Hobbies: we all have them. They are an integral part of our identity and they can be a gateway to other activities or opportunities. They may be activities that we’ve been partaking in since we were children or they may be newer activities that you’ve picked up in adulthood; but in times of stress, especially in times of work related stress they are often the activities that are the first to go – despite the positive impact they have on our well-being.
Rekindling an old hobby that you used to enjoy can be a very unique and fulfilling experience. By the time I hit university, I had abandoned most of my hobbies which I used to have several of. As a child I was a voracious reader, right up until I graduated high school but when I had to read for university, the last thing I wanted to do was read for fun. I was also a musician having played the piano from the time I was 6 to 15 as well as played the oboe in junior high and high school. I even learned how to knit. During university I really didn’t have any hobbies. I worked as much as I could to fund my education, went to class, and participated in university life, but I didn’t have individual hobbies that I just did for myself.
When I graduated from law school I took 6 weeks off from the time I graduated until the time that I started my articling position. I vowed that I would pick back up at least one of the hobbies that I had abandoned: reading, piano, or knitting. Knitting was the first hobby I went back to, but later that year I also found my way back to my piano. I hadn’t had a piano in my home since I had lived with my parents and in even during that time, I hadn’t played consistently since I was in the 10th grade.
Picking up the piano again was interesting because reading and playing music is a language of its own and much like languages, if you don’t use it you lose it. I knew that the musical language was still stored somewhere deep in my brain and I just needed to “dust it off”, but admittedly it was extremely frustrating knowing the level I used to be able to play at when I quit and how little I could play when I first picked it back up. As a child, my piano and I had a very complicated relationship. I played competitively and worked toward various piano exams. As a result, the goal was always to play to perfect the piece. Hours and hours would be spent in front of my piano, not because I wanted to practice but because I had to practice. By the time a piece was perfected and performed, I was so sick of the piece I didn’t ever want to play it again. At that time I didn’t play because I loved it but because it was an expectation. I didn’t dislike playing and I liked having the skill – as well as the attention and praise it brought me from adults in my life, but I didn’t have a genuine love for it. Eventually it became a huge source of anxiety which led to me quitting.
After I’d quit and lost my ability to play, I had little to no desire to pick up the hobby again. As I got older, it became embarrassing not to be able to play anymore especially because of the level I used to be able to play at. When I first decided to pick it back up, it was more of a challenge to myself than anything. I needed something to work toward now that I had finished law school and it seemed like the perfect thing. I’d stopped playing at a time when I was working toward my grade 7 exams and so I had an idea that I would eventually get back to trying to play at that level and finish the remainder of my exams. Then COVID happened.
COVID was a blessing for this particular thing because it made it impossible for me to take lessons and instead, it forced me to spend a lot of time with my piano teaching myself. As I spent more time and taught myself new pieces at the grade 7 level, I found myself playing more and more. I’d go through phases where all I wanted to play was classical music, and then phases where I wanted to play nothing but Disney, and other phases where I was craving pop and country pieces. For the first time in my life, I was playing just to play, without a festival or exam to prepare for, and playing pieces that moved me.
I also found myself being able to perform for friends and family without worrying about the piece being perfect. As a child, I was mortified if I made a single error in a piece when I was called upon to perform it and as a result, if there was even a chance that I wasn’t going to play it perfectly, I didn’t play it.
It’s been four years since I started playing again and now I couldn’t imagine my life without my piano. I love playing so deeply and it has become an incredibly valuable stress reliever in my life. It’s also become a great source of quality time that I can spend with my hubby. I play, he listens – unfortunately he was not born with the musical gene. We bond over songs that we used to listen to when we were dating or songs that we love now. I play when I’m happy and just have a song stuck in my head. I play when I’m stressed. I play when I’m sad. No matter what emotion I’m feeling I always feel better after playing.
This love led to a very interesting set of circumstances this past July when we moved into a new home. The piano needed to go upstairs to the 2nd floor of our home – there was no where else in the home it could go. It was on the 2nd floor of our old home and I was bound and determined it was going in the 2nd floor of this one. Despite the best efforts of a moving company and a piano technician, who kindly partially disassembled it for the moving company to make a 2nd attempt, it was not able to go up via the stairs. I was defeated and devastated.
After a lot of tears and a lot of thinking, the solution was to have it craned (yes, craned!) into the 2nd floor and enter through a window. The relief and sheer joy I felt watching it land in my 2nd floor was indescribable and the first notes I played after it was in its new resting place were so worth it. As an aside, if you ever need crane services, I’d highly recommend Zero Gravity Crane & Rigging Inc.
I’d have never dreamed that I’d have gotten to this place with my piano but I’m so glad that I took the step and endured the horribly uncomfortable phase of having to re-learn to play. If there is a hobby in your life you used to love but gave up, or if you’re in the market for a hobby and are waiting to start, take that step to connect with it. You never know what hobby you may pick up but, with any luck hopefully you’ll find something you love so much that the sky becomes the limit.