For many people, having a hobby is an essential part of who they are. There are so many possibilities: artistic and creative endeavors, sporting activities, collecting distinctive vintage items. What might seem silly and frivolous to one person could just as easily be deep and meaningful to another. Indeed, the list is endless. 

Miguel Wilson, a twenty-three-year old full-time graduate student who identifies as gender queer, is currently studying organizational sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He discovered an interest in horseback riding around the age of eight. Wilson’s introduction to the sport of horseback riding comes from his father’s initial interest. Wilson’s own personal passion developed further through attending various summer camps.

Says Wilson about that the activity he enjoys so much: “[It] helped shape my identity, in terms of keeping up with horseback riding. I had to find creative and interesting ways to maintain this hobby. When I was fourteen I moved to Texas [where] I was on a farm, which really helped me learn how to take care of these thousand-pound animals.” 

Hobbies can define your sense of individuality. And they don’t have to be hard. You’ll know when you find what’s right for you: when it doesn’t feel forced and the interest and motivation fits like a perfect pair of gloves. 

DISCUSS: What’s your hobby? Find someone with common interests on our community discussion forum.

Wilson explains: “I love the routine of it all, I feel like the art of tacking up a horse and the act of riding is really amazing, riding a horse can be indescribable at times.”

Landon Pitts, a thirty-year-old transgender man, and retired veteran enjoys hiking in his free time. Pitts discovered his appreciation for the activity while stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas. “There are a lot of recreational activities out there and I needed something to do,” Pitts recalls.

Actively filling up his leisure time isn’t the only benefit of hiking for Pitts. “Hiking helps with my anxiety, it was a way for me to get out without having to be around too many people, It is like meditation for me. It clears my head and makes me feel better. I’ll take my dogs with me and organize my life by making lists while I’m walking.” Pitts explains. “As therapy, I see myself into hiking for the long term.”

Mikael Hyppolitea, 23, is a gay professional working in the non-profit field as a community organizer. He spends his downtime creating music. “I have always been into music,” he explains. “When I was younger and lived in New Jersey, my parents paid for piano lessons. My family put together a music group and we’d play with each other when we were younger.” 

More than just a chance to express himself, music has offered Hyppolitea other benefits, as well. “[Music] has helped me find genuine people and friends. I’ve met a lot of other people with similar interests that I have and it has pushed me to want to learn more and discover different facets of it.”

His response when asked about the most enjoyable part of making? “Other people’s reactions are my favorite thing about creating music, others’ reactions and getting feedback inspires me more. Negative or positive.”

All too often, people can lose themselves in the world that surrounds us. Be it a daily grind, family responsibilities or the challenges everyone experiences with personal relationships from time to time. Self expression through your own individualized hobby – no matter what you connect with – can be the key to finding a part of yourself again, or perhaps, for the first time.