Tag Archives: hobbies

Making Time for Yourself

Someone asked me recently what I would be doing to entertain myself if I was back home. I didn’t have an answer. This is, I think, for two reasons:

  1. I haven’t lived in Hawaii for long enough to carve out a familiar, comforting routine. Of the past nine months (whoa) since coming to Hawaii, I’ve been away for almost six of them, and the others were seeped in an overwhelmingly liminal feeling.
  2. Almost all of the things that make me happiest are portable.

Think about it: if you were to leave home for a while – a few weeks, or many months – what is it that you would miss? If you have a family or spouse or even a pet, they have to stay behind. That’s rough, but this is about you. Who are you, apart from everyone else? What entertains you? What activities make you feel like you are fully yourself?

I like to ask people what they look forward to doing when they get home from work and all the chores and errands are finished. My dad would never let us pick up an activity if there was work left to be done; it made really appreciate my leisure time and, more importantly, live fully inside of it, free from to-do lists nagging at the edge of my attention. So when it is time for you to put your feet up and relax, what do you reach for? If it’s something you can carry with you, then, I think, you’ll always have a little bit of home with you wherever you go.

I’m sure I have a biased perspective. It took a long time, but now I am used to living away from my family and friends, and I had to learn how to make myself happy without them around for support, filling up my time and space. And I guess I’ve always been a quiet, introverted nerd. Outdoorsy and athletic, too, but my parents wanted me to be, and I’m not sure how many of those impulses are inherent and how many are the result of habit and upbringing. In fact, even those physical activities are, for me, solitudinous – running, swimming, hiking: all alone.

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Illustration by Chris Buzelli (from a great essay, titled “At Home in the Liminal World“)

When your principle form of diversion is depends on you alone – your creativity or motivation – almost any hobby can be carried along with you. I do things alone. I associate solitude with home. In a way, then, I can bring a little bit of home with me wherever I go.

Even amidst the roar of propeller blades and the chatter of the crew on the headsets, when I open up a book, I am transported to a different place, any place of my choosing. I can play my Nintendo Switch in a crowded, noisy lounge and forget that anyone else is there. Even writing this post, or any creative writing – I keep a notebook in my backpack, ready to seize the opportunity when inspiration strikes, and my phones “notes” app is filled with scraps of ideas and descriptions that I want to remember or revisit. When I run, it’s just me and the music (and suffering). I’m getting back into video editing, which requires a surprising amount of concentration and a challenging learning curve and a lot more invested time than I remember from before. All of these things bring me the most joy, and I can do all of them whether I’m at home or on the road.

Sometimes people get their “me” time, some comfort of home, from being around other people – group activities, team sports, spending time together. They could feel comfortable wherever they go. That is wonderful, a truly enviable characteristic. But this post is not about that.

I am deeply interested in people who make it a priority to carve out time for themselves, who have some quiet interest that draws them away from the company of others. Now, more than ever, it is so easy to waste time. (I’m guilty of this just as much as everyone else my age; I spend a truly appalling amount of time scrolling through memes and watching the same youtube videos over and over.) I’m fascinated by people who have clear priorities, who set boundaries on the time they’re willing to give to others and the time they insist on keeping for themselves. It takes some bravery and focus, and sometimes awkward explanations, to detach from the world around you and turn the focus inward instead, to be wholly and authentically yourself. I have a lot of respect for people who make it look natural and effortless, especially since I’m pretty firmly entrenched in the “antisocial weirdo” camp.

So if you have some secret hobby or passion, something that you do for you alone when no one else is watching, I’d like to hear about it sometime. I think I understand you a little bit already, and I’d like to know more.

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WHY I STAY IN

I titled this post deliberately. It’s not “Why I Don’t Go Out,” because I do go out occasionally. It can be really fun. That’s why everyone does it. But, given the choice between staying in and going out, nine times out of ten I’m going to choose to stay in, even on Friday and Saturday nights. Here is why.

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Either my circle of friends is aging or it’s becoming more socially acceptable to stay in on a Friday night and watch Netflix. When I was younger, that would have mortified me: “People are going to think I have no life!” Getting out of the house felt like a moral imperative. You spent a long time getting ready – clothes, shoes, hair, makeup, probably changing clothes again. You pregamed. At least once or twice a week, you went out. Then you came back (or didn’t) and slept in the next day.

For a while, it was great. In college. Again, in Pensacola. Again, when I came to Japan. I especially loved the opportunity to meet new people. But, months later, I realized I was forcing myself to go out. I wasn’t enjoying it like I used to. My nice jacket started smelling like cigarettes. I wondered how many unnecessary calories I was putting into my body via alcohol. Most of all, I was tired and bored. It was the same bars, the same people, the same songs. It was starting to get dull and predictable. So I stopped going out every weekend. Then I stopped going out more or less all together.

There are still folks who are kind enough to invite me out with them (thank you!), and I always feel hugely guilty when I say no. But the truth is that there are so many things I’d rather be doing instead of partying. When I’m looking forward to getting off of work, for example, what I’m actually anticipating is having time to do something like:

  • Working out
  • Exploring
  • Talking to friends and family back home
  • Doing something creative (writing, making videos)
  • Internet
  • Reading
  • Playing (video) games
  • Sleeping

I don’t see “getting drunk” or “partying” in there. It’s not because I think they’re bad and I abhor them; it’s because I recognize that my free time is precious and limited and I want to spend it in ways that make me happy. And, lately, going out does not make me happy.

I’m an introvert. I love and care deeply for other people, but interacting with them drains me, perhaps precisely because I’m so emotionally invested in them. I’m happiest when I’m totally alone. In solitude is when I feel most at ease, and doing things by myself is how I unwind after work and obligations. If this seems weird to you, think of it this way: the feeling you get when you go out with your friends is the same feeling I get when I’m in bed with a book. We have different methods but the result is identical.

So let’s not judge the “losers” who don’t go out every weekend. Not everyone derives joy from the same source, but we’re all pursuing the same thing: relaxing and having fun. Some get it from TV, some get it from partying, some get it from spending time with their families. If you like going out, maybe I’ll see you out there sometime. In the meantime, you know where to find me.

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