Man Week: Find a Hobby?
Decompression is a lost art. Come to think of it, it is highly disputable that humans have ever found a way to relieve stress on a consistent basis. For men in the modern world, stress is the silent killer. In the long run more men wind up dying or (in a more realistic and dreary scenario) living miserably due to overriding amounts of stress. Our modern emasculating society has been telling you from day one to seek help. To look for problems within yourself and to try to solve them via therapy, medication and other forms of self-alteration.
You have been told to go to therapy. Perhaps to medicate yourself. To anally look for tidbits you may have done wrong here or there and to vigorously attack them with mantras and self-improvement theories. This last one is probably closest to the road most guys choose to take. We choose to dwell on minutiae and drive ourselves nuts trying to correct that one fatal flaw. It is no surprise that we live shorter lives than women and that by middle age, so many of us have a permanent scowl on our face and the hunched over trudge of a broken man.
Having lived the sort of life where I have experienced both penthouse and outhouse, I will tell you something you may not like hearing...The successful, upwardly mobile career man is consistently trounced by his poorer, less successful and (in more than a few cases) less law abiding brother in the enjoyment of life category. This is perhaps to be expected. As stature increases expectations created by ourselves, our parents, our peers and society at large, tend to weigh more heavily on men. I can understand this view but I see it as a mere rationalization and do not accept it.
What I have experienced is that men without strong ties to careers, goals and achievement explore something which the successful achiever does not for the most part, even think about. The idea that success and goal oriented behavior should consume all senses is patently false and many guys who don't make that much, or frankly for that matter, do that much prove it every day.
So what separates these happy faced clowns from you and I? What is it that allows a dude making very little scratch and with next to zero social standing to live a better life than you, the penultimate success?
It is a simple theorem which becomes difficult in practice...in practice. These men all have a hobby. Dare I wax poetic and call it a passion. Something active which they enjoy and which is not tied to rewards of any external sort. They all do things for themselves that they like and are not tied to their career in any way. This may seem like one of those no shit sherlock sort of deals and I can imagine that more than a few of you are rolling your eyes. But that is precisely the point, life is not complicated or difficult. We make it so. We tangle ourselves up in webs of mystery and intrigue, we chain ourselves with the boundaries of goals and ambitions. We create our own stress, our own fear and our own anxiety.
The way we do this is by living externally. That is to say, we make our focus in life someone else's hopes and dreams. Many of you guys live this pathetic loser lifestyle on a daily basis without even knowing it. You rationalize that you need money, success, acceptance, etc...but really don't care about and don't like the things that you do. Now, I understand the need for all that I have mentioned in passing. Nobody is telling you to quit yourgig and head to Tahiti to play Tetherball. All I am saying is that you need to spend more time thinking about what you truly, genuinely enjoy doing.
This is not as easy as it might seem. When I look at most guys I know between the ages of 18 and 45, the hobby/interests category is startlingly similar. We all like to go out, grab a drink with the boys, some smoke cigars, some are foodies, a surprisingly large chunk can't do without video games or television, about 1 out of every 50 actually reads books, but that is about where the similarities stop.
As a gender, we are very limited in our approach to having fun. I fear that this is just another low key example of today's gender role reversal and how modern men are beginning to resemble medieval women. Though it may not seem obvious at first, many of the activities I have listed above can be in some way compared to women of yesteryear who could not see life beyond their spindles and stove pots... and didn't want to.
I find this puzzling. As a boy, I was literally taught to crave action and excitement. I am always up for trying new things no matter how ridiculous they may seem. As I have aged, the ranks of willing compatriots for these adventures have dwindled by the year. Lately, seemingly by the month...if not the day. Every other day somebody's starting a new job, getting married, having a kid, accepting more responsibility, under more stress, needs to sleep more, needs to relax more, need to kick their feet up, needs to have a drink...alone...at home...in the dark.
If I haven't been clear with who I think the culprit is by now...allow me to specify:
Gentlemen, we are at fault. You, me...all of us. None are exempt.
We are those who have made our own lives so pathetically boring that we seek shelter and counsel in anonymous chat rooms. We are the ones who have erected walls of misery on our paths to happiness. We are the ones who listen to what society tells us to think and do. We are the damsels in distress. Captives of fears, anxieties and voices which most often do not exist outside of our own heads.
So instead of criticizing further, I will offer a self made cure for every man willing to try his hand at low level wizardry. This is not a call to arms or a revolution, but a call to calmness and cool. A call to a conversation with yourself, devoid of smart phones, chat groups or societal judgments. This is a suggestion that smart men who are suffering will take as an order.
Look into yourselves and find what it is that you yourself enjoy. It will not come over night. You will not close your eyes, open them and then proceed to carve wooden boats by hand. It is not that simple. Understanding what you enjoy means confronting your delusions about success and fitting in. Many of you guys (though highly capable of intellectual thought) are regurgitating robots without an original thought in your head. Spitting out test scores and hash marks of success. In order to get you moving in the right direction I will shoot you a list of answers which some of my friends listed as their hobbies.
I will argue that none of these activities are actual hobbies as they are all tied in some way to fulfillment of desires expressed upon us by society. Take a look and see how many of your favorite activities are present and whether you are beginning to understand why you're stressed out so very often and increasingly so.
Favorite Hobbies That Aren't
1) Investing in Stocks
Making money is not a hobby, it is an existential pursuit no matter how much you do or don't need it. I don't care how much you enjoy absolute returns or what story you've concocted in your head to rationalize about love of problem solving and analytics. If that's the case... Sudoku, motherfucker. Anything where wealth gain or loss is dominant, you do not have a hobby.
Sorry, guys. Working for yourself might be cool, but it sure as hell ain't no hobby. I have worked for myself for most of my adult life. It kicks ass. It's also a giant shit ball of stress and tension. Exhilarating stress and tension. But stress and tension, nonetheless. Not everything that feels good is a hobby. Remember that.
Leading us into...
3) Sex, Chasing Girls, etc
It's always easy to get guys unnerved when women are brought up and I've seen that in many of your comments this week. No harm, no foul. We have been killing each other over women since before we had organized society, no reason it shouldn't verbally translate into the digital age. Just remember...unless you are a certified pimp, a rock/movie star or a mad genius hypnotist who makes panties drop at the snap of a finger: absolutely nothing related to women can be considered a hobby or even...FUN. Women have been our greatest test as men, since the beginning of time. Most of the time, we fail...even when we succeed. So very much of what men do is directly or indirectly aimed at pleasing, winning over and impressing women that it is borderline suicide to confuse the pleasure of intercourse, with the wholesale headache that is dealing with broads.
4) Hobbies Du Jour
I've got nothing against part time MMA fighters, Halo 3 overlords and social media mavens. You can enjoy all of this stuff. Some of it is pretty damn cool, but most of it is so commercialized and forced down your throat, that it can never be timeless.
Yes, timeless...in case you haven't figured it out yet, that is the keyword. Something that you will be able to enjoy a week, a month, a year and a decade from now. Sorry, but if you think you're playing GTA and going cage fighting on the weekends for more than the short haul, you are wrong. If you figure out a way to do it over the long stretch, however, I am more than willing to eat my words and follow your lead.
A sport be a hobby, but usually is not. It is a bonding activity in most instances. A function of the human animal's need to conform to group activity and social interaction. It is almost like a job. Sports are a function of our need to share time with others and to be active. I can already hear the comments about jogging, weight lifting and other individual activities and yes, these can be hobbies, if they are all about you. If you are lifting or jogging to get toned up for the beach season, however, you should be aware that in spite of the serotonin dump, you are still stressing yourself.
The purpose of this last example is not to disqualify sporting or physical activities from the hobby realm, it is to suggest that this popular choice is way too easy and that you should challenge yourself to find something outside of the mainstream. Not to be trendy or different. But to invest in the procedure of finding something special to you, which will always give you joy. Something that will be yours and only yours.
There's about twenty other non-hobby hobbies that come to mind which I won't get into. Now as I said, many of you will not agree with my assessments and that is fine. What's good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Be your own man. If you say that buying a 1,000 shares of GOOG is a hobby, well then may the Lord Bless your wayward ass. Your pacemaker merchant will thank you kindly down the line.
For those who are interested in further exploration, however, take the following brief guidelines about hobbies to heart. They should be something you can do alone. Nothing wrong with sharing them with others, but a good hobby should be there for you when nobody else is. They should relieve your tension and not raise your heart rate. They should be readily accessible. They should not require any sort of significant financial outlay, as that pushes them into acquisition territory and thereby achievement mode.
The key definition of your hobby should be that it is your thing and your thing only. Find one and you will find a graceful outlet for stress and something that you can truly call your own. In time, you guys will realize that this feeling has more value than any sort of equity stake.
For the record, since I know many of you are curious...my hobby is finger painting. I love it. Now go ape shit with that one and share your own if you'd like.