We refuse to let go of our hobbies

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What you need to know:

  • In this  highly capitalistic world, getting a moment to do the things we enjoy can sometimes feel impossible.

  • This festive season, think about the activities you enjoy and pursue them. What makes you happy? Why are you not doing it?

We live in a materialistic world where money drives everything we do, and is the motivation for a lot of things we engage in. In such a world, it is easy for one’s life to be reduced to making money and simply surviving. Getting a moment to breathe, experience the niceties of life and do the things we enjoy can quickly become a luxury.

The consequence of this is that people end up leading stressful lives with no channels to decompress. This week, we speak to young people who have decided to pursue their passions in addition to their main careers. 

This festive season, think about the activities you enjoy and pursue them. What makes you happy? Why are you not doing it?

Photo credit: Pool

Mary Margaret Obondi
Even though I pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics, economics and psychology, I’ve found myself doing different things. This is because I love adventure and I deliberately explore my passions. This spirit has made me focus all my attention on two things: Social media management, and hand-made clothes. Social media management is now my day job, and clothes making is my side hustle.

I currently manage a company’s social media platform but before that, I was actively building my brand on social media through my Instagram handle @maryobondi. Together with my photographer @arnoldjulian, we offer commentary on fashion, design, culture and lifestyle. It was through my personal brand that I was entrusted with a whole company’s social media platform. I take social media management very seriously.

I love life. Just being alive makes me happy because every day is an opportunity to try again, take on new challenges and accomplish new things. As a social media manager, I glide from one challenge to another as I learn, understand and develop new strategies to drive engagements online. Although this is something I am passionate about, it can sometimes be overwhelming. That is why I had to look for something else I am passionate about to help me unwind and express my artistic side.

Like most girls, I grew up playing with dolls, feeding them and dressing them up in different clothes. As I grew older, I started sewing clothes for my dolls. The clothes were not praiseworthy, but I found the activity thoroughly satisfying. I desired to have my own collection of designer clothes. That is why I decided to start hand-stitching clothes.

To hand make clothes, I first come up with the design, then I get the material. After that I begin stitching. Whereas using a sewing machine is faster and more convenient, I find hand stitching to be more interesting and captivating. It usually takes me a couple of weeks to finish an item.

As a self-taught clothes maker, one challenge I faced early on was making wearable clothes. Making a piece for a doll is very easy because it will rarely attract criticism. However, when making clothes for humans, it is very possible to make unwearable clothing. To overcome that, I experiment with my sister. I first use her measurements and fittings to make the first clothing items, then I make improvements on the real thing.

Since I work as a social media manager during the day, I usually make clothes after work and on weekends.

Making clothes has taught me about patience. Hand stitched clothes are not completed in a day or week. The masterpieces are made piece by piece. I have become more patient and persistent in all aspects of my life, particularly when it comes to pursuing my goals.

Pursuing my interest in social media management has taught me the importance of learning and unlearning. Social media is constantly changing and what I apply today might not be useful tomorrow. Additionally, what applies to one brand or organisation might not apply to another. Each brand’s motives, including mine, are different and you thus learn new things every day.

Photo credit: Pool

Emmanuel Kibagendi
One of the biggest lessons I have picked from pursuing my passion is that consistency always beats talent. I am currently in my fourth year studying aerospace engineering at Kenyatta University and I’ll be representing my school in the East African University Games in Uganda this December.

When I cleared high school, I had a list of things I wanted to try and learn. This included skating, cycling and swimming. I liked swimming more even though I did not know how to swim. In my second year, a friend taught me the basics of swimming and that was enough to get me started.

Luckily, I have access to a school swimming pool so I took time to learn. After classes, I would spend a lot of time on YouTube learning about swimming, after which I would then go to the swimming pool and implement what I had learnt.

I also adjusted my schedule. Typically, I wake up at 6am and work out for an hour before I head to class at around 8am. My classes usually run up to 4pm or 5pm, after which I go to the swimming pool for training until 6:30 pm when I go to the gym at KU and work out till around 8pm. 

With this schedule, it took me a couple of months to be very good at swimming and towards the end of 2019, I went for swimming tryouts and qualified to join the school team.

I have since represented my university in many competitions. This year, I was part of the team that represented the school in the African Championship Games where I interacted with students from countries such as Egypt, Uganda and Nigeria. This would not have been possible if I had not gotten into swimming.

Swimming has cultivated discipline and consistency in me and I have become a go-getter. When I set out to do something, I actually stick with it until it is done, no matter how hard it gets. I’ve also learnt that it is possible for me to learn anything as long as I put in the work. 

Swimming has also motivated me, and I now have full confidence in my abilities. I know that if I do my best, I will succeed. I also know that I can learn and grasp complex engineering concepts if I put my mind into it, so I never give up.

Photo credit: Pool

Martin Ngumbu
I studied diagnostic radiography at JKUAT and for the past two years, I have been working as a sonographer. I am also a rapper, spoken word artist and guitarist. I do all this because I am passionate about the arts. Unlike many artists, I am very introverted and very anxious when around crowds. Therefore, pursuing my interest in arts has been a labour of love.

My journey in music started while I was a university student. We had poetry events every Friday and a friend invited me to attend one such event. At the end of the show, the host challenged the audience to write a poem on animal rights and perform it the following week. On a whim, I committed to writing a spoken word piece which I performed the following week.

As a very shy and introverted person, the performance was monumental for me as I struggled with stage fright. It took everything for me to just stand in front of people and share my work. Surprisingly, the audience was very receptive. They cheered me on, which greatly encouraged me. I continued writing spoken word pieces which I performed every Friday.

Last year, I switched from writing poetry, to rap. This was after I met AL Mannah, a young artist who had just released a rap extended playlist (EP). I wrote one verse and collaborated with him to release my first ever rap track.

I have since grown as a rapper, and I go by the stage name KN_Tini. Last year I released a mixtape called 20s and Blues and this year I dropped my first music video called Lost in Thoughts. As a conscious artist whose art mirrors society, I rap about my life experiences and also what happens to others.

Pursuing music in addition to my career in sonography has really helped build my self-confidence. As an introvert, I am slowly learning to overcome stage fright and build friendships. I am becoming more emotional intelligent.

In an age where addiction to social media is real, music helps me get off my phone. Some say that making music is not a productive activity, but staring at your phone all day is not productive either. Art has allowed me to develop life skills. Whereas I sometimes get overwhelmed at work and at the studio, I always find time to pursue music. If you love something, you’ll find time for it.

How to discover your passions 

In 2014, psychology researchers at the San Francisco State University took 341 professionals and 92 air force captains to evaluate the importance of extracurricular activities such as painting, knitting, cooking and photography. They found out that having creative passions outside work makes you 15 to 30 per cent better at your job. In short, if you want to be better at your work, get a hobby. In a different study done by Duke University psychologist Patrician Linville, it was established that pursuing a hobby outside of work made people happier and more resilient when facing challenges in life. 

You first need to figure out what you’re passionate about. To do this, come up with a list of things you enjoy doing or things you enjoyed in your childhood. This can be completely different from a career you are pursuing. If you haven’t really done anything, consider things you like reading about or discussing. When picking a hobby or an after-work activity, try to find things you enjoy doing that require you to actively participate. That means you can’t include passive activities such as watching movies.

Once you’ve come up with the list, try them out. You’ll realise that there are one or two activities that truly make you happy. Focus on these. If they are aligned with one of your goals, good for you. However, that is not a requirement.

After that, learn more about the activity. To make things even easier, find a community of people interested in the same activity. For instance, if you enjoy reading, join a book club. If you like hiking, find a community of hikers. This will help you learn about the activity and keep you motivated.

Finally, once you discover your passion, make time for it so that it doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day activities such as family time or your day job.

If you’re still not convinced of the need for you to pursue an after-work passion, consider a country like Germany which is regularly ranked among the top 10 happiest countries in the world. According to Deutsche Welle, more than 44 per cent of Germans are members of a club and actively pursue an after-work activity. It is no coincidence that the country is happier than Kenya which was at position 119 out of 146 on the happiness index this year.