At the beginning of lockdown last March, the world seemed to burst into excitement at the prospect of wearing sweatpants to work, baking banana bread and whipping coffee. Those days are long behind us now and the past year has gradually wrapped us all in a grey veil of pandemic fatigue.
Despite plans to reopen public establishments bit by bit, it is very likely that we’re still looking at months of reduced social interactions. And once we do go back to a life similar to the one we used to know, this unprecedented time will have inevitably shaped the way we view the world and ourselves.
What the past year has proven is that hobbies can be incredibly useful in helping us to cope with uncertainty. During the past 12 months, I tried to learn 3 new languages (French, Swedish, Gaelic), started embroidering pet bandanas with Gilmore Girls quotes and learned how to differentiate eagles from the ground without binoculars, to name a few new hobbies of mine.
Despite knowing that all these distractions were crucial in getting me through the COVID hurricane, I’d like to believe I have learned a valuable lesson: hobbies are meant to be for yourself only, and that knowledge will keep me entertained, occupied and sane for a very long time.
Before you ask yourself what you like to do, remember that hobbies are not about productivity and do not need to be based on your talents. You don’t need to turn them into a business. You don’t even need to be good at them. Love knitting but don’t want to deal with the headache of figuring out cutting patterns to make a cardigan? Feel free to knit 40 straight scarves, never straying from one design, never adding a different color. Love watercolors but can’t get the different layers of mountains right? Paint for the sake of painting and not to open your own gallery. Hobbies are for you.
Ask yourself if there was something that used to interest you when you were younger but that you lost touch with as the responsibilities of adulthood lured you into the false belief that only things society considers productive are worth your time.
Read a book that may be considered lowbrow, that you may have been telling yourself is a waste of time, just to remember what it’s like to thoroughly enjoy a book and read for fun, not necessarily for knowledge.
If you want to learn something new, you have lots of options. Listen to a podcast, for instance, about a topic you’ve never done any research on and immerse yourself in this new subject area. This can be anything from Arctic vehicles to what flowers can grow in the desert.
Take advantage of the major progress the virtual world has made over the last year. Traveling was the hardest thing to give up for me but I found great ways to stay in touch with the countries and cities I was meant to visit in 2020.
You can join a virtual whisky tasting in the Highlands of Scotland, roam the Guggenheim in New York City or learn Japanese in Tokyo without ever leaving your bed. Take a cooking class for every cuisine imaginable or simply buy a cookbook and cook your way through it on your own terms.
Turn your dining room into a French café, pop a fireplace on YouTube on your TV and pretend you’re in a Swiss lodge. Dress up in the outfit you thought you’d wear in London and stroll along your nearest shopping street.
The power of imagination can turn the Main river into a Venetian canal. If you bring some Stroop Waffles for a picnic, it turns into a Dutch park. (Check out Rheinland-Pfalz Army MWR – Kaiserslautern on facebook for great virtual events, tastings and more.)
Consider adding yoga, running or exercising with youtube or online instructors to your daily routine and you will greatly benefit from this for the rest of your life. Remember that meditation is not just useful when you’re feeling stuck like you may be now: it has a preventative effect as well and there are many free and affordable apps to help you get started.
Lastly, don’t feel bad if you didn’t pick up any new hobbies and don’t want to either. Lockdown has been different for everyone and there is no use in comparing yourself to others who started a family, a business, or a popular TikTok account.
This pandemic has brought out a new need for combined selfishness and selflessness. Look out for others by staying home whenever you can but put yourself first and don’t beat yourself up about not having changed out of your pajamas in a week or Netflix telling you you’ve watched every show released in the last 30 years. It’s okay. You’re doing amazing.
Story by Leonie Milde
Photo by MilanMarkovic78