Thursday, April 25, 2013
Please don't use the h-word
I have a brother who has to run regularly to feel like himself and another who has to play guitar. They have both done these things long enough that, I believe, without access to these activities, they are not fully themselves. Not that they've ever said this, exactly, but I'm extrapolating because the pen in the hand serves a similar place in my life. Doing art of one kind or another can get me out of bed at 5 in the morning or keep me up till midnight, and this is true whether or not I'm getting paid for them. Projects have been known to occupy my dreams. I do not feel at all casual about art or writing.
If you have some activity or pursuit like this in your life, you are lucky. The downside is that when you can't do your thing, you feel a little unhinged, and perhaps less alive. The upside is that by doing your thing, even in the midst of temporary chaos, you have a route to some measure of sanity.
All of this is to explain my allergy to the word "hobby." Useful as it is to separate vocational work from that done for non-vocational pursuits, it's often used by people who don't do stuff to trivialize the stuff other people do. Whereas I find that the runners and musicians and sketchbook-keepers of the world, many of whom do other things to make money, bring startling passion to these non-paid efforts. They are not likely to stop these activities on a Friday and take up stamp-collecting on Monday. (Nor, I assume, would the fervent stamp enthusiast stop collecting stamps to take up jogging as a replacement time filler.)
If you meet someone who needs direction in life -- a young person, perhaps, or someone at loose ends after a breakup with a mate or a job -- don't suggest they find a hobby. Use the p-word. Help them locate their passion.