I was sitting in Starbucks when I had a half-hour conversation about hobbies. I realized you can tell a lot about someone based on the things they do in their free time. I listed the clubs I was a part of on campus, but the person I was talking to said to me that these were merely activities, not hobbies.
When I sat down to think about my hobbies, I could not think of anything meaningful enough to say that I genuinely practiced. I was surprised when I realized there is not much I choose to do for fun that holds intrinsic value, whether that be academic or social.
All of the things I deemed fun or defined as a hobby had some sort of purpose in my life. I love to write, yet the main outlet that I write for is The Daily Targum, and I have to meet biweekly quotas. To some people, that is like an unpaid job.
Rowing is such a pivotal part of my life, as well. But as a Division I athlete on campus, I am up early in the morning dreading waking up before the sun to get to practice. It felt like my hobbies could, if practiced too much, become a chore. At times, it does end up feeling like that. So what constitutes a real hobby?
Through job interviews and meeting new people, I have had to think a lot about my hobbies. Even my resume has a line describing my interests. But still, I feel as though the things I like to do correlate too much with the activities I have to do.
A hobby is something that is done in leisure time. Granted, most of my free time is spent sleeping or hanging out with friends. Scrolling on TikTok or watching "Gossip Girl" for the 10th time is certainly a form of escapism, but to define that as a hobby of mine would seem like a cop-out.
As college students, it is hard to differentiate between hobbies and work because sometimes those lines blur. While the ability to make a career out of a hobby is admirable, I like to think that the purpose of a hobby is to provide an outlet to destress, not just to grow professionally.
It was not until college that I started to value alone time, especially after being forced to stay at home due to the pandemic. I learned a lot about myself and how I like that sense of peace and quiet. As someone who cares more for others than they do for themselves and is extremely extroverted, I struggled to find a hobby I could do by myself without feeling lonely.
I played piano for most of my life, and the one thing I dreaded about it was practicing. I loved performing, and I loved music, but it was the hours on hours of sitting of just you and the piano, practicing. My past athletic history consists solely of swimming for more than eight years. If you know anything about the sport, you would get how it is a very individualistic activity. Being trained to only think about your times, your splits or your overall athleticism is taxing.
I also enjoy reading and word puzzles. It is an odd juxtaposition to my personality — the talkative, bubbly friend who gets FOMO the minute she comes home. But as someone who is always running around, I oftentimes get things done mindlessly because that is the only way to get things done. I like how it makes me sit down and think a little. Realistically, there is a low transactional benefit from reading. Sure you gain some information, but for me, I enjoy fiction, so the lessons learned are pretty null.
I like how reading and word puzzles make me actively do a mentally taxing thing: thinking. But unlike homework, it is fun to imagine the world you are reading about or trying to decipher a word based on clues and other details.
Most importantly, I like how both of these hobbies allow me to fit them in on my own time. Every other activity I have ever participated in required hours and hours of time scheduled into my day to complete it, whether that be hours of practice, hours of waiting, or hours of driving. To read, you only need a book and a spare 5 minutes. Sure, I often read for a lot longer than that, but it is the principle of being able to do it whenever and wherever that brings me the most fulfillment.
It is crucial to note that a hobby is simply just something fun, despite the lack or presence of a monetary benefit. And none of these kinds of hobbies need to be practiced in a club at school. In fact, they should not be because then it takes away from the simplicity and enjoyment it may bring for you.
Annabel Park is a sophomore Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in marketing and minoring in health administration. Her column, "The Queue," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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