What is your least favorite “getting to know you” question? Mine is “What are your hobbies?” When I’m in a new space and icebreakers are in motion, that question that makes me roll my eyes.
I am not really sure why this is because shared interests can be a great way to connect and make new friendships (which is my favorite thing!) It likely has to do with the fact that I don’t have any interesting or cool hobby to declare. I enjoy doing a wide range of things: I like to read, travel, and take hikes and walks in beautiful places. Other women seem to have a specific thing they are good at and like to do in their down time. Do you have a hobby, or are you more like me — always on the hunt for something fun to do but not wanting to commit to one specific thing?
When I was younger, I enjoyed dancing and took various classes for years. But it never felt like a hobby. In college I dated a guy who rock climbed, but I always got injured when I participated (I am notoriously clumsy and still have a scar on my left hand from an overconfident climbing attempt). In the winter, he would travel to faraway places to climb frozen waterfalls. Although that sounded very cool and would make an incredible story to tell — I hate being cold and the idea of climbing a frozen anything and then sleeping in a tent is honestly a nightmare for me.
When I moved to the field, my rhythm of life slowed down enormously: my evenings were slower than before, and I began to think of ways to fill my time. Everyone I spoke with agreed that a hobby is ideal, that we shouldn’t work all the time. Creating that space to rest, to enjoy and to decompress is key to longevity in cross-cultural life. I tried all the things many people are so good at. I tried learning to play the guitar — but I am tone deaf and lacking rhythm. I tried to run, as many of my friends have run half and full and even ultra-marathons. Where I live, there are gorgeous places to run — but I decided that those friends who love to run have something fundamentally wrong with them. I tried scrapbooking, painting, drawing — but the truth is I have no artist ability. I moved on to adult coloring books and found that those couldn’t capture my attention long enough to finish even one of the overdetailed drawings. I tried learning to knit or crochet. I am a terrible photographer. I can barely attach a button to a shirt if it has fallen off. All of the hobbies of the women around me are terribly out of reach for me. Good thing I’m good at resolving emotions or I’d be needing therapy to help me overcome my search for a hobby!
Some of us come to the field with a hobby that can come with us. Some of us come to the field with a hobby that is useful. I have friends who have hobbies that turned into income-generating projects for their communities. I cheer them on and buy their beautiful work as gifts.
I never found a hobby per se, but I did enjoy walking through the national parks, reading a book on the shore of the Zambezi or, on my days off, white water rafting on that same Zambezi river. Quite a few times I was lucky enough to bungee jump off the bridge 110 meters above it.
More recently, my down time is spent with my children in slightly less adventurous ways. We still walk or ride through the game parks but more often we are found sitting around our dining table playing board or card games. During the rainy season you may find us snuggled up reading books and coloring.
Do I have a hobby? Not so much, and not one that could easily serve in an icebreaker activity. But I have learned to fill my down time with things that are life giving to me—and not to try to fit into the hobbies that others who have come before me have been good at. Practically this looks different all the time, but it always starts with making space. I carve out time in my calendar that I keep blank, filling those times only with things I want to do! Sometimes that is a walk or a bubble bath or a coffee with a friend. Sometimes it’s a nap or time curled up with a book. Sometimes I fill that spot with special time with my husband or one of my kiddos. Every once in a while, I head over to our local movie theater and watch a comedy at the 10:00 showing. I’m usually the only one in the theatre, and I can laugh as loud as I want while I enjoy a bucket of popcorn. Then I head out, feeling refreshed, to pick my daughter up from school. What is always consistent is that the time I carve out is just for me to do whatever feels fun for me on that day.
Do you have a hobby? How have you been able to make space for that hobby on the field?