One of the only fun surprises of the coronavirus pandemic is how many people are taking up new, random hobbies. A quick scroll through Instagram will treat you to a stream of indoor gardens, repurposed furniture, impressive breadmaking, and cross-stitch patterns. I’m not immune. Over the last five months, I’ve made pasta from scratch and tried collaging. I’ve taken a writing class, baked, and started a book club with a Bumble match. I even flirted with learning a language. Nothing stuck until a friend sent me a knitting kit.
After hours of struggling through basic stitches, I was well on my way to making something scarf shaped. From there things escalated quickly. Two skeins of yarn turned into 10. I had needles in different sizes. There was a knitting project for the couch and a separate one I worked on in bed (I live in a studio, so this is really unnecessary). With every raggedy row and stitch, I cemented my new persona. I became: Someone Who Knits. That’s when the real fantasies began: I’d open an Etsy shop and sell poorly knitted scarves to adoring masses, I’d launch an online community of Black girls who knit (which already exists and is spectacular, BTW).
Somewhere between my first yarn purchase and wrestling with a sweater pattern, it dawned on me that I should not turn my hobby into a second job. And now I share that wisdom with you: If you’re really excited about your new pandemic hobby, please, I implore you, resist the urge to make it a new side hustle.
Let’s start with the obvious. In the midst of a global pandemic, when many of us are just trying to keep it together, random hobbies are objectively a good idea. There are so many stressors right now. There’s also the threat of an actual illness, so if you’ve found something that helps you pass the time in a relaxing way, don’t take that away from yourself by turning it into work. Before I go further, I should point out that not having a hobby is also healthy; just getting through the day is a legitimate accomplishment. But if you’ve taken up knitting, drumming, puzzling, baking, or cloud-gazing, that’s a solid achievement as well. Research suggests that having an activity that you enjoy—one that’s done on your off-time—can boost your mood, help you feel more satisfied, and decrease stress. The benefits are magnified when your hobby involves your hands. For instance, SELF previously reported on the virtues of therapeutic knot-tying, a hobby that doesn’t yield anything functional. The article mentions a 2013 study that surveyed 3,545 people worldwide, and 82 percent of the respondents said taking up knitting made them feel “a little” to “very” happy (same). Thirty-nine percent said that knitting helped them organize their thoughts. In short: Having a hobby is super beneficial even before you assess the value of your scarves on the open market.
Need more convincing? Okay, I’m going to keep it honest: Some of us aren’t that good at our new hobbies. I can’t speak for your unique situation, but when I send my family pictures of my sweater-in-progress, I get a barrage of compliments and requests for gifts. Does this mean my work is good, or are these well-intentioned people just encouraging my newfound passion? And if I am as good as my mom’s emphatic emoji responses suggest, does this mean someone who doesn’t know me would exchange their hard-earned money for a sweater I made? There are moments in our lives where we have to muster up the tenacity to be the best. And then there are moments that require nothing more than a few free hours to play with yarn. There’s wisdom in learning the difference between the two occasions.