Saturday, December 31, 2011

Free Time in 2012?

What do you do in your "free time"? I've come to grow weary of this cliched question. I would guess that a large number of adults, certainly those with young children, would scoff at the notion that there is such a thing as "free time" in their lives. And yet--I've carved out time once a week in 2011 to write a blog post. But at this point, after more than six years, I'm not sure this qualifies as a free choice so much as an ingrained habit. And I suppose this is a good description for any of my so-called "hobbies." Any leisurely pursuits of mine in the previous year, and in the handful of years prior to that, qualify as reflexive. And I don't anticipate a change in this status in 2012.

But I still can't help but be interested in other people's answer to the "free time" question. Most of the Christmas letters I saw this year followed the same general template, with annual updates on jobs, health, new or deceased family members, and travels. But I would appreciate coming across those that indicated some kind of exotic expenditure of time (e.g. avid interest in the bull riding circuit).

If people of modest means find a way to step off the beaten path, one might expect that those who are wealthy, especially those that don't have to report to a workplace for months at a time, would have the ability to really seek out all that life has to offer. So I went to and to read the P.R.-posted bios of a sample of professional athletes. Once you get past the sections detailing charity works of various magnitude (one athlete was simply credited with volunteering at a fundraiser as a high school student to benefit a classmate with cancer) most bios listed a player's "hobbies." And far and away the top two hobbies for pro athletes:

1. Watching movies
2. Playing video games

Also, the far and away most popular TV show for athletes to watch is Family Guy. To be fair, a number listed golf or outdoors activities, but it struck me how few did anything interesting with their lives "outside the lines." I suppose it's not at all surprising--athletes get their fill of travel, and they have to physically exert themselves so much as part of their jobs that they might want to pursue sedentary "activities" during off hours (though as an English teacher it always pains me to see how much of the population is apathetic or even adversarial to reading).

Next, I went searching for information on how those who want to lead the free world spend their free time. But while there is an abundance of biographical information on those seeking the Republican nomination for president, it is surprisingly difficult to locate listings of hobbies. (Jon Huntsman is an exception: he likes Harleys, motocross racing, and taco stands). While nationally prominent politicians have resources, I suppose their full-time hobby is campaigning, so they are limited
in their ability to explore anything off the beaten (campaign) path.

So not to present too bleak of a picture, but it looks like most of us aren't in a position to pursue a new hobby in the new year, and even those who might have that capability aren't sufficiently motivated to pursue it. But perhaps what we can do (for now) is to live vicariously. We might not have time (or inclination) to devote to exploring bullriding, but we can take a few minutes to have a conversation to share in the enthusiasm of somebody who does. We might not have the time or money to set up a fish tank in our homes, but we can comment when somebody else posts a picture of his or her fish on Facebook, perhaps leading to further conversation. We might not be able to scale a mountain this year, but we could read a book by someone who has. It seems to me that any of these things would be more memorable than watching another movie or playing another video game.


Blogger Nicki W. said...

Hi Azor,
This is a great post, especially the line about most people not reading as a hobby anymore. I mentioned to a coworker that I was going to read the next book on my library wish list and finish a beading project over winter break from school and she asked me why I would read a book when I just finished the semester. She wanted to know if I "didn't get enough reading" during the school year. That concept of reading only because a person must is just odd to me.

I think the other reason why some people list mainstream hobbies is because they get tired of justifying their "eclectic" hobbies. Sometimes it's more effort to explain something to people who don't want to understand why others choose to do things differently or have different interests. And, depending on the person, there is not always a judgement free opinion that follows an explanation. I have found that telling some people what I do in my free time can be more intrusive than the innocence of the question suggests. If I mention beading, quilting, or chain maille jewelry I inevitably get these two replies: "Why would you make something you can buy easily" and "you must have a lot of money to buy those supplies". It's very judgmental and so I've learned to assess the person asking the question before I answer. And, as I've mentioned before, if I answer reading I either get the comment my coworker made or my other favorite "awfully big book for a girl" comment.

9:35 AM  

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