Note: A version of this piece was printed by Saltwire on March 29, 2023.
It seems like forever ago, but one of my first “dream jobs” (after astronaut and before veterinarian) was artist. I loved to paint, draw and make crafts. Crazy Quilt and Art Attack were among my favourite television shows. If I gave someone a birthday gift, the card would be homemade.
I’m not sure when that side of me faded away, but I suspect it was in elementary school. I was scolded for colouring outside the lines or using as many different crayons as possible. When artwork went up on the school walls, I compared my work to that of other kids who seemed to have natural talent. At some point, my passion died.
As I grew up, a similar cycle took place with theatre. I learned I wasn’t talented enough to even make a go of it in student or community theatre, and so, I buried that part of me.
These days, I often tell people I’m “not crafty” or artistic. I mainly appreciate the arts as a consumer. When I attend a play or watch someone paint a mural on the street, I still feel that tug of longing. I sometimes worry my dreams of writing will go much the same way.
A little more than three months ago, though, I did something unusual. I started cross stitching on a whim. Aside from finishing the project at hand, I had no goal in mind. Dozens (or is it hundreds?) of stitches later, I still don’t. I have no plans to become a full-time crafter with an Etsy or Shopify page. I’ve barely even shared photos of my work online. Perhaps some of my finished pieces will go to people as gifts, but that’s about it.
Could it be that I’ve found myself a hobby?
In the last few years especially, I’ve tried to find a way to turn most of my interests into profit—or, at the very least, public content. For instance, I started an Instagram page to review craft beer and, soon after, I took on a job at a craft brewery. When I left that job, I explored the possibility of becoming a dog trainer, since I love animals so much.
There’s nothing wrong with exploring one’s options. Like everyone else around me, I live under capitalism, so it’s only natural that I might want to capitalize on doing things I like. However, there have been consequences to this mindset.
Some of my hobbies, such as writing poetry and playing guitar, have fallen by the wayside in the last decade of my life. While I was in my undergrad, I took both a guitar class and a couple of poetry courses as electives and made those hobbies useful: they went toward my journalism degree. After I graduated, I stopped doing much of either of those things. It’s only recently I have thought about why.
First off, I’m not especially good at poetry or music. I promise I don’t say that to be self-deprecating. It’s just a fact! And, if I’m not good at something, I certainly won’t be able to profit from it or show it off. I learned that the hard way more than once. Those things stopped being regular outlets for me because I wasn’t participating in them for school, and so my profitable ventures occupied most of my time. Guitar and poetry were no longer “worth it.”
When I took up cross stitching, I gave myself permission to do something just for the sake of it. I stitch because I like making images with pretty colours. I feel a sense of pride when I look at a completed pattern, imperfect though it may be. The work is, above all, for my own personal enjoyment.
I don’t remember the last time I felt this way about something. Perhaps it was when I was about four, gluing paper towel rolls together to make a telescope.
I dedicate my newfound hobby to my four-year-old self.