BY ELLIE KEMPER
If my stepfather taught me anything, it was about the importance of finding something that you love in life. “A job is work,” he used to say, “but a hobby is life.”
“You are not my real dad,” I’d respond, “but I have to sit here and watch you take over my family.” Then we would both go back to eating our cereal, as my mother cried quietly over the stove.
Hobbies are not a luxury; they are a necessity. Without hobbies, life can quickly grow bleak and meaningless. To avoid a terrible life, I have intentionally developed several hobbies.
I like to cook, I think. Often, I will just skip the cooking portion of my hobby and start with eating. This can be done in any number of ways, including: ordering take-out food, eating foods that are free samples, or going to a restaurant. It is important to remember that hobbies don’t necessarily have to be difficult; you can try to enjoy yourself while doing your hobby. Challenging myself through enjoyment is a joy in itself.
Playing the Piano
I lease a piano, and often I will sit down for hours at a time on the piano bench and eat Crunch ‘n Munch. Being near a piano reminds me of all the kinds of music I like, which I can usually find on Hot 97 FM: The Heat Wave. While I’m sitting there on the piano bench, thinking about all of the music that I like, picking kernel shells out of my gums and lap, I will inevitably go over to my clock radio and crank up Hot 97. Unfortunately, the reception in my apartment is not good, and Hot 97 can get pretty static-y. On the plus side, this only enhances my appreciation of the music that I can hear. Mastering a musical instrument is something everyone should do if they want to, maybe, later on.
Whenever I find myself with a spare twenty minutes or so, there are two things I think of:
- What am I forgetting to do?!?!
I won’t go so far as to say that I am addicted to baths, but I also won’t go so far as to say I can’t stand baths. Extremes are not really my thing. Baths are. From the drawing of one to the sitting in one to the draining of one, I am content. Sometimes I will even whistle while I take a bath, to help me relax. I know the saying goes, “Whistle while you work,” but I’d like to raise my hand and object, Your Honor. It should really go “Whistle while you take a bath.” Now that’s an expression worth getting behind.
Reading the Newspaper
People usually give me a hard time when I classify this as a hobby. “Reading the newspaper?” they say. “How is that a hobby? A hobby is something that you collect, or play, or practice. Everyone should read the newspaper.” Should is a dangerous word; anyone who uses it probably shouldn’t. The ugly truth of it is, everyone doesn’t read the newspaper, including—6/7ths of the time—me. Come Friday morning, however, there is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with whatever secondhand paper is in the basket at Coffee Beast and really finding out what sales are happening this weekend. Another way of thinking about it? Reading the newspaper is the only thing that gets me up on Friday morning. Now how’s that for a reason to live?
Books (Looking At)
I am a voracious reader of titles that sound like something that would look completely cool on my bookshelf, or offhandedly tossed aside next to some funky jewelry or cute underwear that I own. I have been known to spend up to fifteen minutes in a used bookstore, looking through titles that are something that I think I’ve heard of, or something by someone that I think I have heard of. This gives me a pleasure that I don’t get from punching in at 9:00 a.m. and out at 5:00 p.m., or a pleasure I would imagine I would not get if I worked from 9 to 5—or at all. There is nothing I enjoy more than curling up on a rainy Sunday afternoon, snuggling under my favorite jersey cotton sheet, and looking at all of the completely cool titles of books that I own. I like to imagine the woman who reads all of those books, who understands all of those books, who quotes from those books. Who are her friends? What are her bad habits? How many lovers does she take? Does she save her lunch leftovers for dinner? Then I like to imagine what I should wear the next morning, and if I will have enough energy to go to H&M after it stops raining.
A lot of people collect coins, but I don’t collect just any coins; I collect quarters. I enjoy collecting only quarters because then I can use them for laundry and parking. You can use other coins for parking, but you can’t park as long if you do. Then your hobby turns out to be stressful, which is the exact opposite of the point of a relaxing hobby. My very favorite quarters are from Missouri, because that’s where I’m from, but my second favorite quarters are from any other state. Don’t get me wrong; I still hang on to quarters that aren’t state quarters, because they are still quarters. Last time I checked, I don’t exactly discriminate against quarters that are older than other quarters.
I know that most people would consider worrying as a necessary evil, but I firmly believe that I must really enjoy it. Why else would I spend so much time doing it?
Did that policeman not smile back at me after I passed him on the sidewalk because he thinks I am a thief?
When the barista laughed after I ordered an oatmeal scone, is that because she knows that I do not have what it takes to be British?
Does the fact that I cannot fit into these jeans mean that my body is the wrong shape for this particular pair of jeans?
I rarely reach any sort of conclusion from worrying, which means that I can continue to do it any time I like. One huge thing about finding a hobby is that you should try to pick one that is fairly accessible; otherwise, realistically, you probably won’t get around to doing it that much. That’s why worrying is so great.
“A life without pleasure is a life that is silly.” That is another thing my stepfather used to say. “A life without a loving father is a life with you, Stephen.” That is the thing I would say back to my stepfather. In a way, we were both right. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find something that you love in life. Or—in the case that you aren’t that interested in anything—something that you don’t mind too much, for the most part. Otherwise, what is the point?
SUGGESTED READSThe Birdwatcherist
by Peter Bebergal (10/23/2000)
List: Seven Deadly Lists
by Kevin Walter (12/12/2000)
List: Proposed Hobbies for My Friend Stan’s Mom and the Reasons They Were Scrapped
by Molly Woods (12/17/2001)
RECENTLYWanted: Holiday Husband
by Julie Daniel (11/21/2014)
How to Find Love: Lessons from an Old Maid: An Unfortunate Series of Unrequited Crushes
by Connie Sun (11/21/2014)
Open Letters: An Open Letter to My Beloved Woolly Armpits
by Jennifer Burns (11/21/2014)
POPULARIt’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers
by Colin Nissan (9/23/2014)
Why You Should Not Have Broken Up With Me, According to Various Critical Theories
by Tommy Wallach (11/3/2014)
A Small-Scale Organic Farmer Wants You to Know a Few Things
by Claire Boyles (10/20/2014)