5 old-school hobbies that make modern life better

“That dude from The Shining lost his mind when he was stuck in a freaking mansion and he only had one kid. We don’t even have a yard. If you catch me saying the words ‘Red Rum’ even once, there’s a note in the top drawer of my desk with instructions of what you should do.”

7 months have passed since I half-jokingly said the words above to my wife. Despite being crushed by COVID here in Spain the first time around, and being sent into quarantine this past week again, my family and I are thankfully doing alright.

A major reason for this is because we try each day to trade in our modern ways for old-school hobbies.

Much has been said about baking bread. I love the fact we are also picking up our phones more to actually talk to people. But below are a few more old ideas that — being in quarantine or not — have the power to immediately improve the quality of your modern life.

Old-school hobby #1 — Records

My first girlfriend’s dad used to spend his Saturday nights sitting in his chair listening to old Grateful Dead records. No TV. No movies. Only records. And some wine. Every Saturday. Always.

Despite supporting the guy’s taste in music, at the time I thought this was lame. But after buying a $50 record player and a few dozen old records for myself, I get it.

Yes, you have to physically move to turn the record over and some people say the sound quality isn’t as good. But I’ll be damned if the imperfections in records aren’t what makes them so comforting.

Battered records are a sign of survival.
They grow old with you.
They make you feel safe.

Old-school hobby #2 — Polaroids

My parent’s in-law have a corkboard in their apartment with 30 or so old pictures pinned to it. Kayaking. Hiking. Sitting around drinking wine and smoking. They aren’t in frames. The corners are torn. The colors have faded naturally into the Instagram orange people love so much. In short, they’re perfect.

This may be the last time we ever get to spend so much time either with ourselves or our families. Document the real story with imperfect images. In 20 years I’d be willing to bet that a polaroid photo of a stack of Uno cards will bring back more memories than any of the thousands of HD pictures you’ve taken with your phone.

Polaroid’s are real.
Much like Dylan’s voice, they have cracks.
Beauty lies in the unedited.

Old-school hobby #3 — Crayons

There’s a study called “The Ikea Effect” that shows you get more satisfaction from something if you are physically involved in the process — aka people who buy IKEA furniture already made, don’t appreciate the furniture as much as those who physically put the pieces together. It makes us feel good. Proud.

The same goes for the art in your house. Recently, my son Liam, asked me if I’ve ever seen a giraffe without a neck. After I said no, we sat down to draw one. We didn’t stay in the lines. One of the giraffe’s eyes is significantly bigger than the other one. Her teeth are purple and abnormally sharp for something that doesn’t eat meat. But every time I see it in our family room, I smile.

The best way to complain is to make something.
Give color to the world you want to see.

Old-school hobby #4 — Reading aloud

The thing I miss most about our new world is I can’t see other people’s art in person. The first thing I’m going to do once it’s safe to fly again is to hit up my childhood friend Emilio at The New York Comedy Club and melt into the gorgeous sound of communal laughter.

But until then, since I can’t play the guitar and our apartment is the size of a grand piano, I’m going to sit on the sofa and fall into the stories my wife reads aloud. And I’m not talking about just bedtime stories. I’m talking about adult books. Neil Gaiman. Anything by James Harriot. You can also never go wrong reading this book aloud.

Give it a shot for yourself. If you live alone, recruit a friend and read to each other at night.

Close your eyes.
Stories connect us.

Old-school hobby #5 — Pen pals

My kids love sending and receiving voice messages or short videos from my parents. But they go nuts when they receive mail from them. As adults, we aren’t all that different. We love random surprises. We also love ripping things apart.

Use the time you’d normally spend on your commute one morning to write someone a letter. It doesn’t have to be anything big. A simple “Just thinking of you” or little life update will do. If you want, you can even see if anyone you know wants to be your pen pal. God knows, if there was a time for something to look forward to, this would be it.

Clear your mind.
Share your thoughts.
Let people know what they mean to you.

Mad Libs have also been a godsend. The same goes for making any kind of model. But I’m going to end here because my friend Todd Brison also made a list of old-school hobbies that have helped to keep him sane.

Get to know Todd.
Check out his list.
If he doesn’t make you think, he’s sure to make you smile.