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What do you do in your free time?

Thank you to Kristian Joyce from The Ohio State University for sharing your new hobby and this unique piece with us!

What do you do in your free time?

This is a common question to encounter during an interview. I usually chuckle to myself and internally answer “sleep” but instead answer with something that I liked to do in undergrad or during my summer breaks. Reading is my go-to answer even though I haven’t picked up a novel since starting vet school. It’s often hard as a vet student to find time to grocery shop or walk the dog, let alone have a hobby. Let’s face it, vet students don’t have a ton of free time. If anything, you’ll hear us boast about how little sleep we’ve had, how many hours we’ve studied, or how many days it has been since we last showered because we don’t have time to do so. I always wondered why interviewers seem to care so much about what people do during their free time; I didn’t realize the importance of this question until last year.


Last year, I was experiencing all the things typical vet students experience. Stress. Fatigue. Burnout. It would be hard to find a vet student that isn’t experiencing one or more of these at any given time. I had certainly experienced my fair share up until then. The difference was that I was starting to lose sleep. My mind had a hard time turning off at night after working so hard all day. I was constantly thinking about something I learned that day, a test that was coming up, my growing student loan debt, whether I would become a decent veterinarian or not, among many other things. I would lay there for hours unable to relax. One night, I was browsing YouTube videos for something to lull me into sleep when I encountered a video of a woman knitting. Watching the repetitive motion of the video was not only relaxing, but it was also captivating. Night after night I would watch videos of people knitting and crocheting, and I became both fascinated and mesmerized by it.


One day, I decided to give it a try. I bought yarn and a crochet hook and made time every night to sit down and crochet. I found that the repetitive motion of crocheting relaxed my mind and allowed me to sleep much easier. Instead of lying in bed for two, three, sometimes four hours, I was crocheting for 30 minutes to an hour and immediately falling to sleep. You can’t really focus on stressful thoughts when you’re pushing yarn in and out of a stitch.


After a while, I got pretty good at crocheting. This surprised me since I never considered myself the least bit artistic. I made a little bit of everything: scarves, hats, blankets, stuffed animals, and baby toys just to name a few. One night, I messed up while making something. It turned into a weird ball shape when it was supposed to be a flower. I was just going to throw it away when I realized that I could stuff it with some catnip, close the end of it, and make it into a really ugly cat toy. It wouldn’t be pretty, but then at least the yarn wouldn’t go to waste. Turns out, my cat LOVED this new toy of hers. She not only played with it, but she also carried it everywhere she went. At that point, I realized how awesome this new hobby could be.


My nighttime routine soon became something that I did between classes, while at lunch, and whenever I needed a mental break. I began to look forward to taking breaks from studying so that I could crochet. My cat ended up with about twenty cat toys over the course of a few weeks. I realized that my house was going to become overrun with cat toys if I kept this up, so I started giving them away to friends. I was soon getting requests for more toys, different colors, and custom designs. People started asking me how much the toys cost so they could place an order! I then took a crazy next step: I opened up an Etsy shop and started my own business.


Opening up an Etsy shop was a lot more work than I originally expected. Not only did I have to develop patterns for different cat toys, but I also had to photograph them, advertise my brand, and manage my shop. Although it was a lot of effort, the payout was quick and worthwhile. Before long, I had a steady stream of orders coming in. I was ecstatic to be making money from a hobby! The money earned from this hobby helped tremendously with my finances, but most importantly it was keeping me sane.


Fast forward to today. My shop celebrated its one year anniversary in December. I have had over 300 sales on Etsy alone and I have sold cat toys to seven different countries. I put my shop on vacation for a few months to focus on studying for my NAVLE, and I missed picking up my crochet hook every single day. I found sleep harder and harder to come by, and I found my stress level rising. I quickly realized how important this “hobby” was for me.


Crochet taught me the importance of work-life balance. Sometimes you have to turn off your brain and do something that you love because there’s more to life than the next test coming up. My academic career has been entirely focused on reaching my professional goals, but I now realize that it is the journey we take to get there that matters. My travels are no longer rife with stress and burnout. They’re certainly there, but instead I think of the cute photos and wonderful reviews I’ve received, the milestones I’ve reached with my business, and the joy of sharing my passion with the people I love. This stress-relieving hobby will surely make it easier for me to cope with the demands of my future profession and life in general. I now finally understand why interviewers ask “What do you do in your free time.”


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