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Hobby-hunting: Confessions of a poor succulent mom

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JANUARY 09, 2018

With the start of a new year comes a fresh batch of resolutions. Some of my resolutions are unique to this year: keep in touch with people better, explore the city more, graduate. Others are repeats from previous years and are probably on a lot of others’ lists as well: stay hydrated, work out more, find a hobby.

That last one is a demon of mine that I’ve grappled with since I was a child.

Back then, I would often lie back with a cup of milk or juice while in the haze of just waking up from a nap. But through the memories of stuffy, orange afternoons shine the bright colors of the many infomercials that would flash on television. You know the ones: “For just five easy payments of $19.99, this bug-catching kit will make priceless memories for you and your kids!” or “Act now, because these markers — perfecting for keeping your kids busy for hours — are almost gone!” The promise of a bug collection to keep adding to, markers with which I could draw for hours or some pretty novelty to punctuate the endless stretches of monotony was enticing.

But I’ve always hated bugs and I’m never satisfied with drawing, so I didn’t stand a chance at bug-collecting and drawing. The search for a hobby, however, continued.

At some point, I even Googled the term “hobbies” and ended up on Wikipedia’s list of hobbies. I browsed through this list and took up knitting (the quintessential hobby of the manic pixie dream girl I had wanted to be back then), tried my hand at calligraphy (with which my Instagram Explore page is always filled) and finally resorted to telling myself that binge-watching an entire season of “Friends” in the span of a single weekend is a hobby, at least according to Wikipedia.

One hobby that I took up for a while was raising succulent plants, which I’m actually not great at either. The first time I bought a few succulents for myself was during my freshman year of college, and they died within two months. My last succulent, which I had named Peggy Sue, survived for five months in my care.

Out of all the hobbies that I’ve tried and let fall to the wayside, this one stands out because of how strangely proud I am of how bad I was at it. The phrase “poor succulent mom” is plastered across all my social media. Rolls off the tongue nicely? Check. Somewhat self-deprecating? Check. Makes clear that I’m a millennial who’s, if not trendy, at least aware of trends? Check. Altogether, it’s a great starting point for a conversation.

But right now, I’m trying to have a different conversation, one where I can parse through my all-consuming desire to find a hobby. That in itself is a strange phrase: “all-consuming desire to find a hobby.” According to Merriam-Webster, a hobby is “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” The aggressive way by which I’ve tried to find a hobby, however, is anything but relaxed.

My public love for the phrase “poor succulent mom” is a pretty good indicator of what’s going on: I’ve been looking for a hobby not for myself, but to seem cool to others. And what better way to seem interesting and multifaceted than through the pursuit of some hobby to call my own? After all, the infomercials made having a hobby seem so vibrant.

Of course, my quest to find a hobby has come at the cost of tossed skeins of yarn, forgotten brush pens and dead succulents. I pity all of them, but I apologize especially to the succulents.

So I now directly address all the succulents that I’ve let die: I never meant to let you wither away. When I had bought you, we both expected that I’d be able to provide a loving and nurturing home. All I had to do was give you not too much water and plenty of sunlight. But I couldn’t even do that, because I was raising you for the sake of the aesthetic when I should have been raising you for the sake of raising you. And now you’re dead. I’m sorry.

This whole hobby-hunting deal seems even more ridiculous considering that I’ve had hobbies this entire time, albeit not ones that I pursue “outside” my “regular occupation” in the way that Merriam-Webster says hobbies are supposed to be. I’ve always loved to read and write, and I’ve been lucky enough to craft my life around my main hobbies, the activities that I genuinely feel passionate about.

Going forward, I expect to try my hand at raising succulents again. But rather than raising them just to say I’m raising them, I’ll be raising them for the right reason — that is, because I want to.

"Off the Beat" columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

FEBRUARY 06, 2018