I am currently watching Cars the movie with my twin younger brothers as I write these words. Would I ever be doing this on my own? Probably not. Am I enjoying myself? A little too much.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned in spending so much time at home for quarantine, is how to play again. I feel very lucky that I’ve gotten this extra time to be at home, especially now. My youngest brothers are thirteen, and sadly, I feel like they are in their final years of unfiltered play.
I remember last year after reading a book on the subject, I decided that I wanted to find more ways to incorporate play into my life as an adult. However, after a night of brainstorming ideas, all I came up with was “coloring”. As someone who usually has too many ideas, it was weird feeling so stuck. I tried coloring and it was fun, but I didn’t really feel like I was living up to the idea of “play”. It seemed like I was so far removed from the concept that I had forgotten what it even felt like to play.
I think the essence of play is letting your walls down. To stop trying so hard to be serious or to be an adult. To just let go. However, I think the tricky part is that a lot of the time we don’t even realize we are so locked into our adult conception of ourselves. I sure didn’t. I think the other part of playing is doing things without having to have a reason for doing so. Even when I make an effort to “be bored”, I’m “making an effort” for a reason. When did I become so neurotic and need to have a reason for doing everything??
When I first got home, my brother’s incessant demands to do random things all day long were quite annoying. Especially because I was trying to wrap up my senior year of college and had a considerable amount of work to get done. But now that I’ve graduated and have more freedom, I find it quite entertaining. I’ll admit the barrier to entry is still there. Why should I go look at a rotting piece of wood outside? Literally no reason. But did I get up and do it anyways? Yup. I’ve found that the more that I push myself to get over that initial discomfort and just do something because why not, the easier it gets. The other day one of my brothers asked me if I wanted to ride in the back up of the truck on the way to the beach to take mother’s day pictures. Without hesitation, I climbed into the back of the truck in my nice dress and was quickly joined by my brother in a full suit. About 50 stop signs too many later, we arrived. I was quite nauseous but it was 100% worth it. Even just seeing the trees pass overhead and noticing the smells change from “foresty” to “oceany” was amazing. It was so fun. And that’s when I realized how much I missed playing.
But how do we actually find ways to play in our adult lives?
Sadly, I won’t be able to rely on being around my brothers all the time, to play, so I’m going to have to find a way to rely on myself. As with anything, I’ve found a good place to start is adding tiny elements of play into my life. For example, not wearing shoes outside. After adding a few tiny things regularly, I start feeling more connected to my inner child and more freedom to play. I’ve found that this playfulness is leaking over into my personality as well, which is a good thing, but I’m definitely not used to it. The other approach is to just follow your instincts. If you have a sudden desire to do something, just do it without questioning whether or not it’s a good idea. Obviously, be safe, but I feel like most of us are a little too safe these days. Being a little bit afraid every once in a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think if you do this you’ll find yourself doing a lot more things for literally no reason. The other day my brothers and I noticed there is an excessive amount of this one plant in our neighborhood, but none of us knew what it was. After doing some research, we found out the plant is called “skunk cabbage” because if you break it open it smells absolutely disgusting. This is an example of something I never would have done on my own before. Even if I had gotten so far as to uncover the name of this plant, I definitely wouldn’t have cracked a few open. My brothers ended up trying to attack each other with this plant and I realized this would be such a good tool for a prank.
I think another component of play is not having any rules. So much of my life is structured or regimented these days, so just having a space completely free of restriction is essential. In fact, play is fundamentally relaxing in a way that is incomparable to my forced attempts to relax.
I really believe that playing is an essential component of adult life and I’m still exploring more ways to work this into my life. I feel like play and connecting to your inner child can become part of a positive feedback loop, each reinforcing progress in the other. Playing is such a great tool for expanding our imagination and improving creativity, skills that are equally important in our adult life.
So to start playing I’ve been following these three steps:
- Do little silly acts to initiate feelings of playfulness.
- Follow your instincts.
- Ditch the rules.
If you guys come up with any other ways or strategies to play, please let me know. Always happy to have more ideas :)