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How-To: Finally get started on a personal hobby

Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

In the movie Julie and Julia, a young woman named Julie Powell finds herself facing a late-20s life crisis. She spends her days working at a government agency instead of being the writer she could be and is, in every sense of the word, unfulfilled. Julie happens to have an idiosyncratic obsession with Julia Child, the legendary American cook, and decides one day to embark on a “personal project” in which she cooks the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. With the help of her husband Eric, she sets up a blog to share the delectable details of her cooking adventure on a daily basis. Her adventure is full of new experiences, occasional meltdowns, self-growth, and most importantly, delicious food. By the end, her blog has become so successful that she is offered a chance to write the book that inspired this movie.

As I watched the movie, I was not as amazed with the life-changing opportunity Julie receives as I was with the small but exciting experiences and lessons Julie learns along the way. At the end of her journey, Julie has not only become an official writer, but also someone who can de-bone a duck, poach an egg, cut open a lobster, and cook beef bourguignonne. She has also become someone who knows how to appreciate the people in her life. What started out as a “personal project” ended up changing her life.

With this said, take a moment to reflect. When was the last time you did something that you thoroughly enjoyed that helped you take a step back from your hectic schedule? As college students, it is too easy to forget that there is more to life than weekday classes and weekend parties. Even though focusing on academics and social life is important for a college student, one needs an occasional break from the everyday routine. This is where a “personal project” comes in. My definition of a “personal project” is any activity one does to either develop a passion, learn how to do something new, or just relax. Here are a few basic and informal tips to help you start your own “personal project”:

1. Do something you have never done before. For example, my cousin, who is a business major, started taking one picture every day of her hand in a different setting. At the end of one year, she had created an album full of pictures of her hand shown in front of different restaurants, libraries, sidewalks, natural landscapes, etc. It was her way of keeping a memory from each day.

2. Set a deadline. Having a deadline increases the chance of actually completing the project.

3. Consistency is key! Make sure to keep up with your project every single day.

4. Mark your progress. Whatever you are doing, leave some dated evidence so you can always look back on what you did and how it made you feel. For instance, my brother, who is a psychology major, did a year-long personal project where he kept a journal, glued down one new leaf he found each day, and described how the leaf represented his schedule or feelings. He admitted later that his favorite part was writing what day of the project it was on the top of each page.

5. Tell people about your personal project and get support. No personal project is complete without the support of friends and family. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep up with what seems to be something that has no immediate benefits for you, and having others encourage you to stick to your personal project is immensely helpful. Also, telling others about the quirky and enlightening things you do to brighten up your life could inspire them to take on a personal project of their own.

6. Do something that you really enjoy doing. Your personal project should not be an additional source of stress in your life. When you do something you enjoy, you will be able to restore a peace of mind. When I was in high school, I decided to master an entire piano book of Mozart pieces on my own over a course of eight months. I dedicated 30 minutes every day to practice, and found joy and inspiration in interpreting and playing Mozart. Because I love classical music, playing the piano helped me handle and detach from my school-related stress.

It is tempting to turn your eyes away from this article upon reading the words “personal project” because it contains the word “project.” But do not be intimidated, because a personal project can be small in scope as long as it has some meaning to you. Let me make it clear that there is no pressure to be the next Julie Powell. A personal project does not have to be something as extensive as keeping a blog. It could just be listening to a new song every day, learning how to say a word in a different language each day, or even jotting down a daily quote in a notebook.


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