I have a question for you: when was the last time you played? I don’t mean watching your kids play, or even playing a game with them. Kids are easy. I mean, when was the last time YOU played? When was the last time you skipped? When was the last time you threw a ball or ran after a hula hoop? I bet for most of you the answer is: I can’t remember. For me, play is an integral part of my life. If I didn’t play a little every day I think I’d lose my marbles.
When you were little, your life was about playing. The world around you was yours, and you could turn it into whatever you wanted. We had a lackluster treehouse in the canyon behind our back yard. I say lackluster because the “tree house” was just some planks that my dad nailed into the tree. It didn’t have a roof, or walls, or even a way up, but it was awesome. For me, it was the Millenium Falcon. I would sit up there and pretend that I was outrunning Vader, or dodging laser blasts. We even tied a rope to a branch and used it to swing out over the canyon like Luke and Leia. It was a oodles of fun.
But as we grow into adulthood the idea of play is put on the back burner. We are encouraged to stop pretending and start learning facts. We are told to memorize historical dates and learn about important historical figures. We begin to learn that being a grown up is more about doing as you are told and following rules and less about playing and being creative. Creativity isn’t rewarded as much as conformity. I recall getting special prizes in school or church when I recited something correctly. I also remember more than one teacher getting mad at me for not doing projects or homework the way the rest of my classmates did. But, I was never one for conformity.
As a full fledged grown-up it is even harder to play. It isn’t socially acceptable to be playful in your 30’s. Believe me. I speak from experience. I used to get really mean looks from folks who happened upon me in the park. So what if I am swinging on the swings as high as I can while singing? Who cares if I want to play on the jungle gym or merry-go-round? You’d be surprised. One woman told me I couldn’t be in the playground if I didn’t have kids. How absurd. I asked why she thought that, because it wasn’t on the list of park rules. She couldn’t tell me so I went back to the swings and happily resumed swinging and singing. Playing is not just for kids.
I think a lot of adults are too embarrassed to play. They don’t want people looking at them or thinking that they are “weird”. But why care what strangers think of you? You’ll never see them again, and judgement from strangers shouldn’t bother anyone. I say, BRING IT ON. Think I am weird. Think I am crazy. I don’t care. I am having more fun than you are, I can promise you that. If you can get over your silly fear of what strangers think about you, then you are half way there. The rest is easy. Just play!
For those of you having trouble with this idea, let me elucidate for you. Think of something fun, and do it. Playing is an important part of staying young, happy and healthy. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Have a board game night with friends. No computer games allowed!
- Have an “Underwear Dance Party” by yourself in your living room. I do this every time my sweetheart leaves the house. Grab a hair brush, put on a badass song and let loose. It’s fun and nobody can see you so you can really let down your guard.
- Mad Libs! My sweetheart and I did this the other night and we laughed til we cried.
- Go to a park and play on the playground. Find a big park with lot’s of fun stuff to play on. Swing on the swings. Slide down the slide. Climb a tree.
- Go on youtube and find a silly dance to learn. I am in the process of learning the “Single Ladies” dance. I am horrible, but it sure is fun!
- Invest in a hobby that doesn’t require a screen of any kind. Puzzles. Painting. Teach yourself how to play an instrument. Make a puppet. Create a new planet out of Legos.