Sharon Philogene
Sharon Philogene

Facebook is one of the main mediums for befriending others today other than at school, work, church or other social occasions, but in days gone by, many would scan the newspapers for the "pen pal' wanted sections to connect with others around the globe. Apart from one's name, age, and address, there was always a declaration of a hobby. Now whether, the individual engaged in that hobby is another story. It was, however, something that the individual was proud enough to boast about. I was proud then to express loud and clear that my hobby was reading. If asked today whether this is still the case, I will respond yes, though with a bit of guilt that I don't engage as much as I should in casual reading; reading being the main driver of my profession as an English Teacher. If I am not reading to plan lessons, I am reading to gain knowledge to bring the world to classroom. It does feel good, however, when I can squeeze in a good novel like I use to whenever 'free time' seemed available…on buses, trains, planes, at airports, doctor offices, the beach, etc, etc.

As a child, reading was encouraged by my mother who ensured that every Saturday, we visited the public library to borrow a book. As I progress through primary and then high school my thirst for books increased and by then I had access to a church library so my voracious appetite for books was being satisfied. I remember reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress before the age of 15; years later, in an English Literature class at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, my professor making reference to the story as an allegorical tale ask, how many of you have read this story? I raised my hands while slowly scanning the room and realized that my hand was the only one up. I felt good then….I was the only non-American in the room. It was also during my years in high school that one of my mom's co-workers discovered my love for reading and I gained access to another library through which I was introduced to authors like Jane Austen, Phyllis Shand Alfrey, Jean Rhys, etc. Then of course came the late nights reading romance novels by Danielle Steel and Mills and Boones, hoping not to be discovered because my mother would maybe not have approved of my indulgence in romance novels that early. It did not take too long for my appetite for that type of literature to wane as I quickly realized it was fantasy.

Reading was one of many hobbies that many indulged in and still indulge in; others being singing, stamp collecting, painting, drawing, cake making, playing board games, cards, gardening and the list can go on. Some hobbies evolved into income earners, professions, and other remained hobbies, a way to pleasantly engage oneself in something beneficial. Today, more than ever, we need hobbies. If there was ever a time to revert to the cultivation of interest in something other than work, it is now. Why now? Well, "COVID-19 lockdown" has shown us that in the absence of Sewo and face to face contact with friends, one has to contend with self, and the question, "what am I going to do with myself?" becomes a conundrum.

"Covid Lockdown" has forced many to spend time with self and for many, self is not good company.

I have seen humorous videos of people "climbing the walls" of their spaces in a desperate bid to escape time with self. They claim that they are bored and in an effort for human interaction, they produced videos to humour themselves sand others. I have never understood how one can be bored with self when there is so much to do to occupy self. Now this Lockdown situation has only limited our mobility for brief periods, we are not isolated, thanks to technology. We chat with our family and friends every day and though we practice social distancing, we are still able to enjoy the sights and sounds of each other. Yet, we feel imprisoned because even the little time we are left with self, we yearn to escape. To add insult to injury, the only good substitute to human company for many would have been the bottle of booze. For those whose cupboards were stocked, escape from self is possible, for those who had depleted their stocks, self is inescapable.

But for a select few, humans are by nature gregarious beings and so I understand the urge for human connection, but I am also aware that at some point in life, we might find ourselves having to contend with self and if we do not cultivate interests to happily engage self, we might find ourselves 'climbing walls" to escape self. There is only so much happiness that can come from external sources like friends, parties, booze and the like. Being happily engage with self is something that we should all strive for and so as a teacher, I appeal to parents to expose your children or wards to activities that can be developed as hobbies so that when situations such as these present themselves and they will, Lockdowns if necessary, will seem less like prison and more like opportunities for self-interaction through hobbies or Interests. Let us ensure that the next generation is more prepared for times like these.