Just a hobby

Three small words with which we can crush people. Calling something “just a hobby” is often a way of degrading things which don’t make a lot of money. As though money is the only measure of worth. ‘Hobby jobs’ are simply those someone else considers not lucrative enough. If you make enough money (sum unspecified) you can be taken seriously no matter how pointless and worthless your actual contribution to the world is. Volunteers can be told they have ‘hobby jobs’ – it is a refusal to give respect, often tied to an unwillingness to treat them well. You don’t need help or support, this is just a hobby for you.

I’ve seen brilliant, talented, acclaimed people hit with the ‘just a hobby’ line. It isn’t just about belittling people who are starting out, it can be used to undermine anyone who does something they love and attempts to make a living by it.

The word ‘hobby’ tends to imply the trivial. It’s what you do in your spare time, to relax – to call something a hobby is to suggest it isn’t useful, and that it is instead an indulgence. Cooking, gardening and crafting are all described as ‘hobbies’ by people who do not consider this to be a good use of your time. Forms of exercise –  essential to wellbeing – are also called hobbies, and again their value is degraded by this. Being healthy should not be considered an optional leisure pursuit available only to those with too much time on their hands. Reading is described as a ‘hobby’ not a process of education, self development, inspiration and joy.

And then, if you get depressed you may get some CBT paperwork encouraging you to ‘get a hobby’. Distract yourself from the miseries of your real life with some pleasant trivia!

We need to reclaim crafts, skills, exercise and community activities as being essential to life, not some kind of distraction or bonus extra. We need to resist anything that measures worth in terms of scope to earn money from it, too. There are other ways of making life better for ourselves and each other. Don’t talk about hobbies. Talk about passion and dedication, life skills, community, resilience, creativity, inspiration, health, relaxation. Talk about quality of life.

Also, pause to imagine what would happen if we started to treat collecting money just for the sake of it (rather than to use), with the same wry, indulgent humour that we currently tend to treat the collecting of stamps. Money, we can argue, has a discernible use in the world where a stamp collection does not… but stamps were useful once, and money that has simply been collected with the aim of having a big collection of money, serves no purpose at all. It just sits there, helping no one. Perhaps money collecting is the one thing that truly deserves to be denigrated as a mere hobby.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Just a hobby

  • treegod

    I once described my life to an auntie (care of the land, studying psychosynthesis and druidry, hosting workshops and other events) then she asked me “What hobbies do you have.” I didn’t know what to say, since I don’t consider any part of my life a hobby, it’s all important. My dad came to my rescue and said “Oh, he has chicken.” I went with the flow and accepted it. Later I reflected on my situation: I don’t have work or hobbies; I have a lifestyle!

  • flameinthesnow

    Agreed. I experienced this attitude as a volunteer interpreter/translator for years. As a society we don’t value many of the activities performed as seeming hobbies, yet things just wouldn’t be the same without them.

  • Anny

    Sometimes you read a post and find yourself nodding and nodding and wanting to shout out from the rafters how much you agree, and this is just such a one for me. Treegod is right, we have a lifestyle, and so many people would be much happier and healthier if they could embrace this attitude too, but I’m afraid there’s a long way to go before that message reaches more people.

  • Sylvia Pearson

    After watching Maleficent yesterday, I’m going to learn how to grow wings as a hobby.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    My entire business has ever made much money in fact sometimes I have to contribute some of my own money to keep it afloat. Never the less this provides me a place in the middle of nowhere where I can live in peace and at the some tme have people come to meet me without ever having to leave my home. Suits me.

    Now i do have hobbies in the literal sense of the world, endless reading, a model railroad I might get started some day, and a few other things but these have been life time interests as well. as has rairoad history has been since high school. So yes they are part of my life.

  • locksley2010

    Treegod… I high-five you!

  • The massive power of tiny words | Druid Life

    […] written before about how the word ‘just’ can be used insidiously to downplay things – ‘just a hobby’ ‘just a bit of fun’… today it’s the word ’if’ that I want to scrutinise. It’s […]

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