We seem to have an abundance of hobbies as children. I know I had a schedule that would make current me weep. Between dance, choir, orchestra, and sport, it seems incredible I actually had any time to do homework or sleep (I didn’t do as much of either of these things as I should have). But as you get older, and comprehension becomes essays and experiments become exams, it seems that these hobbies fall to the wayside. University seems like the perfect opportunity to pick up a new hobby, whether that’s a sport, knitting, life-drawing, baking, whatever. The issue is, though, when you pick up a new hobby at uni, the chances are that your peers have already done it. It seems hard to justify the £120 for recreational badminton when it’s something you’re just doing as a hobby. Similarly, it’s hard to put yourself out there at an event such as life drawing. Compared to others, my artwork looks less ‘draw me like one of your French girls’ and more ‘draw me like a stick man with boobs’. There’s also the issue of breaking free from your highschool persona which can feel like a box you’ve been placed in by your family and childhood friends. I’ve had many a discussion of “But you’re terrible at drawing!” or “You used to be a great viola player!” – Well, mother, I could only play a (not so) ‘Hot Cross Buns’ in the wrong key.
The idea that we lose hobbies because we are too nervous or lazy to sustain them or new ones up (no judgement, I’ve been there too) is a heart-breaking loss of inner childhood, personal interests, and socialisation that we tend to dismiss as something we no longer have time for. We all know the dangers of not having hobbies. It can turn us into people who only focus on work (boring) or leave us stagnant, which leads to bigger issues. You may find yourself sitting at a microphone recording a podcast as a man who has never had a positive interaction with a woman telling other men ‘if a woman has Instagram it’s 100% cheating’ (yes that is a direct quote). So with these dangers present, you could ask yourself, how do we get these hobbies back?
My first piece of advice is if you have no hobbies, why not do one that you can start at home? Some suggestions include baking, yoga, learning guitar (you can borrow one from a friend), chess, running etc. The list goes on. I started baking over lockdown and I was truly atrocious at the start. As a child I had been banned from Home Economics class due to several incidents which included: melting an entire plastic bag on the hob, forgetting to bake an apple pie, forgetting sugar in my scones, forgetting carrots in carrot and coriander soup, and accidentally feeding a classmate uncooked chicken. I was a real treat – shout out to my parents who didn’t even try to lie to me about how god awful my food was. Point is, when I started to bake and wanted to get better at it there was nobody more sceptical of myself than me (and my parents). But, I was at home – what could go so wrong that I would embarrass myself? So, I started baking and sure, there were some terrible recipes, but that is how you learn. Now, I am a fairly competent baker. It’s something I love to do and is a new love language I have developed, making birthday cakes (however dodgy), graduation cakes, and dinner party desserts. I’m no longer afraid of things going wrong because there is no pressure. If I do something wrong, this is just my hobby, the consequences will never be that dire (I can and have put out fires) and if I had never tried I would never know.
This leads me on to my main advice. You do not have to be good at your hobbies. This is why they are hobbies and not your job. I also took up running in lockdown and at first I couldn’t run 90 seconds without stopping. Even now, whilst running is a new love in my life, I am never going to the Olympics for it. I don’t run to compete, I do it because I enjoy it and it makes me feel good about myself. So, you do not need to be good at a hobby. I have gone to life drawing when I don’t know the difference between an HB pencil and a pen, I went to fencing with my only experience being the fact I’ve watched (and loved) ‘The Princess Bride’, I’ve gone to Flow Yoga and fallen completely on my face. I’m not ‘good’ at any of these and I still went. Some of them I loved more than others (falling in yoga wasn’t my favourite), and even when I’ve embarrassed myself I’m still here. It’s a great story for the plot of my life. Within the things I’ve tried I have found some of my favourite hobbies ever, and if I had never tried and failed at them I wouldn’t have found them. Amongst these hobbies I’ve made incredible friends. Thanks to running, I have the best girl group since the Spice Girls. The benefits of trying something far outweigh the reasons to not do it.
Now, I am aware this can be easier said than done so some more unsolicited advice is to bring a friend with you who will cackle if you fall over, or who has also never tried something before. Why not try out knit soc? I did with my best friend and ended up knitting my hair into my work. It was hands down one of my favourite activities and memories I have of first year. Sometimes trying something out doesn’t result in a new hobby, but sometimes it does. Your life can be so enriched with that childish joy from having a new hobby, not to mention you become more interesting and can gain more friends!
Everyone has to start out somewhere. RuPaul started out with that first makeup attempt, Mary Berry with that first cake, you with that first … what? The opportunities are endless and life is far too short to be embarrassed. If you take anything from this, know that trying something out cannot go so badly that someone else (likely me) has not done it before. You never know, your next hobby could go terribly and could be the newest love in your life. So get out there, you’re never too old to try something new, and you never know where it could take you.