Do I Even Have Time for All My Hobbies?

What happened to all that random fun crap I used to do?!

I guess I just got older and busier. Boo-hoo, that’s what happens to pretty much everyone. And yet I’m gonna talk more about it, and how I subconsciously vetted my hobbies to make the most of them.

Let’s go back in time, starting from the latest interest I added to the pile (and no…no, none of these are athletic):

Gamebooks and Solo Tabletop Games

Waves of people became interested in solitaire TTRPGs, Choose Your Own Adventure-style books, and the like during the pandemic. I was no different. After watching a YouTube video about wildly ambitious and imaginative gamebooks, I started thinking a little less about video games, started wondering about all the possibilities of analog. I browsed, picked up a game or two, and thought, “This is really somethin’! Surely gamebooks and solo play will be ‘my thing’ now.”

Then I kinda didn’t buy any more.

Three years later, I moved to The Big City. And I found another YouTube video where a guy basically said, “Whenever you find a gamebook at a thrift store (which, of course, frequently happens), you’ve gotta pick it up.” And I thought, “What the fuck? I’ve never seen one! But then again, maybe I haven’t looked closely enough.”

So I ventured out into the city and dedicated some free time to scouring stores. A random Goodwill and random Salvation Army…and the mother of all used bookstores.

I came out with three books. One was in Slovak so I couldn’t actually read it.

Now and then, I’ve gotten that urge to dive into a Fighting Fantasy game or other classic gamebook as a PDF on my computer. Not lately, though. Partly because I lack the time. This hobby is in total hibernation.

Constructed Languages

In my last year of high school, my sibling left for college…and I guess that would’ve been the impetus for me to study conlangs in such depth. Specifically, I was deeply interested in Lojban and generally playing with “secret” or artistic language. To the point that if you see my old journals, they look like the work of a serial killer (one who liked anime).

But I never linked up with anyone else learning the language. By the time more artsy Lojbanists actually DID spring up and reach out, I was entering college and had no free time to spare. (Ironically, my college entrance essay was about learning Lojban…and then being alone as I learned Lojban.) By now I’ve forgotten so much of what I learned because outside of the niche, Lojban is, naturally, somewhat useless. So are Toki Pona and (SORRY) Esperanto, which are a solid #2 and #3 on my Favorite Conlangs That I Also Partially Learned list. I’m continually dreaming of finding someone to partner up with and practice some language together, but I just haven’t found anyone. Conlang learning as a hobby is also in total, deep hibernation.

NON-Constructed Languages

Now we’re talking. Maybe. Though I took Spanish as a subject in school throughout my life (please don’t ask me to say anything, I never practiced speaking or writing in ANY wider-world scenarios), I wasn’t deeply interested in languages, or language period, until middle school, when I started studying Japanese on a whim. Later I would take first-year Mandarin, first-year Arabic, and stare-at-book-on-Greek-for-five-seconds.

This too fell into hibernation. But recently I said to myself, “I feel kind of amorphously bored and dissatisfied with life. Maybe if I start studying a language again, and stick to it, then I’ll find it kinda rewarding and relaxing, just like the good ol’ days.”

So I recently started studying Latin. The big one. The real scary one. Then I stopped studying it because it was hard and I got distracted and had too much work to do.

Exploring the Land of Music

I’ve loved video game music ever since I was 12 and the Angry Video Game Nerd told me to like Mega Man music. A few years later I started getting into progressive rock, because TVTropes told me that the video game Plok’s music was similar to progressive rock. This is how heroes are born.

Over time—influenced yet again, and yet more, by other people’s YouTube videos reviewing music—I’ve greatly enjoyed going out and finding great artists and bands. But also, and very perversely, I may be even more interested in finding artists and bands perceived as cheesy or uncool in some way. If an artist is both, then all the better. But so many are not both.

The trap I keep falling into, though, is believing that I can never listen to anything new unless I have “the ideal listening conditions.” I must be calm, the room must be empty, I cannot be doing anything else but the most menial of tasks (one example: laundry). That means I rarely put on anything new to me that I’m seriously curious about. Goodbye, Tunage.

Watching Serialized TV Shows

Anime changed my life, Korean dramas showed me strife, All in the Family gave me a wife (not really). I used to follow TV shows doggedly and with real excitement. Now I don’t make that initial commitment to even begin to follow a TV show, so I miss out on the chance to feel that.

My most recent watch that you can call serialized was The Prisoner. That show is so good. Then it hits a string of episodes that are not so good, or that are nothing but “good.” That’s where I am now, and I haven’t watched any more in months. It’s not even because my heart is broken. It’s just because it’s not on my mind very much. I never even have the idea to restart that commitment.

Watching YouTube Videos

I feel so bad about counting this as a hobby that I very nearly left it out. But…why do I feel so bad? Probably because it’s my one social media habit. Probably because most videos I watch feel so much more lightweight than most books. Because they’re so much easier to turn to than pretty much everything else on this list.

But that’s also the source of their staying power. There’s simply nothing else I’ve got that can be taken in while I’m doing a slightly more noisy and demanding menial task than folding laundry, like cooking food. And there’s some excitement in following a channel with someone’s personal stamp on it, with that touch, that level of care and fun and passion.

Nonetheless, I no longer click immediately on a new album upload from Terminal Passage. Videos that would once have been “big events that I must watch tonight!!!” are now saved, maybe, for the end of the week.

I find that now I’m more selective with and dissatisfied with a lot of my YouTube watching. Stuff I would have inhaled five years ago is more boring to me now, just because I’ve seen it before and I know how the average video essay or exposé goes.

Another reason I watch less is because I don’t draw as much as I used to. Sometimes hobbies go together, and in this case, I had enough time to dedicate to drawing comics and finishing other little pieces in college that I might just have a video playing on my computer while I sketched either on paper, a tablet, or on another screen of the same exact laptop. That is so much rarer for me now.

Reading Comics

You would not believe the stacks of library manga my sibling and I would pile in the car. They might cover the minivan floor at first, but by and by, all (or at least the good ones) would be read. Comics from the library and requested through Interlibrary Loan would actually be a top selling point of our summer vacations.

It’s very very rare now that I even pick a comic up. They’re just never on my reading list. I have to go out of my way for them.

Playing Video Games

The true sign of adulthood is the fact that the last video game I played was solitaire-online-dot-com, or maybe sudoku-online-dot-com. The purpose of playing these games wasn’t to become deeply engrossed in the experience, it was simply to give my mind something to do in between work, like a brief and vaguely rigorous exercise that would gently get me back in the working zone.

I have unplayed game downloads that I fully expect to touch once or never. They’re just not what I turn to for leisure anymore, which is incredible, considering how much they dominated my youth, and how much many of my friends still play them for hours when they can.

And now we have gone back in time to what feel like…

My Primordial Hobbies?

Besides playing video games, there was also:

  • Watching random cartoons, whatever was on
  • Playing board games
  • Reading
  • Doodling
  • Chatting
  • Writing
  • Making up stories

My first “book,” created at age 4, was a stack of stapled construction paper titled Flying Judy. In it, a girl named Judy watches as people go flying by her house. She can’t fly, but then by holding a magic stone, she joins in too. I’m not sure what children’s show introduced the concept of “the magic stone” to me, but there it is.

A few months ago, I was distressed about all the hobbies I had let shrivel into nothing but overlooked interests. I made a loose schedule for myself, a guide that seemed to ensure I would always have a chance, at least once a week, to do a little bit of everything. I barely used it.

I saw very clearly then that most of my old hobbies were, in a sense, things I was forced into doing because there were no better-looking options. I played with whatever stuff was in the house. Critically, at school I doodled like the wind because I thought school was boring, and paper and pencil were always at hand. Only then did I begin to seriously love drawing—and inadvertently create another hobby I no longer have too much time for.

I also realized that I had never been doing everything at once. It wasn’t like I was loving Spanish at age 4 while also gaming while also devising my own languages while also completing a full novel. Heck, I wasn’t even keeping up with Avatar: The Last Airbender when it was first coming out. I never did every single thing I found interesting within a single week. Pretty much nobody does, and those who do might only count them on one hand.

Vetting and Condensing My Hobbies for Fun and Profit?

It’s one thing to subscribe to Spanish-language documentaries on YouTube and then only watch one once a month (if that), but it’s another thing to be actively on top of a hobby, watching it—feeling it—grow and change, getting better at a craft, learning more about something new, seeing what’s out there in the creative world.

Today, most of my schedule is work. Some is food or forcing myself to take meditative, low-stimulation breaks. But there are a few things I reliably make time for. These almost feel like my bare minimum, but obviously nothing is a bare minimum above just-plain food, water, and shelter. They are:

  • Writing. I am a writer, I love writing, I have stories I’m dying to write, when I’m not writing I’m still puzzling through characters and plots—I’m just going to do this no matter what. And if I manage to dedicate a few hours to it per week, all the better.
  • Keeping a dedicated random-writing/doodling book handy. Even if I don’t actually draw that often, at least I sketch and have fun with letters a few times per month.
  • Reading prose or non-fiction at night and on public transit. I count about 13 books sitting in my room that, in theory, I will read. Plus, I have to finish them (I’ve decided) so that I can free myself up for the mild euphoria of finding a new, exciting, never-before-seen book in the wild and simply picking it up.
  • Learning Latin. This shit has too many declensions.
  • Watching YouTube videos. Just not every single video breakdown of Grimm or whatever. Sometimes there really is a keeper.
  • Attending weekly Board Game Night. Frankly, this is my only form of socialization with people I didn’t just meet in college. It also scratches my game-playing and game-design-learning itch.
  • Finding new dance music (um…new to me. this shit is old). I never feel bad about not having “the ideal conditions” to hear it because I actively exercise to it. Don’t watch me dance; my rhythm is terrible. Whatever keeps me motivated to sweat must be preserved.

The third-to-last one will never stop feeling like a bit of a vice to me. The last two are kind of indispensable for the shred of socialization and physical activity they keep me doing. All the rest of these hobbies, though, are not only pretty close to my “primordial hobbies,” they also feed into each other and link up. Learning any language gets me thinking about how language works, and I love braining on syntax and the shapes of words. Doodling and playing helps loosen my mind; thinking creatively in one sphere helps me generate writing ideas for another. And so on.

Yeah, constructed languages are cool, but a language as frequently used as Latin just opens more pathways and opportunities because it includes so much more stuff to read, and is more entwined in so many cultures, even if old and crusty. Finding a Latin slogan in the wild and learning from a translation right next to it—or better, translating it on the spot—is so rewarding.

Yeah, video games and anime also help me relax and give me creative ideas. But—again stating it coldly—they’re not as closely tied to my deeper and more formative love of writing.

The amount of free time I have has vastly changed. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those rigorous planners who stays on schedule for whole months, or who consciously “maximizes” their time to get the most efficient language or writing practice out of every day—that just sounds too stressful and too stiff for me. But I don’t regret or feel bad about what I’ve come to.

I often see people mourning their nostalgic lost childhoods, the time when they played seemingly endless video games on a seemingly endless summertime sea. And whenever I see this, I stubbornly refuse to join in. I simply hate the idea of seeing my youth as a lost idyll.

In the end, the only reason I had those days is because other people—who had lost their own childhoods—were taking care of me. I got to indulge in my hobbies because I wasn’t helping anyone else.

I’m fortunate now in that my job makes it very obvious when I’ve helped people or done something that satisfies me. If I were, say, fundraising in a call center, just about all I’d have to show for this adult world might be day after day of frustrated listeners and zero results. And I’m lucky to have the people in my life that I have. Far too many people can’t say the same.

I have what I have. It is good.

I can’t have as many varied, relaxed creative experiences as I did back then. But my old self never finished a story over twenty pages, so take that!

My Writer Accountability Report: Slow and Steady…Wait, Not Steady

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog enough, I decided months ago to keep myself on track as a writer via bimonthly progress reports on this very blog. This time around…I still haven’t finished formatting the ebook for Catgirl System book 2 because I got super-sidetracked with work. Such is life. Also, admittedly I also got sidetracked with hobbies. But man, I’ve gotta dance. I gotta shake those sillies out! It’s not like I’m dancing for hours per day!

Then I need to take a giant step into Book 3 editing. I’m so so so so close to being able to start with that, and I know I said more or less the same thing in my last post, but…it’s still true. This accountability update is having its intended effect of shaming me. If I don’t make real progress within the next two weeks, I’m gonna be double-shamed. Once I clear away the other work…it’s cat time.

I’ll end this post by thanking the readers who’ve been keeping up with Catgirl System so far! It’s been fun and rewarding to read everyone’s responses. Whether or not the story will ever reach RoyalRoad’s main Rising Stars, it will always be a Rising Star in our hearts. Or…my heart. Maybe yours is just a normal heart.

Thank you for reading, and Patrons, thank you for Patreonning.

For more random exuberance, snack and smile on the very best of 4Kids theme songs (yes, I said “best,” not “blurst”). Stand agog as I watch Fluke and then, for some reason, review it. You can also browse all my sniffling, scuffling, and snuffling about living laughing loving as an artist arty arting.

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