Several years ago, my husband bought a really nice bike and started training for his first trans-state, multi-day ride. The only previous training he’d done was in his childhood, popping wheelies in the driveway with his friends. But he’d read a blog or two about distance cycling, and he seemed to think he was up to the challenge. Turns out, he was right. Over the course of the next several years, he would complete five state rides.
In this time of quarantine, you hear a lot about people taking up new hobbies, tackling new challenges, discovering gifts they never knew they had. In short, redefining themselves.
I prefer to think of the practice as un-defining. Whatever titles I may have listed on my resume, they have nothing to do with the hapless gardener, the reawakened musician, the late-night walker I am becoming. The boundaries imposed by my past titles are immaterial. Today I am like a child eating ice cream for the first time, without any idea of what it’s going to taste like.
The practice of un-defining is nothing new to me. I’ve broken my own boundaries many times to augment whatever was going on in my professional life. In 1994, I started swimming. In 2001, I wrote a novel. In 2014, I began learning Spanish. I was driven by all of these things, but I had no goals or metrics to gauge my success. It was enough to engage in a new activity. It was enough to take the plunge and allow myself to fail.
My avocations have taught me a lot. First, they’ve given me an appreciation for the real swimmers and authors out there – and those who have mastered multiple languages. These people are my heroes. But my hobbies have also given me the courage to pursue things that I am not cut out for. Because, for once, it’s not about succeeding. It’s about living a fulfilled life.
Most of us have been hunkered down for a good month now, which is a challenge in itself. But, if 30 days makes a habit, it stands to reason that our stay at home orders may give us a long-awaited chance to redefine – or un-define – ourselves, removing those deeply-rutted barriers that keep us from exploring new things. Our new hobbies will not pad our resumes, but they will redirect our energy and bring unimaginable joy. That is my wish for our world.