Project 14 – Day 4: Hobbies

Day 4 is about my hobbies which is the sand in my life, in the old parable about using your time wisely. I like leaving big gaps to fill up, though.

If you’re not familiar with the aforementioned parable, it’s about how a college professor explains priorities to his students. He pulls out a container, a bucket of rocks, a bucket of pebbles, a bucket of sand, and a beer. He dumps the rocks into the bucket, and then asks his students whether the container is full, to which the students say yes.  He then takes the pebbles, and fills the gaps between the larger rocks, and then asks his students again whether or not the container is full, to which the students say yes, again. Finally, he takes the sand and fills the gaps between the pebbles and the rocks, and asks his students again, whether or not the container is full, and the students, again, say yes. The jar symbolizes our lives, the rocks the things that truly matter in life, like health, mental well-being, and family, the pebbles are things like work, school, and friends and the sand is everything else. The moral of the story is if you fill your time with the small stuff, you won’t have time for the big things, so take care of the things that matter first.

I’ve already written a lot about my bigger things, so today, I’ll take some time to think about my little things – my hobbies. I have a LOT of them, so many that I’ve had a lot of them also fall by the wayside. My mom used to grouse at me and ask why I didn’t just stick with one thing and get really good at that, but honestly, I like trying things out. I’m okay with being a “Jack of all trades, master of none” because it’s fun – none of my hobbies are something I’d do professionally, and while I am committing to less in the future, it’s nice to know I’ve already developed all these skills.

One of my favourite things to do is read and write. I’ve written about how my parents didn’t really have money when I was a kid, so the library was one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. As a pretty equal opportunity reader, I enjoy everything from John Grisham, to Harry Potter, to Lord of the Rings, to the New York times, to Jane Austen, to modern blogs, to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. Anyone who asks me what my favourite book or author is gives me a headache, because I can never decide. Out of sheer perversity and some honesty, though, when I am asked that question, I like answering Lolita, by Nabokov. It’s not because I condone the subject matter, like the plot, or even like any of the characters; it’s honestly the best written piece of English prose I’ve ever read. It’s so well written that the really frightening thing about Lolita is not the monsters like Humbert Humbert, or Lolita, or Clare Quilty in the story, it’s that you actually start to sympathize with them. There’s the additional bonus of discouraging people from asking you that question again.

I actually didn’t start writing until much later, because for some reason, it never occurred to me people would be interested in exploring my worlds with me (I’m still not sure they are). It wasn’t until I started roleplaying on an internet forum that I really started flexing my writing chops, and it was a very, very good baptism by fire. If you’ve never roleplayed before, roleplaying is essentially like collaborative story writing, where you write the bits where your character is involved, and you sometimes have to elbow your way into the story. It’s fast, it’s messy, and it’s a really good learning experience, because you have to get everything mostly right on your first edit, you have to roll with mistakes that you and other people make, and most of all, you have to just write – if you don’t, you get left out of the story. I learned really quickly what makes a good story, what makes a bad one, and once, what makes an amazing one that sucks people in.

I’ve had a really hard time turning everything I’ve learned into a story to be completed though. I have a million worlds in my head, and not one of them has an ending. My hard drive is a dusty graveyard of undead stories that just yell “write me! Finish me!”. I’ve turned to short stories and essays and blogging, just as a way to keep my skills sharp, but someday, someway, I’d like to be able finish a full story, with beginning, middle, and (some how) an ending. I’ve slowly started cannibalizing old ideas and old worlds and cobbling them together into a new Frankenstein, and with fewer things to write, maybe I’ll actually get this one done. In the meantime, however, I like blogging, and I like creating little gems that help crystallize my feelings and experiences at the one moment.

My list of artistic endeavours is enormous, and I’ve had to give a lot of it up. I’ve had classical drawing training, some informal paint, watercolour, calligraphy, printing, and pastel training, and far too much time scribbling in notebooks to come up with whatever. I’ve experimented with some less traditional forms, like quilling, paper cut, embroidery, and jewellery making (I make really awesome presents too, when I have the time). I also used to paint sets, act, and write reviews, as well as sing, play the piano, and play the tin whistle.  I’m starting to dabble in Kinetic typography, combining my love of words and art, and I’d like to try lampwork and pottery if I ever get the opportunity. Art and I are old friends, and I think she’s still trying to find something that will consume my soul like so many other artists in every genre. Until she does, I’m just going to enjoy everything she presents me with.

I have other hobbies too, somehow. I got lazy towards the end of high school, but I used to play badminton and volleyball competitively, and do some track when I was younger. I’d like to try a martial art, Muay Thai or Capoeira, if I ever get the chance. Like everyone else in this generation, I’m also a big gamer – I currently mainly play Aion and Pokemon, and I’m trying (not very successfully) to learn League of Legends. Travelling is another thing that brings a lot of joy into my life – I always joke that when I get married, I’m going to skip the expensive nightmare of a Chinese wedding and spend the money on a world tour for a honeymoon.

My last hobby that I think has really shaped me as a person is competitive trivia. It’s a sport of the minds, where contestants try to show that they know more than the other team more quickly, so it tends to attract a lot of know-it-alls, smart asses, and generally awesome people. I recently “retired” after playing for six years with some of the best, meeting amazing people all across Canada and the US, and learning some really valuable lessons, like teamwork is more effective than working on your own, competition and high pressure situations can bring out the best and worst in people, and Margaret Atwood is the answer to everything. It was a really rewarding experience, and one that will stay with me for a while, especially since my colleagues don’t seem to know what the meaning of retirement is.

I think I’ve been shaped just as much by my hobbies than any other one area of my life, because hobbies and past times are something you can choose to do, or not do. There are millions of things in this world to try, so I strongly encourage you to reach out and try a few more if you have the time; you never quite know what to expect or what you’ll learn.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

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