Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

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Hobbies are good; they make you more interesting and interested in other people. In fact, one of the most popular posts on this blog is one I wrote last summer exploring the link between hobbies and happiness. It seems we all like the idea of hobbies, even if making time to pursue anything outside of work and family remains challenging.

But giving up certain hobbies is an aspect of happiness I hadn’t considered until last week when I read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. Rubin discusses how one of the tricks for making time for hobbies/activities/passions and having more fun in general is eliminating the activities that we wish we liked. She doesn’t mean stop paying the bills or other mundane tasks that are part of adulthood. She simply suggests we stop fantasizing about being the kind of person who, for example, likes hiking, camping, and fishing if what you really want to do in your spare time is paint.

I love this advice so much that I’m inspired to abandon a fantasy hobby now: MUSIC.

I will never be a music hobbyist. I’m talking about the kind of person who finds new bands, frequently goes to concerts, constantly buys new music, and just knows what’s happening in the music scene. I respect those people. I’m just never going to be one of them. Of course that reality has not stopped me from imagining myself as the kind of person who might hang out in some “cool” spot in Minneapolis listening to an up and coming band, or at least the kind of person who possesses “cool” music in my “collection.”


Thinking back, I’ve always tried to alter my natural tastes in music. In junior high (1988-1990), I tried to like Def Leppard and Aerosmith, but really I preferred Air Supply and Chicago. I remember how my high school boyfriend used to tease me about my obsession with the Indigo Girls and everything Broadway related. He, like many in my high school in the early 90s then in college, loved The Grateful Dead and Phish, or retro stuff like The Allman Brothers. I tried to get into it, but those endless riffs were just not my thing. Turns out I’m too square for both heavy metal and stoner music.

Remembering the same boyfriend, our song (stop laughing) was Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.” As a matter of fact, Sting featured heavily with one of my college boyfriends, too. Sting, I guess, is one of those artists who can bridge the musical divide. Who doesn’t like Sting? At the very least he’s not musically polarizing like Manilow (love) or Metallica (no thanks).

My husband likes music and would love to attend more concerts. I’m game, as long as I don’t have to stand. I still have nightmares from the Prince concert a few years ago when we had to stand the entire time. How is that relaxing? The James Taylor/Carole King concert I attended with my mother-in-law for her birthday last year was much more my speed. Which brings me to my next point:

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I still held out hope for developing a taste for “cool” music as an adult before reading Rubin’s aforementioned advice to let the fantasy die. You will appreciate why this was both comical and delusional below:

Let’s take a peek at some highlights from my iPod.

Here’s what gets the most play:

→Every album Sarah McLachlan ever recorded. Think: my college dorm room, candles, and tears.

→Quite a bit Celine Dion, who I have seen in concert THREE times. You won’t be surprised that I sat in my seat the entire time and loved it.

→Several versions of Michael W. Smith’s song “Friends,” which I first heard as a child at overnight camp. Same goes for every version of “The Circle Game.” Think 150 girls in the North Woods holding hands circa 1987. (Also me as an adult, alone in my car.)

→Practically every song produced by David Foster. Think: St. Elmo’s Fire and lots of Peter Cetera. I dare anyone with a father, daughter, or a heart to listen to Peter Cetera’s “Daddy’s Girl” and not cry. Staying with the David Foster theme, the song “And When She Danced” from the movie Stealing Home made it to every mix tape/cd/digital playlist I created from 1990 to 2006. Every single one. No exaggeration. In fact, I think I’ll listen to it now. I also love Foster’s more recent discovery, Josh Groban (recent like 1999). Here’s a priceless moment in music history as far as I’m concerned: Celine and Josh Groban singing “The Prayer.” You’re welcome.

→Every song Lea Michele recorded for Glee. Same goes for Katherine McPhee’s songs for Smash.

→Wicked, Aida, Rent, and the musical version of The Secret Garden, which won a tony in 1991.

Once upon a time those playlists would have embarrassed me, but I’m okay with the fact that I’ll never be a musical hipster. It gives me more time to continue pursing all things bookish, which is kind of like being a musical hobbyist with words instead of sounds. I’m always up on what’s getting published. I buy tons of books and go to author readings as often as I can, and I try to read as much as possible. I worry about independent bookstores and generally get jazzed up about all things literary.

So instead of feeling bad about my disinterest in finding new music or seeing (most) concerts, I will continue going with like-minded literary friends to see the authors who breeze through town on their book tours. And Bryan will continue asking friends to join him the next time anyone other than Streisand comes to town. As Rubin points out in her book, there’s a place in life for trying new things, but at a certain point, it’s good to know yourself and allow yourself to spend time on the activities YOU actually like.

Have you harbored a “fantasy hobby?” Has it kept you from having time to do what you REALLY love to do? And what’s playing on your iPod? I’m always curious what other people are listening to, even if at this point I can finally acknowledge I’m not likely to listen to it, ever.

Also, while you’re here, would love you to “like” my new Facebook page. Thank you!

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and a contributing writer at and Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and have been syndicated in Jewish newspapers across the country. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina is a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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