Finding a Hobby (Again)

Finally seeing the light at the end of the exhausting tunnel.

Anna Burgess Yang
3 min readMar 22, 2021


Pop art image of three mason jars holding paintbrushes

In early 2020, I began watercolor painting. I have never considered myself artistic but fell into the hobby by accident when my 8-year-old son wanted to explore some painting videos on YouTube. Once I learned to wrangle the stubbornness that is watercolor paints, I found myself eager to learn. I elicited some help from an artistic friend, read books on technique, and followed several Instagrammers for inspiration. I would often listen to audiobooks and spend my morning time painting.

Then the pandemic hit. What anxiety often does for me is stifle creativity. It was too hard to feel inspired when I feared for the health/safety of my family. Plus our school and daycare closed so I found myself strained throughout the day juggling kids and work. I couldn’t paint, and I couldn’t write.

Yet I still needed a distraction. My grandmother turned 100 years old in early April, so I began doing some research on What began as a casual project quickly sucked me in. I made early mistakes but learned how to verify and review source documents to support my findings. It became exactly what I needed: something to occupy my time when I needed it, but did not require too much brainpower.

I continued my ancestry research for months, delighted when I found a little nugget of interesting information or solved a “puzzle” that I’d been working on for a while.

Then in late October, I began to contemplate changing careers. I found that I was immensely unhappy with my job as a product manager for a software company, but also wasn’t sure that another job in the same field would make me happy. I wanted to explore writing as a career but realized that I would need a portfolio of professional work to apply for any writing-related jobs.

And so, I began freelancing. I woke up early and stayed up late, writing nearly 180,000 words in three months. I was able to showcase my work and make the career shift I wanted.

But all of that work came at a heavy cost of any free time. I had my eyes on the prize but didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I finally had a job offer in hand and could take a step back from freelancing. Then there was the whole…



Anna Burgess Yang

Productivity geek + solopreneur with niche expertise. #5amwritersclub frequent flyer. •