Tiny Plants, Taxing Hobbies

3 August 2022

I planted a couple sprouts into the ground early last month. (oh god it’s already August where the heck did all the summer go)

Every other Saturday or so, the library I work at holds activities for younger kids, like storytimes or dance parties or hands-on STEM activities and the like. Near the end of June, there was an event that taught attendees how to make little newspaper pots to house little seedlings; and for whatever reason or another there were a few seeds left over, so I got to take a couple home with me.

These seedlings are for teddy bear dwarf sunflowers. The teddy bear part of the name is easy to intuit from the puffy fur-looking petals, but I’m guessing the dwarf is because they don’t stand as tall as the sunflowers you see in stock photos. They better resemble the sun than the signature variety, though I can’t help thinking they kinda look like oversize dandelions…

Despite their resemblance, they had to stay in their pots and be brought outside and back in, gradually hardening to the summer sunrays over a week before they could be planted, lest they suffer a fate similar to ours. After measuring things out and digging up the dirt, they were in the ground—and since we haven’t been wanting for rain around here lately, I’ve been able to just let them be and watch them grow these past few weeks.

Which probably isn’t how things go with most non-succulent plants, with their myriad watering schedules and leaves sometimes creeping into inconvenient places and in some cases their habitation provision for bugs. For these sunflowers, the only thing I’m watching for outside of their obligatory blooming is if they bend too much, which means I’ll have to tie them to something to straighten up.

I’m glad for it, though. As of Monday of this week, I’ve been living in my current arrangement for a whole year. My folks do almost all of the keeping and cleaning, so the routine I kept in my last place is all but gone. I still check to see how the sprouts are growing most days, but without any real upkeeping rhythm it’s easy for me to miss them. And this was after I said I’d take the time to buy a “real” houseplant to take care of with the still open stretches of free time I have. Somehow a couple of succulents have managed to sneak back into my room still, since it’s the hottest one in the house most of the time.

My folks actually have a fair bit of plants around the house. They watch one of those real estate/home improvement channels a ton, enough that they like to poke around every new neighborhood they see in the area (of which there are a lot of). While I don’t want to paint them as too bougie, it almost feels like they regard their plants as another static part of the decor, too.

Anyway, the sunflowers are only an annual plant, so once the leaves start falling, the sunflowers will start to wilt, too. But I don’t think I’ll particularly mind. The garden they’re planted in isn’t even mine, and the prospect of getting back out on my own is always something on my mind. As big and bright as they might grow, the evidence of their presence will eventually disappear like mine will.

A gallery chronicling their growth can be found here.

Do you ever find yourself wondering if you have too many hobbies you want to pursue? I sure do! A year entirely free of academic obligations, summer still feels like that wide-open season to get back into each of the sundry of activities one has ever wanted to do at any given point. So far this summer, other than the staple trifecta of reading new books and playing new videogames and 日本語の勉強 bridging them both, I harbored urges to actually learn photography and learn how to cook more stuff and pick up drawing again for the first time in years and try learning how to roller skate again and figure out how to get into fencing and actually exercise for real and get to know the local region better and play offbeat videogames again and take care of more plants and talk to my friends more and…that’s all I can remember.

I’m sure we’ve all got bucket lists like this, things we’d love to devote more time towards if we had it. Even if I had the impossibility of an completely open schedule for hobbies—thinking about this while paradoxically hoping I have even less soon with a couple of job interviews coming up—I don’t even think I’d have the effort to do all of it. Just the one life-sustenance of writing (I call it a “hobby” in person for simplicity’s sake) takes up so much goddang effort that I can’t possibly imagine anyone with the focus to do more than like, four.

It might just be how I think of hobbies though. Last week I fell into one of those all-consuming dazes for the first time in a long time as I finally, finally got to the root of the “complicated relationship with DQXI” bit in my about page that even my actual eating routine felt like distant diversions. Every activity I engage with revolves around anticipation for these obsessive spells, that if I don’t get an enticing challenge that matches my current skill, it’s probably not worth pursuing (there’s that Celeste exchange again).

Are there people out there who have a method for seriously devoting time to multiple hobbies, I wonder? Swapping them in and out each day, like school courses? It sounds like a decent solution, but thinking on it more doesn’t make it seem much different than the drudgery of employment if there were actual checks in place to stick to them.

And then there’s ye olde internalized insecurities, especially with the more visual pursuits. I was sorta kinda decently okay at drawing when I was a kid, and all the affirmation of folks too daunted by its implements cursed me with its lingering specter of projected onlookers whenever I pick up a pencil or pen. The urge to post what I make up here or on social media doesn’t help, either. I’m sure more than a few people reading this know about today’s constant pressure to devolve our pastimes into extracurricular employment that can be mined for content rather than their own sake. Maybe posting about this dilemma is just its own form of content too, in a way.

Still, it’s hard to get better at something if you don’t put in enough time and effort to keep at it for a while. Self improvement and learning new skills is wonderful and all—but like any annual plant, you can put all the love and care in the world into it, yet when the time comes, it’ll wilt away all the same.

Is it “worse” to pick up something, mess around with it for a day or week or two, then drop it without sticking with it for a while to get better? Maybe not as much as we’d think. It’s okay when a plant passes with the seasons. I’d like to hope that can become okay with everything else, too.

Optional Videogame Aside (cw for blood)

Ironically, I’m thinking about all this while playing (or sorta retrying) Bloodborne, a game about the nightmarish results of obsessions of all sorts. I’ve been saying videogames have lost their allure for a while now—but it turns out all I needed was one of those that managed to turn into a time-devouring obsession to pull me right back into them! For all the pull it has, it pulled me away from basically every other game I was waffling around with or very steadily making my way through (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2, Dragon Quest VII, Rise of the Third Power, ファイナルファンタジーⅠ, Shin Megami Tensei IV…almost all JRPGs lately). I suppose that’s the drawback of letting yourself follow whatever whim blows your way, if you could call it that…