There was a time in my life where little else seemed to matter but to get a permanent academic job. At one point, I let the job market get to me and fell into a pit of despair. Then I made the decision that being an academic philosopher cannot, must not, be the only thing that matters. I made the conscious effort to make time for my at that point long-neglected hobbies, while also trying to eke out a publication record and looking for the elusive permanent/tenure track job (and raising kids).
I have several hobbies. I draw (nowadays mainly on the iPad Pro). I play the Renaissance lute, the guitar, and recently I bought a ukulele. I have a mezzo soprano voice with a decent range, and used to sing in a choir, but now mainly sing to accompany my lute playing. I also enjoy reading fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. I play the occasional single-player computer game, preferably something with puzzles and atmosphere.
It is good for me to have things that I don't have to excel in. There is an expectation of excellence in academia--being good is not good enough. Hobbies, by contrast, are entirely under your control and there is no pressure. Hence I like to have many hobbies I am OK at, rather than just one I am very good at. The hobbies provide a welcome balance and perspective.
Here I will focus on the Renaissance lute. The Renaissance lute is a difficult instrument to play well. Mine has eight courses (15 strings, 7 doubles and a single) and is tuned in G. The repertoire is huge, spanning from about 1500 to about 1620. There is no uniform notation. Instead, there are at least 5 distinct styles of tablature, some of them are very pretty (see below an excerpt of Capirola's Lute book from 1520), some of which are impossible to master except by very dedicated people (e.g., German tablature). See here to watch me play a Passacaglia by G.A. Doni.
I like the emotional register music provides. Currently, I am learning some Elizabethan lute songs by John Dowland and Thomas Campion. It is a relatively small but beautiful repertoire, blending sophisticated metaphysical poetry and daring musical phrasing. One feature I find very attractive is the deliberate melancholia in many of these pieces. There is absolutely no attempt to be cheerful or to sugarcoat things (see below - In Darkness let me dwell, performed by Michael Chance, lyrics below).
In darkness let me dwell
the ground shall sorrow be
The roof despair, to bar all cheerful light from me
The walls of marble black, that moist'ned still shall weep
My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.
Thus, wedded to my woes, and bedded in my tomb,
O let me dying live, till death doth come, till death doth come
Dark thoughts, sadness, despair, are an intrinsic part of human experience. It's something that isn't a part of the culture of happiness, it's something that we can at best manage. The Elizabethan lute songs come to terms with, and expresses this feeling.
I was very fortunate to live in Belgium which provides state-sponsored music education (for people over 16, I think it was about 150 euros per year, an absolute bargain for three hours of music tuition per week: 1.5 hours of music theory and reading, 30 minutes of one-on-one practice, and 1 hour of playing in ensemble per week; I had formal tuition for about 7 years. Since I've stopped music tuition in 2011 (moving to the UK, which does not provide state-sponsored music tuition), my technique has remained static. I learn an occasional new piece but not at the pace at when I was in music tuition. I have no specific ambitions. Perhaps, when the kids are bigger and I can manage time a bit better, I would love to play in a small amateur ensemble. For the moment, amateur dabblings at home are satisfying enough.