“We didn’t tell you because we thought you’d make fun of us,” was the lame reason two of my friends gave for withholding their new hobby from me.
“Of course I’m going to make fun of you,” I replied indignantly, “but you still should have told me.”
The hobby they are both quite taken with — referred to by most as “walking around with a metal detector” — they proudly call “prospecting.” They even have a Web site. Though 49ers they aren’t, I can respect this activity, as it combines an interest in history with being outdoors and getting some exercise. There really are few negatives about it, unless one becomes addicted to the slot machine-like rush enthusiasts feel when one of their gadgets starts pinging.
“Well, I have to tell you something — I have a new hobby too,” I said. “It’s called backyard birding.”
Backyard birding, or simply bird feeding, involves creating a bird-friendly habitat in one’s backyard — replete with feeders, birdhouses and birdbaths —with the express purposes of attracting and observing as many species as possible. I’ve recently pursued this hobby (second in the United States only to gardening) and found it both satisfies my interests in observing nature and dovetails nicely with my lifestyle (trapped in the house — or yard —with two very small children.)
In pursuit of this hobby, I’ve made investments in the above-mentioned materials, signed up for a number of enewsletters and spent time happily studying how to create a bird-friendly yard, what kind of food attracts different types of birds, and how to identify species common to my area of the country (Northeast New Jersey).
Interestingly, I expressly sought out a hobby, and happily found this one. I believe we all need two hobbies in addition to having contented home lives and fulfilling work lives. One hobby should be exercise-centric, such as running, biking or mountain climbing, while the other should be more intellectual, in a very casual and non-stressful way. I had the former, as I’m an avid (though very amateur) biker, but lacked the latter, and felt its absence.
One day I was sitting with another friend in his yard when he started describing all the shrubs, flowers and trees he’d planted, or was planning to plant. I admired his knowledge of plants and thought how satisfying it must be to study, select and then obtain them, all for his continual viewing enjoyment. It was at that moment I decided to find such a hobby of my own.
More and more, I speak to, and hear about, CIOs who love the outdoors and/or animals, seemingly in a bid to get as far away from technology as possible. Many in the industry know about John Halamka, M.D.’s efforts to start a working farm. When researching a soon-to-be-published interview with Greg Kall, System VP and CIO at Summa Health System, I found he served as a board member of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Conservancy, while also running two web sites — one focused on an unusual breed of dog, and another on outer space photography.
As healthcare IT professionals, it’s extremely difficult to balance work and life, but this is made much easier when the life side contains some compelling draws. And don’t think that hobbies must arise spontaneously from our subconscious. There is nothing wrong, and everything commendable, about embarking on a journey for the right hobby — one that will, ironically, both calm and excite us simultaneously. Developing these “outside” interests is key because not powering down, but redirecting, is all that’s necessary to rejuvenate and recharge the active mind.