This week, I bid on two puzzles on eBay. One was a “Majestic Tiger Grotto” that looks like a scene fresh out of Tiger King; the other, a retro junk food compilation. If you asked me six months ago whether I’d be in a bidding war for a technicolor tiger puzzle, I’d have given you several side-eye emojis. Yet here we are! Staying at home has not only given me time to reflect on long-passed interests, but it’s also made me bold enough to embrace many of them.
I’ve been doing an exercise with myself recently where I think back to some of the things that brought me joy when I was a kid. I try to go deep back into my memories to explicitly document each detail of what made me so happy at the time. I think back to making dioramas and decorating doll houses or picking out puzzles from a puzzle catalog. Some, I made; others, I couldn’t afford.
Then came the turning point: adolescence. That’s when I started being self-conscious in a way I never was before. I realized those hobbies, according to my peer group, pop culture, and advertising, were decidedly NOT cool and I needed to hide those interests or risk a lifetime membership alone in the dork club. So I put puzzles and dollhouse decorating aside and went full on into hair metal magazines, boy bands, and other appropriately cool interests (hey, it was the 90’s!). One thing led to another and most of those interests got long forgotten and left in childhood.
Maybe it took being on the other side of 40 or maybe it took a pandemic (or possibly both) for me to realize that I don’t really care about coolness anymore and I’d rather have unique interests that bring me joy. Of course, it helps not really needing to fit in anymore! There’s no social status to maintain, no cliques, and no risk of being alone without a buddy at my lunch table.
Now that we all have a bit of downtime, this seems like a good chance to reconnect with our past selves and reconnect with the things that used to give us joy (they still can!). When we were kids, we were limited by many different factors, from access to supplies, from our small allowance budgets to what skills we could master. Now we don’t have any of that to worry about! Sure, we now have work and family and bills and a house to clean and responsibilities to keep, but we also have our own will and our own decision-making power. And that can lead to a ton of fun pursuits.
My wish is for you to go into this exercise with an open mind and open heart. Don’t worry if you find a business opportunity or a hobby that can make money or something to fill up your social media page. It’s fine if all those things happen, but try to resist the urge to make this about anything else besides just seeking joy and having fun. It’s a great time to give your mind a rest and allow it the creativity it needs to problem-solve and be there for you during your most responsible roles.
Here’s a couple of ways to help with your pursuits:
- Take 10-15 minutes to think and write about your past hobbies and interests. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you like to do? Be as specific as possible. Were there interests you had that you gave up on? Do you think they would still bring you joy?
- Find one of your favorite books from when you were a kid. You might even be able to find the same edition that you once had. It’s amazing to flip through the pages and have your memories reawakened. I snagged an old copy of The Young Naturalist’s Handbook and rediscovered my love for nature illustration.
- Think about interests that you never had the time to pursue. Would you like to give them a second try?
- Confide in a friend about your memories, then piggy-back off of each other’s memories. This is especially fun if you’re of the same generation and can help each other recall long-lost interests.
- Blast it on social media – not for likes but to show you’re proud of your geekiest pursuits! I did this and something magical happened. Other women commented and jumped on board, feeling empowered to share their own “uncool’ hobbies and interests. You could inspire someone else!
- Add your present-day personality to your pursuits. Just recreating your childhood can be kind of lame, so give it an adult reboot by including your modern interests and values.
- See if there’s a way to help in your community through your interests. One lady in my neighborhood is making gorgeous custom hand-painted bird feeders to lift neighbors’ spirits. It’s become a bit of a mini-viral sensation. How could your talents help someone?