I’ve been working on some stuff about concepts of “adultness” and “childishness” lately, and it has gotten me thinking about how I’ve lost a lot of that spark of carefree fun we instinctually have as children. I don’t “play” like I used to. One of my earliest memories is finger painting at kindy. I remember the table being enormous (it was probably a standard size), and our teacher pouring so much beautiful, colourful paint on it and we went to town. Another early memory of playing was slipping and sliding around in a mud pool in a brand new outfit my Mum had bought me. Yep, I got in a ton of trouble, but I can still remember the wild abandon I felt tummy flopping into a giant pool of mud. I also remember that my sister and I, in Autumn, would always play the same game. We would gather all of the leaves that fell from the giant (to my tiny figure) tree in our front garden and we would shape them into nests and pretend to be dinosaurs. This was in the era of The Land Before Time and we were pretty obsessed.
I like to think I still have a healthy amount of “play” in my life. After all, it can be lots of different things: playing sports, listening to music, watching movies, joking with friends, flirting with my fella. I also get to play a lot on stage as a performer, and as a swing dancer I get to engage in social play whilst dancing with other people. But in some areas of my life play is severely lacking. I love doing artsy and craftsy sorts of things, but only if it turns out “good”. If I can’t make something well than it isn’t worth doing. If it has no purpose or practical value than I dismiss it. How ridiculous! A prominent play scientist, Dr Stuart Brown (who founded the National Institute of Play) sums it up pretty well in his TED talk: “If it’s purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play”.
I’ve realised that I am shackled by my fear of not doing something useful and by my feelings of self-conciousness. It’s odd, on stage I am happy to be a total goofball and do silly things and so I want this to translate more in my every day life. I want to indulge the inner kid in me more. So, for the purpose of “research” 😉 I’ve been trying to do more of the things I loved doing as a kid. I spent some time making different kinds of paper aeroplanes and the glee I got from throwing them around my apartment and watching my cat chase them was wonderful! I’m trying to sing more and whenever I feel like it, even though I can’t really sing in tune and I’m always embarrassed. I picked some flowers and than proceeded to throw them over my head and roll around in them at the park. Simple pleasures, but on the days I did those things I noticed an uplifting in my mood and I find I’m seeing more opportunities to play the more I play. Today, I have a huge stack of paints and I’m going to spread them all over my table, and go to town.
What did you play at as a kid?