I want to be playful, but the truth is I’m not. I want to be. I used to be. But something happened. And that part of me is lost.
I wrote these words and knew it was a topic I wanted to explore. But there were other tasks to tend to, and the pages in my notebook kept turning. So I let them.
I couldn’t decide where my topic wanted to go. The words hovered in my consciousness until a curious chat picked them back up.
My friend told me he was reading my blog. And wouldn’t you know it? It just so happened, the title he mentioned was about adults playing.
Well, what a coincidence.
Now, I know a good lead when I see it. So naturally I followed my nose.
I wrote 3 Reasons Why It’s Super Hard For Grown-Ups To Play almost four years ago. A lot’s changed since then.
It was delightful to revisit my experience of life at that time. And the advice still seemed solid. Which brings us back to the reason I was there in the first place: Those words from my journal sought wisdom.
If this advice worked then, why shouldn’t it now?
The central idea of the piece was that grown-ups (namely, me) resist tapping into the place where simple play comes from. I dialed in on 3 general areas where that essence gets lost.
- Fear of vulnerability.
- Fear of judgment.
I reasoned that fun can’t be managed or forced. It arrives right in the middle of things. And too often, our busy agendas prevent us from letting it in when it does.
I went on to confess how I guarded that precious place inside me where all the best stuff lives. I protect it. Like buried treasure I don’t want anyone to steal. The trouble when you bury treasure is, you don’t enjoy it either. If it’s safe from them and you, who wins?
I’d been squashing my emotions and recognized my life as only half-expressed.
What stood out to me as I probed my original points from current day was, I don’t struggle so much with these anymore.
Hence, the question provoked: If I’m doing so much better in each of these core areas, why is it even harder now to play than it was then?
I don’t guard my emotions like I used to. And I have more time than I did then. So what’s the problem? Then it hits me. I’m so tired. How can I be playful when I’m always so dang tired?
I may have time. But energy I lack. It’s a resource I simply do not have.
Time vs. Energy spent:
It’s a twofold equation.
How do I approach my task list?
The busy-ness has changed. But how I manage my to-do list hasn’t. I get things out of the way to have them out of the way. So I can be DONE. There’s nothing there I WANT to do. No desire to fuel my task.
DESIRE is an untapped source of renewable energy. Think of children. “What are we going to DO today?” There’s excitement attached to the question. Not dread.
What happened to desire? Where did it go? What happened to the wanting? Has it always been this hard?
I consulted another old blog post for a little help here. How The Shortcuts Can Cheat You Out Of Lasting Friendship took me back to my childhood. I meditated on the themes and soon trailed off in my mind.
I was a smart kid growing up. I loved learning and books. But I had trouble fitting in. And over time, I let my grades slip.
In high school, I missed too many days and only barely graduated because I’d failed so many classes right out of the gate. My entire junior and senior years, I was playing catch up with zero margin for error. Thanks to all the participation points I’d missed over absences, the only hope I had of keeping up was perfect scores. I brought home thick packets and stacks of books for endless mounds of makeup work. While other kids did normal kid stuff, my nose was in a book. And not for fun.
I wasn’t afforded the pleasure of casual learning. Letting the studies excite me. Or missing a beat when a subject wasn’t my strong suit. Each assignment was critical to a passing grade. Whether I liked the material or not.
Suddenly, it made sense.
No wonder I don’t want to do things. I’ve taken that very same ′no margin for error’ mentality into everything else. Every project or passion gets attached to that pressure. And I’m already spent. So I lack the capacity for things that excite me. And by default, I remove them from the picture entirely.
I take desire off the table before it even gets a chance to deplete me any further than I already am.
But what if I separated the pressure I’ve known all my life from what thrills?
What if dreams didn’t have to be another thing I check off the list?
What if they were FUN again?
They could be.
After all, I’m not in high school anymore. Failing all my classes doesn’t have to scare me anymore. I’m not a slacker barely keeping up. So far behind, I can’t mess up. I made it. It’s over.
I didn’t blow it. I can let go of that story.
Study can be fun. Like it should’ve been then. I can let myself play with the tasks that excite me and slack off a bit on the ones that don’t. Everything’s not riding on a perfect grade.
I can do what I WANT. I make the rules!
Nobody’s going to flunk me if I didn’t read the right article before I share a post on my blog. There’s no need to cram for the test before I create a new YouTube channel. I don’t have to consult my guidance counselor to pivot.
Doesn’t that change everything?
If home economics gets me excited, I can let myself sew and make cakes to my heart’s content. Even if my algebra slips. Who cares? Or if history is suddenly all I can think of, I can let myself obsess to my geeky delight. Who cares?
If when any one study or class is giving me juice, I just let myself enjoy it and to hell with the rest, maybe desire wouldn’t be the BURDEN it’s become.
With desire their to fuel me, I could check off that list full of DRIVE.
Now I can’t wait to get to the GOOD part. I clear my list so it’s not in the way of what I DO want to do— not what I’m NOT doing.
It changes everything.
People need something to look forward to. And sadly, I think I’d given that up. Is it any wonder my reservoir of energy simply could not be summoned?
Today I began with desire. I checked a couple small things off my list and gave space to this piece I’ve been wanting to write. I didn’t let myself get bogged down in the busy work. The minutia.
It felt good to pour out ideas on a page. And let the other things fall into the background.
I don’t always have the time I did today. I don’t imagine you do either. That’s why it’s so important to seize it when it comes. Without desire, I simply cannot.
What do YOU want to do?
Time is precious. We all know that. But don’t discount your energy. It can do more and go further than your time ever will.
Honor your energy— your capacity to stir and to want— and it will multiply your time like magic.
And the ′play’ will surface all on its own. It shouldn’t be a chore to want. It doesn’t have to be.