Why We Should Stop Turning Hobbies into Jobs
Please stop trying to monetize your joy!
We hear now more then ever that we should just Do what we love. And then we hear even more that it obviously will make us not work a single day of our life. Well, I must timidly admit that I think this is a romantic, surreal idea that sounds nice and that people in my fancy-pansy university were selling me without ever trying it by themselves.
As most of people in my generation, I was encouraged to view any of my interests or talents as a possible career. That’s great, but there is such a thing as a healthy balance between your hobbies and your job. Turning hobbies into jobs comes with the great risk that they won’t make you happy anymore. So what’s the point?
We live in the era of the hustle. Of following our dreams until the end, and then pushing ourselves more. Of never giving up and learning to embrace failure (Fail fast, of course). And every time we feel beholden to capitalise on the rare places where our skills and our joy intersect, we underline the idea that financial gain is the ultimate pursuit. If we’re good at it, we should sell it. If we’re good at it and we love it, we should definitely sell it.
This seems to ring especially true in creative fields, where these days selling art is less likely to be considered “selling out” than self-actualisation. But even those who are commercially successful in creative fields often lament the disconnect between what it is like to do their jobs and how society views their life and work.
Adam J. Kurtz, author of Things Are What You Make of Them has rewritten the maxim for modern creatives: “Do what you love and you’ll work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally.” Which, aside from being relatable to anyone who has tried to make money from something they truly care about, speaks to an underrepresented truth: those with passion careers can have just as much career anxiety as those who clock in and out of the mindless daily grind.
Whenever I have some time to myself, I panic. Unstructured time — especially spent alone — is phenomenally rare in my life and I feel an overwhelming obligation to make good use of it. I should get some laundry done. Meal prep. Ask each item in my dresser if it brings me joy. Figure out how to fold a fitted sheet. Paint my nails. Work on the article I’m writing. Do a face mask. But instead, I deal with my option paralysis in the least helpful way possible: by scrolling through my phone alone in the dark until I run out of battery (literally or figuratively) and put myself to bed feeling like I’ve lost something valuable and hating myself for it. I can’t be productive, and I can’t fully relax, and I can’t possibly be alone in this.
That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetising a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?
It’s no surprise we feel pressure to monetise our spare time. The cult of busyness is one of the most toxic aspects of our culture, but it’s also a defence mechanism. When so many of us are suffering economic hardship as we struggle to put our education and potential to use amid the five-alarm fires of climate change and political turmoil, it’s easier to keep going and glorify the struggle than it is to sit and risk feeling helpless. (Or risk feeling, if we’re being honest.) It’s easier to stomach needing three jobs to make ends meet if we rebrand ourselves as hustlers. So we pour ourselves another cup of coffee, post an inspirational meme and abide by the national motto of Rise and Grind, ever on the search for a new “hack” that will help us get more done in less time. But if we choose to capitalise on all of our resources, when do we get to choose ourselves?
You don’t have to monetise or optimise or organise your joy.
Hobbies don’t have to be imbued with a purpose beyond our own enjoyment of them. They, alone, can be enough.