Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Snow Day Hobbies
Matt Wood | Feb 1 2008
It snowed almost a foot here in Chicago last night, and looking at all that white stuff made me think about junior high, when my school was out an entire week for snow. I built most of the eastern seaboard in SimCity 2000 that week, on a 33 MHz PC no less. I was a nerd. It was awesome.
I thought about how fun that sounded today after I finished shoveling, and considered digging around for an updated copy of SimCity online. Then I reminded myself that the last thing I need is another hobby involving the computer. I use a computer for work. When I'm finished working, I screw around on the internet. When I'm tired of that, I read books, which isn't a whole lot different, if a little easier on the eyes and attention span.
Pardon me while I get out the nostalgia hankie, but I miss the days when my hobbies had nothing to do with staring at a glowing screen. When I was a kid, I could sit down in my room over an unopened wax box of Topps baseball cards and completely tune out the outside world until four hours later, when my mom called me to dinner, handed me a napkin, and told me to wipe the drool from chewing 36 sticks of gum off my chin.
Earlier this winter, I took my son to a model train show. The convention center was filled with little boys, their parents, and retired men wearing pinstriped overalls. As I watched those old boys hunched over their hand-painted landscapes, tinkering with a broken crossing gate or resetting an errant boxcar on the tracks, I envied them. They had that thing I used to have with my baseball cards, a hobby that completely absorbs their attention for hours at a time, something wholly disconnected from work and daily hassles, a place where they could go and forget about everything for at least a little while.
I need that again. Model trains won't do; as much fun as those old coots looked like they were having, the last thing I need in my house is more toy trains. And baseball cards won't cut it either. Since I stopped collecting, they've taken on too much stink of commercialism, ruined by glossy UV coatings, foil stamping, and limited editions. Besides, I need something that's less about acquisition and more about simple escape.
I'm sure I'll find it if I keep trying, whether it's drawing, or cooking, or simply going to the gym more often. The point of my whole weepy ramble here is that we need to have hobbies that can completely whisk us away from the grind for a few hours, preferably something that involves working with our hands and doesn't result in credit card debt or physical addiction. If you find it, it'll be like having a snow day all over again.
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