Get A Hobby—ASAP

July 1, 2011

Dear GAB,
Do you have any advice for those of us who have spent their working lives focused solely on jobs and family? I’m hoping to retire within a few years which is great but, truth be told, I spent all these years wishing I had free time and now I’m afraid I won’t’ know what to do with it. I never had the time or energy to develop any meaningful outside interests and now I fear that, not only will I be bored stiff, it will become apparent to everyone just how shallow and dull I really am. Any suggestions?

Dear Interestless,
It’s funny how things turn around on us. We spend the first part of our adult life envying people with great jobs, and the last part envying people with great hobbies, many of whom had the opportunity to develop the latter mainly because they lacked the former. But the time comes when what we do on weekends and evenings is more important than what we do during the day because eventually, if you’re lucky, the two will reverse and your avocation will become your vocation. Which means that if you’re over 50, still working and haven’t yet developed a riveting hobby of some kind, you need to find one right away. Keep in mind that retirement comes in two flavors, planned and unplanned, and in either case you’ll be in for a rude shock if you don’t use the runway before you (i.e., the time between now and retirement) to plan your post-work world. But before you take up scrapbooking or sign up for lessons in Italian, take a few moments to consider some of the more creative diversions out there.

 Here’s an interesting hobby called gooming, where you paint one animal to look like another.

Here’s an interesting hobby called gooming, where you paint one animal to look like another.

There’s the exciting pastime of storm chasing, for example. Or indulge your criminal side with locksport, the sport of picking locks. Baton twirling – you’ve seen it, but have you tried it?  It’s tougher than it looks. And for the fan of medieval history that’s too wimpy to fence there’s boffering – sword fights with padded weapons.

Or maybe you’d prefer to select a pursuit that complements your deeply held principles and values. Say, for example, you’re committed to ending the global nuclear arms race. A natural choice for you would be a leisure activity which involves the launching of projectiles at high speed through the use of pneumatic pressure or the combustion of gaseous fuels.  In laymen’s terms, these are spud guns, also known as a potato cannons, so named because they are used to fire off chunks of potatoes or other vegetables, or even huge ones such as pumpkins. Just think of how much safer, not to mention funnier, the world would be if countries gave up their nuclear weapons to compete in a vegetable arms race. Countries invading each other to seek out and destroy vegetables of mass destruction. One could go on and on….

And there are so many other fascinating options to choose from. I’ve done a bit of the research for you and have come up with this list of some of the more unusual interests people pursue: UFO hunting; hoarding; bell ringing; robot building; bee keeping; playing with toads; tapophilia (enjoyment of cemeteries); juggling; cloud watching; plane spotting; astrology; beading; belly dancing; breakdancing; body piercing; cake decorating; flamenco, graffiti, handwriting analysis; kung fu; line dancing; origami; palmistry; quilting; space exploration; sumo wrestling; duct tape fashion; spying; yodling; and memorizing songs backwards.

The website “” is also worth checking out. There you’ll find descriptions of some of the weirder hobbies around, which include: playing dead; appearing in the background on TV; giving away money to strangers; mooing (yes, just like it sounds, only done on a competitive basis); tattooing motor vehicles; animal gooming (painting one animal to make it look like another); and knitting breasts (woolen ones that are used to help new mothers learn how to breastfeed).

If you can’t settle on just one, consider combining a few. For example, pet breeding and taxidermy could be coupled with some interesting results.  (I’ll let you ponder the possibilities.)

The important thing is to seize upon some hobby, any hobby really, and make sure you find a second one that can be done indoors. This is important, because if you ever find yourself shut up in your home, unable to leave the premises, you don’t want to be discovered one day pathetically primping in front of the video camera or watching home movies of yourself or, for lack of a really fun hobby, operating a global terrorist organization from a room above the garage.