Whenever I come back from being on the road, I feel a bit disoriented. My dirty clothes are stuffed in a suitcase, I’m staring at everything in my house like I’ve never seen it before, and there is a pile of mail staring me down. Even my cats are looking at me funny.
I’ve been out of my routine, between the early am flights and the late-night concert receptions, both my body and my brain feel…just….off.
I started noticing that one of the first things I would do upon getting home was water my houseplants, and I would be annoyed if I found that my husband had done it recently enough that they didn’t need watering.
It wouldn’t be long before I found myself heading over to the garden shop to buy some new flowers or vegetable seedlings for the gardens. Surely, doing the laundry, sorting through mail and giving my cats a few extra snuggles was more pressing, but I couldn’t help myself. I needed to stick my hands into some dirt. NOW.
It occurred to me that spending time with my plants helped me to feel grounded (no pun intended—well, okay, maybe it was a little intended). But seriously. It was the one activity that made me feel like I was back on home turf. After all, my plants are only at home. I can’t garden while I’m on the road. It had this magical way of catapulting me back into my sense of routine.
It was then that I realized that gardening was an important hobby of mine. And I also realized how important it was to HAVE a hobby. I desperately cling to that activity as a calming force in my life. In fact, it’s a lot easier for me to get back into my routine after a disruption, if I have that one calming activity to get me settled first.
I’m not going to win any awards for my landscaping designs, and half of my vegetable plants get eaten by pests before I get to harvest anything, but that doesn’t matter. I just love puttering around in there. It makes me happy. I don’t have to be good at it, but when it works, and I find that half of that night’s dinner came from the garden? Well, that’s an awesome feeling.
Hobbies are awesome. With our music careers, we are expected to be great. Always. Mistakes are not always forgiven, so we are under extreme pressure to never make them. Hobbies are different. With a hobby, mistakes are allowed. No pressure. We get all the fun of our successes without any of the consequences of our failures. And that is a very healthy feeling.
They act as a sacred barrier between the never-ending quest for perfection in our music-making, and the acknowledgment of our imperfect humanness. I can’t go straight from a performance one night, to the practice room the next morning to try to improve it more without first hitting a re-set button on my brain. Gardening does that for me.
I did an informal poll amongst some of my colleagues and found that the ones who are generally happy and calm all have hobbies. There are knitters, cooks, wine aficionados, cyclists, hikers, birders, etc. and of my colleagues who are the most stressed out? You got it–No hobby.
And for some reason, there is this weird stigma that as classical musicians, we’re supposed to be “So Incredibly Dedicated to Our Craft That We Would Never Dream of Spending a Single Second Doing Something Else” but I’m here to call B.S. As Sarah Kenner, of @thehungrymusician (I seriously drool over her food photos) was talking about on her Instagram Stories the other day, that is ridiculous. Having a passion outside of our professional craft is not only not detrimental to our success, it adds to it in so many ways.
So do yourself and your playing a favor. Get a houseplant, go fishing, bake some bread, learn how to knit, anything at all. You’ll be so happy you did.