Secrets of Adulthood: What’s Fun for Other People May Not Be Fun for You–and Vice Versa.

From Further Secrets of Adulthood: What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa.

This sounds so obvious, but it was a huge revelation for me. Even now, I have to remind myself that people go skiing because they honestly want to go skiing, not because they are made from a sterner moral fiber than I am.

The fact is, nothing’s inherently fun. Shopping, drinking wine, watching sports on TV, crossword puzzles…none of these things are fun for me. But they’re fun for other people. Recently I heard from a reader who thinks it’s fun to balance a checkbook! We all have our own ideas of fun.

When I gave up the fantasy that I “should” find these things fun, I gained more time to spend on the things I do find fun — like reading children’s literature.

How about you? What do you find fun, that others don’t necessarily find fun, and what do other people often enjoy, that you don’t?

  • “Shopping, drinking wine, watching sports on TV, crossword puzzles…” Oh my, I love all of those things. AND I enjoy balancing the checkbook and paying bills. But I so get what you’re saying. My whole family likes to go to the lake, but I don’t. Sometimes I go with them just to be with them, but sometimes I stay home and shop and do crossword puzzles. 🙂

  • Mimi Gregor

    Most people like to travel. I don’t. I don’t care to listen to music or have a television on “for background noise”. I like silence. I enjoy cooking from scratch; eating processed food or fast food would be tantamount to abuse. My absolute favorite thing to do is to read. Because I read so much, I can read fast, so I devour books like a Tyrannosaurus Rex going through a bunch of small mammals. Since I read so many books, my absolute favorite place (outside of my home) is the library. It is my Disney World.

  • Cristi Cave

    Learning (about just about anything), walking in nature, enjoying nature quietly and slowly with all my senses, painting, and creating a tiny world for my model railroad. But my favorite thing of all is to snorkel over coral reefs–which is not a thing I often get to do out here in the desert. Still. 🙂

  • Trina Summers

    I do not enjoy games. While listening to the audiobook of Better Than Before, I was glad to hear that we have that in common. I especially dislike Monopoly. I can get onboard with something like “Imagine If” or “Would You Rather” where it is more fun than competitive. This is not because I am not competitive, it is because I AM and I can be a sore loser or worse winner.
    When I was a teenager and worked in a kitchen I discovered that I LOVED mopping floors. Each person in the kitchen was supposed to mop a section and I would enthusiastically volunteer to mop everyone else’s section and even beg to be allowed to mop out front (where my uncle was very particular about how it was done because customers could see it.) As an adult, when work bums me out, I just remind myself that if it becomes too miserable I can just quit and get a job mopping floors, so I can have a job that makes me happy at any time.

  • Andrea

    One of my absolute favorite things to do is to clean out and reorganize something – a closet, a desk drawer, whatever. I have a friend who complained for ages about her messy garage, and I kept offering to help her clean it up, but she kept putting it off. It wasn’t until she moved that she finally let me come over and help her with it. When we were about halfway through she turned to me and said “you actually are enjoying this, aren’t you?” She never believed me when I said it would be fun for me, so she never took me up on my offer. She thought it would be imposing, because she HATES doing that sort of thing!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m exactly the same way with my sister!

      If you want to hear the conversation we had when we were cleaning out her closet, it’s here – we did a whole podcast episode, live from the closet:

    • mom2luke

      I have a friend like you. I finally took her up on her offer and she energized me to clean / declutter the first half of my basement. Omg. What a gift.

      And yet after she left , I finished the job myself because I didn’t want her to come back and make me get rid of even more stuff as she would’ve made me do a more thorough / better job.

      But it exhausted me so much I have not yet let her help me with rest of the house.
      You have to be ready to deal with all those keep/toss/donate/organize/file decisions. She is a perfectionist and her house is fabulous and organized. I wish I could be more like that but I’m not. “Done” was better than perfect.

  • mom2luke

    I love the validation / insight / freedom to be me this secret of adulthood gives me.

    Other people like to ski. I don’t. Not anymore anyway in my 50s. I only go due to peer pressure on ski trips –but I’m so happy when I get to take my skis off and even happier on the days my friends decide not to ski and we just walk to town instead.
    Cross country is more ” fun” than downhill but I really wish I didn’t have to go at all. Snow shoeing is better than sking but really just a walk in the snow is the best. (Actually a trip to a warmer place would be way better)
    But you get invited to a ski resort and you fly to Colorado and everyone expects you to ski and love it.
    Why do I go? For the company of friends of course and the good feeling of having done it and not to be left out.
    Sure I could read a book instead but that, as much as I love to read, I can do At home. (I know, I know, “first world problem”. Which makes me feel even worse that I find it so hard to enjoy sking when I know I should be grateful for the opportunity. )
    Small irony. My dad took my mom skiing on their honeymoon. She said she was so happy/relieved there was no snow so she did not have to ski. She lived her entire life never skiing. She genuinely was happy reading a book in the lodge instead.

  • Dara

    I have a not so guilty pleasure for Young Adult as opposed to children’s literature. I am very much in touch with my inner teenager when it comes to the realm of the ficticious. In a world that is time poor, you can read a novel at pace, that when chosen judiciously, sacrifices very little in terms of quality. Here is an example

  • Ruth Carter

    I love wet and windy weather. It makes me feel truly alive. I honestly cannot understand how anyone could prefer hot sunshine. Am I the only person who adores the sound rain makes? I also like stirring things. Something which requires constant stirring, such as a risotto, is heaven for me. It’s calming and I get to watch a slow process happen which I find satisfying.

  • Jeanne

    I think a lot of the things we like and don’t like to do have to do with staying in our comfort zone. The reason I don’t do some things is not really that I might not enjoy the activity itself, but that it would push me so far out of my comfort zone that I would be unable to even do it, let alone enjoy it. Recently I found myself saying, “This is a person who is not afraid of life. This is a person who knows how to live.” What was she doing? Taking a 21-day cruise. Believe it or not, everything about that would terrify me. All the things I like to do are safely within my limits. Is this so bad? Is this OK? Should I stretch myself more? Just accept myself? Hard to believe that some of the things that people do are within their comfort zone, because they are so far outside of mine. As you point out, we’re all so different. So I want to “be Jeanne,” but at the same time, I know that she’s pretty timid and is missing out on a lot. Sure, there are “safe” things I don’t enjoy that others do, like games, or gardening, or reality TV. But it’s the more adventurous things that I never even consider where I feel I could experience more if I wasn’t so afraid.

  • Ardys Zoellner

    I really dislike parties or playing games. Any group larger than 6 puts me off. I have always liked writing letters, and solving problems and learning, often in a lateral way, very practical stuff, and sometimes with my creative projects too. So I was very interested in making jewellery for many years, teaching myself the craft of it, as well as developing my own aesthetic style. And then, once I had achieved to a certain level, I lost interest. It’s the problem solving and learning I enjoyed. As for writing letters, that has evolved into blog writing, and of course copious emails. Love it.

  • Megan

    Oh my. My husband’s entire family LOVES to play poker together. It’s my personal hell. They also love to do family pools…like choosing the winning football teams each week or doing the March Madness picks…I hate anything that has to do with gambling while they will all sit and play Keno while we wait for lobster dinners to come out in the summer. I think they see me as a Debbie Downer but I just find that stuff so…well…un-fun.

  • Kerri Johnson Cox

    I love staying home! I once thought there was something wrong with us because my husband and I spend our evenings at home with our family and spend little time socializing. We both have jobs that require intense social interaction and I suspect that may be why we find entertaining and social plans exhausting. The opposite was true of our parents because they were self-employed and had little interaction with other adults on weekdays. Evenings and weekends were opportunities to socialize for them. It took several years for us to realize that there isn’t something “wrong” with us for not making many plans to “go out” with others to concerts, bars, sporting events, parties, etc…

    • DebC

      My husband and I are the same way Kerri. I’ve often felt the same way you did (something wrong with us, weird). But the truth is that after spending a long day and a long week without my husband nothing makes me happier than spending the evening and the weekends with him.

  • Saria

    I love walking early in the morning,watching shinchan cartoons,playing badminton,eating ice creams,reading children’s literature books (in Hindi/english),discussing the cases we’ve viewed in the hospital with my friends, at home reminiscing our visits and childhood antics with my mother,Watching myself in the mirror as a critique for a college magazine…

  • Liz

    This is a non-sequitur Gretchen, but I know you like hearing about these. The Inside Out Style Blogger mentioned Happiness Project on her blog last week….

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! thanks for letting me know.

  • 5.0Mustang

    As far as things that others may not like, I love driving a noisy stick-shift car, tent camping, and being outdoors in general. And yes, skiing, although that’s been on hold for some years now.

    I’m not big on watching sports, either in person or on TV. It seems like that’s what everyone else does and talks about in the lunch room. I have played sports, but I don’t watch them unless it’s my kids playing.

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