This week’s chat is all about you and the things that make you happy, the little interests and hobbies that bring you joy. Whether that’s collecting something, reading a specific kind of book, an artistic pursuit, or something you enjoy cooking, I want to talk about the interests that add spice and joy to your life.
One of those wonderful and education books I read last year was The Happiness Project. In it the author, Gretchen Rubin, dedicates a year of her life to thinking about and pursuing happiness, in both practical and esoteric ways. I highly recommend the book, if for no reason but to start examining yourself and the things that make you happy. One of the things she learned and implemented during this year of experimentation specifically stuck with me, and it’s so relatable I thought I’d share.
Sometimes we neglect the things that make up happy because we begin to believe that they are no longer valuable, don’t show off our intelligence, or that others may judge us. We chose not to read books, listen to artists or watch movies that we begin to think may cause us to be seen as juvenile, uncultured or less intellectual. Maybe we stop making a certain kind of art because we expect the resulting pieces to improve or evolve, and they haven’t in some time. Sometimes we become so busy with life and doing “important” things, we decide not to make time for karaoke with friends or doing crossword puzzles.
The author found this true for herself while working to pursue things that brought her happiness. At one point in her life she found great enjoyment from reading children’s and young adult literature, but as an academic and accomplished author, she felt that making time for something perceived as juvenile was not as valuable as using that time for something more “important”. As she spent a year contemplating her own happiness she remembered the pleasure that she gained from reading of this kind and decided that there just weren’t enough little things in her life that brought her joy to completely eliminate one. And so she determined to pursue this past interest, with wonderful and unanticipated results. Rather than being judged as she had feared, she made a number of new friends from all walks of life who also enjoyed this kind of literature, and now facilitates at least three YA themed book clubs of her peers! When she made time for this thing she enjoyed but had once considered trivial and an unwise investment of time, she found that she had more energy and joy to infuse into her more serious work. Overall she experienced a huge increase in her wellbeing and happiness from rekindling a hobby linked to so many positive emotions.
In reading this section of the book I found myself thinking about all of the activities that I have tried once and failed at too miserably to want to try again. I made a mental list of all of the things that I once enjoyed but was criticized for and no longer pursue. I thought of the activities that I had once judged and the people who did them regardless. I respect and admire those people even more now, and their love and passion for their interests in spite of societal criticism gave me a true and deep appreciation for those various hobbies.
Like the author, I started to believe that there are not enough things that bring great joy in this life to decide that some of them are not worth pursuing, or to dismiss them out of hand. While I haven’t begun any new watercolor paintings yet, and I haven’t gone back to knitting, I have thought more carefully about my hobbies and the reasons that I have for doing or not doing them. If I grew out of something, or don’t enjoy it enough to put time into it, then cool. It’s not for me. But I am grateful for a new perspective on joyful little hobbies, and the encouragement to embrace them and enjoy them for all their worth.
The author also made a converse point; there are a number of hobbies that society, your friends, your partner, and maybe even you think you should do and enjoy that will just never be for you. And that’s ok too. If all of the intelligent people in your life think that you should watch documentaries, and after trying all of their recommendations, you haven’t enjoyed a single one, I want to encourage you to have the freedom to not push yourself to keep trying just because you think you “should”. I have found great freedom in not thinking that I need to keep trying horror or suspense films to prove to others that I can handle them, when I don’t like dark themes, being scared, or anything “gritty”. No, I don’t watch any of the popular TV shows, and I haven’t seen a large portion of the movies that everyone else has. But you know what? The happy, sunshiney TV shows and movies that I did watch brought me great joy, and isn’t that the idea?
So, here’s my encouragement, or the permission you may feel that you need, to
do what you love, let go of what you don’t
and forget all the naysayers. What do they know anyway?