Holiday struggles of a chronic dabbler

Wednesday 12th October, 2022

As soon as the 100-degree days slow to a cool, breezy 95, holiday plans begin to arise.

(That's 38 to 35 in celcius for those of you who don't measure in cheeseburgers.)

In Texas, fall is just less hot summer . We don't break out the light jackets until December, and stores don't seem to care what the weather is doing outside. They remain in denial as they put out the pumpkins and mark down the pool floaties.

And, as always, I know what's coming next…

"What are your plans for Thanksgiving?"

"Are you ready for Christmas?"

And, last but not least, the dreaded…

"What do you want for Christmas?"

I know what you're thinking. Dreaded? Why on earth would that be something you dread? The holidays are exciting!

You must be a logical human who is passionate about a few relatable things. I, on the other hand, like too many things, most of which could be filed under "strange" if there was such a filing system.

Yes, my wish lists are long. No, it doesn't help. Let me explain:

My interests change constantly, leaving no consistency for the gift-giver. Every year I have a new lengthy adventure to explain to an unsuspecting relative. It's always daunting for them, sometimes daunting for me.

Little do they know, there are even more endeavors that they're unaware of. While they're only faced with the predicament annually, my husband, Ryan, faces quarterly ideas that inevitably take up not just money, but time and space.

Our apartment is small.

It's… not great.

Let me put this in perspective for you. Within the last few years, I have taken an interest in:

Fossil hunting, gardening, electronics, guitar playing, guitar & amp building, audio recording, astronomy, baking, woodworking, aquarium keeping, vivarium building, stocks, multiple culinary endeavors, and, of course, writing.

Are you still here? Can't say I blame you if you've left.

Now, this list does not include all the avenues blanketed by each thing, nor the things I have researched and not been able to pursue.

Yeah… It's a problem.

It's also worth mentioning that most of these hobbies are paired with subsequent ideas for how to make money doing them. To the point that Ryan's default response is, "Make a business plan." He knows that by working out the details, I'll be forced to accept that there's a reason people don't buy and restore old Victorian houses and then rent them out to ghost hunters.

For whatever reason, I just can't "hobby" like a normal person - in terms of quantity or quality. For example, what started as a small garden on my porch has morphed into a lab in my garage.

(I'm trying to propagate houseplants by cloning them, and Ryan's business plan suggestion has backfired. The math checks out this time.)

I like to think all this leftover curiosity is from grade school. All of us are curious at that age. We want to know how things work. We need to know. I'm a thirty-something locked in that annoying stage of perpetually asking "why?" while everyone else has figured out what they're doing and built a foundation on it.

To make myself feel better about it, I like to imagine that one day my seemingly useless knowledge will become useful. Maybe at a party or a social gathering of some sort? In my mind, it would go like this:

Someone would mention that they're into astronomy.

I would ask all the right questions. What kind of telescope? A refracting? A Newtonian?

They would see that I know a thing or two about telescopes.

At that point, their mind is blown. We're now best friends.

But that's never how it goes…

In reality, they talk about investing in cryptocurrency⏤something I know nothing about.

Then I go home and research cryptocurrency.

and… now I have money in Ethereum.

Here we go again...

When I'm alone my chronic dabbling isn't an issue. Being introverted assists in the constant pursuit of things. I don't have to tell anyone what I'm doing or why, and I have more time to invest in said things.

The struggles arise when I can't close the door to my cave.

This is where the holidays come in. I have unfortunately associated the entire season with explaining myself, summarizing interests, and clarifying goals to people who are understandably exhausted.

People like familiar hobbies - relatable ones. When I say I enjoy gardening, they want me to mean herb gardening so they can buy me one of those weird countertop garden things and call it a day. Instead, they get links to my favorite carnivorous plant sites or see "sphagnum moss" on a wish list.

I've tried to stay within the confines of the easily explainable, but I get bored. I don't like it when google has the answers. I want to dig through ancient forums from 2005 or be forced to figure it out. If I'm not treading where no human before me has, I want to feel like I am.

You might be thinking, "Why doesn't your family give you money? Or one of those visa gift cards?"

I appreciate your problem-solving attitude, but no. Don't get me wrong, for some this is the answer. For those that view gift-giving as a predictable human obligation and nothing more, cash is king. In the words of my mother-in-law, "It fits!"

But this is not how most of my family operates. Gift giving is big, well-planned, and meaningful. It has to represent the thought behind it. It's an opportunity to show you know the receiver and what they're currently interested in. It's high stakes.

It's worth noting that my mom deserves an award for being undeterred by the ever-changing, overly-complicated hot mess that is my wish list. She'll buy beakers from a random lab equipment site. She just wants to know what they're for, and not because she's worried about the government putting her on a list, but because she genuinely wants to know what's happening in my garage. (The show Breaking Bad has made most science purchases appear suspicious, in case you didn't know.)

For meaningful gift-givers, I like to leave detailed explanations on items. These things aren't usually sold by Amazon (or as I call it, "the Rube Goldberg of human suffering"). Regardless, Grandma needs to know why she's ordering from a sketchy-looking site that I swear is a legitimate business out of Houston.

So, in summary, being a chronic dabbler is unfortunate in terms of money, space, time, and the explanations that come tied to the holidays. Even so, if I had an option to stop, I don't know that I would. Life is too short to be focused on one thing, and often times seemingly separate things strangely connect… but that's a lot of words for another time.

For those fellow dabblers, try a list with explanations. Get Grandma out of her comfort zone and have her send you some test tubes, or tell Dad why you want those moth plushies from a particular Etsy store. If nothing else, it will at least be interesting.

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