Your Hobbies Don’t Have to Be Your Hustles
The question of passion and career are so often dependent upon each other in society. I say this as someone who has always tried to figure out her one passion in life, only to learn that this is a problematic desire. I made this video about this exact global conundrum.
Aside from the fact that we can be multipassionate, or a multipotentialite as coined in this Ted talk, we also don’t have to turn our passions or hobbies or interests into side hustles. The “hustle” has been glorified by capitalism as a way to “have it all” when the 9–5 grind is getting you down. And while I have used the word “hustle” to describe the work I do outside of my full-time job, I often cringe when I say it. I don’t want to reinforce the idea that to pursue your passions, you need to burn yourself out to do it.
Yet, society romanticizes this idea instead of allowing our hobbies to be romantic on their own. I love learning. And what takes the joy away from learning something new is the intrusive thought that pops in my head and asks “How can you make money from this?” I’ve learned to swat this question away more easily, but this question used to send me spinning instead of allowing myself to enjoy the thing I’m actually learning.
I just finished reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, and this quote really stuck out: “Why is it that the modern idea of productivity is so often a frame for what is actually the destruction of the natural productivity of an ecosystem?”
So often we want to make our hobbies a hustle because we want to feel it is worthy or productive. But we actually might be destroying the very thing we enjoy by making it a moneymaker. We are part of an ecosystem, and we are an ecosystem ourselves. We have circadian rhythms and neurological processes and our bodies require rest, nutrition, and activity. Career and money are made up concepts that, if not thought of as tools or vehicles, can completely disrupt what our bodies actually need.
I’m not saying to stop pursuing an art career if that is your passion. I’m saying that it’s important to be mindful of the ways that art might become less fun as you monetize from it. How are you pushing yourself to create when it doesn’t feel authentic? When do you feel you’re making art for others more than for yourself? What are some ways you can strike a balance?
In the beginning of 2021, I documented my joys for 30 days after watching this great Ted talk by Ashley Stahl. I wrote down what brought me joy throughout the day whether that was part of my full-time job, my side work, or seeing a hummingbird on my morning walk. Joys arise from all forms, contexts, and places. And this exercise allowed me to democratize my joys. It showed me that the simplest of things could bring me delight. They didn’t have to be part of a hustle. They could just be as they were. This helped me realize that joy doesn’t have to be related to traditional notions of productivity and success. And this just happened to be reinforced to me after watching the movie Soul the day after I started my joyful experiment.
If you want to make your hobby a hustle, I suggest taking a conscious approach. Determine your values and notice how they are aligned or not so aligned as you start your hustle journey. And if “hustle” is too activating, feel free to call it your passion project (or something else).
What I’ve noticed in others, and myself, is that I say yes to opportunities that don’t align with my intuition or values. Sometimes we feel that have to do something we don’t want to actually do for the sake of a connection or opportunity — I’ve been there too. We abandon ourselves because of patriarchy, cultural norms, or past trauma. But we always have choices. And our choices have consequences. The good news is, you can choose differently next time.
And sometimes not doing the things you love for money is a privilege. You may feel that you must use the thing you’re really good at to make money as a way to survive.
As with most things, choosing to make your hobby your hustle is a nuanced decision, and there is so much wisdom to gain from these choices and their consequences. This is not about making the “right” decision because the “right” decision assumes a false binary. This is about deep awareness about what we love, how joy comes into our life, and how we want to share our joys with ourselves and the world.
Nisha Mody is a writer who also is also a Coach, Podcaster, and Librarian. She has written for The Rumpus, The Times of India, and Ravishly. Find her on Twitter and Instagram. But most importantly, adore her beautiful sister cats. Read more of her work on her healing and justice newsletter and community, The Healing Hype.