SINGAPORE – I like to think that extroverts have had it the hardest during the circuit breaker.
This is what I tell anyone who will listen, but really, it is a watery excuse for how poorly I have adapted to the last three months of staying home.
Before, much of my life was motivated by Fomo – the fear of missing out. Whatever free time I had was spent checking out trendy restaurants and catching new exhibitions and theatre shows. Rarely did I “waste” it at home. I imagine many others felt the same.
Now, confronted with the prospect of no more outdoor socialising, people have retreated indoors and inwards to occupy themselves with hobbies.
Crafts, cooking, creative activities that make them happy which they used to have no time for. And shockingly, I have come to realise that I have none of the sort.
When did I get so boring?
My last real hobby was in primary school, when I crafted mini furniture out of beads, wood and foam pieces. They brought me immense joy, especially when I started selling boxed “bedroom sets” to classmates (a whole other story about monetising your hobby).
Later, I grew a passion for music – but singing for fun flew out the window when I turned it into my co-curricular activity.
Over the years, going out and attending events replaced my need to cultivate quiet pastimes at home.
As the concept of hobbies returns to our collective consciousness, so has a new form of Fomo. Scrolling through social media, I am hyper-aware of how everyone else is indulging in creative pursuits.
One friend has returned to her university hobby of painting, capturing gorgeous sunset vistas of the sea view from her apartment. Another is furiously crocheting as if on a mission to double her pillow count at home.
Some have rediscovered their calling as bookworms; others have become bona fide fitness bunnies. To say nothing of the sudden home bakers and chefs who have crawled, nay, burst out of the woodwork during quarantine.
The resulting anxiety can be paralysing. On my end, I have tried to keep up and dabble in various pastimes too. I revisited past hobbies – playing the ukulele, photography – and flirted with new ones – exercise and baking.
But these feelings of accomplishment are always fleeting; gone the moment I post about them on social media. And how can anything that I do for the ‘gram bring me true happiness?
I check in with my 16-year-old brother, who confirms he too has no hobbies in this time, apart from computer games. Occasionally this worries him.
“Do you feel like you’re not developing as a person?”
Yes, he says, and so he has taken up a course on data analysis offered by his school. I am slightly repulsed, but impressed at what schools are teaching their students these days.
So I am back to square one – hobby-less and purposeless. Rather than feel like a jack of all trades and master of none, I fill my days with TV shows and movies, always swallowing a sense of shame at how uncreative I have turned out to be.
Desperate for some sign that I am not in this hobby rut alone, I take to mass-following Instagram accounts run by social media-savvy psychologists. Their pastel-hued posts reassure me that taking time to just sit with my feelings in a global crisis is warranted; that everyone copes differently; and that productivity is not, in fact, a measure of self-worth.
My favourite, a cheery quote that puts it quite simply: “You are only unproductive by the standards of the world we lived in two months ago. That world is gone now.”
I repost one on Instagram as a “public service”, to which a friend promptly replies: “Hobbies don’t have to be productive by the way – just whatever makes you happy or relaxed.”
She adds: “We don’t have to be churning out cakes or calligraphy lmao.”
For all the professional adviceI have been trying to imbibe, it is this one personal lmao (laughing my a** off) that rocks me into realisation: Why expend more emotional energy into forcing myself into a hobby? Ultimately, nothing I tried has made me happier than being in my Netflix black hole.
Could it be that I don’t have to constantly occupy myself to lead a meaningful life?
Yes, I decide, as I proceed to download Amazon Prime Video. If finding a hobby stresses me out more, then the purpose of even having it is defeated.
For every quarantine overachiever out there, there is an unproductive blob coming to terms with how little they are getting done. This blob is slowly but finally making peace with the fact that hobbies should be developed organically, and not sought out just because everyone on social media has one.
It will take time – and that, I have plenty.
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