Isn’t this great?” Tim Snyder asks me, gamely trouncing through the knee-high undergrowth that runs rampant over this particular segment of South Florida. Messenger bag of artfully-enhanced frisbees hanging over his shoulder, a sharp and critical eye gauging the terrain for potential foibles, a hawk-like attention to wind direction causing him to suddenly still with the masculine grace inherent in New World pioneers and big game hunters, Snyder is, to put it lightly, a frisbee fanatic.
As my (for all intents and purposes) brother-in-law, I’ve shared a great deal with Snyder over the roughly half decade of our acquaintance: eye rolls at the actions of our significant other’s family; the birth and raising of his first son; even soldiering side-by-side for a brief period of time on the front lines of a popular local sandwich spot. But what is immediately clear to me, at this moment, is that despite all the shared experiences we can draw, Snyder and I are in radically different places at this point and time. Traveling through the insect-infested, potentially gator-ridden confines of this particular park in some foreign sector of the city, finessing a game he’s loved for over a decade, Snyder is clearly having the time of his life. I, on the other hand, am not entirely certain I’ll get out of this alive.
As the game progresses, What I say, I think, is “Yeah!” What I’m thinking, however, is “Aaaaahhhhhhh!”…a primal scream of such force that I’ve doubtlessly undone years of accumulated mental trauma. At that very moment, I discover that underneath 3 layers of sweat, an upsettingly large mosquito is sucking the blood out of my face, an attack I attempt to combat by swatting, Stooge-like, at my face with both hands. Snyder looks over, concerned.
“You’re up, man.” I step up to the tee pad, take careful aim, and throw. I was imagining my throw sailing, with butterfly-esque grace, forward, but I’ve released too late and instead it jets at a stark right angle almost geometrically ideal in its absurdity. We both pause. We look at each other. Wordlessly, an entire conversation emotes. Can we just move past this without commenting on my already fragile athletisism?, I wordlessly telepath. Yup, Snyder’s eyes reply. “Maybe try throwing it overhand,” he suggests. “OK,” I reply huskily, mopping my weeping brow with an already oversaturated handkerchief. “That’s probably it.”
Not only overly patient with distant not-quite relations, Snyder’s three-pronged approach to life (family, occupation and hobby), has clearly granted him a stability rarely seen among those who simply slave away at their desks till they eventually return to a potentially stress-saturated homelife. Living proof of countless scientific studies on the subject, many members of our own Magic City prove that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, an excellent way to get ahead at work and be more calm and collected for your family is to engage in an outside activity you’re passionate about.
Senior Administrative Assistant of Faculty Affairs at the University of Miami, Roxy Perez’s professional life seems quite full enough. Responsible for the hiring, firing and general human resources concerns for all the faculty of one of our most prestigious educational institutions, Perez finds that simply having a successful career and a satisfying personal life isn’t enough for her. An amateur bodybuilder whose well on her way to professional status, it was only with the inclusion of her rigorous daily schedule that she began to appreciate all aspects of her life. “It’s much more than just nights and weekends when I’m on season and doing a show,” says Perez, whose amassed a considerable number of reputable placings in her short time on the stage. “That’s when I’m training twice a day, two hours a day for 16 weeks straight.” Far from being overwhelmed by the strictures that the sport places on her life, she’s empowered by her capacity to energetically live out her dreams, a penchant that’s trickled into her performance in the professional sphere. “It keeps me focused, it keeps me motivated, I look good, which makes me feel good, and I know I bring that attitude with me into work every day.”
Not only a boon to one’s self-confidence and overall optimism, having a hobby one is truly passionate about plays into that other most-necessary of professional habits: networking. And while mixers, meet & greets, launches, parties and galas are all well and good, sometimes it’s best to find potential allies and compatriots outside the realm of more classical work-related events. That’s how meaningful connections are really made. As the 25-year-old Development Manager of the nonprofit Miami Music Project, when Everett Ford’s not advancing the agenda of this much-needed community-oriented educational initiative, he’s striding the stage of our region’s finest opera houses. Participating in a number of notable professional staging, Ford found that while the number of professionals in this city can seem intimidating, the performing arts community is tight-knit, a boon when on the hunt for better job opportunities or getting mentorship from others in a similar field. “I’ve definitely been able to make good contacts in Miami doing various shows and gigs,” says Ford, whose interest in music from a young age and contacts accumulated allowed him to eventually attain that most hallowed of dreams: to work directly in a field he’s passionate about.
Alexis Guillen, a Sales Executive for Miami New Times who races Dragon Boats in his spare time, has found a similar kinship with others who normally wouldn’t mix, an invaluable resource no matter your choice of 9 to 5. “Discovering the community of dragon boat racers has opened my world up to people across all ages, backgrounds, careers, religions and ethnicities, all over a shared love of being on the water,” says Guillen, whose team, the Red Dragons, is a mainstay in all of this niche sport’s happenings in Miami and beyond. “As a competitive sport, dragon boat racing is all about building speed, strength and endurance as a team,” he continues. “The Red Dragons win races when the 20 paddlers on our boat act as one.”
Frisbee. Bodybuilding. Opera. Dragon boat racing. The satisfaction of a disc daintily placed in a distant basket, the jaw-dropping adrenaline of flexing defined muscles most people don’t even know they have, the thrill of striding onstage in a centuries-old performance, and the elation of being out on the water on a dragon boat and all the comaraderie that entails. The important thing, it seems, is not what you spend your ultra-valuable personal time doing; it’s how you let your unique passion propel you into becoming an indescribably whole you.