Taking a Break: Hobby Edition

By: Alex Fuiten, VP Academic

It’s reading week as I start writing this and I hope you all got to do something you all love during that time away from the classrooms. Creating that space for yourself can be a hard task to do, but it is important when it comes to being successful as a student. Semesters are long and it’s great to have things that we can use to let us unplug and reset ourselves, while also being a way to build community.

Hobbies though for me are hard to classify because I seem to have so many and engaging with wildly different skillsets. Cosplay, photography, woodworking, DIY electronics and repair, and custom pc builds; while these activities may not be seemingly related they do have what I would call an overarching theme, they are all hobbies around making something. Though I don’t spend all my time doing that it is the biggest category for hobbies that I have.

The reason I enjoy making things is that I love getting into the flow and lost in the endless details. Let’s take one of the projects I worked on this week, I built another keyboard. Yes, you can build them, and it has actually gotten easier over the last 10 years compared to when I first started. Now the hardest choices for a keyboard build seem to be keycap profile, size, and switch type, because soldering is no longer required, and no programming skills are needed either. So, what are some of these details? Well, I love using a 60% keyboard, this is a keyboard that has a layout similar to a laptop but also does not have the function key row. Maybe it’s from all the years of using laptops or maybe I just know what I need and like but, others go even smaller with 40% and 30% which start requiring combinations to be pressed for all sorts of basic things like numbers or symbols. Others will pick specialty sizes because they are using them for a dedicated purpose like video editing or music production, or they are left-handed and want the number pad on the left. And this is just the size factor! There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of different switches and it seems everyone has a different preference. I like tactile switches, most in this hobby seem to prefer linear for that smooth gaming action, and there are some freaks out there who prefer clicky, ugh, so much noise. I also like using two different switches in the same keyboard. On my latest board, control keys like caps lock, or backspace, will be one type of switch while the alphabet and symbol keys will be a different type. This creates a unique typing feel but also helps with way finding on the keyboard and I can tell if I’m off the home row just by feel. Again, you can get ultra-specific about really any feature. The one area I tend to be indifferent when it comes to keyboards is keycap profile. They all feel similar so I just go with the one that looks the way I want that is made out of PBT material. ABS just sounds too hollow, to me anyways, loads of people love GMK and they sell only ABS. I haven’t even mentioned sound alteration, o-rings, and mounting types. Again, it’s the details I love.

I would like to take a moment to go back to what I said about I love worrying about the details. That to me is what makes for fun hobbies like building keyboards. I also understand this is not what many want in a hobby, where it is doesn’t involve a ton of in depth thinking. I get that. I’m also sorry if I have made anyone stressed out by informing them that there is so many options or seemingly worthless details about keyboards. The part I’d stress over is trying different and new things and going with what you love.

This is why hobbies though are important to maintain and have over the course of our studies. They are personal outlets that give us something to think about that isn’t just the same old grind of get paper in, worry about the next test, finish discussion board, go to work. The other reason it’s great to have a hobby, or 12 in my case, is that it allows you to build community and find people with similar interests. Some of my hobbies have yielded lifelong friends, who I now spend more time discussing things not related to the hobby, than the hobby itself. The hardest part is putting yourself out there, but it’s amazing to find those people that you love to have around you. Unsurprising, I have found myself spending time with other makers, and creators. While the exact hobby or interest may not be a 1:1 relationship I still learn skills and techniques that I can use in other places, that are applicable. For example, a friend of mine builds scale models of World War II vehicles, and dioramas. Yet, his painting skills have given me techniques I can use on Gunpla kits.

I guarantee that there is someone out there that has a shared interest with you. Don’t believe me? I’ve developed relationships with people that have started out with just talking about pens, or a specific anime. Just being your genuine self allows people in easier than anything else.

I also mentioned that since I’ve started my studies, I’ve had to put some of my more expensive hobbies to the side. That doesn’t mean I don’t have ways to enjoy some of my hobbies on a low budget. At the start of this blog post I mentioned photography, smartphones have become one of the best cameras you can buy and there are lots of information on how to use them more effectively. The best photos are the ones that require little to no post-processing, in my opinion anyways. Just find a genre you like to
take photos of  – product, fashion, portrait. I tend to enjoy product photography. Playing with colour balance and how the item is framed, it’s a wonderful way to make everyday things appear new and exciting. You can even mix it up and get a cheap desk lamp and an adjustable coloured light bulb and play with the colour easily. One of my other low-cost hobbies is that I also regularly use fountain pens. If you’ve seen me in class, you know that I tend to have a pen roll that has 4-6 pens all with a different colour and they can change from class to class. Not only does it make taking notes more fun, and I can colour code things, but I can use them for the mundane and everyday if I want, bullet journaling, or even just regular journaling are great exercises and mostly only require a small portion of time.

So, this is just a brief look at what I fill my time with outside of the classroom or work hours. Make sure to take some time for yourselves and find something that you love or haven’t done in a while. Get excited and share with your friends or seek out new community and connections.