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One thing the pandemic has been good for – at least for me – is the reignition of past hobbies. Discovering a new craft has been a lifesaver, not only to stave off boredom but to rediscover an old part of myself. 

Back in April, when the lockdown was all fresh and new, having nothing to do was a luxury. From having a lie-in, to not having to meet deadlines it was a breath of fresh air and a much-needed break from 9-5 life. But what was once was a novelty, quickly wore off. 

Suddenly, having nothing to do seemed like a chore in itself, and sitting on a sofa binge-watching Netflix’s latest creation didn’t appeal quite as much. 

I found myself grappling for something to do, anything that could make the hours float away and for the whole day not to seem monotonous. I flitted through quite a few ideas; should I take up embroidery or knitting like some of my other friends, a completely new skill to dive into, or should I take the time to re-learn old hobbies that I had forgotten. 

I chose the latter; to be frank, it seemed easier. 

To begin with, I chose gaming. My childhood was spent huddling around my brothers Play Station 2, playing games like Crash Bandicoot, Tekken and Sonic the Hedgehog. I bought a Nintendo Switch just before the lockdown hit and with the new Animal Crossing; New Horizons, I delved into making my own little island. This was calming and before I knew it the day had turned into night. The only flaw was that I was stagnant, glued to the sofa without any exercise. I, therefore, split gaming into chunks, breaks spent on walks around the town, taking up the old and left hobby of photography. 

Gateshead and Newcastle are worlds of their own, with new areas that I didn’t even know existed. The nature was beautiful, but like all exercise, some days you just don’t want to do it. 

Then, between bouts of learning yoga, I re-opened my sketchbook. There was a time where every year I would participate in an event called Inktober. Where artists around the globe would draw something mainly in inks every day for the whole month. But as time grew on and work shifts grew lengthier, I found myself less likely to do it. Like any skill, drawing is something that has to be practised and if you take a substantial break, you start to forget exactly how to do it. As I restarted, I found how infuriating it could be whilst also learning how rewarding it was when you completed a sketch. I started off lightly, drawing a form I had countless times before; octopuses. As my favourite animal, octopuses of all types and sizes filled the pages and I grew more confident. I graduated from just sketching, to trying coloured pencils, to ink pens and to coloured inks. I found myself pleased when my hands ached with the sides of my fingers coated grey with graphite. 

It was another form of creativity and another way to pass the hours. I found myself less likely to be drawn into the news, with its latest infection rates and doom and gloom. I also rediscovered my inner child. Looking like a paint-splattered mess delighted me and watching the ink remnants turn the sink into a whirling galaxy was just another wonder. I became more confident in a past skill, and being stuck in the house for days no longer seemed like a chore. Once again, I found myself excited for the next day to come because I had all of this time. Time is a blessing sometimes.

Besides, my new skill became useful. Instead of handing out poppy badges for Remembrance Day in November, there has been the idea to draw poppies on pebbles and the like to place on the local monument. Creativity can bring a community together in times like these. 

I know that someday it will go back to normal, and employment will take up most chances to just sit and draw for hours. Chances to participate in global challenges like Inktober, or Nanowrimo, where you write a novel in one month (November to be exact), would be less so. But maybe we will appreciate them more. They are ways to destress after a long day’s work and to sit back and marvel at how awesome we are after we finish one of our hobbies. 

In times like these, when mental health becomes both a worrying and important factor to consider, we need all the help we can get. Taking the first step in reigniting an old passion is one way to do that. Discover your inner child, and maybe even get your own children involved. The more the merrier. 

So, go on. Pick up a pencil or those knitting needles, whatever you used to do but put down because adult life got in the way of it. You may even thank me for it. 

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