Putting playtime back on the agenda
If we don’t know how to have fun, we don’t know how to live, Nicole Law discovered.
It’s the weekend and I’m working again, my workstation set up near the window to catch a sliver of natural light. I browse my work playlist on Spotify for some music to lift my mood but before I can connect hysterical laughter reaches my ears.
A blur of figures on the ground level catches my attention. I look wistfully on young children chasing one another around the playground a short distance away from my flat and marvel at their sense of liberation. They are completely oblivious to the midday heat, a few of them repeatedly tripping over themselves in their haste to escape the others … and the beautiful thing is – they are simply enjoying themselves.
I struggle to recall the last time I did something just for fun, with no obvious objective or agenda in mind.
It seems eons ago, a phase of life I have left behind. As an adult, life has taken on a calibrated approach, where how I spend my time outside of work and other responsibilities is often equated with having an obvious purpose.
Now, I account for every hour, minute and second of my life. I schedule meetings and work events and have even resorted to pencilling in items known as LUNCH and SLEEP. In a society where we are measured by targets, it is not difficult to understand our obsession with planning and placing work on a pedestal.
Worldwide, working hours are creeping up and the elusive work-life balance resembles an urban myth rather than an essential ingredient of a purposeful life.
The mere mention of fun draws curious looks. A friend remarked that fun was not on the cards when one was trying to get sufficient sleep and nutrition to function on a daily basis. I get it, time is scarce and anything fun seems like a waste of time. Yet, are we truly existing simply to work?
While work takes up a large proportion of our time and does allow us a sense of purpose and achievement, I am cautious. There is a temptation to idolise work and busyness so much that any attempt at slowing down is perceived as a sign of weakness or, worse, a fatal flaw! It is all too easy to believe in the narrative that work equals meaning and that fun is an optional frivolity.
It dawned on me: I was allowing work to define my life; the boundaries between work and life were becoming blurred. I was slowly forgetting how to have fun! Books I had intended to read lay untouched on my table and my dance shoes were collecting dust in a corner. The daily grind was deadening my zest for life and I soon realised I had to do something.
For the first time since I entered the workforce, I decided to take a day off. I had a full day ahead of me and it felt like a luxury. I painted, went for a long walk around my neighbourhood and baked chocolate cookies – things I had not found the time to do in ages.
It was a new feeling – of putting myself first for a change and simply doing things I enjoy. I turned off my phone just for the day and put fun back on the agenda.
The short 24 hours unplugged from the weight of responsibilities of adulthood created a space for me to have a good time – with no distinct objective. I was a kid all over again, running around her personal playground and realising that all of us deserve to have just a little bit of fun!
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Thank you for these words Nicole. I agree we need to be able to take time to enjoy our wonderful world. I’m lucky, maybe because I’m at a particular time in my life, that I have fun every day. To see “fun”( I’d like to say joy) is something to be found, no matter how busy we are. This morning on my twenty minute walk to the post box, by myself , which doesn’t happen very often, I breathed deeply and decided to list anything that I saw that I could be grateful for. What a joyful “pilgrimage” it turned out to be, as I listened to the sound of the different birds, admired neighbours plants and trees I hadn’t really noticed before and found myself giving thanks for our small camper when I spotted a much more fabulous model just around the corner. A policeman stood out of the way to let me pass, greeting me with a smile and a cheery “Good morning” – more thanks. A mother with a little toddler pushing her own little buggy, happy to be with her mum – another greeting, more smiles and more thanks, this time for my grandchildren. Even the old carrot fallen out of the bin led me to be grateful for having enough food to eat, although I did also send up a prayer for those who are hungry. Fun / Joy / Gratitude. Yes, I had lots of unexpected fun on my walk.