You Do What? That’s Odd!
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Over the years l have had many passions and enthusiasms with regards hobbies, or as some refer to those of us on the spectrum as ‘special interests’. Mind you, that term is not specific nor exclusive to autism. Hundreds of thousands of people garner enjoyment and satisfaction from their pastimes.
I can remember back in the days of my childhood and for me that is now some forty odd years ago being fascinated with many topics, and they ranged from the mundane to the extraordinary. I think the difference with those of us on the spectrum in comparison to those whom are not is how we take pride in our dedication to what we enjoy. Many would perceive us to be obsessed, or being too hyperfocused in so far as our time awarded to our interests.
My philosophy has always been if you are going to do something, then do it well, or do it as well as you can and time allows. With me as a youngster, l didn’t just simply have a hobby, l had a fascination and that would intrigue me for as long as l allowed it to or until l was no longer interested. I would in many cases take a pastime to the extremes, or ‘doing it to death’.
I am very similiar forty years on. but as a child, in order to stave off boredom which l feared, l would have many dedications, more so than most people and more so than many of my peers. I tried everything l could until l found the right ones. I would read up about everything to do with the chosen hobby, and it was not unusual for me to have several hobbies on the go at once and more so, it wasn’t at all considered unusual for me to know everything about all of those hobbies in depth at the same time.
In my pre-teen years years l was very focused on classical military history and collecting soldiers from that period and that continued to my late teens when l specialised in military history with my hyperfocus on the Napoleonic period, and l had a plastic army of some 6000 French and British Airfic scale 1:32 figures to support my passion. Equally in those years l supported an extremely large library of around 5000 books on the subject of Horror, the Occult, Dark Magic, strange phenomena and so on and l was very knowledgeable on the subject, and it still fascinates me today as does military history. But of those two l no longer have a large extensive library nor a conquering force to store somewhere in the house. I outgrew the actual materialistic side of things, but simply retained the knowledge side.
From around the age of ten to twenty, l ran and managed something akin to thirty hobbies, and l used up most of my free time on those dedications. Additionally, l was writing for pulp magazines and getting paid for it, l was very artistic and creative and had a love for art and sculpture, music and colours and poetry and writing. From that side of things l developed a keen interest in antiquities and archaeology and memorabilia and had on the walls of my bedroom various reproduction weapons ranging from Katana [Samurai swords] to flintlocks to Zulu spears and shields, to Chinese curved knives to the Nepalese or better known as Ghurkha khukuri’s and the list went on.
I was extremely interested in animals and studied at my own expense further to glean more information in my later teens animal biology which of course helped me enormously in later years when l ran the brokerage.
I was an avid stamp collector when l was five and that lasted till l was around 12 and like many other youngsters l too enjoyed dinosaurs and yo-yo’s and board games and the lists just went on and on. I was very good at occupying my free time. I wasn’t very good at socialising, and for many years was considered a geek, a boffin and a nerd. In many ways, l was withdrawn from going out with friends because of those traits. Many of my friends were like me, they had special interests and found them more rewarding then just going out to the playgrounds. In so doing, and because we shared common interests we would then form our own circles around our hobbies. Whilst that in itself is not considered odd, we were often viewed by others as being a little unusual because we had interests that not everyone shared.
I was a cub from the age of five and joined when l lived in Malaysia, l then became a scout in Australia and then a venture scout in England and that too was viewed as not the norm because it was at the time that kids were losing interest in that kind of boyhood adventure.
Some of my hobbies from when young lasted for many years such as photography, drawing and writing and reading. Many others fizzled out as l aged, like my wargaming. My love for history and animals always served me well and still are present today. Many of my pastimes l was lucky enough to either incorporate into my careers or l was able to make a career from them, so not a wasted hobby at all.
These days l don’t have many hobbies, not like say in previous years. From thirty or so at the age of perhaps 12, as l got older, the number dropped down but the quality of information for those left both deepened and broadened or diversified into another genre. I became enamoured with work from my mid teens and treated it as a hobby, equally as much as l treated sex like a hobby, and at my own concession l became somewhat addicted to both to the point of them, becoming a problem, that l had to seek out help with.
The point is whatever l ever did or enjoyed, l have never been able to simply enjoy it as pick me up, put me down pastime. I have had to become so extraordinarily involved with it, that some have considered the times spent on and with these dedications as odd.
Now the reason l am writing this today is because of the term ‘odd’. What is considered odd or unusual when it comes to our hobbies?