Mental Health

Struggling with Hobbies

I recently read an article on Medium called “The Power of Exactly One Serious Hobby” where Elliot Hauser defines a hobby as “a specific activity, other than your primary pursuit, that allows you to develop mastery.” They keyword in this definition is developing mastery of some kind.  Elliot continues by saying that “[r]eading books is not a hobby. Becoming an expert in the history of German Existentialist thought is a hobby.”

Before Elliots article, I would have said that my hobbies include watching YouTube, Netflix, or reading books. These are all legitimate activities (especially for self-care), but they are not hobbies. The issue with the activities that I just listed is that they are all passive. For an activity to be a hobby, I agree with Elliot in that there needs to be some kind of mastery involved and frankly, I’m not mastering anything by watching eight vlogs in a row. Now, this is not to discredit the information and learning that can happen by consuming media. I often find watching drawing videos, bullet journal videos, and other kinds of educational videos to be informative and inspiring. But if I watch the video and do nothing with what I learned then its just passive consumption.

So under Elliot’s definition, what would I say my hobbies are? Cue my existential quarter life crisis.

I don’t really have any hobbies.

I don’t really have activities outside of librarianship that are done for both enjoyment achievement of some sort of mastery. Why? Hobbies require extra time and effort and don’t really count for anything. Isn’t it easier to come home and watch Netflix instead of drawing a comic strip or knitting a sweater for myself? The answer is yes, but i’m starting to understand that my seeing hobbies as waste of time and effort are illuminating my problematic thought processes.

Hobbies require extra time and effort and don’t really count for anything.

Most days, I struggle to see the value having a hobby can bring to my life. Instead of seeing my hobby as an opportunity to express myself, boost my self-confidence, and improve my overall mental health, I see it as a chore and as wasted effort because its by me and for me. If my professors told me to draw them something every week, I know for a fact those drawings would get done. If my boss expected me to produce a knitted scarf for her, I know it would get done with no hesitation. But when its coming from myself, I don’t take it seriously. I think this stems from being “such a good student” and “such a good kid” growing up. I always prided myself on getting good grades and, more importantly, on not getting in trouble. The product is more important than the process. My self-worth was/is wrapped up in these extrinsic motivations: praise from my teachers, praise from my boss, the avoidance of confrontation, and this idea that I  cannot fail. I became very risk averse and developed extreme anxiety surrounding these kinds of activities.

 So what are the consequences of this mentality when it comes to having a hobby? I struggle to be self -motivated in the pursuit of my hobbies because they are supposed to be intrinsically motivated. Praise for myself does not carry as much weight as praise from someone else and just does not seem worth the effort. Another consequence is debilitating perfectionism and fear of failure. You can’t really fail a hobby in the traditional sense, but I often have this fear that what I am doing is not good enough. With no expectations from external influences, I don’t know how to measure what I have produced. To compensate, I end up comparing my work and efforts to others and become disheartened and dejected. One last struggle I have with hobbies is that they are just as much about the process as they are about the outcome. As someone who has always focused on outcomes (assignments, tasks, good behavior, no confrontations), I struggle to understand how to focus on the process as much as the outcome. It is hard for me to slow down enough and focus on what I am doing because I am so used to sprinting towards the finish line with tunnel vision.

Now, remember when I said that I didn’t have any hobbies? That wasn’t completely true. There are definitely some activities that I have been trying to turn into hobbies:

  • Drawing
  • Knitting
  • Cross -Stitching
  • Blogging
  • Writing

Right now I am still trying to figure out how to take these activities more seriously while adjusting my mindset surrounding their value and importance. If you are an adult that struggles with a lack of hobbies or a creative outlet, you aren’t alone.

Anxiety, Depression, and Librarianship

Click on the comic to give Sarah Andersen that page view!

This comic by Sarah Andersen is the perfect representation of what the last month or so has been like for me. I’ve had my first okay night of sleep in a while, and my chest has started to loosen up a bit, but my anxiety and depression are still lurking in the background.

I objectively love my job. I am grateful to be in the position that I am in and grateful that I get to work with the people that I do, and I love the work that I do! But some days, its all just too hard. With the weather changing and my already existing anxiety and depression, I am continually struggling to just wake up and get out of bed most days.

Anxiety, depression, and a new job are the perfect storm for a bad time. There are so many new things to learn, people to meet, and things to do. My anxiety and depression also feed into my impostor syndrome, and they all work together to make me feel incompetent. When I am having a bad mental health period, my job feels like a burden. I am not excited to learn new things or meet new people or continue learning skills. Instead, I feel burdened by these responsibilities. And the more I feel burdened, the more I feel dread. The more dread I feel, the harder it is too wake up to go to work. Lately, its this self-fulfilling cycle that has been harder and harder to escape.

It feels like right now, I am just getting by. Only doing the things that are absolutely necessary for my job as a resident librarian. And that sucks because I want to do amazing things and be a great librarian. But instead, I feel incompetent that I am so easily overwhelmed. I feel incompetent when I spend too long on an assignment or when I feel like a reference meeting I had with students wasn’t very helpful. And despite peoples validation of my work, I still feel incompetent. Like I am not doing enough. Like I am not thinking hard enough. Not trying hard enough.

And in my worst times, my anxiety and depression make me question what I am even doing as a librarian:

How can you expect to be in a tenure track position when you can’t even handle a residency?

How do you expect to be a librarian when you suck at communicating?

How do you expect to be amazing at outreach when you are so bad at talking to people?

Anxiety and depression trick you into perceiving things in the worst way possible. They can really skew your assessment of your job and make you question whether or not you are supposed to be doing this job. Is this my anxiety and depression sending me these bad signals or is librarianship just not for me? And you can imagine the crisis that follows.

Anyway. I write this to mostly vent. But I also hope that someone else out there might read this and feel validated, or at the very least, seen. The more we talk about mental health and mental illness and the workplace, the better.

Living with mental illness is hard but one of the best things I can do for myself are to have some self-compassion and celebrate the little things (like sharing this blog post).