Flashes of Passions

Artwork: Maddy McKusker

My current passion is cross-stitch. I bought a set at a market. I was attracted by the ironic slogans and variety of colours. I could do that; I can be crafty- I thought. I’ve spent the last six nights cross-stitch in hand, with my computer balanced precariously on my lap in an endless loop of Brooklyn 99 episodes. Periodically I shout for my roommate when I’ve dropped the needle somewhere on my grey sheets and it’s unclear where needle ends and sheet begins. When it’s done I’m going to frame it, that much I’ve already decided.

It always starts this way. The regularity of a handmade market triggering my crafty side is somewhat troubling. My spaces are filled with half completed projects. My room a graveyard to passions that, once urgent and erupting, have cooled into ashy igneous rock.

It started with collages. Masses of magazines later, I had coated my wardrobe in a paper layer of aesthetic. I even had a collage of world leaders to conveniently help me study for my Cold War exam. Then it was stamp collecting. And knitting. And crocheting. And then collages again. Then there was a phase of making my own coffee body scrub, which I have zero regrets about (delicious). Then a final, quite urgent, phase of collaging, in which my bedroom furniture achieved the tell-tale paper cladding. And now here we are- cross-stitching.

Two things are clear. Collaging and I have some serious unfinished business. And my passions are intense. They burn bright, often consuming everyone around me too. But they flame out quickly. Inevitably I end up getting bored by the required time commitment. Or too busy with uni. Or, the classic, wooed by another crafty hobby.

It is the essence of hobbies that they’re a welcome distraction from our real commitments. The ultimate procrastination tools, because you can’t feel guilty if you’ve abandoned this week’s reading journal in favour of sewing hundreds of tiny crosses into the shape of a sheep- you’re still working your mind! Moreover, they make us feel like we’ve achieved something, that our hard work has paid off (if you make it to the end of the project!). It is my strong belief that we need little hobbies and passions to keep our minds decluttered, to give us ten minutes of distraction a day from assignments and responsibilities.

But what about the graveyard of unfinished projects, I hear you ask. True, most hobbies are short-lived. You’re passionate for the first week or month, and then it fizzles. I have the utmost admiration for long-term knitters or for people who can decisively say that their collage is done (who are you? Teach me your ways). Often, I feel like a failure for the number of things I’ve left unfinished, embarrassed when my mum still saves stamps for me.

And then I remember this: to be passionate is to be living. Life is full of hurried moments we want to sneak for ourselves amongst the daily grind. The unfinished projects are a testament to our passion, to the spark of joy, however fleeting, that we get from them.