How to care less about work

A lot of us have only the faintest traces of those childhood and early-adulthood activities in our life—what we might dare call “hobbies.” They largely exist as conversational markers and rhetorical placeholders for who we once were. We have so many reasons for neglecting them: We don’t have the means, financial or otherwise, to pursue them; we don’t have the time; we’ve neglected them so long that our previous skills have atrophied; we simply don’t have the wherewithal to even begin thinking about how to start doing them again.

All of those are excuses, most of them valid, that we cling to out of overwork. It just seems so much easier to not do something, to not have plans, to not try something new or find time to do something you used to love. But that’s your exhaustion speaking. When work devours your waking hours, it also devours your will to do things that truly nourish you. The reality is that we don’t prioritize these activities because—other than seeking ways to optimize ourselves as workers or desirable bodies—we don’t actually prioritize ourselves.

A real hobby isn’t a way to adorn your personality, or perform to masquerade your class status. It’s just something you like to do, full stop.

Be patient with yourself as you figure that out. When you first start trying to put the guardrails on a flexible, post-pandemic schedule, you still might want to spend your newly protected time napping or ambiently watching sports. That’s totally normal and expected: You will essentially be in recovery, not just from years of overwork, but from the accumulated, consolidated stress of the pandemic. But just because you’ve lost sight of who you are, and what you like—outside child care and Netflix—doesn’t mean those things have disappeared altogether. Again, be patient and gentle with yourself. This isn’t “self-care.” It’s recuperation.