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In 2014, I had a breakdown. I nearly quit law school. I did catastrophically in all my papers. I either slept non-stop or not at all. I was deeply unhappy and at my worst, suicidal. I had a terrible haircut and I was desperately single. Somehow, I survived. I had good friends and an okay job that paid the bills, and I stopped bleaching my hair blond. I was still desperately single but I wasn’t holding out hope for a miracle.
In 2015, I made it my resolution to stop worrying about shit that was out of my control so much. Part of this came down to managing my anxiety and depression better, but outside of the ~mental health~ realm I realised that four years of getting average grades at law school didn’t mean I was a failure, or stupid, or not worthy of happiness.
My lovely therapist Lyn (why are all counsellors called Lyn/Lynn? Someone should do a study on that) recommended I improve my work / life / downtime balance. The phrase “self-care” has been thrown around a lot in the last couple of years and I had been in the habit of doing stupid shit using it as a broad excuse: staying up all night watching Gilmore Girls, spending all my food money on cheese, devoting hours to curating the perfect study playlists. Although the last one has proved rather helpful in the long term, the others made me feel lazy and inept.
I slowly realised that the things that were supposed to be relaxing me were making me more stressed. I have always known that cooking is a relaxing habit for me. I love nothing more than daydreaming about wanky food matches and spending afternoons with my pasta machine, but there’s only so long one can spend making variations of ravioli. I decided it was time to try a different hobby.
Thus began the six-month period were I would try a new hobby every weekend. For a month or two I was intensely keen on DIY: I built raised garden beds out of wood scraps; I built a (very wobbly) foot stool and upholstered it. I tried gardening. I still have the plans of my cottage style garden that I’d love to create, if only someone would bankroll it. I turned my cobblestone backyard into a lawn and vege patch, although now I’m no longer single it’s more of a dingy forest. I tried candle making, cheese making, sourdough bread-making; I even had a brief foray with dress-making. Despite there being some hobbies I was clearly better at than others, I found the pleasure I got from making something from scratch was immense, even if fleeting. I ate tomatoes and zucchinis from my garden and posted smug photos of them on instagram.
The hobby that stuck with me was knitting. I knit daily now. I’ve made hats and socks and jumpers. I like it because I can do it anywhere—on the bus, in front of the TV, at work, in between classes at uni. The rhythm of knitting is relaxing and it’s literally impossible to run out of new things to try, which suits me perfectly. Knitting means that time that I would have otherwise felt guilty about “wasting,” such as Gilmore Girls or a bus trip, becomes productive and cathartic. Even when I’m feeling most shit about myself, law school, my hairstyle, or that Rory ever thought Dean was good enough for her—I find solace in knitting. Knitting didn’t cure my anxiety or my depression, but it provided a comforting activity for me to do when I was feeling bad, and a way that I could feel good about myself.