Commit to hobbies, commanded my inner sergeant major as he drafted an agenda for my boot camp for the bonus years. OK, OK, I submit.
And why? That's obvious, I thought. As we gear up for the final years of life, seems like a bright idea to have at least one hobby that demands our very best—because hobbies can provide so many of the essentials for a good (older) life. A social life. Endless learning. A sense of mastery. Adventure. Inner or outer travel. A weekly schedule. Aesthetic or physical or mental satisfaction. Self expression. A purpose in life, even. I could carry on all day about the benefits of a hobby.
Yes, it's obvious that if and when you retire from employment, the lack of a hobby can be a serious handicap. Your days and weeks can seem shapeless, lonely or bleak if you have to construct them from scratch after leaving work. A hobby is usually much more than a private pursuit: it often involves meetings or rehearsals or club nights every week, providing company and support.
And it's also obvious that starting a hobby after retirement is a bit on the late side for some people. Best have at least some of your hobby-habits set up in advance.
Hobby: the etymology degrades the passion
When I was young, I was rather patronising about hobbies. (Hey, I was a kid.) Stamp collecting was the archetypal hobby, and I regarded that as pitiful. I had no idea about the 50 shades of joy to be found in philately (including a substantial income for a few).
The noun "hobby" does not invite us to take it seriously.
- An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. Synonyms: pastime, amateur interest, sideline...
- Short for hobby horse.
So what's a hobby horse?
- A child's toy consisting of a stick with a model of a horse's head at one end.
- A preoccupation or favourite topic.
With such a heritage, no wonder hobbies get a bad name. A crude toy, a cheap imitation, a childish, pointless substitute for a real occupation, an autodidact's boring obsession...
Whenever I think I've got it sussed, I am so wrong
It's taken me until November to consider this particular challenge, not because it seemed difficult but the opposite. As with the diet, I felt home and hosed, safe, I'd passed before I started looking at my hobbies.
I've been dancing in the Crows Feet Dance Collective for 9 years and singing in Wellington's Capital Choir for 12 years. As for commitment — this year we danced The Armed Man five times in three venues, and the choir premiered a brilliant new work that I've been heavily involved in. In fact I had the idea for Shaky Places: a song cycle of New Zealand poems for mixed voices, I chose and edited the poems, commissioned the music, sang in the choir and generally helped to make it happen — book, concert, CD and all. This was certainly no hardship: Shaky Places was one of the most exciting creative endeavours I have ever been involved in.
So you'd think I would just need to tick the boxes, wouldn't you? Commit to hobbies—pass!
But the boot camp is never about ticking boxes. I'll write more about the hobby that exploded in another article. Right now, however, I've got to gobble some dinner and dress up for our choir's farewell to our inspiring director-composer, Felicia Edgecombe. I think I've been writing to distract myself from this sad, joyful, momentous event in the world of one of my favourite hobbies, choral singing.