Hello again, friends! I’m coming at you today with a topic that has been on my brain lately. It’s possible that this whole post won’t apply to you—maybe I’m the only one who at nearly 30 years old has yet to fully figure out something as basic as what I enjoy in life. But if I’m not–hi! And I get you. And I hope this is helpful.
I grew up as a total people-pleaser. I had no opinions of my own, because I preferred to let stronger opinions guide my thoughts and actions. I never had preferences for activities to do with my friends or places to eat because I would rather the people around me choose and enjoy themselves than unintentionally force something they didn’t want upon them. I never argued, because arguing made people uncomfortable. All I wanted in life was to help the people around me be as content as possible and for all my actions to help create that outcome. And, of course, for some reason I thought people would like me more if I shared their hobbies and opinions and never argued or disagreed. Which I’m sure worked super great.
I don’t blame my younger self for being this way. It’s pretty easy to see how that behavior came from the very best of intentions. But ultimately I can draw a line between my people-pleasing behaviors and my lack of self-identity later in life. At some point in the past decade, I realized: I wanted to pick up old hobbies I’d dropped when I thought they weren’t cool or conforming. I wanted to pinpoint the media I loved to consume and find out what about it grabbed my attention. And, of course, through all of that, I wanted to figure out how to just be unapologetically Me.
Find One Thing
I’m sure there are a lot of people who can have this sort of wake-up call moment and instantly have the self-awareness to do something about it. Not me! My turn around was—like much of my life—influenced by someone else. For years I’d thought that video games were a waste of time, because that’s what a lot of people around me thought and I was a chameleon-person who blended in with her surroundings. But my boyfriend loved games, and thankfully he managed to see me better than I saw myself in those days. He figured out the kind of video games I would love, and introduced me to them. I’d played video games as a youngin, but gave it up in high school (partially out of being busy and social, but partially because I didn’t know anyone who found games worthwhile). Getting back into it was like finding an old friend, as cheesy as that sounds. And it opened up a world of general geekery that I’d been neglecting for years. I discovered nerdy things like The Guild, which led me to that show’s writer and leading lady Felicia Day, and then I found her website, Geek & Sundry, and that led me to a little ol’ Twitch stream D&D show called Critical Role. And Critical Role changed my life.
Ok, so that’s pretty melodramatic. But it’s also true. I watched those nerdy-ass voice actors become totally and unabashedly engrossed in their story, and remembered how much I love storytelling. I joined my own games, and got to tell my own stories with characters I loved and other players that became my friends. I got more and more involved with story-heavy games that recreated the magical feeling of story that I felt when I watched Critical Role or played my own games. And I started writing books again, a dream I’d had since I was a child and had stopped trying to achieve. As silly as it might sound, D&D turned my whole life around.
So for those looking for…themselves, I guess, this all really boils down to: start small. Find one thing. Keep an open mind to the things introduced to you by those around you, or seek something out on your own. Once you discover one thing that you know you love, the rest are so much easier to find.
This is so basic, but for me it was surprisingly difficult. One day I just decided I needed to know what my favorite movies were, and books, and music and TV shows and games and hobbies. And they had to be things that I knew I liked entirely for my own self, no matter what anyone else might think or say about them. So I took an actual piece of scrap paper and wrote them down. Ten in each category. And I learned about myself! I learned that I love cheesy, heartfelt, lighthearted things. My favorite movies and books focused on character relationships—not just romance (though don’t get me wrong, that factored in often) but friendships, siblinghood and parent-child dynamics. They focused on courage and hope and love. My favorite games were strong in character and story, my favorite music was sweeping and ponderous and inspiring, and my hobbies were all heavy on learning. I didn’t know these things before my lists, and whenever I accidentally stumbled upon favorites I constantly tore them down as being too cheesy, or sappy, or girly. Now I recognize that these are the things that I find absolute joy in, and I refuse to be embarrassed by it.
Which leads me to my third tip.
Don’t Let Yourself Hate On the Things You Love
That sounds like it shouldn’t even be possible, but I did it constantly. And it’s understandable, especially if you’re around people who are constantly knocking the kinds of things you love. Most of my family does not see the appeal of D&D and (lovingly) teased me about it when I first started getting into it, and for a while I never talked about it because I was embarrassed. These days I’ll tell anyone, whether they ask or not, how awesome D&D is. That feeling of claiming something that is important to you as not only something you love, but something you should love, is vital. Learning to be okay with my hobbies and media was the biggest step I took to figuring out the things I love. Because if you don’t embrace your own interests, they’ll never stand up to the scrutiny of others who just don’t get it.
I love the novels Graceling and The Winter Sea. I love Ever After and the Lord of the Rings movies. I love Dragon Age and Skyrim and Minecraft. I love Gilmore Girls and Merlin. I love movie scores, writing novels, tarot cards, interior decorating blogs and Celtic mythology. And, of course, I love D&D.
Tell me: what do you love?
Happy finding, friends!