It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and forget to make time for the things you enjoy. I’m guilty of it myself, often going months without reading, weeks without writing even a thought down on paper, days without sitting down and treating myself to a nice cup of tea after a long day.
There can be a lot of reasons for this happening – becoming busier, priorities changing, responsibilities shifting, anhedonia and depression – and it would be impossible to list all of them. But, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed despite it all, is a very distinct change in behavior: I stop carrying around the things I enjoy.
Here’s the thing – for me, the things I love mostly come in the form of a book. Sketchbooks, journals, novels, comics. When I was younger, I was never seen without a ridiculously heavy messenger bag slung over my shoulder, often with multiple selections of books to choose from, one or two journals, a variety of pens and pencils, a sketchbook, a folder of writing I was particularly proud of, drawings I wanted to show people, etc.
I often heard comments about this – people telling me I was lugging around things I knew I wouldn’t have time to use, my parents trying to get me to carry smaller bags, and so on. So, slowly, I stopped.
At first it was for practical reasons. If I was going to be out, and knew I wouldn’t have time to pull out a book because I’d be talking to a friend, I would leave the books at home. If I knew I had errands to run, or was going shopping, I realized it would be cumbersome to attempt to carry around everything I wanted and needed.
Eventually, it was because of technology – I could binge-watch shows on my phone, scroll through Reddit for hours, could spend an entire train-ride texting someone. I lost touch with the heavy and clunky ways I used to preoccupy myself in exchange for the smaller, condensed, and more versatile ways.
And then it was because I was depressed. I stopped being able to focus on books, had no inspiration for drawings, thought everything I wrote was utter garbage. I became wrapped up in misery, and couldn’t even remember the things that made me feel good.
About a year ago, it was brought to my attention, because of health reasons, how little I did that I used to enjoy doing. I was asked what I was passionate about – writing, and books. And then I was asked when was the last time I wrote, or when was the last time I read something? The answer was that I couldn’t remember. I had no idea what the last thing I’d read was, no recollection of opening a word document or writing down a poem. Then I was asked why, and I looked at my small purse and realized I’d started carrying things that made it impossible for me to tote around the things I enjoyed toting.
So, I changed my habit, back to what it used to be.
It wasn’t extreme, but I slowly began packing a notebook and pen, or a small sketchbook and pencils. I chose one book I wanted to read, and always made sure I had it on me.
And it didn’t work at first—I still wasn’t making the time I wanted to do the things I enjoyed. But eventually, I found myself remembering that I had a book with me, and I’d shove my phone in my pocket and pull out a book.
Sometimes I’d only read a page. Sometimes I would go weeks wondering why I was carrying around such heavy stuff that I never used.
But my mind started to remember what used to make me happy.
Now, I’m at a point where I’m pulling out my book daily, reading at least a few pages, even though it’s nowhere near as much as devouring a book in just a day. I think of things to jot down for my story constantly, even if I’m not opening up the document and making the changes I’m thinking up.
But at least I’m doing it.
It’s an uphill battle to develop good habits, but I’m proud of how much more I’m doing the things I enjoy compared to year ago.
And I realize that not all hobbies are easy to just tote around with you. But, in some small way, they are, now, especially with the technology we have access to.
It’s easy to set a monthly alarm to go play tennis. Eventually, you’re going to remember that alarm, and actually go play. Set an alarm every morning to remind you to run, and your body with adjust to that timer and eventually you’ll wake up and actually go for that run you so missed. Maybe you enjoy playing video games? Schedule it for yourself, ask someone if they want to come over and play. Even if you get a “no” ten times in a row, eventually someone might say yes, and suddenly you’re playing a game you haven’t played in ages, or studying something you’ve been wanting to look up for months now.
Pretend that you are going to do the thing you want. Convince yourself that you’ll make time for it. And don’t stop pretending until you’re actually doing it.
I acted as if I’d make time to read every day as I left. And it took a while, but now I’m doing it –I’m finding those spare moments to read, diving in for a few pages or even just a sentence or two every day.
Stop letting life and time control you; tell yourself what you want to do, and you’ll eventually do it.