6.15.2006

On hobby burnout and other such things.

I worked in a hobbyshop for six years from Christmas '96 to January '02. I was 16 going on 17 at the time and just barely had my own car to get to and from work. You'd think having a job in a grown man's toyshop at such an early age would be the greatest thing ever. And you'd be right. Unfortunately, I'd placed my neck squarely under the double-edged sword of "doing what you love" and "making what you love 'work.'"

The first problem was that I was going to school, which limited me to weekend shifts. 10am to 9pm on Saturday, with an additional 11-5 on Sunday, pretty much murdered my own free time.

The second problem didn't crop up as quickly as the first. The problem with working in a grown man's toy store, is that you never really take you're paycheck home. You're essentially bartering labor for an employee discount on all the stuff you still can't afford because the pay is a sniff above minimum wage. This situation wasn't helped by the "he who has the most toys" cold war that many guys around there were engaged in. I started that job as an excuse to get cheap stuff for my R/C airplane habit. By the time I left, I had boats, cars, more half-finished planes than I knew what to do with, and was ][ this close to getting a helicopter. I was 22, commuting to college, living at home, and dirt-ass-poor. Car insurance meant extra hours. A gas crunch meant extra hours. It didn't hit me until a few years in that I just couldn't enjoy taking my own toys out when I'd spent so much time fixing other peoples' broken toys, or helping other people find the things they wanted. My hobby had become a chore. It was time to get the hell out, and that's what I did.

Now, four years later, I'm digging through boxes after my second move since getting out of the house, and I'm finding all my old hobby stuff that's beeen boxed up, dry-rotting, and collecting dust. The old Ni-cad's are all shot. The glues are all hard, and half my tools are lost. But, I find myself itching to get back into it again. Maybe start slow with getting one plane back up to snuff. From there see we'll see how it goes. This time, I have the time and money to do it right and actually enjoy it.

I suffered a severe case of hobby bloat and am only now just recovering.

What brought this on was noticing that Steven is feeling burnt out on anime. All I can say is, that's what happens when you burn through the highlights like a class O star. I consider myself a fan of anime, but up until this point, my finances have prevented me from buying it up at anything like the pace at which it can be consumed. This is also aided by my aversion to buying online. When you're only buying things as you find them on the shelf, it's all but impossible to run out of material (unless of course your local anime shops suck at rotating their stock *grumble*). I went through Rahxephon one DVD per week. Friday, I'd head down to Fry's, buy the next volume, take it home, and watch it. It was almost like watching weekly episodic content. If it stopped on a cliffhanger, it was no big deal because I knew I'd get to see the conclusion in a week. Boxed sets were economically out of the question unless I took a couple of weeks off to save.

To this day, I still don't have anything resembling the library most otaku posses, but that's ok by me. I stay picky about what I buy, and only go online when I need a really smoking deal or something that's just not available in meat-space. I've also learned to temper my hobbies, with other hobbies. ATV's, guns, D-league softball with friends, video games, helping my dad restore an old '64 Falcon, and a handful of other things keep me from going overboard in any one and burning myself out.

My suggestion for Steven and anyone else burning out is, throttle back. Fill the time with a second or even third hobby. Go back to one you gave up on and see if it still drives you nuts. If it does, look into something that piqued your interest previously, but wasn't given serious consideration at the time.

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