The holidays have brought my family home, if only for a weekend. It is 10:00 on a Sunday morning and I sit in the corner of the open downstairs space, watching. My sister is crouched over the kitchen table, her forehead wrinkled in concentration as she finishes a small sketch of our old Beetle Cat sailboat. She pays no mind to the mushy bowl of Cheerios that waits beside her creation. My mother sits, as usual, in the corner by the window with the morning sun, her cup of Yorkshire Gold in one hand, The New Yorker in the other. My dad walks out of his study, perches on the arm of a faded leather chair, and begins to strum one of his many guitars, his long fingernails clawing at the strings to create a simple and familiar tune. It’s at this moment that my brother’s car pulls into the newly shoveled driveway, the roof-rack piled high with surfboards from that morning’s session. Each member of my family emerges from their respective moment with the slam of the front door; they squint, they stretch, they return to our shared reality.
Coming to college, I am perplexed by the amount of time that is seemingly free for me to do what I please. Days consist of walking to and from class, stopping in at Philly, finishing up some work, and maybe folding laundry, but probably not. Extracurriculars are a huge part of the college experience; a whole campus of possibility opens up as you enter into freshman year, and yet I can’t manage to stick with one interest for too long. Perhaps this is because I’m still in the transition phase, but perhaps it is my own fault—my fickle personality or my long-term relationship with Netflix—that I shy away from the clubs, the sports teams, and the movement to get involved and find what it is exactly that I love to do.
Patagonia recently published an article for their blog The Cleanest Line (4/22/13) entitled “Flow” by Dr. Tony Butt. It explores Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory on the state of mind into which we enter when we are doing something that we enjoy: flow. Not only does Dr. Butt explain the science behind Csikszentmihalyi’s beliefs, but he also describes the beauty that lies within a closer connection to nature and to oneself—both body and soul—that faintly echoes the Emersonian ideals and values that I have always found compelling.
I guess you could say I have a history with being hobby-less. I have halfheartedly invested myself in a few activities over the years: soccer, lacrosse, photography, sailing, ceramics, hiking, writing, and tennis, but nothing has ever really stuck. When I say “stuck” I mean nothing has ever allowed me to enter into “flow”, to lose myself in a separate reality created by the combination of moment and activity to an extent where I evade all sense of time and place. That’s what I want, that is what I crave, and I think most people my age, or any age, for that matter, would agree with me. No one wants to be hobby-less; as my grandmother used to say, “It takes a boring person to be bored.”
I find myself on a campus of about 15,000 people and 300 different organizations, yet I still can’t seem to get a foot in the door of the extracurricular world. Much like being home with my family, I watch as my friends and classmates dip in and out of flow while I remain static on the surface of indifference. Maybe I haven’t found what it is that I love to do, but maybe I shouldn’t go searching for it either. As Dr. Butt writes, ‘It’s like knowing where the bus stop is but not knowing when the bus is going to come: you make every effort to be there, ready, just in case it comes.” So I’ll continue to be open to new experiences, I’ll keep showing up, and hopefully I’ll maintain a positive and patient attitude in the process. I’m confident that one of these days, I’ll shake hands with flow, whenever and wherever it may find me.