These times have been trying, there’s no getting around it.
Some people have been binging all types of media. Some are baking more banana bread than they ever have before. Some are drinking. (No judgement, honestly.) And me? Up until quarantine, adulthood hobbies had turned into a cliche. I went out drinking. I went to the gym. I gossiped at brunch about people who were trying harder than me and had a lot more to show for it.
Those hobbies weren’t all that fulfilling in the best of times, and in the worst of times (aka 2020) they weren’t possible. I had to ask myself: What were my hobbies? I had to go back, back to a time when I had fulfilling hobbies that made me happy. Back to when I only had one friend and if she was busy at a family function, I had to make do on my own. In my bedroom. With no car to escape with or drugs to do for distraction. Back to middle school.
What did I like to do in middle school? I liked to read. So I read books that have been on my shelf for ages. I excitedly tore through the pages of the Percy Jackson series for the first time. I recommend reading books that aren’t challenging; you don’t have to constantly better yourself or do work. You can do things just because they’re fun. What a relief. Childhood hobbies are worthwhile even if they aren’t productive, even if they don’t inspire growth. The kind of fun I want to encourage is the silly kind of fun.
So while you read the books that have been growing dusty on your shelf, let yourself contort like you did in your youth. I used to read in my closet or upside down in a chair, so I tried that. What did I do once my back hurt from sitting upside down in a chair while reading? I liked to draw and paint. So I ordered a great set of alcohol based markers. I used Youtube tutorials in a way that little me would have loved. I broke out the old sketchbook, gave lots of love and admiration to little Nik’s creations, and made some new ones. They weren’t artwork prepared for a show or with a deadline, they were doodles and sketches and having fun with a new medium. Silly little doodles.
For the first time ever, I’m going to try to do Inktober, where you use a list of prompts to create a drawing every day of the month. I’ve stopped trying to be the best or make something postworthy. This is NOT going to end up like my middle school drawings, splashed all over DeviantArt where I can cringe and hope nobody knows it was me.
I used to love writing stories, for my eyes only, that were creative and maybe didn’t always make the most sense. One of my favorite stories that I wrote as a kid involved a huge waterfall in the middle of London. I still remember how my mom made fun of me because that wasn’t a real thing. It hurt my feelings and I never showed her a story again. Childhood trauma, anyone? I now have lovely friends who never need to read my stories, unless they want to. I can validate myself. Or I can sell one that makes sense to GO magazine and the money in my pocket is all the validation I need. (Swag.)
I liked to help people. I volunteered in high school because making the world a better place brings me joy. And also because my guidance counselor said I had to if I wanted to get into a good college. During quarantine I started volunteering with LGBTQ+ youth. Sometimes it drains my energy, but it’s good to feel like I’m helping someone who might be having an even harder time than I am. This isn’t silly, but it heals me just the same.
Up until now, the crushing weight of adulthood had changed my mentality. Living in New York City, I felt like I had to put on a hard attitude so people would leave me alone. A silly person is a target. Now, I’ve gotten away from the city and I’m giving myself space to be whoever I am. Sometimes I’m serious and broody, I can’t help it. But most times, I’m silly and creative. I like to make up silly scenarios, like the time I was driving and the song Banjo came on and a friend and I spent close to an hour pontificating on how that song came to be. Drive until you hear a banjo. Is there an old man whose family is begging him to stop playing the banjo because Rascall Flatts keep finding them that way? Is there a cliff next to the house and you have to stop once you hear the banjo or else you’ll drive over it? Is grandpa Joe so tired from playing the banjo but he can’t stop because then someone might drive over?
This is the kind of silliness I hope to never abandon. These scenarios need to be thought by somebody, and I would like for it to be me.
I know it’s almost an oxymoron to be silly right now. The world is burning, and if you have the mental space to be silly, you are probably privileged. Or maybe you’re not, and it’s a radical act in these times to take up some space for silliness in the world. Either way, silliness is a gift you can give to yourself. Serve yourself generous helpings of silliness. Try being silly for an afternoon. Maybe dance in the mirror. I’m actually a pretty good dance partner, I make all the right faces and I pick my favorite music.
Go somewhere you feel safe and go for a walk, by yourself, with no headphones and don’t look at your phone. Walk until you’re not hearing the rolling tape of worries in your head. Walk until you hear some other thoughts slipping in with the worries. Then just the new thoughts. Then wonder what you’re supposed to think about next. Then think about how nice it feels to be walking alone and have all this space to think all of these things. Then think about how the earth is all connected. Think about how the trees on the road are famous and the trees deeper in the woods are shy.
Maybe you’ll get lucky, like me, and meet royalty on your walk. Yesterday, as I was strolling, still in the phase of the walk where I was shaking off the worry dust, I met a cat. He was sitting regally on top of a fence post and I imagined him ruling the woods as The King. The King cat had a huge fluffy grey coat and fierce eyes. I bowed to him and kept on walking, walking, walking.