Useless Hobbies

After a while, “hobbies” also start becoming “work”. As you progress in them, and get better at them, your own expectations of your “performance” in the hobbies goes up, and consequently you’ll stop enjoying as much as you used to.

For example, over seven years back writing started as a hobby. I started writing for myself, and managed to get some readers. I continued writing, and the readership grew. Soon I realized I was writing for an audience, so I’d to be more conscious about what I wrote. I got some articles published, and that upped expectations further, and now that I think of writing being a possible avenue of income-supplementation sometime in the future, it has ceased to be a hobby.

It was the same with the game of chess. Back when I was 12 years old, I started playing competitively. The first few tournaments were good. I may not have done that well, but I enjoyed it enough to think of playing at higher levels. I hired a coach, went for a few more tournaments, and soon found that I was buckling under my own pressure. And I had this particular weakness under incandescent lamps, and would blunder away in all my evening matches. Tournaments would be frequently followed by fever. Soon I stopped enjoying it, and at the ripe old age of fourteen, I “retired”. I still can’t enjoy a simple game of chess without being worked up. It’s not a hobby any more.

In this context, it is always useful to have a couple of things to do that you’re not so good at, so that you have no expectations of yourself, and you can just have a good time while “performing” the hobby. It was the reason I bought a guitar (having been trained in the Carnatic classical style in the violin; speaking of which you HAVE to read this Krish Ashok post; completely empathize with that), and have decided to not learn it formally, but generally strum it. Playing the guitar gives me mental peace, because I have no expectations out of it.

It was on a similar note that I took up the sketch book and pencil (helps having an artist wife, which ensures supplies of such materials at home) and drew that thamma hazare caricature. Later on that evening, I flipped around the page of the sketch book, borrowed paints from the wife and started painting. Randomly. It did help that I’m a horrible painter. That meant I didn’t set any expectations for myself. I felt totally at peace at the end of it.

So along with your “regular hobbies”, which you can use to fill up your resume, it’s important to have a portfolio of “useless hobbies”, stuff you aren’t good at, since those are the ones that will give you “inner peace”.

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