I've seen it all: friends posing victoriously next to 1000-piece puzzles or holding up freshly-baked sourdough loaves like a tasty Excalibur. I've watched detailed accounts of extraordinary meals from prep to completion using ingredients a year ago I would have been too intimidated to approach on my own. I've babied plants and succulents, tried my hand at Zoom paint nights, and spent more than a few evenings nodding off during a virtual board game that went on a bit too long.
Next week will be a year since most of the world went into lockdown, and but for a few weeks in the summer, I and most of the people in my life never really emerged from it. The ebb and flow of home-bound life has exacted its toll on my mental and physical health, but I've also established a foundational rhythm that, by now, feels disturbingly normal.
Work and childcare don't leave much time for hobbies, but the ones I have developed have been all-encompassing, the usual tiptoe into new communities expedited by a kind of desperation to feel moored to something more stable than the capriciousness of local governments.
It started with reading. Back in March I, like so many people, braced myself for an extended lockdown by buying a lifetime's worth of books and plowing through as many of them as possible in the final nine months of 2020. I read anything and everything, from novels I'd added to my Goodreads list a decade ago to non-fiction that felt especially aligned for the chaos of our times. (If I can make a recommendation, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe was especially brilliant.) I do most of my reading on one of the best e-book readers available, the Kindle Oasis, but I've also spent more than a few hours listening to longform podcasts and audiobooks.
I then migrated to coffee. I've always loved making it, the ritual of it the most attractive part of every morning. But during the past year, I tripled the number of brewers on my shelf — I added a Hario V60 and Espro Bloom to my pourover repertoire, along with a proper Turkish cezve — and finally made room for a decent espresso machine, a Breville Barista Pro.
I knew something had changed when I found myself becoming more interested in the grower-to-cup journey of the beans I looked forward to grinding every morning. I started paying attention to a bean's pedigree beyond its country of origin, more attuned to the nuances of how a bean was processed or what brewer best fit its purported taste profile (when in doubt, V60).
I also returned to a former hobby that I first picked up during high school: headphones. Thanks to friend of the site, Michael Fisher, I got my hands on a pair of AirPods Max, along with the highly-lauded Drop + THX Panda headphones that pair so beautifully with my new Drop + THX AAA One amplifier.
I was one of those teenagers who spent his money on Sennheisers over sneakers, and by the time I finished college I'd amassed a pretty decent collection hi-fi equipment only to sell it when I needed rent money a few months later. It's been pretty gratifying realizing that the scene has not just thrived in my absence, but that the pandemic brought a lot of former head-fi addicts out of hibernation as we spent more time at home with plenty of time on our ears listening to some of the best headphones out there.
Most recently — and this one I'm most upset at myself about — I fell down a deep mechanical keyboard hole from which I've yet to emerge. (I blame my iMore colleague, Christine Chan, for reviews like this one, for starting me down this dangerous path.) The learning curve is steep, and I'm still figuring out the nuances of all the switch types and, more broadly, the larger community that seems to self-perpetuate through group buys and YouTube tutorials.
I don't think it's surprising that I've glommed onto a number of ways to fill whatever free time I've been able to scrape together over the past year. I still spend a lot of time cooking, and I love whiling away a few hours every weekend playing Diablo III or NBA 2K21, but it's the newness of these hobbies, the fact that every aspect is novel and unexplored, like the map that slowly reveals itself as you get further and further into a good game, in which I revel.
The pandemic has made us all tired introverts; these hobbies make me feel more like myself again.
Have you developed any hobbies over the past year? Let me know and we'll discuss them in the comments below.
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Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.