Column: Search for a hobby a dismaying and unsuccessful pursuit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 8, 2002

People with hobbies are happy people. That’s because they always have something to do.

Some people like astronomy. When they need something to do, all they have to do is walk outside at night and crane their heads upward slightly. Talk about having it easy.

Me, when I look up at that huge universe, I’m in awe; but the thought of sorting out all those stars and planets and constellations makes me shudder. It’s not like finding a needle in a haystack; it’s like throwing thousands of needles into a bunck of haystacks and then trying to remember where all of them are.

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Some people like collecting coins. That’s interesting. With all the different countries we’ve got on this planet, and all the history we have, there must be millions of fascinating coins out there.

My problem with coin collecting is that as soon as I have a couple of coins, I have to spend them. That shoots

that hobby pretty quickly.

Some people, like my wife, do crafts &045; quilts and cross-stitching and the rest. Now there’s something: A hobby that is also productive. I can’t tell you how many Christmas, birthday and other special-occasion presents she came up with through her hobby. It must be rewarding to be able to give somebody the fruits of your amusement like that.

Me, I lack two important skills for that type of thing: patience and coordination. That makes it hard for me to take up any hobby that creates something useful, be it crafts or something like woodworking or car repair.

I wish I had a hobby. It’s really sad when somebody asks you what your hobbies are and you look at them dumbly and say, &uot;Oh, I don’t know …&uot; and you start to get nervous and you blurt something out like &uot;Oh, you know, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.&uot; When I’ve had job interviews, I’ve had to prepare an answer to a hobby or interest question ahead of time to make sure I have something to say.

t’s troubling; I don’t feel like I’m interesting enough. Other people skydive, or scuba dive, or go birdwatching, or go rock climbing. It’s all so cool.

But not me.

It’s not like I’m not interested in things. I’m interested in history; I like reading about it and if I had the History Channel

at home I’m sure I’d watch it. But does that really count as a hobby? I don’t think it does, because I have no active participation. I don’t do civil-war reenactments or get much chance to visit

historic sites. If I had a life mission of visiting all the presidents’ homes, that could be a hobby; but if all I do is read about stuff, I think it only qualifies as an interest.

I guess there’s baseball &045; not playing it, of course. I was never very good at that. I like watching it, though. I like following the Twins. But is that a hobby? Same as with history, it’s not very active, so I don’t think it counts as a hobby.

There are other things I like to do: I like playing chess, but I rarely do, and when I do, I usually lose. It goes back to patience again.

I used to like writing poetry, if you could call it that. Here’s an example of my efforts:

The Giant Wooden Spoon

Sometimes, I wish I had a giant wooden spoon

With it, I could stir, stir stir

My giant bowl of gruel

Also, I could use it to pole vault

Over various streams and rivers.

You can see why that hobby didn’t work out.

I used to collect baseball cards as a youth. That was a genuine hobby, and it taught me that hobbies can be expensive. Beyond the price of the cards, I was always buying binders and stuff to keep them in, and then magazines to see how much they were worth. But when they started with the premium cards &045; when instead of $3 for a pack of 24 Donruss, it was $3 for like 6 cards &045; that was the end of that hobby.

This all leaves me a man without a hobby, and I just don’t feel complete. Golf, fishing, painting &045; none it has stuck.

Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining. A person without a hobby at least has plenty of time. And even without a pastime to pursue, it seems time is always short.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays.