Off the Board, Opinion

The art of enjoying your hobbies

A lot of my hobbies are ones that I am mediocre at.

On the guitar, I can only play a few chords. I run at a very average pace, and not as consistently as I would like. I can probably draw better than the average person, but I am completely lost without a reference photo. I would argue that even my soccer skills are beyond mediocre, as the  coordination I once had eludes me.

Growing up, I strived to be good at everything and held myself to impossible standards, failing to give myself the time I needed to properly learn things. In doing so, I forgot to have fun with what I was doing, and instead drove myself to discouragement.

I particularly saw this with visual art in my early teenage years. As a young social media enthusiast, I fostered my aptitude for drawing by creating an art account on Instagram and engaging with fellow creators. At the time, I thought of their accounts as inspiration, but looking back, I realize that they served as little more than sources of pressure. I couldn’t help but compare myself to artists who were much older than me, had many more years of practice, and had adult jobs to pay for high-quality supplies. I was constantly setting myself up for failure, prompting my love for the craft to dwindle. 

Hand-in-hand with the pressure to be talented at everything you enjoy is the pressure to monetize everything you do. I began to appreciate photography in early high school and took photos on my Android while saving up enough to invest in a used DSLR camera and an entry-level lens. From then, I quickly learned how to use it and took photos of everything: My friends, my dog, and my trips around New England and India. 

Portraits became my specialty, and in my senior year, I considered myself to be good enough to charge people for them. I made a website and digital posters that advertised senior portrait photoshoots, and was ecstatic when several people in my grade reached out to me to book sessions. The first few appointments were incredible. I not only got to take portraits, but was getting paid to take and edit them! As clients continued to roll in, however, I noticed that I was starting to enjoy it less and less. The burnout ensued. The hobby I once loved came to feel more and more like a chore. The spark for photography only came back to me when I was living in New York City this past summer. I started bringing my camera around on walks, taking pictures for my own sake.

Recently, I have tried to push myself past the mentality of needing to be “good” at something to enjoy it.  I took up playing intramural soccer and allowed myself to play freely. Going in, I knew I would be one of the weaker players, since I had only played a year of club-level soccer growing up. And yet, when I got on the field, I was able to put all of these things aside and focus on enjoying the game. Taking the pressure off of myself to be one of the best––even accepting the fact that I would not be––made the experience so much more enjoyable for me, and reminded me why I enjoyed the game growing up.

Your hobbies can be just hobbies. It is okay to do something you are average at because you enjoy it. You do not have to monetize the things you are good at when it makes you enjoy it less. There is nothing wrong with doing things just for fun.

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