Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

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Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by Enail on Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:18 pm

This touches on things that have come up in a few threads here and there, but I thought it deserved its own thread. We often define ourselves to some extent by our hobbies - and I think it's a pretty good thing to define oneself by if self-definition is called for, "what do I do when my time is totally my own" seems like a pretty good marker for what's important or what someone's like, as far as anything is. And hobbies are often a source of a social group or something you do with friends, too, which is another way people tend to define themselves, "who do I belong with?"

But hobbies aren't static, and they aren't always neutral. You can outgrow a hobby, or decide what it brings to your life is not worth some downside or another, or love the hobby but not the identity, or become unable to do it. Even for the really fundamental ones that felt like an integral part of you.

So I thought it would be interesting to hear about hobbies and how they relate to identity, and what happens when one or the other changes. How do you feel about the relationship between your hobbies and your identity? Do you like what they say about you to others? To yourself? Have you ever lost or left a hobby that was strongly tied to your sense of self? Did you have to find something to replace it, the niche it filled or what it represented to you? How does it change how you see yourself or how you relate to other people?  Do you think hobbies are a good thing to define yourself by (yes, yes, defining yourself too rigidly by any one thing is probably not a great thing to do)?




My particular interest in this because I...don't like reading anymore. I still enjoy stories, the contents of a good book if I force myself to read it, but reading itself leaves me cold and tired and vaguely resentful (and I've never enjoyed audiobooks), like I'm reading in a language I'm not very good at, but without the fun of translation.  There are perfectly sensicle reasons for it, so it's not like it's out of nowhere, but regardless, there's this thing that was a big part of me and my life and my sense of self, and it just...isn't there anymore.

As well as just something I enjoyed, I think of reading as a bit of a signal for "I value/enjoy book learning-style intelligence combined with imagination," which I've found a useful shorthand. And it's also a big part of how I connect with some people, especially people I know less well but like, and I'm not sure how to hang out with them now that I suddenly have nothing to say about something that was a huge part of our conversation previously. And who am I if not a reader?

I've "lost" a few other hobbies recently to lesser degrees, mostly creative activities I'm either limited in how much I do them by physical constraints or I lack the attention span to be very productive with them. It's frustrating, but unlike with reading, I don't just feel like I should find ways to do them, I feel like I have to. I know for sure I'm not me, or that I'm wasting my time as me at least, if I'm not doing those things, so  it's just a question of how to adapt them into a form I can use or to struggle my way to them, I'm driven to do them no matter what. Reading, I just kind of don't want to do anymore, and that feels like that (for now at least). It's a weird sort of thing that I'm not sure how to feel about.

(I am not looking for advice on how to try and enjoy reading again in this thread. Thanks!)
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:35 pm

For me, a hobby is just a hobby, and says nothing about my personality. I get together, in-joke, extrapolate and share the fond memories of it, and they come and go while they change little else about me. Really, any hobby will do for me as long as I get to laugh at poseurs and purists, hatehobbyists and evangelists, and most of all the clueless twats whirring out fill-in-the-blanks thinkpieces on it("X is taking over by commies", "minorities are barred entry from this hobby because of the Y-bro").

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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by bomaye on Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:47 pm

I usually burn myself on a hobby with the "have to" part of it, leave it for a few years, come back to it later, and then wish I hadn't left it because I missed a lot.

Once you start feeling like you have to for a hobby, it's over. Hobbies are fun and progression on your own terms.

I think hobby-as-identity may lean more towards a bad thing, because then you kind of end up connecting with people where that's the only bridge you have with them, and once that bridge starts deteriorating, there's not much else to prop the bridge up. So you either double-down to keep your existing connections, or the bridge falls over and then you're kind of left wondering where to go.
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by CP96 on Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:53 pm

This is an extremely timely thread. Suffice to say I'm currently struggling with this very topic.

Basically, for the last eleven years (wait, that can't be right can it? Really, eleven!? Damn I hate ageing) I've been heavily into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, to the extent that yes I pretty much built my whole personal identity around it. Even when I've had to take time away because of work commitments, I've always known it was there waiting for me to come back to. Being good at it made me feel strong and competent. It was easy to track my improvement and see myself getting better. My self-esteem is heavily tied up in it.

Here's the thing though, I don't really enjoy it all that much anymore. I don't hate it but it's become that thing I do just because it's that thing I do, and not because I really love doing it. On top of that it's been taking a major toll on my body recently, to the extent that I've been carrying at least one injury of some kind or another over the past eight months. Even when not actually injured, I come away from training sessions feeling sore, abraded and stiff. Honestly, I don't really want to do it anymore.

But if I step away from it then who am I? What am I? It's hard to remind myself that taking a break doesn't mean swearing a blood-oath to never return; that I can focus on something else and come back to it if/when the passion rekindles itself. It's also hard to remind myself that taking a break doesn't mean that all the skills and knowledge I've acquired will just drain away, like switching character class in an RPG. I also feel guilty about abandoning my team, even though it's ultimately just a hobby; nobody's livelihoods are on the line, they can get by without me.

I'm getting better at letting go of this stuff, but it still rears its head far too often. For now, I've given myself a long time period to recover from my current injury, during which I can sort out what I actually want and reassess when I'm good to go again.
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by Dan_Brodribb on Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:02 pm

I feel for your story, CP96. Jiu Jitsu was the first and only thing so far I had to quit because it was physically too hard on me. I felt a lot of shame about that. That doesn't sound quite like what you're talking about. It sounds like you've lost your passion for it but don't have anything to replace it with. Is that where you are?

I'm dealing a lot with this subject in general as I move towards the possibility of ordination because monastery training will mean giving up a lot of things. I'm excited, but I'm also grieving. And it's interesting the way my brain reacts to some stuff but not others.

Writing, for example, feels less like a hobby and more of a part of me even if it isn't something I do every day. But it also feels like something I can adapt--I've written fiction, non-fiction, stand-up comedy...it feels like i can find a different way of expressing or nourishing that part of me without necessarily formally sitting in front of a computer. But even though it could take many forms the thought of giving it up is shocking to me in a way other stuff isn't.

Some stuff seems like it should be a big deal--celibacy, wearing robes as opposed to being able to pick and choose how I dress, having my name changed-- but I haven't had much of an emotional reaction. Maybe because some of that stuff is a ways off, but also I think they're so big, it's hard to wrap my heart around it. It almost seems...theoretical.

And sometimes things pop up that seem little, but they hit me more sharply. Thoughts like , "Oh, I won't be able to just go to the public library and grab a random book about anything and spend an afternoon learning about something I know nothing about". Or hearing a song on the radio and going, "Gee, this might be the last time I ever hear this song." Or "Gosh, I've been reading Game of Thrones since the late nineties and now it's super-popular and yet there's a good chance I will never know how it ends."

I think though, the point of monastic life, at least in our tradition, is to engage with that question enail asked about "who am I, if not X?" and bring it front and center.

I think having that question sprung on you out unexpectedly through losing a job, physical or health issues, relationship status changes (marriage, divorce,widowhood), or even our own changing tastes can really be disorienting. Especially if it seems on the surface to be a small or superficial change.

I think when something changes in our life, we also forget that one change also brings with it a number of smaller changes. Losing a hobby might mean also losing a social group and gaining more time than we know what to do with. Getting married isn't just gaining a spouse, it might mean a loss of time or independence or gaining relationships with a whole new family who does things in different ways with whole different levels of expectations.


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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by eselle28 on Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:38 pm

I've had a bit of that with gaming, though to a less extreme degree. I'm playing a game right now. But I've drifted away from it over the years, and while I used to seek out and research exciting new things to play, now I play a couple a year and tend to dither over and struggle to finish them. I'd already been pretty distanced from the identity and from the community aside from a couple of close friends, but it puzzled me when I realized that I didn't have much of an urge to start up a new game and that I had vastly more patience for familiar, no-longer-challenging games and casual, clicky ones than I did with things that should be exciting and challenging. I bought Fallout 4, made it through the introduction, and then wandered back to my crochet project and to goofing around in World of Warcraft with a couple of friends.

What's replaced it has been talking with my gaming buddies while doing things other than gaming, various sewing-related tasks, and spending more time on housework. It feels...uncool, sort of. Gaming isn't traditionally cool, but I was used to identifying as a Nerdy Woman and there was something I liked about sticking it out in a hobby that was a bit hostile toward me. In comparison, much of what I'm doing now seems to align more with the Cat Lady persona and also isn't as easily discussed with the average person I run into - nerdy as gaming may be, there are far more people who've played The Witcher than who have anything to say about cross stitching. It's also a much more stereotypically female way to spend time, and I'm both uncomfortable with that and uncomfortable with the fact that it makes me uncomfortable. Ultimately, I think I probably have some biases in my head about what a good way to spend free time is, and I need to work through them a bit.

This shift is kind of mild. I have had a pretty severe one that wasn't about hobbies, when I realized that, "I'm a really driven person who made some career choices that are tough to change at this point and ended up in a field that doesn't really suit me," no longer applied so much to me and that a more accurate statement was now, "I'm not a super ambitious person." That one was particularly tough because I'd used it as a strong point to contrast with weaker points like feeling insecure about my looks or never having been popular socially or not having had my love life work out the way I would have planned it to.
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by Dan_Brodribb on Thu Nov 19, 2015 2:10 pm

eselle28 wrote:I

What's replaced it has been talking with my gaming buddies while doing things other than gaming, various sewing-related tasks, and spending more time on housework. It feels...uncool, sort of. Gaming isn't traditionally cool, but I was used to identifying as a Nerdy Woman and there was something I liked about sticking it out in a hobby that was a bit hostile toward me. ...It's also a much more stereotypically female way to spend time, and I'm both uncomfortable with that and uncomfortable with the fact that it makes me uncomfortable. Ultimately, I think I probably have some biases in my head about what a good way to spend free time is, and I need to work through them a bit.

I had a similar experience a couple months ago when I turned down a wrestling tour in favor of spending more time with my nephews. I like to think of myself as Interesting and Adventurous and Willing to Walk on the Wild Side where few dare to tread, so it was a blow to my self-image to turn down an opportunity to do just that in favor of changing diapers and reading stories and other Ordinary Joe Citizen-Boring bullshit.

Of course, knowing what I do now about the direction I'm taking my life, it was probably one of the best choices I could have made..

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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by bomaye on Sat Nov 28, 2015 8:31 am

So one thing about identity stuff for me too is that by calling myself a fan of something or that I have an interest in it, that I must know everything and keep up on everything about it.

I've been a Canucks fan and watched a bunch of other things since about 2001ish, and I've been finding lately that it's more intrusive than not. Two and a half hours three to four times per week, with commercials, has gotten pretty tiresome unless it's a big game or something like the playoffs or a tournament. I've been recording games on the PVR(DVR) instead of watching them live and find I've just been fast forwarding to see the goals, watching the last few minutes and overtime. I could probably just dispense with even that and just read the game report or watch highlights the next day. I think I've very much enjoyed reading about sports over the years than watching them for the most part, and that takes a lot less time <_<

The thing that's been kind of keeping me in was how it's been associated with a lot of things over the years: it's one of the primary ways I've interacted with my dad, it's one of the primary ways I interacted with my gramma and grand aunt before the passed away in the later years, about half of my IRL friend group (now far-flung and mostly out of touch) over the years were guys that I primarily talked hockey with, even a lot of my T-Shirts and the touque I wear everywhere have sports logos on them.

Most of that is gone now, and excepting the playoffs or the World Juniors or something like that, which I can still get it up for, or maybe the odd time where I want to watch a game or a certain team, it's probably gonna be one of those things I back off of going forward.
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by jcorozza on Sat Nov 28, 2015 11:39 am

So, I've always felt at odds with my love of volleyball. I really enjoy the game, but more often than not, I don't like the other people who play. I used to do rec with my local community center, but a lot of the players were 30s-40s men who assume that because I have ladyparts, and because I'm 5'4", that I can't be any good. Even after proving myself a value member of the team over and over, if I make any mistake at all, I get a "how to" from a guy who is often not as skilled as I am. Which makes me ragey, and then my playing gets worse.

I tried rec women's league for a bit, too, but just found that I had nothing in common personality-wise with the other women.

On the other hand, board games are a big part of my identity, and the basis of my circle of friends. Even if we don't always like the same games, I've found a lot of great people through board-gaming, so I hope it's something I won't grow out of soon!
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by Enail on Sat Nov 28, 2015 2:02 pm

Jcorozza, I've had the same thing with something I like tending to attract people I don't or vice versa. Most of the students in my department for my MA, I was somewhere between "we just don't get each other" and actively annoying, to the point where I was kind of uncomfortable identifying with my field of study (even though a lot the professors,especially the older ones, were people I could imagine myself being friends with if we had been in school at the same time instead of them being my professors and 3+ times my age). OTOH, when I briefly joined the SCA, I really wanted to keep it up just because I liked a lot of the people in it, but I found most of the actual time at meetups either boring or not to my taste, and there was a lot of pressure to go to a million things a week.
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by sky on Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:17 pm

Enail wrote:As well as just something I enjoyed, I think of reading as a bit of a signal for "I value/enjoy book learning-style intelligence combined with imagination," which I've found a useful shorthand. And it's also a big part of how I connect with some people, especially people I know less well but like, and I'm not sure how to hang out with them now that I suddenly have nothing to say about something that was a huge part of our conversation previously. And who am I if not a reader?

It might be that some of them use reading as a shorthand for book learning-style intelligence and imagination too, which could make it possible to connect over other topics or activities that you associate with those same qualities.

For myself, I find that for the people I meet and connect with through a hobby, we only become close if we are able to connect in more ways than just the hobby. I have lots of sort-of-friends that I see and enjoy at hobby events, but don't seek out or miss at other times.

jcorozza wrote:So, I've always felt at odds with my love of volleyball. I really enjoy the game, but more often than not, I don't like the other people who play. I used to do rec with my local community center, but a lot of the players were 30s-40s men who assume that because I have ladyparts, and because I'm 5'4", that I can't be any good. Even after proving myself a value member of the team over and over, if I make any mistake at all, I get a "how to" from a guy who is often not as skilled as I am. Which makes me ragey, and then my playing gets worse.

I have had this same problem with volleyball, and with other sports as well. I wonder if it's because sports are enjoyable to such a wide variety of people, that it can be so hard to find the combination of sport you like and players you also like.
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Re: Hobbies, Identity and Changes [disc, no adv]

Post by Kiskadee on Wed Dec 02, 2015 4:27 pm

sky wrote:It might be that some of them use reading as a shorthand for book learning-style intelligence and imagination too, which could make it possible to connect over other topics or activities that you associate with those same qualities.

For myself, I find that for the people I meet and connect with through a hobby, we only become close if we are able to connect in more ways than just the hobby. I have lots of sort-of-friends that I see and enjoy at hobby events, but don't seek out or miss at other times.

Yes, I think it's helpful to identify what parts of a former hobby were most important to you. For me at least, interests shift somewhat, but I tend to always fill the same hobby categories in my life. Like, a creative one, a cooking type one, outdoors one, exercise one, etc. The shift away from a previously-important, no-longer-important or no-longer possible hobby is easier when you have other things that sort of fill the same need in your life, in my opinion anyway.

I agree about the friends/community you make around a hobby - unless you are able to and want to connect with them on a broader level (about their lives and personalities in general), it seems unlikely that these friendships would survive any major changes (of which going out of a hobby would be only one).

Lately the hardest thing for me had been that I identify strongly as someone with a lot of interests, but my depression has gotten bad enough that if I'm being honest with myself, I'd rather do absolutely nothing. And I find this kind of upsetting/at odds with my self-image. (but I force myself to keep up things I used to like more, since I know that doing nothing is extremely counterproductive).
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