Now I Miss the Small Problems

Do you want to know the best part about having a boring hobby? It’s simple: people don’t ask too many follow up questions when you tell them what it is. I’ll be honest – being stubbornly introverted my whole life, I like it that way. Sure, I could lie and say I do something exotic in my free time. Like windsurfing. Or playing violin in the street. I would certainly come across as more interesting that way. YouTube is packed with content and, with a few hours of spare time and a little rehearsing, I’ll bet I could fake windsurfing know-how like a pro. But let’s be honest. It’s not just windsurfing or violin busking – most hobbies are cooler than what I actually do. You see, I am a woodworker.

If you don’t know what my hobby involves, here it is in a nutshell: I cut up big pieces of wood into little pieces of wood. I might even glue some pieces together if I’m feeling bold. And then someone sits on it. Or looks at it. Or whatever.

In more exciting hobbies than mine, you get a nice adrenaline rush at one point or another. Take windsurfing for example. I’ve never done it and probably never will. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look like a rush to get up on those waves. It’s awesome to watch, and I’m sure it’s 1000 percent more fun to do. In woodworking, the most excitement you get is being coated in sawdust, bleeding from nicks on your fingers, and realizing you didn’t mess your project up as badly as you thought you had. That’s, for better or worse, about as thrilling as it gets.

Chase Vernon

Woodworking is standing in an annoyingly stuffy workshop for hours, squinting at a set of plans and only hearing the music in your earbuds half the time because the table saw is louder than what you can crank up. Woodworking is sweating over clean lines, smooth surfaces, and little, intricate details – for hours and hours – only to realize you cut something too short while you let your guard down for a few minutes the other night. And, if you’re like me and the only shop you have access to is a 40-minute drive north, woodworking is spending long days alone or with strangers, eating junk food and wishing you were home. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a few cool things in my time. That said, given my description, I won’t blame you for wondering if my hobby, well… sucks just a little bit. And you know what? You’d almost be right. Almost.

You see, I’ve had chronic depression for the better part of my 27 years of living. At some point in my life, my brain seemed to miss the memo on making all the right little chemicals. Who knows? Maybe it said “Screw it,” to going into work that day and never read the email. Maybe it got lazy. I have no clue and, frankly, I’m at peace with that. The bottom line is that I now take a little white pill every morning to help my brain out. It helps me stay focused. It keeps me clear and forward. It helps me cracks open a can of “Quiet down,” on the nagging whispers in my head that try to tell me the world is falling apart and taking me with it. I used to think taking medication would change me – now, after taking them for a decade, I know that all they do is level my mental playing field, so the real me doesn’t have to fight its way out past anxiety I don’t control.

On normal days, that little white pill does its job like a champ. Let me say it again for emphasis: on normal days. Clearly, this year hasn’t been full of normal days. Rather, it’s been built of pandemic days. Quarantine days. Days of people piling into New York City hospitals with far too few respirators to go around; days of morgues being past capacity. Days of families being split apart or broken. Days of partisan politics, infighting, and feet dragging at the expense of the American people. If you live in Utah, as I do, there have been days of earthquakes and aftershocks. Days predicting an above-average hurricane season for coastal areas, global tension and, of all things, murder hornets. No – these have not been normal days.

Funny enough, the thing I miss most from the days before 2020 isn’t going to restaurants, or even seeing family. I’ve learned that home-cooked tastes like restaurant-quality and my family is never more than a phone call away. We have our health, and nowadays, that alone affords me sleep at night. What I miss most from before these uncertain days aren’t the small luxuries, but the inconveniences. I miss when the problems were smaller than global pandemics, racial injustice, or intensifying climate change.

Don’t misunderstand me. These problems – some new, and old as the nation itself – demand answers. They command we take action, and it’s not in me to shy away from these realities. Still – I can’t help but miss the small problems. Spilling coffee grounds in my morning cup. Running late to work. Gaining weight… again. I even miss sitting in a stuffy workshop, squinting at woodwork plans I only half-intend to follow, trying to hear my music over the roar of power tools. I especially miss those things.

I don’t look towards the remainder of this year and don’t expect it to get any easier. The nation – no, the world – has an unprecedented set of issues facing it that require equally powerful solutions. I expect that, for a time, humanity may be toiling in the dusk rather than basking in the sunlight. Better days will come – maybe not for weeks, or months, or longer – but arrive they will. And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy my boring, uninteresting hobby for what it truly is: a set of problems that I know exactly how to solve.