Growing up, I collected stamps. This probably comes as no surprise to most of you that know me: I’ve long been enthralled by all things related to postal correspondence.
Stamp collecting is a fascinating hobby, because it allows you to really become obsessed about a single thing, a single theme, and jump into that theme with a meticulous gusto that only other stamp collectors can understand. For me, that theme was Scout stamps.
As an avid Scout growing up—I went on to achieve my Chief Scout’s Award, that’s how committed I was to the movement—I was also drawn to stamps with Scout themes and motifs printed on them. Surprisingly, these kinds of stamps were not rare. Every country, it seemed, had printed a few different runs of Scout stamps, and finding them become my passion.
I remember my father taking me to stamp collector shows, where I would run off and scour the racks of stamps and first day covers to find anything that had some kind of relation to Scouting. After hours of searching, I would often find a few stamps that I would plead for my dad to buy me; we didn’t have a lot of money back then, but I know now that my father would save up before heading to these shows so that I wouldn’t leave empty-handed and disappointed.
I loved looking at the stamps and seeing just how differing Scouting was in other countries—different uniforms, different logos, different badges—but also just how similar the movement was across the world. My collection grew slowly, and while it never grew to be very large, it ended up being a pretty good collection reflecting dozens of countries and spanning several decades of stamp releases.
Eventually, I grew out of my obsession with Scout stamps, and with stamp collecting in general. Life took me in different directions, and I forgot about my collection and my hobby. I do not know what happened to the stamps in my collection, but I know that I don’t have them anymore.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my hobby of collecting stamps recently because I’ve realized that I don’t have any hobbies, anymore. I have many things that take up my time (caring for a toddler is a big one), but I don’t have a leisure activity that can be classified as a hobby. I don’t collect anything, or make anything, or even tend to anything but my house and my family. I used to say my hobby was writing, but seeing as how I haven’t written on this blog in over five months, or written a letter to a friend in over nine months, and haven’t written in my journal for over a year, I don’t think I can even claim that as a leisurely passion of mine.
What makes a good hobby, as an adult? How does one jump into a new pursuit after being hobby-less for years? Perhaps more importantly, where does one even find the time to have a hobby, anymore?
I’ve been revisiting this piece on hobbies in the NYTimes and telling myself I needed to jump back into something:
In your quest for a balanced life, have you neglected your hobbies? As children, we are experts at finding hobbies. We play sports, take dance and music lessons, collect action figures and spend our days learning everything from languages to wood shop. But somewhere on the path to adulthood, we stop trying new things and spend less time on our non-career interests. It’s not too late.
I’m heartened by the message of “it’s not too late.” Maybe it’s time for me to discover a new hobby. Maybe, in a year, I’ll be writing about my new leisure activity that keeps me invigorated. Or maybe I just need to find my stamp collection and go back to doing what brought me joy as a child.
Either way, it’s time to explore.
Reasons to Survive November
November like a train wreck—
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.
The sky is a thick, cold gauze—
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.
—Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.
I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself
with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.
But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,
and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over
and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.
Miss you. Would like to grab that chilled tofu we love.
Do not care if you bring only your light body.
Would just be so happy to sit at the table
and talk about the menu. Miss you.
Wish we could bet which chilis they’ll put
on the cubes of tofu. Our favorite.
Sometimes green. Sometimes red. Roasted
we always thought. But so cold and fresh.
How did they do it? Wish you could be here
to talk about it like it was so important.
Wish you could. Watched you on the screens
as I was walking, as I was cooking. Wished you
could get out of the hospital. Can’t
bring myself to order our dish and eat it
in the car. Miss you laughing. Miss
you coming in from the cold or one
too many meetings. Laughing. I’ll order
already. I’ll order seven helpings, some
dumplings, those cold yam noodles that you
like. You can come in your light
body or skeleton or be invisible I don’t even
care. Know you have a long way to travel.
Know I don’t even know if it’s long
at all. Wish you could tell me. What
you’re reading. If you’re reading.
Miss you. I’m at the table in the back.
I haven’t published one of these lists of excellent links in a few months, so below you’ll find just over a hundred of them that I’ve been enjoying these past few months:
The Simplest Tool for Improving Cities Is Also Free — The Dominican Ritual of Beach Spaghetti — Brands Save America? — The Time Tax — ICEE History: The Tech (and Science) Beyond a Sugary Frozen Drink — Why Are You Asking Me This? — Why is the English spelling system so weird and inconsistent? — The Rise of Must-Read TV — Revealed: the true extent of America’s food monopolies, and who pays the price — Homeownership can bring out the worst in you — Ask A Fuck-Up: I Got Old — Unvaccinated People Belong on the No-Fly List — ‘Loki’, ‘Black Widow’ and Why We’re All Living in Disneyland — The Customer Is Often Wrong — The season of tabs — Shoe Obsession for the Ages: Prince’s Killer Collection of Custom Heels — Nigella Lawson Wants Everyone to Experience the (Thoroughly Guilt-Free) Pleasure of Food — Lockdown was not a sabbatical — I’m Grateful for the Hugs I Can Now Share–and Haunted by the Ones I Can’t — How to Reject Bad Stories About Who You Are — The Enduring Spectacle of Fat Suits in Hollywood — The Rise and Fall of an American Tech Giant — The Internet Is a Collective Hallucination — Jam & Lewis Shaped Pop History. They’re Working on Its Future, Too. — How to Handle Regrets — Thanks In Advance — Why We Crave Internet Justice — Companies Are Embracing Empathy to Keep Employees Happy. It’s Not That Easy — Why Madonna’s “Vogue” Is Still Relevant 30 Years Later — The Day the Good Internet Died — Mystery of the wheelie suitcase: how gender stereotypes held back the history of invention — Hundreds of Ways to Get S#!+ Done—and We Still Don’t — The Rooms Where It Happened — A Beginner’s Guide to Miles Davis — The Immune System’s Weirdest Weapon — Vaccine Hesitancy In The U.S. Is A Peculiar Privilege — Who Gets To Be Dirty — Nestflix — Beyoncé’s Evolution — Now What? — The Lost Diary of Bobby McIlvaine — Critical Attrition — How the Bobos Broke America — Why Do American Grocery Stores Still Have an Ethnic Aisle? — The Hidden Melodies of Subways Around the World — Why Are the World’s Greatest Mangoes Almost Impossible to Buy in the U.S.? — The Ugliness of Comic Sans Has a Practical Use — The Queen of Delicacies — Why People Who Brush Still Get Cavities — The Story of Jumbo the Elephant — There Are No More 5-Year Plans — The Phony Feminism of America’s War Cheerleaders — No Thanks to the Academy — Does Anyone Want to Hear About Burned-Out Moms Anymore? — The Shadowy Business of International Education — Let People Enjoy This Essay — Every Sport A Bowling Ball — Why are hyperlinks blue? — The Sounds of My Inbox — An App Called Libby and the Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-Books — By Design — Why is email still so terrible? — Can We Live Without Twitter? — Against Kids’ Sports — Help! I Couldn’t Stop Writing Fake Dear Prudence Letters That Got Published — Inside the rise and fall of the Buca empire — Finding a Way Back from Suicide — Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever — Cooperative Overlap — How to Be Married, in 16 Simple and Completely F*cking Unrealistic Steps — The Ancient History and Enduring Appeal of Flying a Kite — I Want To Believe in Ted Lasso — Blue Marriage and The Terror of Divorce — That which is unique, breaks — Is Slack Good for Anyone? — The Humble Vegetable — Meditation on Sleep — Writing Should Be a Visual Art — Companies hope new benefits will solve your mental health issues. Don’t fall for it. — The Key Art Edition — The Second Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr — A Secretive Hedge Fund Is Gutting Newsrooms — Romantic Love Shouldn’t Be the Only Path to Care — Every House Is a Haunted House — Traveling Mercies — Sugarcoating — What Becoming a Parent Really Does to Your Happiness — Why Everyone Is So Rude Right Now — november — The digital death of collecting — How Scribbling in the Margins Transformed My Reading — The Body’s Most Embarrassing Organ Is an Evolutionary Marvel — St. Jude Hoards Billions While Many of Its Families Drain Their Savings — Somebody finally fixed the ending of The Giving Tree — The only metric of success that really matters is the one we ignore — Porch Cameras and Facebook Groups Are Turning Streets into Surveillance States — The Code That Controls Your Money — The Underrated Pleasures of Eating Dinner Early — How Do We Survive Suicide? — The Friends You Make Online