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The Mass Media

Don’t neglect your hobbies or passions: you’ll always regret it

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A musician performing a saxophone. Photo by Saichand Chowdary (He/Him) / Mass Media Staff. 

I often call myself a lifelong musician. The truth is, the deep passion I once had for music is a mere shadow of what it used to be. I’ve gone through a very long hiatus from playing, aside from the occasional bedroom noodling and the rare times I perform in the basement of my neighbor’s house. 

And man, it really makes me sad. I mean hell, I played with my music school band at Johnny D’s before it shut down! I was honestly on my way to becoming a working musician—well, part-time of course. 

Why am I telling you this? Well, I want to explain what happened to me and why as a way of encouraging you all not to follow in my footsteps. There are so many reasons to neglect your creative passions or hobbies and so many opportunities to do so. I’ll talk about mine so that you might be able to identify and avoid them. 

I put my personal passion aside for many reasons, none of them intentional. Stress was certainly one reason. At first, music was a stress-relief. In high school, I would often ask to go to the bathroom in the middle of class only to walk the empty halls listening to music instead. 

During my early college years, blasting music while driving home was pure bliss. Playing music at home was an emotional release and performing live was exhilarating. Music was my direct response to feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed. 

As my life became more and more stressful, I stopped playing music myself. I had really squandered my guitar lessons, which led to me entering a long and frustrating rut where I just wasn’t getting any better. Basically, I was constantly bored by what I was playing, and this meant that other, more immediate concerns like work and school completely took over. 

I did still have time for music, technically. The problem was twofold—I became totally uninspired and frustrated with music, and I was starting to develop a worsening case of ADHD. I’ve spoken about it before, but I don’t often experience the hyper fixation of ADHD unless I am in the middle of something that I’m trying to get exactly right. I mostly experience the inability to focus on anything specific, which means a few things. 

Firstly, it makes simply listening to music a bit hard. I find it difficult to get wrapped up in the songs I’m listening to, and I often find myself anticipating the end of the song rather than just experiencing it. 

Secondly, I find it very difficult to listen to music—especially music with lyrics—while reading, writing or studying at the same time. My brain will just keep flipping between one or the other. This seriously limits the amount of time I can spend listening to music. 

Depression was the thing that undergirded all of this. I won’t go into too much detail, since I think it’s pretty obvious why depression would cause me to neglect my personal interests and eat away at my passion for music. But it’s worth pointing out because I think some people don’t understand just how much depression can wind its ugly tentacles into every aspect of life. 

The combination of ADHD and depression destroyed my motivation to do much of anything, really. In turn, my lack of motivation made my depression worse. It was a vicious cycle. 

Lastly, I was experiencing a growing obsession with podcasts and YouTube during my early college years, which largely replaced music during my commute or in my downtime. I went from listening to music all day to listening to every podcast episode from dozens of shows that appeared in my feed all day. 

Podcasts originally replaced music for me because I could focus better on them. They demanded my attention, especially educational programs and interviews. Yet, I began to lose my interest in them with my ability to focus, and they just became my background noise instead of music. Instead of spending time with both interests, keeping them both fresh, I burnt out on both through singular obsession. 

So, here’s the ultimate rundown of things that happened to me that you should look out for in your own life. 

Firstly, stress ironically burned me out from my passion. Then, untreated and uncontrolled ADHD—which in your life could be any attention disorder—sapped my ability to be engaged with my passions. Depression—which in your life could be any mental illness—exacerbated my disillusionment with my passion, creating a vicious cycle of doubt. Finally, another interest completely took over my older interests. 

I probably don’t have to explain to you all why keeping your passions and hobbies alive is important, but it’s worth bringing up. Recently, “burnout” has been a hot topic of conversation and research [1], and I think this lies at the core of what passions and hobbies can do for us. 

Most of us are not particularly fulfilled by our jobs. Of course, there are many who are—but even then, the old heuristic of “don’t turn your passion into your job” often holds true. The solution to this seems to be what we all know as “self-care” [2]. Taking time away from work and school to “recharge” is clearly beneficial both for your mental health and for your future productivity. 

Here’s my point, though. I think a lot of people associate self-care with physical relaxation. The picture is almost always of someone curled up on a couch, face covered in Ben and Jerry’s, rewatching some old show for the 15th time. That form of self-care is perfectly valid for when your brain is simply overloaded and needs a break. 

However, self-care can also be performing a hobby or a passion. This is especially important if your job is intellectually—or emotionally—unfulfilling. Most of the happiest people I know have active hobbies that involve some level of expertise, creativity and continued learning. Music is a good one, but so is jewelry making, painting, woodworking, blacksmithing, archery and more. 

The consequences of neglecting your personal interests for an extended period can be serious. Burnout is awful, and feeling unfulfilled is even worse. Not doing anything for personal enrichment can really sap a person’s soul and contribute to worsening mental illness. 

It can also be highly discouraging. I have been trying to get back into the groove with music recently, and it feels good. With all the lost momentum, it’s been hard. I don’t learn and improve as easily as I did as a kid. It’s harder to make connections and new musician friends than it used to be. I definitely lost a lot of valuable time and practice. 

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t reengage with an old hobby or passion that you’ve neglected. Like I said, it feels good to be playing and listening to music again, and it’s certainly done wonders for my mental well-being. I really encourage everyone to hop back on the horse if they’ve put aside something they used to love doing; it’s worth more than gold. 

To be clear, I recognize that not everybody has the time and money to pursue a personal hobby. Many of you might have your hands full with work, school, family or even activism. It’s indeed a privilege to have the time to chase down a personal interest, hobby or passion. This is the reality of our society today, and it’s not fair. Yet many people take pride and joy in these aspects of life, nonetheless. 

If you have the time, and you’re feeling burnt out and unfulfilled, pick up that old hobby. Challenge yourself to practice or create every day or every week or whatever schedule works for you. I promise, it will make a difference in your life. 

And if you’re seeing yourself go down the road I did, put the brakes on! Talk to someone about your mental illness. Get help wherever you can, and don’t neglect your passions—you’ll always regret it if you do. 

[1]https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20230123-is-burnout-finally-high-profile-enough-for-leaders-to-act#:~:text=Indeed%2C%20during%20the%20pandemic%2C%20reports,experiencing%20some%20form%20of%20burnout. 

[2]https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/ 

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor