In search of a hobby

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The thing I like most about being semi-retired is that I have some free time to do what I want to do.

The thing I dislike about being semi-retired is I can’t decide what to do. I have many friends who have become immersed in a retirement hobby, developing their skills to a professional level.

Friends and family members who always puttered around in the yard, have completed course work to be Master Gardeners. Teachers who took kids on field trips now are professional tour guides. Women who sewed buttons and hems, now create quilted works of art. Weekend golfers travel the country on a quest to play a round in every state.

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I am completely in awe of those persons who hone in on an activity perfectly suited to them and then pursue it to perfection and success. By that I do mean personal satisfaction. Certainly, the key to long term enjoyment of a hobby is exploring options over time. It is helpful to have some experience with an activity before launching into it. It makes sense. You can make more satisfying choices if there is a base of knowledge on which to make commitments.

If only I could figure it out. What do I enjoy doing and why do I like doing it?

In my years of hobby shopping, I have been motivated on a number of fronts. Mostly, I get roped in by a friend or family member. It is always more fun to share a hobby experience, at least at the beginning. There is someone to run interference when problems arise in a project, or participate in a class, or travel to an event.

But a real hobby is an activity in which a person will eventually immerse him or herself all on his or her own. It is the time in a day which is all for the individual alone. There can be a social element to a hobby, but when it comes right down to it, the activity belongs to just one person, you. You define the scope of the activity. You set the rules and expectations.

One characteristic of a hobby is the acquisition of the equipment needed. One thing I have learned is there is necessary equipment and then there is over the top equipment. There are items which are basic. Over the centuries all a quilter needed was a needle and thread, some fabric, and a cutting device.

The popularity of quilting has led to a surge in the industry. While the all-purpose fabric store may be hard to come by, there are specialty quilting stores everywhere. There are the all in acquisitions which are icing on the cake. There is a ruler and a template for virtually every size and shape of quilt piece one might ever desire. A long-arm quilting machine can be programmed to quilt the finished, pieced top in hundreds of patterns.

I enjoy quilting. I fall into the basic category. Most of the time, I piece and quilt by hand. I do use a rotary cutter rather than scissors and I have a cutting mat to preserve table tops. I have a basic sewing machine which is serviceable for curtain making, and any odd sewing job, too. Most of my projects are UFO’s. Shorthand for items not finished. I thoroughly enjoy learning a new block, the history of fabrics and patterns, stitching skills. Am I totally immersed to the point of exclusivity? No.

Through the years, I have taken up running. I run because it makes me feel better. I have no lofty goals beyond a good sweat and a fairly regular pace. I do run alone and I do have dedicated shoes for the purpose. I wear whatever is clean and appropriate for the weather. I don’t remember the last time I purchased advertised running clothes. Some days I run and some days I don’t. I always run outside. If the weather is bad, I don’t run. Is it a hobby?

In the last few years, I have experienced stained glass restoration, gardening, floor cloth painting, paper making, cooking, leather work, tin punching, basket weaving, Shaker taping, weaving, bridge, writing, fly tying and fishing, all manner of needle work, and so on. Still on the list and beckoning for my attention are wicker restoration, doll house and furniture building, and model trains.

I don’t have a hobby to completely engage me in my spare time. I have not mastered any one skill. I also have not expended large sums of money to try something. When I want to be creative, I just have to go down to the basement, the yard, or the sewing room, and there is something to do and something to do it with.

On the day that my children have to deal with all my unfinished experiments and the bits and pieces, I hope they will be kind. Afterall, one of them has the restored antique stained glass window, each has a quilted wall hanging or throw, and another a one of a kind wedding dress.

And I’m not finished yet.