If I were to ask you to make a list of your hobbies, you'd most likely sit there for a second, not exactly sure how to answer. You might instinctively shrug and say, "Hell, I don't know," before you've really taken any time to formulate a response because it's one of those questions with an intangible answer that we spend far more time living than actually thinking about. Those lists would be different for every person, but they'd all have one big similarity...A person's hobbies are where they find therapy.
The different activities I indulge in for personal therapy differ depending on my mood. Sometimes I like to play golf or basketball, other times I like to grill and have a beer. Sometimes I drive around and blare loud music, or piddle in the garage. Each one is therapeutic in it's own way, but one I find to be most restorative is writing. Notice I didn't say relaxing, because I don't think "therapeutic" and "relaxing" have to necessarily coincide. Something can be relaxing without being therapeutic, and vice versa. I actually find writing to be exciting and invigorating, almost the exact opposite of relaxing. I often imaging that someone, somewhere, will read this blog and find something to be so infinitely profound and cathartic that it changes their life forever. I like to imagine that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, read my words with so much fervor and excitement they can hardly contain themselves.
For the record, I know those things are blatantly absurd, but that doesn't keep me from wishful thinking.
I don't write nearly as often as I should, or even as often as I really want to. I have tried to "just write" countless times, but if I don't feel inspired before I begin, I'll write a couple paragraphs, read it back, and get so frustrated with the garbage I have spewed all over this screen that I barely even take time to delete it before closing the screen. It's because of that I write about half as much as I wish I would.
Sometimes I find inspiration in really strange places and circumstances, but certain individuals have certainly had a major impact on my development as a writer over the years. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Shelton, was extremely encouraging to me as a writer. Back then, student writing portfolios were the latest craze to hit public education, and she referred me to a gifted and talented specialist that worked with me specifically on my writing pieces. In 6th grade, I took a creative writing class with Mrs. Waggoner and she took a great interest in my writing, and provided me with a ton of encouragement and guidance. In college, my English 101 professor tried to convince me to submit one of my essays to a writing contest, with the winner getting a cash prize and publication. But I never went through with it. Each of them helped guide and mold me as a writer, no matter how subtle or direct the influence may have been.
My sister-in-law, Liza, may be the biggest influence on me, though. It was her blog, entitled Pillow Book (which you need to read if you have not done so), that reintroduced me, so to speak, to the world of writing. I hadn't written much at all since I graduated college, and began reading her blog when Adrienne and I started dating a few years ago. The immense creativity and talent she exudes in her writing brought back that desire, in me, to write. She would ask readers to submit their own responses to writing prompts she utilized, and she directly encouraged me to start my own blog. So I did.
Honestly, when I first started this blog, if you had told me I'd still be posting on it more than two years later I probably would have laughed in your face. I fully expected it to be like many other new hobbies: I'd feverishly write and post things for a few weeks, grow busier in my personal life, fail to find the time to write, then ultimately forget about it. But, I'm proud to say that hasn't happened, despite prolonged droughts between posts here and there.
In her most recent post, Liza (while giving a shout-out to your's truly) lists 25 things everyone should start making time for. And, in typical Lizonian fashion, she asks for readers to make their own lists. There is no way in hell I could sit here and list 25 of my own, but I did feel inspired to add just a few. So, in no particular order, some things everyone should start making time for (myself included):
1. Take a vacation. I know times are tough and money is tight for many people out there, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a week-long, extravagant stay in a 5-star hotel. Find a cool state park within a two or three-hour drive and go camping for a weekend. Pick a "neat" city to visit just because it's different. Walk around an historic downtown, or go hiking one afternoon. You can "get away from it all" without breaking the bank. And you should.
2. Adopt a pet. The only people I know that don't like dogs or cats are people that don't have them, which I realize wins the obvious award for the day. However, people that don't have them would undoubtedly change their minds if they took the plunge, and they really should. There are thousands of great pets just waiting for a loving home. Do yourself a favor and save a life. It will enrich you in ways you never thought possible.
3. Make a menu for the week and cook dinner every night. I know Liza used this one already, but I'm going to steal it because it's something that Adrienne and I have been doing for about a year now, and I love it. We only buy exactly what we need for the week's menu, so we don't waste our money on food we won't eat or don't need. It adds a sense of stability to our hectic week, and our Sunday afternoon trip to Food Lion has become one of the highlights of our weekends. The time we spend together shopping, cooking, and doing the dishes each night has become something I cherish.
4. Call your mom everyday. This might be something many folks do already, but if you don't, you should. I try to call my mom every single day, even if it's just for a minute or two. I do it because I know she likes for me to check in. I might be pushing 30, but she still likes the comfort of knowing her baby boy is doing OK. Sometimes I need to ask a question, or tell a funny story. Other times I honestly have nothing to say and sit in silence for much of the 30 second conversation. But, I do it anyway.
5. Watch a documentary. It doesn't really matter what the topic is, just find one that peaks your interest. Or one that pushes your limits. Go out of your comfort zone, or find a topic you enjoy and learn more about it. Documentaries are informative, and sometimes influential...Learn something new.
6. Be polite. This one is easy, I guess, but it's also easy to overlook. And if you spend 10 minutes in public, you'll notice that is obviously the case. Open doors for people. Let a car pull out in front of you. Say "please" and "thank you." Understand the world doesn't revolve around you.
7. Exercise. So many people make excuses to put off exercising, myself included. You're too tired, or you don't have time, or you don't have the money...You do have time, you're not too tired, and since when did exercising cost money? Develop a routine you can do at home. Spend 15 or 20 minutes everyday. That's all it really takes. You don't have to be a body-builder or spend 3 hours at the gym to have more energy and confidence in yourself. Getting healthy is a decision. Let's stop making excuses.
8. Write down your bucket list. Liza mentioned a to-do list, but I'm challenging you to take it a step further. Write down the things you genuinely want to do before you die. Carry the list around with you. Fold it up and keep it in your wallet (maybe make a copy just in case you lose it), and any time you accomplish a goal, mark it off the list. Add to it if something new comes to mind. You might come to realize you're life is far more fulfilling than you thought.
9. Volunteer. We all need to donate our time far more than we do. We spend a ton of time arguing and bickering about our country's problems on Facebook, but we hardly ever get off our lazy asses and try to do something to help fix them. Serve meals at a homeless shelter. Visit a nursing home. Adopt a highway. Offer to help at a local school. Organize your own charity event or organization. There are countless opportunities for all of us to help. We just need to do a better job of taking advantage of them.
10. Think. We live in a world of stimulation overload, and the art of deep thought hardly seems to exist anymore. Think about things that interest or confuse you. Ask questions. Seek answers. Participate in lively, engaging conversation. Go to a lecture, listen to a debate. We are surrounded by a barrage of information so constant that we often forget to process. Slow down.