It all started with a banjo.
It was years ago. I’d just moved to Seattle, and I was brimming with the optimism of a youth who thinks a new place can turn them into a brand-new person. I thought hard about who I’d be in this strange new place, and finally, somehow, landed on an instrument. I would be a person who played the banjo. I made my way to the perfect basement music shop across the street from my new job, Dusty Strings, and I signed up for a six-week class. On the first day of lessons, I lugged my brand-new banjo in its heavy case the six blocks to the bus stop, then hoisted it onto the bus. I stowed it under my desk at the office, waiting eagerly for six o’clock.
And then I fell down the stairs at work and broke my finger. First week on the job, too!
What followed were six weeks of banjo classes — I still went! — but, sadly, I couldn’t learn the chords, not really. I learned the rolls, which were played with the right hand. The chords remained elusive. Later, when my finger healed, I went to learn my chords on Youtube, but by then the magic had worn off. I wasn’t a new person, in this new place. I was just me.
I have ADHD, and I love learning new things, but I have all the stick to-itiveness of a bumblebee in a field of wildflowers. I buzz here, I buzz there, sometimes intense about my new hobbies, sometimes lazy. And so: here are some of the hobbies I have loved and lost, in no particular order, which gave me great joy, sometimes for a whole entire two-week span! But never longer.
This was an early Pandemic brainstorm. I bought a little kit, and a book full of feminist cross-stitch patterns on Etsy. Imagine the Christmas gifts I’d churn out!
I still have the singular piece I made. It’s not actually a cross-stitch at all, because I abhor reading directions, and I hate a pattern telling me what to do. It’s just a piece of cross-stitch cloth on which I have embroidered the word FUCK in soothing shades of green and teal, without a pattern, completely willy-nilly.
High School Biology
I know, this sounds…bananas, but hear me out. It was right around when the Covid-19 vaccine was coming out, and there was a lot of science on Twitter that I didn’t understand. The first time I took high school biology, it was during an exchange year, and everything was in French. I passed, somehow, by memorizing words I did not actually understand. What better time than the Pandemic to finally get some of this stuff?
I made it almost all the way through the very first section of the Khan Academy lessons. I took copious, color-coded notes, which I stayed up late into the night to copy over with neater handwriting several times. Then, about six days after I’d begun, I abandoned it forever.
So much more practical than a banjo! I would so easily be able to take a ukulele on a bus!
Listen: I haven’t given up on this one. I still fiddle with it sometimes! My finger isn’t even broken anymore. And I only need two chords to play Amazing Grace!
Improving my Spanish
Right before writing for Autostraddle started eating up a lot of my spare time, I found this website where you can work with a Spanish tutor over Zoom from their home country. It was amazing! My Spanish was just so much more abysmally rusty than I thought it might be, and my tutor was so patient, and gracious, and funny!
Rocío: I hope you are well! ¡Gracias por todo! I treasure the four whole weeks we spent together!
I did this one for awhile, actually! Maybe two whole months? I even wrote a tutorial about it for you all. Right before I stopped, I’d started printing out favorite poems on tiny accordion pages, and designing my own covers for them. I loved it. Maybe I’ll do it again someday!
Once upon a time, Donald Trump was elected President, and I was jumping out of my skin. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I decided to make a pound cake. And for three long hours, I didn’t even think about politics, or the world. It was heaven.
A family member loaned me my grandma’s Kitchenaid, and soon I was pulling recipes from everywhere. I found a recipe for snickerdoodles that took two kinds of shortening and were melt-in-your-mouth perfect, even a whole week later. I made them three times. I even took them to a protest, where everyone loved them except for my ex, who said “no thanks, I’m watching what I eat.”
There were still pound cake leftovers in my fridge when, one day about three weeks later, I stopped baking. Forever.
Sewing Dog Bandanas
This is a recent one, so I can’t be sure I’ve sewn my last! My dog Milo goes hard on bandanas, though, and my hand-sewn ones just don’t hold up like the ones I get on Etsy. I still have a whole pile of fat quarters in cute fabrics to try again! Just like with the embroidery: Imagine the Christmas gifts!
Teaching Myself Latin
Once, long ago, because I am THIS kind of procrastinator, I was a 19 year-old college student with a six-page paper due in the morning. It was maybe 4 PM, and I’d been staring at my laptop in horror for hours. There was only one thing to do: pick a random book off the shelf, called Latin for the People, and start to teach myself a dead language.
That paper got in on time, but surely that was down to the chocolate-covered espresso beans and the fugue state.
To this day, I know no Latin.