Homage to dilettantes


knitted scarf, collage, accordion book, necklace, two-ring book, polymer clay journal, Polaroid transfer print

Clearing out years of accumulated stuff is like shining a spotlight on your past.  As part of my current focus on de-cluttering, I have found all the evidence I need that I’ve been a lifelong dabbler. And I’m certain I’m not alone. So here’s to all you dilettantes out there.

My mother’s critiques of my elementary school drawings told me early on that my path would never take me toward a career in the visual arts. But that doesn’t mean the wish to create has ever left.

I’ve tried everything. Sewing was my first hobby and it turned out less than fulfilling. Nothing I made fit. And then there were the zippers. Knitting was a little better. Despite the sweater I made for my dad, which would have looked fine on a man five times his size, I did manage to knit a nice-looking sweater and plenty of scarves.

I’ve stamped greeting cards, carved rubber stamps, marbled paper, and created books with different kinds of bindings, as well as one paperless book, and journals.  I’ve made jewelry, taken zillions of photos and even had my own bathroom darkroom. Most of these hobbies required taking a class, which pulled me away, physically, from work or home and my normal routines. They also took me away mentally. How can you fret about what might happen tomorrow, when you’re busy trying to follow someone’s directions while designing, cutting, gluing and coloring and glancing nervously at the clock that is telling you class time is almost up and you haven’t finished. Plus, unlike in many jobs, you leave with a product, a sense that you have something concrete to show for your efforts.

Having been such a committed dabbler for so long, I was curious as to whether dabbling was a sign of some deep and permanent psychological flaw. So far I haven’t found anything but positives. Pursuing hobbies is a known way to relieve stress.

In retirement, I’ve become less of a dabbler. Writing is now my creative outlet. Occasionally, I return to paper crafts that don’t involve putting words on a page. This summer, I took a class to learn how to make Japanese-style travel journals. The teacher prepared all the materials we needed ahead of time and loaned us the tools.

One drawback: to recreate these on your own you have to buy more stuff.  I bought paper, a couple of punches, string, and a few beads. Moral of the story:  In the process of cleaning out and reflecting on your past, you could find yourself buying more stuff to take up the space you just emptied.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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1 Response to Homage to dilettantes

  1. Shirley says:

    How comforting to know that I am not the only one with a drawers full of tools and materials for various hobbies — card making, knitting (I found a sweater I almost finished much too small for my husband), mizuhiki, not to mention shelves of catalogs and books and magazines about gardening. Now only gardening keeps me occupied if not successfully, at least we get to enjoy the results!

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