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SALT LAKE CITY — All of us have our little things that we do: our hobbies, our interests.
The list of hobbies is endless and those things play a part in defining who we are. They strengthen our sense of identity because they are part of us. We invest energy and sometimes even passion into them. They give us pleasure and make us happy.
Or, at least, they should.
In this world of Facebook and Twitter, blogs and Pinterest, it doesn't take much searching to discover someone doing your hobby better, more professionally or, simply, more frequently.
If you aren't careful, you can begin to feel that they are you on a grander scale.
Since glumly joining the cross country team in ninth grade, running has become one of "my things," my passion. However, a spate of foot injuries over the past three years has meant that my running has had to become less intense and lately I've realized that I've begun to feel sheepish about claiming to be a runner. I am not, as so many of my running friends are busy running marathons, so maybe, I've thought, I shouldn't be calling myself a runner.
I have several other hobbies; even, I think, decent talents — none of which have been taken to any extreme or impressive level.
I love to blog. I like the challenge of finding humor or meaning in what would otherwise be ordinary. I have become fairly adept at taking good photos. I know how to work my aperture and shutter and how to expose images differently than the camera is telling me to.
Despite how important these things are to me and how much emphasis I place on them almost daily, as with my running, I have found myself hesitant to claim them as part of who I am because I am not doing them on the scale that so many others are.
Several months ago we were sitting around the dinner table with my husband's family discussing some of these things when my husband said, "I don't know that you have to do something big with your hobbies for them to have value."
What? There can be value in decorating your home even if nobody is pinning your ideas on Pinterest? There can be good in writing poetry even if it stays in a quiet little notebook in your nightstand drawer?
No hobby should either seek or need rational justification. To wish to do it is reason enough.
–Aldo Leopold, "A Sand County Almanac"
Of course there can.
My running, writing and photographing bring me joy. I love to do those things. They give me opportunities to stretch myself, to find happiness in my day-to-day living and to develop.
I am certainly not suggesting we don't push ourselves — that we don't do something big, or brave or challenging. Sometimes the fates are with us, the stars align and we get the chance to turn one of our private little talents into something tremendous. Or sometimes, the stars haven't aligned, everything is against us and we still manage to turn our passions into something enormous — something that reaches past our small realm, something that may even influence many and do enormous amounts of good. And truly, when that happens, it is beautiful and should be celebrated.
So what I am suggesting is that we quit feeling nervous about claiming an interest or talent simply because we aren't doing something professional or spectacular with it. I am suggesting that we go ahead and absorb ourselves, our families and our lives in those hobbies as much as we want, realizing that the joy they are giving us and the opportunities to develop and learn are surely value enough.
As Aldo Leopold in "A Sand County Almanac" said, "No hobby should either seek or need rational justification. To wish to do it is reason enough."
The 10th of 11 children, Nancy Harris is a zoology graduate of Weber State University, a runner (when not dealing with foot problems), blogger, photography hobbyist, and mother to six.