For more than a week straight, I couldn’t unsee an article that quickly gained traction online, and was shared over and over again among various friend circles.
It was a piece from Man Repeller, a fashion & culture news site, with a headline that read: “The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles.”
It resonated with so many different groups of friends that really didn’t have a whole lot in common: people with whom I share a similar professional career, friends I have through various local and social hobbies, and my horse fam.
After seeing the same headline re-populate in my Instagram stories and Facebook feed several times, I clicked. And then I understood the whole viral and universal nature of this topic.
Maybe it’s a millennial thing. Or maybe it’s just a current, 2019 thing. But the Man Repeller piece hit the nail on the head on something so common and so systemic right now: People can’t just enjoy their hobbies anymore. They have to “brand” them or monetize them in some way to seem hip and to feed into this toxic but trending state of “always being busy”. Because being the ultimate self-starter and/or entrepreneur is the goal in this current “gig economy” fad.
As I read the author’s opening, anecdotal example about a girl who likes to sew feeling pressured to open her own Etsy shop, I was reminded of a dozen equestrian friends in the same boat. Like Lindsay, who uses quilts to make her own unique saddle pads because she also enjoys sewing. Or Rachel and her boyfriend who use old horse shoes to make wine holders. Jennifer has an entire separate Instagram account just for her watercolor horse art. Jill, who likes to write when she’s not in her marketing day job, is trying to monetize a blog she’s had for years.
And then there’s Lily, who rents out her immaculate, boutique, boarding barn on the weekends for lavish, country chic weddings.
Horses are expensive, I get that. So it’s likely that some of us have to find creative ways to supplement our income in order to cover the added expense of owning and maintaining a horse.
But why can’t Alana just enjoy the activity of bedazzling brow brands at her kitchen table with a glass of wine after a long day, merely because she likes doing it? Why does she have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to her vendor table at the horse show, to try to sell a half-dozen brow bands on what is technically her only day off?
Maybe she enjoys the business part. Or maybe she feels pressure to do it – that if other people aren’t moved enough by her brow band art to purchase it, is she really any good?
There’s nothing wrong with being a self-starter, or with relying on a “side hustle” for some extra cash, as long as it’s not adding to the stress of your day-to-day life. I’ve loved horses all my life – it’s more than a hobby to me. It’s a passion, a lifestyle even. But I never dreamed of making horses a career.
Burnout is real. And how soul crushing would it be to burn out of the thing you love to do the most?