Memory Lane: The Year I Got a Hobby

If someone told me ten years ago when I was moving to New York that my favorite place in the city would turn out to be a decrepit middle school gymnasium, I would have called them crazy.

But how was I to know that this is what I would be doing there?

With my days in New York winding down, there are lots of things I’ll miss about living here: the energy of the city; the friends I made; the apartment I came to call home. Letting go off all of them – even if temporarily – has been difficult.

But when I really think about it, the thing I’ll miss the most will be silks class. Not just because I love it so much, but because I’m worried that I won’t be able to come back to it. This body isn’t getting any younger.

Regardless of my future with aerial, I’m glad I was able to do it for the past year and a half. I was at a low point when I started – working 60 or 70 hour weeks at a job I hated for a person I couldn’t stand. Every day brought some fresh form of madness that would keep me in the office until 8 or 9 or even 10 p.m. I had no personal life, no free time, and hardly anything to look forward to other than bedtime.

And then one day, I realized that I was doing it all wrong. The only reason I was working all hours of the night was because I had nothing better to do. The work would keep coming so long as I kept doing it.

So I stopped. I decided to sign up for an aerial class – something I always wanted to do but consistently talked myself out of with excuses about not having the time or money and not being able to do a single pull up.

I booked the class knowing that if I canceled, I’d lose the money, which all but forced me into leaving work earlier than normal. And that was quite a production.

“I’m leaving at 7 tonight,” I warned my boss at noon the day of my first class. “I’ll be back online by 10.”

As expected, he waited until 6:45 to review a document I had shared with him days earlier and then began sending me feedback over instant messenger. His first comment was about the file name, which I took to be a sign that I was in for an especially long night.

“I’m about to sign off,” I said. “Email me your comments and I’ll make the changes later tonight.”

I didn’t wait for him to respond before shutting down my computer and walking out the front door. As usual, I left aggravated with him for expecting me to plan my personal time around his work schedule… and with myself for allowing him to do it for so long.

But an interesting thing happened when I got to the gym and started the class that night: I forgot all about him.

What’s more, when I returned home and saw several emails waiting for me, I didn’t get axious. Having just learned how to climb a ten-foot rope in an hour, I suddenly felt like I could do anything… even answer emails.

In time, aerial became my therapy. An hour in the gym erased every snippy email, every tight deadline, every asinine piece of feedback. By the time I left, none of it really mattered. Apparently, there’s no better attitude adjustment for me than dropping head-first from a 30-foot ceiling and catching myself with a single knee.

The curious thing is that all the excuses I made about not taking the class years before are still perfectly valid. I spend a truly obscene amount of money on lessons. It takes time away from other things I want to do. I still can’t do more than one “real” pull up. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Aerial has been good for my soul.

When my friends complain about being stressed or bored, I always tell them to take up a hobby.

“You need to do something just for the fun of it,” I tell them. “Not to lose weight or make money or boost your resume. Something you enjoy. Something just for you.”

I’m glad I found my something. I just wish I started sooner.


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