Over the course of the past year or so, I — like many, many other people — tried to find ways to pass the time and distract myself from the stresses and monotony of life at home. Among the more fruitful attempts of passing time, that was not movie marathon-induced naps or zoning out and staring at the ceiling, I had picked up a handful of hobbies and activities that have always piqued my interest. Some of these included yoga, getting some use out of my Nintendo Switch (see: Hades Game), bullet journaling and sketching, crocheting, and (gasp) writing (pretends to be shocked). 

I found that despite the initial distress and learning curve that came with virtual learning, it coincided with the stage in my life where I actually needed to start properly developing personal projects and time for myself that wasn’t dictated by my coursework. When the pandemic hit, I had only really experienced one full semester of college and hadn’t quite established a routine for what to do in my spare time besides studying or the occasional swim; in a way, I didn’t get to foster the sense of independence or explore my personality in the way that I had wanted to. This past year, I found that this influx of excess time, bereft of the intensive dual high school / club sports schedule, provided an opportunity to actively make use of that time by incorporating these newfound hobbies and projects. What’s more, it gave me something to structure my life around instead of robotically moving from screen to screen and gave my days a breath of fresh air. 

Rome, however, wasn’t exactly built in a day. I very quickly discovered that my video game dexterity had gotten quite rusty since my prime era of Mario Kart DS and Nintendogs, to the point where I kept coming face to face with my reflection in the fade-to-black, “Game Over” screen with minimal progress to show for it. I also found that no matter how optimistic you are at the time of purchase, there is no such thing as an “easy as pie,” beginner’s crochet kit when you have zero sewing or weaving experience, without first mastering the fundamental stitches and techniques. Even hobbies I had maintained prior to the pandemic seemed to escape me at times, the metronome of a blinking cursor on a blank document all but mocking me in pursuit of fleshing out a plot. The lack of initial improvement and progress discouraged and frustrated me more than I can count on two hands, especially with regards to crochet, and it was a difficult headspace to shake when I would sit down to try again. However, since I genuinely didn’t have much else to do with my time but to be absorbed into my weighted blanket, I kept trying again and again and again. And again. And eventually with time, the frustrations eased up. With every new level I reached or round of stitches completed, I felt more and more gratified, and that serotonin-rush made it all the more easy to keep up with it.

Out of this entire experience in developing new routines and habits with these hobbies, I’ve learned that you just about have to be a little bit bad at something before getting good at it. Most significantly, you don’t have to do things perfectly or be strictly good at them in order to enjoy it. For me, this especially bears repeating ad infinitum, so: 

You don’t have to do things perfectly in order to enjoy it. 

Starting new hobbies have really helped me shed several layers of my perfectionist attitude and the staggeringly high expectations that come with it. This is not to be confused with a strong work ethic or the quality of work you strive to produce in academia, especially considering the standards for excellence we have for ourselves as Honors students. But rather, there is no need for that same pressure to be placed upon your hobbies and the time you spend with (and for) yourself because once that line is crossed, those activities can devolve into feeling like work and no longer enjoyable. I don’t sketch, play video games, or attempt to crochet to be the best at it; I do it because it’s cathartic and helps me recharge. It’s a time where I can keep my mind occupied without exhausting myself. 

So, the next time something new piques your interest — baking bread, roller skating, sculpting — don’t let yourself and or any imposing standards discourage you at the first sign of a struggle in your pursuit. It’s more than okay, and completely natural, to be a little bit bad at something before getting better at it, and even then, there’s no pressure to be the best. Simply enjoy the time you’re spending with yourself and all of the little joys that comes with learning something new. 

I can think of no better words to leave you with than those of the iconic Bob Ross: “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” 

(Beats zoning out and staring at the ceiling, if you ask me).

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