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Photo by Erwan Debuire on Unsplash

I’ve been playing tennis lately. I’m no good at it, but that’s okay.

I started last month when I found a couple of old tennis rackets in the back of a closet. They were from when I was in law school, and one of my professors had taught me the basic rules of the game.

I only ever played a few times back in school and hadn’t played since, but when I found the rackets, I felt the urge to give it another try. I called my brother, who had never played, and he agreed to try it out.

We’ve been going to a free court in a public park. It’s freezing out this time of year, so the entire park is deserted, including the tennis courts. We’re free to absolutely suck at tennis with no risk of embarrassment.

We slowly hit the ball back and forth, barely following the rules. Our form is bad, our swings are weak, and I’m sure any real tennis player would cringe if they saw us.

And I’m learning to be okay with all that.

For most of my life, I’ve approached hobbies like a perfectionist. From the moment I begin hobbies, I already start thinking about improving and competing in them. Even when I’m just starting out, I’ve felt the need to learn everything I can and to try to do everything the “right” way.

When I started running, for example, I spent weeks researching running before I ever worked up the courage to even step outside. It’s partly the result of my anxiety, and partly an obsession with doing things “correctly.” (Although maybe those feelings are connected).

I don’t think it’s just me who has this problem. I see others doing the same thing. We’re living in a culture that expects us all to take our hobbies very seriously.

This whole approach is counterproductive though, at least more often than not.

When we go into a hobby treating it as if it’s a career, we end up just getting burnt out. At least, I know I do.

There can be something fun about researching the ins and outs of a new hobby, but when taken too far, it just gets in the way of actually enjoying myself.

A hobby is not a career. It’s okay to take a hobby seriously, but it should never feel like a necessity. It’s just as fine to have hobbies that we don’t take seriously at all. Hobbies that we’re perfectly happy being bad at.

Tennis is my first attempt to start taking new hobbies less seriously. I’m going to keep playing, but I’ll try my best to resist the urge to start treating it like work.

I won’t binge watch youtube videos on proper form.

I won’t sign up for expensive lessons.

I won’t set myself a training regime.

I won’t go to the library and check out every book on the tennis shelf.

But I will keep meeting my brother in the park to slowly hit a tennis ball back and forth. And I’ll let myself enjoy the experience, even though I’m terrible at tennis.

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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