I’ve been thinking about Amelia Earhart a lot recently. If I’m honest, it’s not so much the flesh and blood woman I’ve got rattling around my brain, but the mythic idea of her. I’m not sure if she would appreciate being put on a pedestal, likely not. Yet here I am, placing her there. Better than a pedestal, let’s place her higher, up among the clouds, where she felt most free.
I go out on Sunday mornings to pick up bagels and OJ and bacon for breakfast. Often after that, I take a bit of a drive. The roads are quiet and I find a place to pull off and rest my mind and think. This week, I stopped by the local small airport, found a spot, and watched the planes take off and land.
I grew up around airplanes. My father and his father built one, the Rutan Long-EZ. As a result, many a childhood weekend was spent at the airport. Rhinebeck, NY, Oshkosh, WI, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and other flight and space related sites were places of pilgrimage for my family.
Amongst all the various planes and talk of engines and lift there would always be a small display dedicated to the female aviators who were pioneers, not just in the air but in how they got there. Names like Jackie Cochran, Bessie Coleman and Pancho Barnes were presented as sources of inspiration for all the girls in the audience. Which all brings me back around to Amelia and what she means to me.
She’s symbolic of doing something that’s difficult just because it needs to be done. When asked why she worked hard to break dangerous records, she famously replied, “For the fun of it.”
Fun is something that seems to fall by the wayside far too easily in our society. I see many folks putting pressure on the things they like doing in order to turn them into “side hustles,” and they then become worried about being “productive.”
What ever happened to hobbies? While I would not call what Earhart accomplished a hobby, her pursuit of those records were things she did because she loved doing them. They brought her joy and freedom, first and foremost.
When I think of Amelia, I am reminded that it is good for me to have hobbies and passions that serve no other purpose than my own joy. They are part of a well-rounded, enriched life, something our modern mechanized age was supposed to help us enjoy.
My hobbies do not make me money. At times, they may even cost a little, no different than going to the movies or entertaining friends. I can pick up and put them down as time and energy allow. They are there solely for me. My writing, a thing I once thought could make me money, has become such a hobby, and this is where Amelia and I find common ground.
I have found freedom in words much as Amelia found freedom in the air. I have no deadlines, no contracts, no editor making suggestions I may or may not agree with. There is just me and the page and whatever story comes into my mind.
For some, the deadlines and editors and such are worth navigating in order to make a living at their craft. There is nothing wrong with that and for some they may even find their own kind of freedom in that work.
For myself, keeping writing as a hobby works for me. It joins the ranks of knitting and bookbinding and needle-felting as one of many things I do in my spare time and as the mood strikes.
I like to think Amelia would approve. Perhaps my next hobby will be building a model of her plane. Perhaps it will be something else entirely. I only know I’ll be doing it for the fun of it.