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get a life

My Dad, who had always been the most constant and calming presence in my life, died in a car accident two weeks before my college graduation. There’s probably some psychological explanation for it, but one of the immediate and lasting effects of his death was that I became extremely anxious and unable to relax for any length of time. I think, in the beginning, I was afraid to sit and do nothing, because if things got quiet, I started thinking about my dad, or the reality of a life without him. But months went by, and then years, and I found it hard to watch TV, or to read a book, or to just be still. To this day, it is very difficult for me to watch TV unless I am simultaneously folding laundry or nagging my husband.

By my mid-20s, it began to occur to me that my inability to unwind was negatively affecting my life. Without the ability to decompress, I was as tightly wound as a bow, and as prone to snap. At the same time, I was struck by the realization that I had no hobbies, which suggested that I might be a loser. On top of my baseline anxiety, I now had real reason for panic. So, thinking that a hobby might help me learn how to relax and deliver me from loserdom, I began a fevered period in which I desperately sought to identify a hobby that would stick. The goal: to mold myself into something better and more interesting than the anxiety-ridden mess I’d become.

photo by ethan samson

First: photography. If you didn’t go through a period in your 20s when you walked around earnestly with a camera taking photos of piles of leaves, I would suspect that you didn’t have a 20s. I might have stuck with it, except that my photography teacher assigned actual homework, and I’d often run out of time and end up taking close-up photos of objects around my office, like my stapler. The week before I quit, I again ran out of time and locked myself in a bathroom stall at work to take desperate, artsy photos of my brassiere draped over the back of the toilet. When my teacher pulled me aside to suggest that my photos might benefit from more time and focus, I lost interest altogether.

Next: horse-back riding. I had read Black Beauty as a girl, and remembered liking it. More importantly, I liked jodhpurs, and thought the chances were pretty damn high that I’d look awesome in them. I think I took maybe 8 lessons total before I realized a) that I was expected to actually groom the horse, not just show up for rides, 2) that I might never get over the fear of being kicked by a horse sufficiently to allow me to groom it as required, and 3) that my head was too large for all the really cute helmets. I also realized that “posting” requires thigh strength that I neither had nor could ever hope to develop. My riding career ended as quickly as it had begun.

Then: knitting. I was actually a pretty good knitter, if you like tightly woven knits. It turns out that if you are a stress case, your knitting tends to reflect it. Everything I knitted came out half the size it was supposed to and looked felted, because I pulled every loop so tight. And if I missed a stitch, or made some other error, I was completely unable to get over it, and was apt to throw the entire project in the trash and hurl the can across the room in a fit of rage.

Most recently: rock climbing. My gym has a rock climbing wall, and my friend Katherine and I took lessons for a while. It was super fun, and boy did it feel burly to tell people I was belay certified. I liked it enough, and felt confident enough that I’d finally found my thing, that I actually posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, “Look who has a hobby now, hosers.” A better caption might have been “HUBRIS,” because I think I stopped going about two weeks after this photo was taken.

photo by katherine hu sasaki

I haven’t given up. I watched “White Nights” on cable once and have wanted to tap ever since. My friend found an adult class and I almost pulled the trigger, until I went on the studio’s website and read that you are required to wear tights or “jazz pants” to class. First, I don’t know what “jazz pants” are, but they can’t be good. Second, if you go with the tights option, they are presumably to be worn without pants over them. So, tights, plus a leotard, plus tap shoes. I want to tap, but not badly enough to expose myself to abject humiliation. I also have a fantasy of taking family Taekwondo lessons with all three of my guys. But I’m concerned that, because I am Korean and my boys are half-Korean, we’d all be a lot better at Taekwondo than Tom, who is very, very white. And that would cause unnecessary envy and acrimony in our relationship, which might increase my stress, not reduce it.

Have any tips for relaxing, or for a good hobby? Please share, I need the help.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Muh wa ha ha ha ha! This made me laugh so hard! I am always trying some new thing hoping that it will be “my thing” but it always fizzles out when I realize that Im not THE BEST EVER at what ever it is im trying… when I realize that Im not going to the olympics with my new hobby I move on to another one… ah, it makes me laugh to think of it.

    January 6, 2012
    • this sounds familiar. i do think if i was super good at any of the hobbies, i’d probably stick with them too.

      January 6, 2012
  2. Lisa Larpenteur #

    I think your hobby is being the best freaking blogger there is! I’ll have you know that yours is the only blog I ever read and I look forward to each new post. I have taken more than a few of your ideas without shame, I purchased boot stays, red AND purple skinny jeans that I love, and I will be using some of your gift ideas. Love you gurl!

    December 18, 2011
  3. Please don’t start charging to read your blog, because if you do I’ll have less money. Just consider your readers to be your shrinks and your blog is the form of payment we accept. It’s a fair trade.

    December 13, 2011
  4. Suzanne #

    I’m with the rest of them, Yoona. I think you have more hobbies than you realize – you just don’t perceive them as such because they are things you enjoy doing… blogger, stylist and food enthusiast, are three right off the top of my head. How many hobbies can a Mom to 2 and 5 year old boys and full time lawyer sustain? I mean, you make your own pizza dough and almond milk – and for the record, you are the only person I know who does that. You are an inspiration, my friend!

    December 13, 2011
    • if making almond milk ever becomes my hobby, you are permitted to check me into a commune

      December 13, 2011
  5. Maybe your calling is to curate all of those wonderful curiosities — and write about them? A la George Plimpton.

    December 13, 2011
    • yes, but only if i can dress like george plimpton. or is it tom wolfe?

      December 13, 2011
  6. I trap furbearers and speed skate. No joke. I recommend either or both.

    December 13, 2011
    • you had me at speed skating. you know we koreans clean up at short track every olympics, or at least at the ones where apollo ohno isn’t there to knock people over. again, there may be a thigh strength issue though

      December 13, 2011
  7. Dawn P #

    I agree with the first 2 comments. I open your blog immediately when I receive notification of a new post. Your blog is witty, fun and totally relatable. Maybe your other hobby is part-time stylist. Thanks to a previous post, I bought myself a cute pair of red jeans which I have worn with a fuschia shirt – much like the pic in your post. Very daring for me, but I was inspired 🙂

    December 13, 2011
    • red + fuschia = magic. also, i changed my mind and think this combo WOULD look good on redheads. thanks for reading, dawn!

      December 13, 2011
  8. Ryan C. #

    i think you’ve found a pretty awesome one in this blog! that, or move to spain and have them force relaxation upon you with 2 hour lunches…

    December 13, 2011
  9. Chris #

    I think you found it!

    December 13, 2011
    • doubles, anyone? of course lauren would have to play with tom

      December 13, 2011

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