Tidbit # 7 Hobbies

November 6, 2021

Is it possible to have a hobby you’re not serious about? I mean, can you actually casually do something and somehow resist the urge to try to be the best at it? Is there even such a thing as a “hobby” or are all hobbies really just another serious interest that you’ve decided you don’t want other people to think you take too seriously, though you do? The concept of the “hobby” can be less clearcut than one is inclined to think. It can be very difficult for a gifted child to engage in anything of interest only casually. This is, of course, something of a double-edged sword. To have the drive and capability to pursue anything of interest and do it well is a rare gift that can hold great potential to benefit others and satisfy oneself. Indeed, doing many things well is rewarding for the individual and certainly contributes to one’s well- roundedness — surely, having a diversity of passions isn’t the worst thing, right? And yet, the darker underbelly of such immense talent and fecundity is that hobbies, which should bring people a respite from the more stressful and competitive elements of their lives, often serve as yet another of many serious activities, offering some pleasure but also feeding that drive to be perfect. In other words, it can be difficult for gifted people not to be serious, self-critical and perfectionistic, even about hobbies. 

Still, there is a lesson to be learned: striving to be awesome at something doesn’t have to include stress and pressure. All kids need a release, but because of gifted kids’ tendency for perfectionism — at least, in the things they like most — finding a low-stakes outlet for gifted learners can be especially important and difficult. That is, there must be certain flexibility to come and go, a joyful willingness to take steps but not count them as forward or backward; there should be a drive without the limiting goal of excellence; neither should the sole goal be “fun,” as that too can lead one astray. Hobbies are a sort of organized permission to just be while not actually disengaging from learning — whether consciously or unconsciously. Adults too need such activities, which some of us remember more readily than others! 

I will borrow Derek Lin’s translated verse 45 from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching: 

Great perfection seems flawed
Its function is without failure Great fullness seems empty
Its function is without exhaustion Great straightness seems bent Great skill seems unrefined […] Movement overcomes cold Stillness overcomes heat 

The challenge, then, is not so much finding the “right” hobby as curating the right mindset and making the time and space to engage in such an activity. I, for one, have always taken issue with the word “hobby” and much prefer saying ‘this is something I really enjoy doing’ without allowing myself to self- identify with it. Regardless of the name, however, embracing the release a hobby-like activity invites offers yet another access point to brain/body balance. So I say, encourage the hobby; lay off the qualitative formulations, and watch the magic happen! 

Julianna Tauschinger-Dempsey, Gifted Mother of Three Wildly Gifted Children, Educator @ Scholars Academy for the Gifted & Artistically Elite & Empowerer of Gifted Youth & Their Parents

© Innovative Pedagogy, LLC