Restricted interest? No. It’s more like: Fervid infatuation. Unstoppable obsession. Distinctive passion. It feels like: a surge, a blaze, a high. And Lord knows we all need something to get us high right now.
Deep, passionate obsessions offer us purpose in a modern world sucked dry of meaning. They are, quite simply, something to love about living. Currently, that thing for me is plants.
I went to the garden center by myself yesterday and it was the most fun I’ve had for months. It’s like a library if the library was of plants, and if your library card was a debit card and you had to pay…okay, actually it’s just a store for plants, but I like the plant library analogy because the library is my happy place, and the garden center is my new heaven.
I dislike going to the garden center with anyone who isn’t equally as obsessed as I am, just like it sucks going on hikes with anyone who isn’t going to stop every 5 minutes and go, LOOK at this LEAF. I can feel their dis-interest, and I reflexively tone my own obsession down, pull it back and put a lid on it.
It is a curse that I have a theory of other people’s minds. If I wasn’t constantly anxious about how I’m being perceived, I would happily talk and talk about my obsessions without apology, but instead I’m like, sorry, I’m sorry, is this annoying? Oh god, I’ll stop.
The thing is, my social awareness isn’t always accurate — sometimes other people genuinely are interested in my rants, and I assume incorrectly that they’re not, and proceed to judge myself when nobody else is. Not sure where this came from, probably some kind of traumatic rejection experience from childhood that I blocked out or something, but here we are, assuming judgement first, acceptance second.
Actively trying to hold in the thing I want to say about my obsession is painful, like holding back a flood made of information I need to dump. Don’t say it, don’t say it. It’s probably why I have such an internet presence, to be honest. I have so much I need to dump on somebody, and I’m trying to spare my loved ones.
“You told me this already” is a phrase that honestly feels like being stabbed in the throat. “Seriously, you’ve told me this like 8 times.” I am bleeding out and I am dying!
Sorry, just had to go check on my squash really quick, he’s getting huge. Sat down to finish this post but really, really needed to order some yarrow seeds first, people think they’re just “weeds” but did you know they actually add like 5 different nutrients back into the soil and attract a ton of beneficial bugs to the garden??
Okay, I’m here, I promise! I am not changing the topic to plants again!
Anyway, what was I saying? “Restricted interests” are supposedly pathological because they get in the way of work and school, to which I would say: yes, that is the point. Work sucks! School is boring! I want to talk about echinacea and rudbeckia!
Your restricted interest is bad unless you decide to make a PhD out of it, in which case, it becomes a very respected life-long career. But not everything can be a PhD, because only certain topics are given the distinction. You can’t get a PhD in NASCAR or Doctor Who, so we tend to view these kinds of obsessions as “pointless” or “dysfunctional”.
But I say: fuck that. Get into it. What makes you want to stay up into the witching hour reading obscure textbooks and scrolling hyperniche subreddits?
What gives you that feeling, you know the feeling, where your heart speeds up and your stomach drops and you’re like YEEES and it feels so right you want to burst into tears of exultation?
Maybe you, like me, have spent your life people-pleasing and shapeshifting to optimize your social palatability, and now find it difficult to allow yourself to really sink deep into the quicksand of your niche passions. Well, allow me to suggest a few ways to cultivate your fervid infatuation:
If it feels good, do it
Pleasure is not a nice bonus or a rare treat after work, it is quite literally, the whole entire point. Stop thinking, how do I monetize this? and start thinking, how do I do more of this because it feels so fucking great and I have a limited time on this earth to experience joy?
Fall down the hole
Don’t sit on the edge and put a toe in, don’t peer longingly into the abyss but then be like, well, it’s not the right time, or, this would be okay if it had any kind of profit potential but since it doesn’t, I can’t really justify wasting time. No! Time spent obsessed is never a waste! Jump off the edge into the wonderland of your interest and let it take your body and soul!
Forget about being cool
It’s not cool. It’s never gonna be cool. Passion is about burning, it’s a fire. Literally and figuratively, fires cannot be cool.
Prioritize your obsession
Again, your interest is not a nice side thing, it is the thing that makes you feel fulfilled, which means it is of utmost importance in your life. You are allowed to put it high on the list of priorities! If other people think it’s ridiculous or don’t accept it, well…
Let go of people who don’t get it
A niche interest, by definition, means that most people are not going to share it. Some people in your life just will never, ever get it or be able to relate to you about it, and that’s fine! Your relationships should always have room for the things that are most important to you. If there isn’t any, then don’t try to hold onto a relationship at the expense of the thing that makes you happy. There are lots of other people out there who will support your obsession, and also lots of other Obsesseds who do want to talk about it for hours, so find those people, and get even more obsessed together. Or don’t! It’s also totally okay to just go be alone with the thing that you love. Sometimes obsessions are even better when you indulge in solitude.
What are you obsessed with right now? What do you have a burning need to tell someone about? I am hereby deeming this comment section a Free Infodump Zone, so go wild. Maybe you’ll find someone else to obsess with?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some coneflowers and a discount eggplant that desperately need to go in the dirt.
Yesssss I love this post!! I am a crazy bird lady. Trying to make a career out of it, which has somehow brought me to grad school in Iceland to study Long-Eared Owls. Did you know owl eye balls aren’t actually balls at all? They’re tube shaped basically like binoculars! Also their flight feathers have serrations that break up the air as they fly making them virtually silent in flight. So incredible. Love them.
I spent days making a carefully curated playlist of Taylor swift songs that perfectly fit every major moment in the relationship of TK and Carlos from the show 911 alone Star which I’m currently also obsessed with. I’ve been dying to explain how Cornelia Street and champagne problems are a pair of songs, they have the same underlying chord progression and beat and (insert other music words I don’t know), they’re a question and an answer respectively, and they perfectly fit the moment at the beginning of season 3 when they break up. I lie awake at night thinking about how perfectly each one of the 26 songs on my playlist encapsulate the different stages of their relationship as they progress over three seasons of the show, how the lyrics perfectly correspond to their feelings and personalities, and how Carlos’s favorite Taylor Swift song is definitely Love Story because he’s a romantic at heart but also has felt for most of his life that if he ever found romantic love it would have to be a secret he kept from his family. If I didn’t have to finish drafting my masters thesis in the next six days I could write a sixty page essay on that instead. I spend hours ruminating on fictional scenarios in which I go to a fan convention and get to talk to other people about all of my ideas. Anyway I desperately needed to tell someone that so thanks for the permission and the great advice :)