In a Life Full of Routine, How to Rediscover Joy

envelopes

Years ago I picked up the hobby of card-making. I basically taught myself all I knew, which wasn’t much, but enough to keep me entertained. I would spend hours making (and eventually using) my own creations, experimenting with different patterns, cardstock, papers, and embellishments such as ribbons, stickers, and stamps. It was great fun and provided me with hours of creativity.

But after a while it started to fall by the wayside. I got bored. I only had so much time to make cards and with limited funds to invest in new materials, I was financially intimidated by the idea of learning new techniques once I realized it meant buying more equipment. And so my days of card-making ended when I moved from Florida to Washington, DC.

There were other factors too. Life in the mid-Atlantic is much different than life on the Florida peninsula. Besides the obvious differences, things move at a faster pace up here: stress levels are higher, demands are greater, and free time is spent napping and relaxing rather than learning and creating. The weather is also horrible up here, compared to Florida. For a while, it took an effort to find my creative juices here in DC/Northern Virginia, and once I was in a serious relationship, time usually set aside for myself was time spent with another person. Crafting took a long hiatus in my life despite occasional efforts to bring it back through acrylic painting and adult coloring books.

But this year, I’m more settled in my life. I have a stable job, a home I own and will not move from for years to come, and a relationship that has matured into one where we each can spend time doing our own independent things and not feel anxiety about doing so. So for the first time since I moved up here in 2012, this weekend I pulled out my old paper craft equipment and supplies, puchased a few new items that I needed and taught myself a new skill: (designer) envelope-making (to go with my handmade cards, of course)!

It was exhilarating, picking up an old hobby (paper crafts) but infusing new techniques into it. The supplies and equipment were more or less the same (with a few exceptions); the learning process was also familiar—reading instructions, observing examples, watching tutorials, experimenting and making mistakes until I got things right. But the experience was different in many ways as well: new techniques had to be learned and the result was a completely different end-product, but one that complemented my other hobby of card-making. However, the most exciting part of it all was how I was able to take an old hobby and infuse it with a new twist, making what had long ago turned into a boring craft a new and exciting hobby that I could fall in love with all over again.

In many ways, this is the story of life here on earth. We can easily spend years going through the same routines, at a loss about how to change things, even if the desire to do so is there. Frustration and depression build when things that once brought us joy and excitement, over time turn into chores. When there are no longer any creative challenges, little motivation, and no clear destination to push us onward, that is when things start pulling us down. Sure, starting  something new can sometimes be an answer to all that, but it isn’t the only answer. Sometimes all we need is to take what we know, and change it up a bit—add to it, tweak it—and before you know it, life is once again a brilliant, wonderful thing that we can’t wait to experience each morning when we wake up. That’s kind of how I felt this weekend, and it’s a feeling I want to expand to other areas of my life.

Whether it’s rereading a favorite book you haven’t touched in years  or cooking a routine recipe but this time with a new ingredient, there are ways to make life exhilarating once again. Yes it requires risk; it requires an investment of your time and sometimes money, but it can also be hugely rewarding, and can literally change your life, or at least a small, but important corner of it.

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