Personally, I don’t love the word “hobby.” It reminds me of RC cars and guys who build tiny sailboats inside of glass bottles. “What are your hobbies?” is a question that feels very much like something you would ask while speed dating. The word carries with it a sort of trivial nature that implies a hobby is something you do because you can’t otherwise fill your hours with meaning. I know I’m probably alone in this, but the word feels somehow cheap. All that said, I recently rediscovered my greatest personal hobby and it has made a huge difference in my life.

Sometime after college I forgot that one of my favorite things in the world is rock climbing. I don’t know why I forgot or when I forgot, but I definitely forgot. In college, I spent the majority of my free time rock climbing outside, rock climbing inside, helping run the university’s rock climbing team, or working at (you guessed it) a rock climbing gym. My roommates and I would stay up late talking about rock climbing and watching climbing videos on our housemate’s iPad. Flat out, I was obsessed.

Toward the end of college I started to focus more on important things like finding a job and planning a wedding, and climbing naturally faded into the background. It went from obsession to hobby and then from hobby to afterthought. Fast forward a few years into post grad life and there I was working a full time adult job married to the woman of my dreams but still feeling anxious, restless, and unsettled. My wife was getting the brunt of it as I consistently bemoaned to her about the lack of adventure in my adult life. The feeling of not being myself was crippling me. And while it seems silly to say that a “hobby” could fix all that, the truth is that rock climbing has significantly helped me feel more “me.”

The day after my first night of climbing, I felt more relaxed at work. I was also sore–happy and sore. Over the next several months my overall anxiety level would greatly diminish. Having a hobby which makes me feel fulfilled and happy has also helped me be more present at home. Also, I’ve become physically stronger and less fluffy which is nice.

When do you feel most yourself? 

This is one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. In fact, I think you should ask yourself right now. Go ahead…

It’s my personal opinion that your hobby should somehow tie into the part of your identity that is underserved by the other areas of your life. Maybe you love cooking and rarely get a chance to do it because of time or roommates. Maybe you feel most like yourself while playing Dungeons and Dragons and you need to find people to play with. Whatever the thing is that makes you come alive with excitement—that is the thing you should work to find time for.

If you don’t immediately know what the thing is, maybe you should ask one of your close friends. I was getting coffee with my friend Sarah recently when I told her that I’d been climbing again and she immediately smiled broadly.

“Good, that’s who you are,” she said.

The big point

The point of this post is not that you should start rock climbing. Although I think it’s the best and you should try it. The point is that adulting often requires us twenty somethings to mature into new more responsible habits and grow away from some of our younger ones. That transition isn’t all bad. I’ve learned how to get up early, how to pay my own bills (auto-draft is the best) and I’m even kind of learning how taxes work.

Rock climbing has reminded me that being an adult isn’t about becoming someone I don’t recognize. Whatever those things are that set you apart, the things that make you feel most ‘you’ are necessary and should not be ignored. We all have to grow up, but we don’t have to lose ourselves in the process.