I have a friend who is into Star Wars. I mean really into Star Wars. He has every release of the movies going back to VHS. He has the trading cards, all of the books, the toys going back to the 1970’s when he was a child, the collectible glasses given away by fast food restaurants, and much, much more. In addition, he goes to the conventions and gatherings around the world. Star Wars is his life and, well, it often gets him into financial trouble.
He doesn’t have the money to spend on this stuff, quite frankly. He carries a lot of debt and sacrifices other things he’d really like to do to feed this Star Wars addiction. It’s his hobby and his passion to the exclusion of everything else in life. The thing is, it started out as just a hobby. He was cleaning out his parent’s house and found all of the stuff he’d had as a kid. Then he turned to growing the collection. It became more than a hobby and now it’s an obsession. He can’t let anything Star Wars exist without buying it or going to it.
Having a hobby can be a healthy thing. Many hobbies are rich repositories of new people and experiences, new skills, and fun. They may even help you make a little money if you can find a way to monetize your passion. That’s all good stuff. Where it goes wrong is where it become an addiction that you feed at the expense of other things you need and want to do.
For most of us, there is no way to take part in everything a hobby has to offer. We can’t own all of the supplies or merchandise. We can’t go on all the trips or go to all the conventions. We can’t be part of every experience the hobby has to offer. That’s not just because of lack of funds, although that’s the first thing that stops most of us. It’s also because the time and effort required to track down every piece of memorabilia or go to every event isn’t available to us. We have jobs and family responsibilities. We have friends and family who want to do other things with us besides trek to yet another convention or store. And that’s as it should be. A complex, deep hobby isn’t going to be something you can “master” or do/own every single thing related to it. If it were simple, it wouldn’t be any fun. But there’s a middle ground between something that’s too simple and something that overtakes the rest of your life.
If you pursue your hobby to the exclusion of everything else that life has to offer, you’re quickly going to find yourself broke and without meaningful relationships. Your friends and family will eventually decide that you are no fun to be around and cut you out of their lives. You’ll become that crazy uncle or cousin that’s only invited to weddings and funerals, and even then they know you won’t come because you’ll be chasing some holy grail of your hobby.
You have to find a balance between doing “enough” with your hobby to keep you satisfied, engaged, and fulfilled and doing so much that you jeopardize other things. One of the best ways to do this, I think, is to specialize. For my Star Wars loving friend, that might mean only collecting things with Han Solo on them, or things from the original trilogy rather than everything related to the later movies and the “expanded universe.” For a person into jewelry making, maybe you stick to making only earrings instead of necklaces and bracelets, too. For someone who collects antiques, maybe you could limit yourself to only a certain time period, or item, such as clocks or mirrors. Specializing can save you a lot of money and time, yet still give you a fulfilling hobby experience.
While this example is about hobbies, it’s certainly not limited to hobbies. You can find people doing similar things in many other aspects of their lives. Trying to make vacations be the best of the best and include much more than there is actually time for is one example. Trying to keep up with the Joneses is another one. It’s important to learn in all aspects of life that trying to do it all, or have it all, is ultimately going to be a waste of money.
With this is mind, specializing (or focusing on those things that are most important) can greatly reduce the money you spend and the amount of chasing that you do. It can also make you an expert in your chosen specialty. You can become the person that others come to when they want to know about Civil War-era armoires, or any bit of Princess Leia trivia. When you cut your hobby down to a manageable size, you can more fully appreciate it instead of traipsing all over the world chasing random stuff. That’s got to be a better way to live than trying to do it all, when doing it all isn’t possible.
(Photo courtesy of simononly)