It is about time – scholarly conversations about leisure

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Dr Petia Petrova, Associate Director of Academic Practice, UWE Bristol

Becoming serious about leisure

I was a chronically overworked academic. Work was very important to me. My work being faultless even more so. I would take on as much work as I was asked to. Saying ‘no’ was difficult, if not impossible. I would come to my office on a Monday morning and participate in conversations about how many extra hours I have worked, with others similarly inclined. After over a decade of being chronically overworked, I suffered from a sudden illness that resulted in an emergency surgery. In hindsight, not that serious, in experience – quite traumatic – I had to seek help for post-traumatic stress afterwards.

This made me stop and reflect on my life. I was my work, but not much else. There was very little time for self-care, rest, fun and enjoyment in my life. I had become fully sucked into the vortex of working hard, trying to make a career. Work had spread like an amorphous blob and covered every aspect of my life. Something needed to change.

I went on a quest to find a hobby, I found one, and it transformed my life (that is indeed the topic of another blog). It became an important tool for my recovery from the trauma of sudden illness. I was still working hard, but I have made time and enriched my life with leisure, and I was serious about it.

Then Covid struck. In the weeks of the first lockdown, I thought about all the people experiencing traumatic health events, suffering from Covid, or losing loved ones. I thought how important conversations about (re-)discovering joy in our lives will become. What I did not anticipate was how long this Covid era would last. In a sector that is chronically overworked, and in a society experiencing collective burnout from living with a pandemic for so long, there is now a wide recognition of the importance of leading a balanced life.

Being serious about leisure

In those first weeks of lockdown, I reached out to a few colleagues to see what we can do to highlight the importance of leisure to our mental and physical health. We came with an idea of launching the Serious Leisure Podcast. I am now in a lovely and lively team of three podcast co-hosts with – Kat Branch who leads UWE’s Centre for Music and Sam Elkington from Teesside University. Kat brought her expertise as a musician supporting us all to bring the joy of music into our lives. Sam brought the theoretical perspective – having co-authored a book on the topic of serious leisure.

Personal stories and scholarly conversations

The podcast is a space for sharing stories about balancing our working lives with a serious commitment to leisure. Our guests tell us about their passions, hobbies, and interests – how they discovered these and how their lives (and their identities!) have been transformed as a result. There is laughter, there is joy, and occasionally there are tears. We do not shy away from discussing how difficult it is to find time, but we also attend to how rich the benefits can be when we do. The podcast is a scholarly space. We draw on the insights and evidence base from the vast literature on the topic of serious leisure.

In the words of a regular listener and a UWE colleague:

It’s good to hear the human in professional colleagues and is just as entertaining, interesting and professional as any other podcast I listen to. It’s worth my ear time!

You can find all our previous episodes on the SoundCloud App, and you can follow, like and subscribe to our podcast on the podcasting platform of your choice (for details check our Podbean site). If you have a hobby you have recently discovered or if you have a story about your serious leisure, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I can be reached via e-mail at petia.petrova@uwe.ac.uk

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