A constant debate I have with myself is whether something which interests me has become a preoccupation to an unhealthy extent. There is generally a process which goes on in my mind which starts with something which piques my curiosity. This curiosity then grows and I pursue it, come to think of it in quite an autonomous education sort of way where I use my current urge to find out about stuff, think it through, practice it, get good at it and the like to achieve all those aims rather than taking a more balanced, "turn taking" approach where I try something for a while, then drop it for a bit, do something else, drop that, and gradually rotate back to where I was and pursue it again. I haven't worked like that much. On the other hand, I also have a problem maintaining focus on one thing and frequently wonder if I'd pursued something for longer whether it would have yielded fruit at some point, possibly not very far down the line.
There is a sense of imbalance when I pursue something to the exclusion of other matters. Of course, when someone has a job, vocation or profession that pursuit is not seen as unhealthy or excessive, often partly because it meshes with the economy in some way. Even if that vocation is something like home making or parenting, that indirectly contributes to the economy because it's unpaid labour which equips children to become economically active adults or divides labour in such a way that partners can pursue activities more likely to bring in some dosh. Then there are other activities which are pursued "just for fun" or because they serve some other kind of need, such as religious worship and trainspotting. These can meet with a lower level of tolerance from others before they start being seen as unhealthy, for instance as religious fanaticism or a "symptom" (assuming the mental health paradigm) of something ending in a D for disease, such as OCD or ASD. Not sure about this proliferation of D's myself, but people like them and we can become very attached to them.
On the other hand, switching attention to something else can make you come across as half-hearted or wishy-washy, and certainly it can mean you fail to achieve competence or the ability to succeed in that area. Work-life balance for example - if you're a workaholic it may bring home the smoked tofu but it won't usually lead to disapproval from your boss or clients, and the work ethic generally means the more work the better, oddly in a manner which is completely divorced from its social utility.
Therefore, here I am, as I have been for a long time now, obsessing about gender identity. I see blogs out there which are apparently un-self-consciously focussed on trans issues, QUILTBAG stuff, education or political issues, and of course many other things, and many of these read well, are successful by various criteria and going with that interest or obsession doesn't seem to be considered harmful by those who read them. Blogs are, incidentally, just the first example of works which come to mind because I happen to be blogging right now.
When I got up in the morning, it used to take me three minutes to get ready. It was a case of going into the bathroom, putting a few centimetres of water in the sink, possibly shaving, washing the dirtiest bits and then coming back into the bedroom and getting dressed, probably in either T-shjrts and leggings or a tracksuit, and it was all really quick and easy. Of course, that reflected low self-esteem and a lack of willingness to polish a turd. Nowadays, I get up, shave all over, exfoliate, moisturise, use deodorant, spend ages agonising over what to wear, put on jewellery and make up and it can easily take me an hour. I'm currently looking at this and thinking I should do something about it too:
Chipped nail varnish, clearly, but when am I going to get time to do that and what can I do while I'm waiting for them to dry (three coats, remember?) which doesn't make it otherwise a waste of time?
You could of course make the very sensible observation that this is all too much and ask me why I bother. Once I've done my nails (and dispensed some herbs, gone shopping, come back here and the like), I'll make a video about that too, but for now the question is, how to decide when something is an excessive obsession and when is it a helpful or perhaps marketable interest? Right now I'm thinking that my problem is not obsessiveness at all (and in fact I've now amalgamated all my obsessions into a small, easy to handle package) but a failure to pursue my interests with enough "oompfh" and gusto, leading to a half-heartedness which subliminally communicates itself to others, and let's face it, also impairs the quality of what I do.
I think for now, I'm not going to bother to restrain my preoccupations because I've tried that before and the result seems to have been that nothing has succeeded. Also, of course it means that the obsession doesn't react to being pushed down by pushing forward harder. However, I still want to know, and this is an actual question to you reading this: how do you know when something is an unhealthy obsession and when it's a worthwhile interest? What do you do in your life which feels like one and what feels like the other and how do you decide which is which?