“What do you do for fun?” For the last few years, that question has always bothered me. If you’d have asked me five years ago, I would’ve been able to go on for hours about all the hobbies I had. From choir, textiles club, photography classes, magazine meetings, to henna tutorials; I loved to spend my time creating and doing all the things I loved.
But then I went to university and found it increasingly difficult to maintain all my hobbies. Especially when coupled with balancing a heavy workload of essays and exams. Hobbies were meant to be fun, but I was finding it harder and harder to find time for my passions. It’s not that I didn’t try. In the first week of university, I was one of those people who signed up for practically everything in the hopes of expanding my knowledge and making new friends. Yet, by the end of my first term, I had barely been to two society events.
I found myself in a slump. My routine now revolved heavily around my academic life. The little free time I had was used to maintain relationships with my loved ones. If I did find myself with the luxury of a free afternoon or weekend, I would most likely spend it in bed, binging a series on Netflix.
“Hobbies were meant to be fun, but I was finding it harder to find the time for my passions.”
Then, in March of this year, I found myself confined to the walls of my family home for months on end. Having also recently graduated, I realised I needed to find something constructive to do with my time. To fill the time, but also for the sake of my mental health. I knew how rare it was to have the privilege of time, especially with what other people might be going through.
After cleaning my room and reorganising my wardrobe for the dozenth time, I looked back at who I was before university. Going through old pictures and memories whilst cleaning had ignited a spark in me. Who was the girl in these photos, and how did I become her again? I thought back to how content and fulfilled I was with my life. When I wasn’t overwhelmed by all the extra tasks I was taking on. When I was happy. I wanted to be that version of me again, and there was no better time for it than now.
It began with a book. As a child, I loved reading. I was that kid who would spend hours in the library, and was always curled up with a book. There were so many books on my shelf that had been gathering dust, begging for me to delve into their pages. It had been years since I’d read a book from start to finish. Any reading I did usually involved an academic journal, and felt a lot like work. So, to get back into the spirit of reading, I picked a book I was hopeful I wouldn’t be able to put down – Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton.
Within a week, the book was finished. The wise words of Dolly made me want to reconnect with myself even more. It was clear that I wasn’t the only person in my early 20’s who had lost myself on the path to adulthood. And I surely wouldn’t be the last. But what mattered was the fact that I had identified the issue, and was willing to fix it.
“Going through old pictures and memories whilst cleaning had ignited a spark in me. Who was the girl in these photos, and how did I become her again?”
Over the course of the next few months, I found a new calling for photography. I started cooking and baking again. I watched films that I had been meaning to for years. And I reconnected with people who I hadn’t spoken to in months. I’d lost touch with my hobbies over the last few years. I’d pushed aside the creative part of my personality, in order to focus on the underlying pressures of adulthood. Finding my hobbies again has allowed me to reconcile with the part of me that had been hidden away for so long.
Photography gave me opportunities to go on long walks with my loved ones, whilst properly taking in the beauty of my surroundings. Reading allowed me to disconnect with the world and spend some time away from a screen. Something that was needed now more than ever. Watching films made me fall in love with the industry all over again, and gave me the chance to become entranced in a different world. And baking, well not only was it light-hearted and fun, but I also got to eat cake.
The global pandemic has become associated with negativity, and rightfully so. People have found themselves in awful situations, and have had to deal with loss and grief. But I can’t help but be thankful for all the things I’ve gained. As I enter the demanding world of adulthood, it can be easy to get swept up in all the to do lists.
“Finding my hobbies again has allowed me to reconcile with the part of me that had been hidden away for so long.”
Lockdown allowed me to reconnect with a part of me that I didn’t ever think I would get back. And for that, I’m grateful. As much as I want things to go back to some kind of normality, I don’t think I would have had the privilege of being able to enjoy old hobbies again, if I had spent that time job hunting or working.
I’m now back studying at university. And although I have remarkably less free time than I did a few months ago, I make sure that I put time aside each day for doing something that I love. Whether that be watching a film with my family, calling an old friend, or reading a book before bed. I feel so much more content and at peace with myself. And I’m grateful that lockdown gave me the opportunity to reach this point.
Sarah Harris is a 23-year-old British Pakistani student and freelance writer. She is currently pursuing a Masters in public health and is researching ways in which we can reduce gender bias in healthcare. @slikestosleep
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