“What are you, eleven?”
This was the question posed to my husband after telling someone that he recently got back into hockey card collecting and selling.
To be fair, out of context, I may have asked the same thing.
In the age of the Internet, social media, and digital versions of pretty much everything, I had no idea that trading cards even still existed.
But when we moved last year, my husband discovered a local store that operates several locations in the Pittsburgh area selling cards, autographed jerseys and helmets, as well as panoramic pictures of NHL and NFL stadiums. One day after work he decided to stop by and see what it was all about. Suddenly he was transported back to his childhood.
On “take your child to work” days, or days where his parents’ shifts would bookend each other, J would often spend a few hours with his dad who worked in the parking garage of Children’s Hospital. The bonus to these days would be trips to the hospital gift shop, where J was allowed to buy a pack of hockey trading cards to keep his young mind occupied. J still has many of these cards today. Most of them are not worth much monetarily, but they remind him of a simpler time and serve as a connection to his father who passed away in 2009.
After a few trips to the local card shop in the last year, it didn’t take long for J’s excitement over trading cards to reignite. He spent some time reorganizing his binders, dusting off his 3D collectibles, and researching items online to see if he had any of value. For Christmas, I bought him a wall-mounted case that now hangs in our game room and displays his “best” cards — those of both sentimental and moderate monetary value.
In between purchasing packs of cards and selling some older ones on Ebay, J also began following several YouTubers who actually make a living “unboxing” and discussing hockey trading cards. Much like anything these days, enthusiasts of all types can find a kinship online with people who are just as passionate about a certain item or subject as they are. When you think about it, it’s not unlike what I’m doing as a writer — putting my thoughts out on the world wide web on the off chance that some reader, writer, or self-described anxiety case will identify with me and give a post a “like” or, if I’m lucky, follow my page.
Recently, J decided to throw his hat into the ring of YouTubers. So far he’s posted two of his own “unboxing” videos and plans to do more on a regular basis. He also talked about posting videos where he displays his favorite hockey memorabilia, from trading cards to collectible figurines of his favorite goalie, Patrick Roy.
While hockey is truly the only sport I’ve ever been enthusiastic about, I still don’t quite understand the lure of trading cards — or the “unboxing” videos if I’m being honest. But what I can appreciate is how they’ve given J a spark of passion and joy for someone who is one of the hardest working people I know.
My husband has worked at the same place for eleven years. In that time, he’s worked in three different departments — receiving promotions and raises, being named team-lead, and passing certifications. But over the last few years, he’s struggled to feel as though his work is valued. He feels “stuck” and slightly bored but is not sure what else he’d like to do for a living. Instead of focusing on a career move that he isn’t sure he even wants, I’ve suggested several times that he pursue some sort of passion outside of work to see if that helps his particular case of the blues.
To be fair, he’s given certain things a fair shot — guitar lessons, online gaming communities, and setting up a Twitch account to gain followers who play the same video games. (People can potentially get paid lots of money for this too). Despite his best efforts, none of these ventures filled the void, and none of them really provided any sort of significant financial gain. But he’s been focusing on the hockey card thing for a few months now, and maybe, just maybe, this is the thing that will stick. He recently shared his YouTube channel on Facebook, and since he’s always been so supportive of my writing ventures, I am sharing his link here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uinscySOsFs
I’m sure there will be plenty of people who furrow their brows in confusion and even ask the same question that I started this post with — “are you an eleven-year-old boy?”
When you think of trading cards, your mind very well may picture a group of elementary or middle school kids excitedly gathered around a pile of cards at recess. But judging by the multiple locations that my husband’s new favorite store has, it’s obviously still a lucrative business as well. And I’m sure the guys on YouTube who literally make their living in the trading card business would be proud to tell their eleven-year-old selves that they could pursue this hobby as a job as an adult.
My husband’s rekindled fascination with trading cards isn’t much different from my writing endeavors. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was — you guessed it — eleven years old. I literally remember sitting in sixth grade English class when I had the epiphany that has stuck with me for twenty-six years. Even though I had to claw my way back to it after decades of self-doubt and mental health battles, writing is the singular thing I’ve returned to again and again throughout my life. Since I made writing a priority again back in 2016, I’ve made less than $3000. Zero of those dollars came from this blog. But it’s helped me connect with readers and writers from Canada to Australia, and as long as it gives me a certain amount of kinship and validation in this crazy world, that’s more valuable than a lot of things.
I’m sure the wide-eyed eleven-year-old in my husband’s heart feels the same way about hockey cards.