I graduated a couple months ago and have just finished my 3rd week in my full time role. Honestly, finishing up undergrad remotely at home and then suddenly not having anything to do was a really jarring transition. There was a lot of League of Legends played, and a lot of anime watched and manga read. But as the start date of my job started to creep up, I knew I needed to start reigning myself in a bit. And quite frankly, just playing video games and binging shows all day was really quite boring.

And to make matters even more interesting, my parents are currently in the process of moving. I have lived in 4 different places in the last 6 months and so it’s been difficult to “settle in” long enough to have the presence of mind to pursue interests, Maslow’s hierarchy-style.

My Relationship with Hobbies

One thing I noticed but didn’t realize until pretty much the last moments of college was just how much I had abandoned hobbies and interests that I previously had in high school and middle school. The only one that kind of vaguely stuck around was Tricking, but even that hobby slowly fizzled away throughout college.

Looking back now, there were actually a lot of things that I was interested in and found fun. I wasn’t particularly good at anything but I would still have a lot of fun doing stuff like drawing, music, writing, and occasionally language learning.

Now that I’m free from the shackles of the academia lifestyle, I really wanted to dive back into enjoying my interests. But it has been kind of difficult. In college, I would always feel a sense of guilt whenever I wasn’t study or doing something “productive.” And I guess I convinced myself into believing that hobbies weren’t a productive use of my time. Buying into this belief for so many years had killed off a lot of the passion I used to have for doing things just for the sake of fun in the sense of accomplishment (a separate feeling from just enjoying entertainment).

I remember very clearly that I adamantly wanted to maintain my piano playing skills during college. The dorm I got assigned to in freshman year just so happened to have a piano on the first floor and was free to be played any time before 10PM. I thought I lucked out.

In the end, I played that piano exactly 3 times. And I sounded horrible.

Picking Hobbies Back Up Again

Over the past couple of months, I have been slowly rekindling the passion for pursuing interests.

Before the coronavirus forced me back home to Madison, I had bought an electric keyboard and had been practicing some anime OSTs wherever the music AniTubers would grace us with free sheet music. I sounded horrible (hooray for headphones) but being able to play Giorno’s theme and No Game No Life’s opening (very very slowly) was extremely satisfying. It felt like coming back to the comfort of your home after a long day away at work, it just felt I came back to where I belonged. So it was pretty unfortunate that I had to leave the piano behind in Pittsburgh during the end of my last academic semester and then it has stayed in storage due to all the moving my family has been doing.

Writing stuff to post on this (sparse) blog has also been pretty fun. I haven’t really ever put my writing out there for people to publicly view before. The closest experience was in a creative writing course with only about 10 other students and we had to workshop our pieces, ranging from poetry to short stories, every week. After the initial seemingly insurmountable wall of anxiety, I ended up really enjoying the experience. So while I only write occasionally right now, I am enjoying it a lot.

Finally, I’ve been learning Japanese. If you haven’t been able to tell already, I am a ~closet~ weeb and it’s been a long-unfulfilled goal of mine to watch anime without subtitles learn Japanese so to more directly engage with Japanese culture.

A corollary effect of this is actually a renewed interest in studying Chinese again. I have a somewhat stable, but extremely basic, foundation of Mandarin. So along with kanji memorization, I’ve been reading 1-2 Chinese articles every day to learn more vocabulary and smooth out the wrinkles in my ability to produce more complicated sentences and concepts in Chinese. This actually feeds back into reinforcing kanji since a lot of the common-use kanji have a 1:1 mapping with Chinese.

Finding The Time

Clearly picking up a ton of hobbies altogether at the same time is pretty ambitious. At first I was all “oh boy it’s gonna be so fun” but very quickly it became “oh boy wtf was I thinking.”

On top of that, there were also a few other things I wanted to make routine. I had never consistently exercised in my life. So while I considered myself generally in okay shape aside from being asthmatic, I could be doing so much better with consistent exercise. The other is pursuing a potential startup idea. I won’t say much for now but that it involves language, art, and pseudo gabor filters ;)

With all of these things tugging at my time and the fact that I was going to start a full time job AND my part-time MS program soon meant that I really needed to reevaluate what it is that I wanted to prioritize and also develop a stricter schedule with myself to actually get these things done.

For now I will definitely continue learning Japanese and writing whenever a sizeable idea manifests. Exercising during the quarantine has actually been not a horrible thing since I own some fairly heavy dumbbells in Madison. They’re not a replacement for a thicc bar and actual heavy plates but not having to travel to and from the gym makes it a that much easier to power through excuses.

I’ve been sticking to a fairly rigorous schedule for about 5 weeks now though I’ve had to adjust it twice as I’ve learned more about my preferences for what time of the day I prefer to do what (exercising in the morning vs night for example). I really hope I can stick to this schedule and not devolve into degeneracy like every other “schedule” I’d tried in college.