Monday, February 9, 2009

Something to do in your spare time

Hobbies have always been important in my family. They’ve always been something worth the effort. So Dad played tennis, and now plays golf too. He also volunteered in the tennis club as a barman for years. He gave up Sunday mornings for league matches, played in the evenings with friends and took part in table quizzes in the club. Apart from helping keep him fit, he also amassed a range of Waterford Crystal, pewter mugs, tennis balls, golf balls, sport socks and the odd bottle of wine from various competitions and raffles. Mam didn’t do much when we were young but then started playing tennis again, took up golf and bridge, and joined two choirs. As kids we played tennis, then took up hockey in secondary school, were in the brigeens and guides, and also played the piano and tin whistle. The whole family also went swimming once a week. Being social and active was something encouraged.

But while my sister and brother took up kayaking and climbing in college, I gave up hockey after my second year. And since then I haven’t had any hobbies. It’s not to say I haven’t been busy but between moving to Turkey, learning the language, being pregnant and raising young kids I haven’t had much time to devote to myself. I did start yoga when I was pregnant and have continued it to an extent, but it’s all self-taught with books and DVD’s (much like my Turkish actually!). And now I’m going to learn to play the Irish flute (more on that soon).

There’s another factor at play here though. My in-laws don’t have hobbies either, unless you count crocheting trousseau for themselves or their daughters. Any hobby would have to be done in the slivers of time allowed by the hazelnut farm and running the shop. Some of them are hunt occasionally, my nieces and nephews did some sports in school and some learned instruments but I don’t think any have continued past school. There is a sense that in general hobbies are for kids, not for adults, which could be generalized to Turkey in general. Hobbies require money and time, both of which have been in scarce supply for a lot of the population in the past. When every hour must be worked to put food on the table, when you don't have any spare time, hobbies tend to be neglected. That is slowly changing now, but the proportion of adults with hobbies is still lower than Ireland by a long shot.

This all leads to a slightly skewed view of hobbies and their value. A hobby which produces something useful is valued far higher than one that ‘just’ makes an individual happy. The end product has a definite value which makes it easier to justify spending money and time on doing it. A set of shelves is more worth than a flute in that regard.

I have slipped into this mindset sometimes, even though I don’t agree with it. Any activity that increases a person’s peace of mind is worth it. Whether that’s meditation, playing music, skiing, tennis, golf, hunting, blogging or building something, doesn’t matter.

A hobby’s greatest value is the fact that it helps us cope with stress and that is definitely worth the effort.

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