As the pandemic drags on, time may start to feel like it’s slowing down or speeding up. Days might begin to warp into weeks and months. And unless you’ve got something to keep yourself occupied, that spiral will likely continue to get worse until one day, you wake up and find yourself wondering what month it is. At least, that was my experience.
What’s the cure for this malaise? What can we do to tether ourselves to the material plane while so much of our lives seems to exist in the same rote cycle of cancelled events, closed buildings, work, school, home and sleep? It’s simple; get a hobby.
Maybe you’ve already got a hobby. Great! No, binge-watching reruns of The Office doesn’t count. I mean a hobby where you do something, where you make something tangible or meaningful to yourself, or where you do something really enjoyable and fulfilling that takes some amount of effort to do.
What that hobby or activity looks like will be different for everyone. I can’t tell you what you’ll enjoy doing—you’ve got to figure that out for yourself. For example, lots of people find enjoyment in gardening. I mostly find hay fever and dirt in places where it shouldn’t be. All I can do is share my experience finding hobbies during the pandemic, and hopefully inspire you to seek one out yourself.
Back in March, when things started to get real in the United States, I didn’t have much of a plan for how to occupy my time. I mostly treated it like a stay-at-home vacation, and I played lots of video games and did schoolwork when I felt like it. That was fine for the first two weeks—not so much for the next few months.
I quickly became used to pandemic life, which for me meant sleeping in until noon or later, doing the bare minimum for class and melting into my chair to absentmindedly play through my Steam library until I either had to eat or go to sleep. Not great.
I knew pretty early on that I had to make a change, lest I fully succumb to the pandemic time-warp and wake up a year later with no recollection of the past 12 months. So, I picked up photography.
One of my friends is an avid photographer, and we had been talking since the pandemic started about indoor photography, artsy photo techniques and other stuff of that nature. I had been scoping out the best entry-level camera I could find for a few months—the Sony A6000—and when the right time came and it went on sale for 20% off, I pulled the trigger.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how it works, and how to take photos that actually look decent. I haven’t done a great job at it, but to be honest, taking good photos isn’t really what I’m concerned about—the fact that I’m taking photos at all is a step in the right direction.
I’ve taken portraits of my cats, captured landscape shots of my neighborhood, shot dramatic action scenes with little 2-inch-tall figurines and filmed stupid home videos of one of my cats trying and failing to catch a bug through the window. These aren’t going to be published in National Geographic or screened at any film festivals. They do give me something to do, however, and I get a tangible feeling of accomplishment every time I take a shot that looks, you know, good.
I’ve also started to cook a lot more in the past few months. At the start of the pandemic, I was ordering takeout and eating processed food out of boxes and bags a lot more than I should have. Slowly, though, I started to cook most of my meals, just because I needed something to do. To my surprise, instead of being annoyed at all the cooking I was doing, I started to enjoy it. Even though I usually only the have the energy to cook basic food—oatmeal gang rise up—sometimes I go all-out for dinner and make a three-course meal of homemade bread, pasta and chickpea stew, or braid a chocolate-cinnamon babka that takes 30 minutes to get just right.
This newfound love of cooking comes through in drinks, too. Before the pandemic, I used to make all my coffee in a french press, because it was by far the easiest method. Now, I have a whole routine in the morning where I heat my kettle to 95°C, rinse my Chemex filter, grind my coffee just shy of espresso-fine and carefully swirl 500ml of water in a dime-sized circle through the coffee grounds. It’s more complicated than my previous routine, sure; but I have the time, don’t I?
I also bought a SodaStream with an Amazon gift card I got for Christmas, and as far as impulse purchases go, I’d say it was a good choice. I make sparkling water all the time now just to watch the little CO2 jet go brrblrrrrblrr, and I actually started making my own soda syrups to pretend I was a 1920s soda jerk. I made homemade ginger ale the other day, and it was incredible. All I need now is a white coat and a little paper hat and I’m golden. (Am I an old person now?)
What I’m trying to say, by way of a long exposition about my pandemic life, is this: please, for the sake of your own health, get a hobby. While nothing can make this pandemic lockdown limbo good, you can make it better. If only to have something to occupy your time other than work, school, sleep and video games, a hobby can work wonders making the 10-month pandemic slump just a little bit more bearable.