Tag: hobbies

A Wonderful Realization

This coming spring I will turn 37 years old. Maybe it’s the age or the end of the decade, maybe it’s the splash of gray in my hair that I just noticed or recently becoming a father, but I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in life and where I want to find myself tomorrow or next decade.


I recently had a wonderful realization, a liberating realization. I’m not going to become an astronaut. Nope, it’s never going to happen. Not only that, but I’m not going to become a star athlete, millionaire record-producer, venture-capitalist, scientist inventor of the cure for whatever, or any other dream and expectation that one has growing up. Nope, none of that is going to happen. What I am is a husband, father, brother, writer, dog-owner, and a few other mundane things that I love and enjoy.


One of the benefits of giving up on high expectations is that I can focus and enjoy life and hobbies on a micro-level. I can pick up guitar playing without hoping to become the next Jimmy Page. I can lift weights without the desire to compete and rate myself against professional bodybuilders. When I jog it’s because I enjoy it not because I’m training for the Boston Marathon.

There is a poisonous mindset in our culture that takes every hobby and activity and hyper-professionalizes it. Even video games are professional, you can’t just play a game, you have to be on-line, have to rate on seasonal ranking boards, have to compete and practice for hours, everyone has to stream. Tabletop RPGs are going the same way. You can’t just play with your friends, you have to blog about it, stream your games, monetize monetize monetize.

I fell into this mindset when I was young and gave up two activities I really enjoyed for stupid reasons. In high school and a bit after I used to play guitar. I really enjoyed being in a band, playing gigs, hanging out with friends, but most of all I enjoyed playing the guitar, writing music, learning riffs, and experimenting with equipment. For whatever reason, life, bands breaking up due to school and relationships, the usual, I gave up on playing guitar. I told myself that if I wasn’t going to make money on it I should stop wasting my time. Around that time I did the same thing with art. I used to paint, all the time, every day. Large oil and acrylic paintings. I loved art, but I knew that I would never become an artist, whatever that means, so I quit. I gave up art and music because of the sick mindset in which you don’t engage in activities for pleasure but only for professional profit.

Around the time my wife became pregnant I made a resolution to pick up cooking. Since then I’ve become a somewhat competent amateur cook. I can knock out a few dishes confidently and I’ve taken up summertime grilling where I’ve kicked up some delicious burgers, hot-dogs, chicken, and ribs. Most of all I’ve realized that one can enjoy a hobby without obsessing about being the best. I can cook and grill for myself and my own pleasure.

The realization that I’m not going to be the next top chef, that I don’t want to be discovered and open my own restaurant, that I don’t want to own a food truck and a Netflix show. I just want to cook great food for my family and friends. That’s it, nothing more nothing less. It’s a great feeling and makes the enjoyment of the activity so much more pleasant, a truly relaxing hobby.

This year I’m going to continue cooking. I’m going to up my game and have a lot of fun with it. I’m also going to apply the same mindset to other hobbies. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a paintbrush.

Cultural Malaise & Action

Recently during our regular grilling and drinking sessions with friends, the topic of conversation has been turning towards politics and even some religion. I’m a firm believer in the Chestertonian “I never discuss anything else except politics and religion. There is nothing else to discuss,” maxim, so I’m usually right in the middle of it.


Sadly the consensus amongst my friends and family is that everything is going south. That we as a culture are in decline, that our institutions are failing, and that the future looks dark. Violent political division, racial animosity, moral decline, mass shootings, and an overall pallor of degeneracy and unhappiness.


Last weekend, after a particularly long and dark discussion best described some other time, my wife rather demoralized asked the question that matters. What do we do about things, how do we live through times that are dark and demoralizing, what actions should we take?


Her question has been bothering me all week. I don’t have an answer. At least nothing that is concrete. I think that looking around, assessing the state of our lives, and the state of our society is the first step. So many of us live empty fast-food lives stuck in a never-ending cycle of work, consume, repeat; addicted to mind-numbing entertainment and shallow pleasures. So even seeing a problem with how we live and react is a first step in the right direction. And honestly, it’s easy sinking into despair and complacency. Becoming overwhelmed with Acedia, the defining characteristic of our modern world. Inactivity, inaction, lack of attention, dissatisfaction and slavery to anxiety. After all, we live in a sick world where we are connected digitally with thousands but can’t name the person who lives next door.


While I don’t have the answer, I do have some ideas on how we can try to combat the ills of today. I think that there needs to be a refocusing on the personal, a return to small scale intimacy and sub-creation. Not everything must be connected, displayed, and shared with the whole world. Do things for yourself and the ones you love. Create artistically, build, collect, adventure, but do it for yourself, not for Instagram.


I believe a small step towards alleviating the spiritual malaise is to revitalize the idea of crafty small scale creative hobbies. Everyone should have at least two personal hobbies. One that is physical such as weightlifting, running, surfing, hiking, or a sport, and more critically a creative hobby. I think way too many of us lack creative and intellectual outlets. Drawing, painting, cooking, baking, woodworking, gardening, photography, or any other creative outlet is critical.


As a writer I know that nothing beats the revitalizing mental high I get when I finish a story or even a section of one. But I’ve challenged myself to other hobbies such as my recent experiments with cooking and grilling, and my slow return to art. Eventually, I plan on getting into gardening, but I’m a little intimidated by the starting process.


As I said, I don’t have any concrete answers. But I do think that any change starts at home with the self, the small, and the personal. Disconnect from the mind-rot of television and get to work on a creative hobby. Learn it, master it, and share it with your friends.


It won’t change the world but it might make a small part of it a little bit better.