How do I schedule fun when I don’t even know what fun is?Jan 18, 2024
Fun, play, joy. These are basic words and a natural state for children. Even when they fall, break skin, and cry, after a moment, they go right back to fun, play, joy. Unlike birds who learn to fly, a spider spins a web instinctively. We humans are like spiders in a way, born inherently playful, fully present, open, curious, spongy, wanting to tinker, explore, discover, touch, taste, smell, and feel our surroundings. The world is our playground, both scary and wondrous, and following the path of our wonder keeps us in a state of joy, fun, and creativity (play).
To forget what these are is to have had fun beaten out of us for years and years.
We’ve gotten so serious and backwards as a society. Recess barely exists in schools. When we fidget or lose focus, we get put on drugs instead of seeing it as a sign that we need to move and make sound. Just as we learn business through hands-on trial and error (not books), we learn life through play. Alas, instead of exploring neighborhoods, we feel safer to see our children sitting inside, scrolling. Instead of having kids look out the window of a car or engaging with them to teach them to be little people at restaurants, grocery stores, or around guests, we place tablets or other electronics in their little hands so as not to be inconvenienced by them. Sad for them, and also a reflection of our inability to understand play and engagement as a critical part of human development, connection, and intelligence. These children grow up to be us.
I’ve had clients who know they’re happier when they get regular fresh air and nature walks but have trouble justifying time for them. A mother of three once told me that she doesn’t believe she’ll get to do anything for herself until her 5, 11, and 13 year olds are out of the house. That’s a long time. By then, she may forget what she wants, or what fun is, making the transition of empty nesting extra harsh. When your identity is one-role predominant, the loss of that role can be hard, no matter how much you’re looking forward to your “freedom.” This doesn’t apply just to motherhood, the same goes for retirement, sudden loss of wealth or co-dependent relationships.
Protecting play keeps you intact even through the hardships of finances and other losses. Fun is something to include in your day now to make you more successful in life, not afterwards.
Fun is a state of mind.
It is full presence in unjustified and unapologetic action. It is your birthright.
It’s when you pull out the nerf guns at the dinner table.
It’s when you eat cheesecake without going through the “I deserve it” or “just one bite” justification. Instead, it feels like a celebration of life, and you can’t wait to dig in together with friends. Fun is also giving the person sitting next to you who asks, are you sure you want to do that? the playful finger and enjoying your dessert extra, in their honor, for trying to domesticate you.
Fun is when you break open a board game and jump in with your family because you want to, not because you have to check family time off your list.
Fun is washing the dishes, or if a family member is washing them, drying the dishes and putting them away as they wash because you’re in the kitchen doing real life stuff together. You’re playing house. You get to engage in partnership.
Fun is going to see a movie you want to see because it’s out now instead of making yourself wait until it streams. It’s cheaper than therapy, and you get to make a big to-do about it.
Fun is dancing to music, not because you have to exercise but because it feels good to move like that. Fun is making the dance silly.
It’s doing anything because you want to, not because you have to.
It’s buying something you really want, not because you’re accumulating stuff to build your sense of identity or accomplishment but because it would bring you great joy to have it.
If you don’t remember
If you don’t remember what’s fun for you, you might have strapped yourself to the administrative part of your to-do list - the lower hanging fruit - for too long, misunderstanding them as productivity, priority, and responsibility when in fact they kill inspired energy and the truest of responsibilities, costing you more time, money, health, opportunity, and satisfaction. It may be because you’ve buried your “I want to” and have lived “I have to” for way too long. You may be holding on to old things.
I often ask my clients about the last time they remember being so happy: when was it, what were you doing, who were you doing it with, and why did you stop doing it? The most common answer to that last question is their notion of responsibility attached to marriage, work, and children.
Don’t leave the happy parts of your life in the past.
What is adulting?
Adulting doesn’t mean sacrificing, or putting yourself off for later. In fact, this is the time you have the most power and resources to do what you want. It’s quite the opposite of what people think.
When you adult, you’re no longer held by the proverbial “not under my roof, young lady!”
Instead of taking classes that are of no interest to you, you get to focus on seeing purpose in what you do and learning what you want to learn.
Instead of having only yourself to focus on, you get to produce little people (if you want) and show them how it’s done - not by becoming their full time servant and projecting your priorities onto them and making sure they don’t make the same mistakes you do - but by living and making choices for yourself the way you’d want them to make choices for themselves.
If you don’t like the color of your walls, you get to paint them a different color.
If you want to buy that thing, it’s your choice, you get to.
You’ve made a ton of mistakes and will continue to. You have celebrated much and lost much. This makes you wiser, more experienced, more capable of making increasingly better choices for yourself. This is the beauty of adulting and aging.
Break free and own yourself so that everyone else around you can too.
Especially the children. Show them what’s important. Show them and yourself how everything is a choice, everything is play. Nothing has to be so serious, so heavy. Don’t do that to them. Don’t do that to yourself. You’re so lucky to have all that you have. Have some fun with, and expand, your playground.
Responsibility is important. The most essential one, and the one that offers the greatest contribution to the world around you, is to yourself. This is the work that really counts. It’s also the most rewarding and healthful. So don’t be afraid to “waste time” and do some arguably regrettable things. This is playground learning, to reclaim what you inherently are, which is the way to take off your consumer bondage and become creative humans once again.