Who knew hobbies could be so much fun?

Just a few weeks in the past, simply as lockdown started, my boyfriend arrived into the kitchen with a ping pong set tucked beneath his arm. Bought in TK Maxx for the princely sum of €12.99, the set contained two paddles and an assortment of ping pong balls. I had by no means performed ping pong earlier than. In truth, I had been dismissive when he first purchased the set. “As if we’ll ever have any use for that,” I sneered. What I didn’t foresee was that a world pandemic would quickly go away us confined to our house and that this frivolous acquisition would show not solely helpful, however important. 

And so, on a weekday afternoon, I made a decision to humour my boyfriend and play a recreation of ping pong. In spite of everything, it wasn’t as if I had a packed agenda. We transformed our kitchen table right into a ping pong table and long-established a net from an outdated shoelace tied to 2 chairs. Not probably the most subtle set-up, nevertheless it did the job. 

At first, we simply gently hit the ball backwards and forwards to 1 one other. Our main goal was to not break something.

As soon as we established a rhythm, we began taking part in for actual. First to 11. Finest of 5. On that first day, I obtained a drubbing. I struggled to maintain the ball in play and made an utter hames of my serve on a number of events. However unusually, I didn’t thoughts. Regardless of dropping, I discovered the sport to be meditative, stress-free and enjoyable. On the very least, it was a greater use of my time than being on my cellphone and I vowed to play once more. 

All of that is to say that I’ve actually gotten into ping pong. Simply over a month in the past, I thought of it to be nothing greater than a foolish recreation for engineers on six-figure salaries in Silicon Valley. Now I catch myself saying issues like, “I’m glad that the Olympic Video games are postponed as a result of that provides me time to attempt to qualify for subsequent yr.”

On one event, I even channelled my interior Pat Spillane and accused my boyfriend of taking part in “puke ping pong”. I’m enthusiastic about ping pong, you see, and I hate to see it performed cynically. 

The entire thing has bought me excited about how I take advantage of my free time. Specifically I’ve been excited about my power lack of hobbies and pastimes. Ordinarily, I spend a lot of my free time doing issues like watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, studying and customarily faffing about on the web. Do these rely as hobbies? I’m not satisfied. 

There are some splendidly well-rounded folks on the market who spend their free time singing in choirs and baking bread and taking part in tag rugby and studying languages. They are saying issues like, “Thursdays are out for me as a result of I’ve hockey coaching.” I’m not and have by no means been a kind of folks, however my sudden fondness for ping pong has made me marvel if maybe I could possibly be. 

I really feel like my technology misplaced hobbies … Generally it’s

simply enjoyable to do one thing as a result of it brings you pleasure, peace, leisure, or means that you can be inventive

A lot has been written over the previous few years about how folks my age have all however deserted hobbies. The explanations for this are manifold. For one factor, plenty of hobbies require an funding of money and time that many people merely shouldn’t have at our disposal. Equally, many people have been conditioned to view the whole lot as a possible side-earner and see little worth in doing one thing if the one return on funding is feeling good. 

A viral tweet posted in January summed it up succinctly.“I really feel like my technology misplaced hobbies,” it learn. “Every thing doesn’t must be a hustle, facet hustle, or money-making enterprise. Generally it’s simply enjoyable to do one thing as a result of it brings you pleasure, peace, leisure, or means that you can be inventive.”

If there may be one factor this era of enforced isolation has given us, it’s the freedom to attempt new issues and domesticate new abilities. Except for taking part in ping pong, I’ve baked a lemon drizzle cake and set about studying easy methods to do the splits with the help of an app.

And I’m not the one one. Up and down the nation, persons are knitting scarves, baking loaves of sourdough or studying a cúpla focal of a brand new language. They’re rediscovering the enjoyment of doing one thing only for the enjoyable of it and reaping the advantages. Certainly, research have proven that those that interact in fulfilling leisure actions take pleasure in better bodily and psychological well being. One thing tells me that mindlessly scrolling via Instagram and watching Tiger King doesn’t have fairly the identical impact. 

Will I emerge from this with a brand new lease on life and a rake of soul-nourishing hobbies? Or will I instantly revert again to my outdated methods? That I can’t say. 

For now, I’ll preserve taking part in ping pong in my kitchen. And who is aware of? If I keep it up, maybe I’ll have my very own Eddie The Eagle-style fairytale in Tokyo subsequent summer time. 

Journalist Amy O’Connor is a visitor columnist this week

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