As a preteen I was pretty obsessed with Lego. It’s the reason I got into trouble—staying up too late and ignoring my body’s pleas to just go to sleep. It’s what I spent any gift money on and what I requested whenever I was asked what I might like for a birthday or holiday. Because at the time all I wanted was to create and design homes. Lego became my outlet for creating dream houses in my mind, designing new styles, and challenging me when I couldn’t find quite the right space or make the structure work as intended. I knew nothing about architecture and never explored the technical terms related to home design; it was simply my hobby and interest and allowed me to use my imaginative brain—the one that often daydreamed in school (and got me into trouble for doing so).
I still enjoy Lego. My father and I build the City Creator sets when they’re released, and anyone who has visited my parents’ home has likely seen our Lego neighborhood on the fireplace mantle. It is harder and harder to find the time, though, for Lego building. And yet I’ve been thinking recently about how, as adults, so many of us have lost a connection to our hobbies and interests due to the stress of life and busy nature of our own minds.
One of the most classic conundrums my clients report is feeling overwhelmed when overbooked and alternatively finding themselves in an existential (“what’s my purpose?!”) headspace when faced with open time. Our society promotes a fast-paced life down to our annoyance when our internet taps out for even a moment, or the car in front of us takes two extra seconds before moving ahead. So many of us are accustomed to balancing home life, work life, family life, outside obligations/responsibilities and social lives.
It is so unbelievably common for folks to feel as if life is moving ahead of them. And yet, when there is time to breathe, I have heard from countless individuals that it can be difficult to identify what to do with this time. Sure, there may be a mile-long to-do list or a friend waiting to schedule plans and it may feel paralyzing to try to choose what to accomplish when there is a short time and many goals. But overall, teens and adults nowadays report that when there is regularly occurring open time, it can be difficult to know what to do with that time.
So many of us scroll through our phones for hours a day. It is often mindless, resulting perhaps in feelings of connection but likely may lead to comparison, insecurities and pressures surrounding the way one’s life “should” be different. If we were to take away social media many of us would simply not know what to do with our time.
And then there are some who have an interest and they tend to turn to this interest when there is free time whether this is a sport, type of movement, team or creative outlet. This can be wonderful. And yet… sometimes we need more eggs in our baskets.
This all became even more complicated when the pandemic hit and we lost the ability to engage in many of our hobbies or see others, causing us to perhaps become creative or to perhaps become resigned to ignoring our interests based on necessity.
I encourage you, reader, to consider how you spend your free time, and how you can fill up your basket. Rather than relying on or tending toward one activity, renew your curiosity around your interests. Pick up an old hobby that excites your inner child, endorses your creativity and supports your values. Think about what might feel meaningful, interesting, fun and try this out. Challenge any notions surrounding perfectionism and try to lean into activating your curious side, the parts of you that want to grow, make mistakes, learn, or connect. When we move away from mindless scrolling, accomplishment-based activities or rigid patterns, we allow for growth of our self-esteem and a fervor for life.
I encourage you to consider how you currently spend your time, if you have any time that you can make just for you—even three minutes per day!—and what values you might like to endorse that can help in choosing your activities. Be curious about how things are—and are not—working for you.
I have a lot of respect for my preteen self and her various interests and recognize the way time, technology, life circumstances and the responsibilities of adulthood have shaped how I use my time. And this being said, I sit here with a Lego bouquet of flowers behind me on my kitchen counter, hoping to connect with that inner child and to be able to look at my time and know that even amongst the chaos and obligation—I’m living.
Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works with individuals ages 18 and older in New York and New Jersey who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness and a Metro-New York supervisor at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, visit www.temimah.com.