When I was a kid, I was not known for trying things.
I didn’t ride a bike until I was 10 years old. I didn’t swim until I was, like, 12 years old. Think about that - the staples of childhood were things I didn’t enjoy until I was practically a teenager.
That’s because I was a wuss. I always saw the negative viewpoint of attempting something.
If there was a chance that an activity could go sour, I was all about avoiding it. If you were going to throw a rock at a hornet’s nest, I’d be 100 yards away in a dead sprint before the rock left your hand.
And yet, when I look back, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try anything. In fact, in some areas, I was very adventurous.
During lazy summer days, I’d go scrounging in my house and find reams of paper, fresh notebooks, an old word processor or typewriter, and just go to town for hours.
The following are actual projects I worked on for significant amounts of time in my childhood:
- A novelization in the vein of the DC vs. Marvel comics series
- Short stories featuring the cast of Saved By The Bell (I guess you would call this “fan fiction” now)
- My own, terrible comic strip
- A homemade Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie
I jumped into each of these projects with reckless abandon, with dreams of the finished products launching me into stardom, fame, and fortune.
But the novelization never got past a page and a half or so. The short stories were tossed pretty quickly. The comic strip was never finished. And the movie never reached the filming stage.
Is that "wasting time"?
Hours upon hours of my time were dedicated to these projects with nothing to show for it.
And yet, at no point in my childhood did I bemoan the waste of time. To me, it wasn’t “wasting time” at all, actually - I had fun with the process.
Even if I failed miserably, it didn’t matter. I was just trying stuff out to see if I liked it or was good at it.
I miss that feeling. I miss the ability to just try stuff for the fun of it.
So how do we get that back? How do we regain the ability to try and explore new activities?
Find an hour a week to dedicate to new things
It feels like the same advice you hear everywhere else, and I’m totally cool with that: turn off Netflix and get off the couch.
Netflix is not evil. Television is not evil. I don’t have a problem with it, because I’m a huge TV-watcher myself.
But once a week, let’s dedicate a little time to doing something else instead of mindlessly sitting in front of the tube.
“But Tom!” you shout at your computer screen, “That’s my unwinding time!”
That’s cool. I get it. But let’s entertain the idea that unwinding can take different forms.
Last night (as I write this), I did have the TV on. But I was also dipping an old rag into a little can of wood stain and adding a finish to the new wood furniture I built for Christmas:
There was something really peaceful about the process. It sounds like work, yeah, but it was gratifying. It was producing results, and I loved it.
I was able to zone out in the process - and this was the first time I ever stained anything (and not with, like, spaghetti sauce).
Sure, I had TV going while I did it, but I still was able to explore a new activity. So even in this example, there’s a blend. I was at least off the couch. You’ve got options.
Find the minimum financial investment
Want to create something? Or play around with a new hobby?
Often, you can borrow or rent the equipment. You can work with materials that maybe won’t last forever, but would help you get your feet wet with the process.
You might even be able to play around with things you already have for starters. Regardless of the activity you’re eyeing up, there’s a way to do it on the cheap before you plunge deep into something that you might not keep doing.
What do you try?
Here are just a few hobbies you could get into without investing a ton, that could wind up being really awesome, fun, productive, and fulfilling activities:
- Woodworking. Pick a simple project, buy some cheaper types of wood, rent a few tools, and take your time getting to know the activity.
- Writing. Google Drive is free and available anywhere. You could outline your stories/books in Evernote, which is also free. Explore and try it out.
- Photography. You’d be surprised at how great your phone camera can work for a little amateur photography.
- Make music. Rent an instrument, or find a place where you can get a beat-up one for cheap. I just found one for $60 on Craigslist with one quick search, and I live in Milwaukee, where there is nothing. Get some new strings for $10 and start finding lessons on YouTube.
Those are just some ideas. Maybe you just need a pen and a pad of paper to start doodling and sketching.
The point is, finding some new productive, creative ways to release some energy can be therapeutic and fun - but you have to be willing to try.
Another great part of trying any of the above activities? Failure is understandable, and if you play your cards right, you won’t be so upset about losing the time or money. You’ll enjoy the process again.
Just like when you were a kid.