plus I learned to make a pillow or to recover the pillows I already have or find in a shop that might need a new life.
The benefit of learning through a hobby is a super focused distraction. But sometimes I don’t want to be focused or emotional. I just want an escape from the daily grind. Which is the third purpose of hobbies.
Sometimes I just want to check out and follow instructions for a hobby or just connect with others about the common interest we have.
This summer Bixby, Daughter and I attended a glass blowing demo where the artist led us through how to do it ourselves. I was not learning it, just doing what George Anne told me to do. The result was beautiful hummingbird feeders.
I have returned to making sweet potato bread more weekends than not. Now that I have the pan and oven situation sorted, it is back to being a fun hobby. I am following the instructions, puttering around the kitchen – often while Bixby is making dinner, and connecting with what I eat (vs. opening a package).
As I write this I am seeing that all three of these categories are feeding into a fourth purpose of hobbies that might potentially be the most important.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato
Connection with others is an untended purpose of hobbies for me. I love to anyone who will listen how much I don’t need other people.
Authentic connection with others is what helps me – and I would suggest all of us – create a life that we don’t want to numb out and escape from.
If we look at the first three categories of purpose of hobbies – solace, learning, escapism – there is a thread of connection.
- Solace – I am feeling my feelings about my kids and dad. Connection comes through art projects for the kids from my dad’s ties.
- Learning – Connecting with others who share my interests.
- Escapism – Sure sometimes I might make the bread alone in the kitchen. But what makes a stronger impression is when I share the space with Bixby or have a recipient in mind for the bread.
Sustainable You Questions
- What hobbies do you keep coming back to time and again?
- Look beyond the surface – what are you getting out of these hobbies? What is the purpose of the hobbies?
- How can you increase or extend this in other areas of your life?
If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. I am ever grateful.