About a year ago a very lovely person in my circle of acquaintances responded to my facebook plea that someone PLEEEEASE teach me how to knit. Little did she know at the time that I would actually listen and keep up with it.
I barely knew this woman, she was a newish faculty hire. She came to my home and spent several hours teaching me how to knit (which was a challenge, I had this prissy artisan yarn that is THE WORST for a beginner). And she also tolerated my son, a devilish kid who thought she was cute. I could tell because he made an absolute annoyance of himself for the afternoon, running strands of this horrible red Christmas yarn all over my house and silently daring her to challenge him by peering at us through doorways.
“D” didn’t know that I decided to knit because I find it difficult to “put my arse to an anchor”… as my father used to say, that knitting is as close as I’ll ever get to meditation.
I remember a questionnaire where academics were asked to describe what they did besides work. Does this question fill you with terror? I got a few calls about that questionnaire. People wanted to know what they should put down. I rattled off a few potential hobbies and was able to help some. Others had a slow dawning realisation that they had no hobbies.
If anyone needs time to wind down, it is an academic.
The pace of class prep, conference prep, article prep, is a little tedious. The “always preparing” and the subsequent “always waiting” (for tenure, approvals, final acceptances, notifications that papers have been accepted) is a bit much.
There’s sometimes a disconnection you can feel with your body, when your mind is what is primarily engaged, at a high level, at all times.
In contrast to the academic paper, or tenure progress (at times) the hobby can have a finite goal that can be easily achievable and give a great sense of accomplishment at a time when you might need it.
Skip to the end: academics, do us all a favour and pick a hobby, the more physical or artistic or different from your academic life, the better. You’ll thank yourself for it.