UT students find escape through reconnecting with childhood hobbies, activities amid winter storm, pandemic

Dina Barrish

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan’s March 9 print edition.


At 1:00 a.m. onTuesday, Feb. 16, Ashley Tonn jumped out of her childhood bed and fumbled for the lightswitch — only to remember she still had no power. In complete darkness, she dug through her closet to retrieve an old hobby: yarn and a crochet hook.


“(I was) like, ‘Wow,’” nursing freshman Tonn said. “Holding this stuff in my hand … reminds (me) of (my) roots. I was on a mission to do crochet.”


Just as Tonn reconnected with crocheting, many UT students felt nostalgic for childhood activities while living through historic events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Winter Storm Uri.


“Being an adult, you’re so focused on working and doing certain tasks each day that you forget to stop and take time for yourself,” Tonn said. “Redoing these activities made me realize how much I enjoyed them, even though just thinking about them, I may not have realized that.”


Mihir Gupta, a biology and Plan II freshman, said he started rewatching “Johnny Test” on Netflix because the show felt familiar. He also rediscovered Super Mario Bros., a video game he hadn’t played since age 10. He and his sister played for 48 hours straight during the winter storm.


“It’s almost escapist,” Gupta said. “It’s really engrossing … I don’t have to worry about anything. Instead of like, you know, continuing to be that high-strung, super functioning person, you can just take a step back for a bit.”


Tonn said reconnecting with crocheting helped her manage her stress. Since picking up her needle and yarn during the freeze, she said she has found herself wanting to crochet every night before bed.


“I find it relaxing,” Tonn said. “It helps me go to sleep faster instead of trying to do schoolwork and then trying to go to bed and (still be) stressed out.”


For undeclared freshman Jenny Hagedorn, making duct tape crafts brought her back to the 5th grade. With wikiHow and a roll of Dory-print duct tape, she retaught herself how to make wallets and instrument cases.


“It really just brings us back to a simpler time, a time where we don’t have midterms or pandemics or not as many winter storms,” Hagedorn said. “I wasn’t thinking about anything else while I was doing (the crafts).”


Hagedorn said she considers her duct tape crafts an innocent and enjoyable activity, but Gupta said he was embarrassed about playing Super Mario Bros. and binging “Johnny Test.”


“It’s childish,” Gupta said. “I’m at college. I should be doing grown-up stuff. But do I really fit in as a kid? No. As an adult? Also no.”


As spring break approaches along with the promise of more free time, Tonn said she encourages her fellow students to embrace nostalgia and pick back up their favorite childhood hobbies.


“If there’s one thing in your childhood that you loved doing, give it a shot,” Tonn said. “I’ll probably dig through my closet again.”