Monday, 9 September 2013

The Decline and Rise of the Attempted Hobby

I'm currently reading Miranda Hart's "Is it just me?" (it's a rivetingly hilarious read, you should try it), which has got me thinking all about the subject of hobbies. Miranda talks about the change from childhood, where you could try anything and be anything whether you were good at it or not, to teenage years where hobbies were only generally pursued if the person was already somewhere along the road to success in that chosen pastime. And then when you're an adult, you invariably begin to feel bad about your lack of hobbies and therefore endeavour to take some up, most probably leading to embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy, and often downright failure.
This made me laugh so much (and cry a little inside) because it's just so bloody true. I often think I missed my calling on the stage/in a choir/as a concert pianist/artist/tennis star, but can't find it in myself to take any of these things up as hobbies now- except the piano because I started when I was six, but woe betide I think of playing in public. Of course I often pretend I'm in a stage show of Sister Act (a proper one, not the west end silliness with different songs to the original, urgh) but the idea of auditioning for a just-for-fun-no-pressure choir brings me out in a cold sweat.
When I was sixteen I auditioned for a part in the Beatles version of A Midsummer Nights Dream at school. My friend and I (you know who you are) thought somehow that the teacher might catch a glimpse of our innate brilliance and cast us as Lysander and Hermia. But in reality we sucked, were given parts in the choir and forced to stand in the background as hippy clad 'trees' along with a load of year 7's and 8's. Despite being a highly amusing experience, I do believe that this is where my fear of 'giving things a go' stemmed from.
At Uni I tried out a few hobbies. Buddhist meditation was fun for a while, until it got serious. I remember sitting on a precarious tower of three cushions, eyes closed, pretending to be 'focused on feeling the same feelings towards someone you love and someone you hate' (impossible), when my friend and I had a wildly inappropriate giggling fit for no reason. Needless to say this was met with sincere disapproval by the other meditators and it was then that we knew we needed to leave.
After that there was the kayaking society. Whilst I love kayaking on holiday, I had a few issues with the club itself: #1. I didn't want to spend my weekends off at a random lake somewhere instead of in the pub. #2. Practicing in a swimming pool is plain old crap, however you try and dress it up. #3. I didn't want to do the 'Eskimo roll' in front of everyone.
The longest stint in a new hobby at uni was my street dance and tap classes. Despite my dreams of grandeur, both of these things proved that when it comes to dancing I am very much a clumsy elephant. I did, however, force my housemates to come and see our 'performance.' I still have the photos- one of me in legwarmers, the other wrapped in a feather boa, and in both the look on my face is something of pride mixed with intense mortification.
After uni there was circus club, which was full of weirdos- who would've guessed?
In Saudi I was proud of myself for climbing an indoor wall. It was terrifying and painful and I spent the whole time egotistically convinced that everyone was laughing at me. I got to the top, but rather than make me want to do it again, this achievement enabled me to happily retire from the sport, glad that I hadn't embarrassed myself too much, or in fact died.
Lee and I also embarked on a 'trek in the desert' venture in Saudi, all set with good intentions of fresh air and exercise. The reality was, however, that we got a lift with a crazy American man who didn't actually know where we were going so instead just drove us to a random place in the desert somewhere outside of Riyadh. There was a scary moment where he stopped the car, miles away from anywhere and announced that he 'needed to get something out of the trunk.' Convinced that he was going to emerge with an axe or hacksaw, we sat nervously waiting until much to our great relief he pulled out a bottle of (half decent) homemade booze. We then spent the afternoon driving around nowhere in particular, getting pissed and not finding the walking group or indeed getting out of the car. Much more fun in my opinion.
And of course I've also taken up the ukulele, although I'm not very good at it. But then that's exactly Miranda's point- why can't we simply enjoy doing things, without this pressure to be miraculously good at them?


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