When was the last time you got on a swing? Lifted your feet off the ground, closed your eyes, and (just for a moment) felt like you were flying? When was the last time you did a cartwheel? Can you even still do one? When was the last time you truly danced – not to seem hot, not to seem impressive and Beyonce-esque, not trying to emulate anything but just moving for the joy of moving to a song that you love? The last time you ate ice cream before bed without stressing about the calories or the time it would take to burn off said ice cream at the gym? When was the last time you jumped on the bed? Sang at the top of your lungs?
When was the last time you embraced life like a child?
It’s argued that as children we are happier because we have less responsibilities. Less responsibility = more happiness. I’m here to argue with that notion. I would dare to claim that as children we are happier because we just don’t give a damn. While to some that can be construed as ‘responsibility’, it rather relates to the idea of doing something for the joy of it – not the outcome, appearance, or ROI (return on investment) of something.
Recess was a time every kid looked forward to every day. Every. Day. It was 30 minutes of pure release from the chains of a school desk. A time of day when we let our legs run as fast as we could, releasing every bit of pent up energy we’d been accumulating since sunrise. In bursts and bounds of joy, we kicked soccer balls, climbed monkey bars, walked and talked about our childhood dreams, and just enjoyed the sense of freedom, knowing full well that eventually we would return to our classrooms and settle in to endure the rest of the day, still smelling like sweat and sunshine for the rest of the day.
Well, what the fuck happened to that?
So many people nowadays spend their lunch breaks at their desks, craving an episode off Netflix or the latest gossip about Kim Whatsherface or Ashley Whogivesashit. We complain about not getting enough exercise, not enough sunlight, and not enough happiness and we blame things like work for our misfortunes. So why not reinstate a recess for yourself? I’ve been going to a nearby park every day during lunch and doing that exact thing. I bring my lunch to the park and once I’m done I spend an hour outside while I swing, run, jump, walk, do yoga and I play. And I return to the office feeling incredible and ready to tackle the second phase of my day. The release from the Internet, the computer, my phone, my job, my friends, and yes, my responsibilities, gives me a sense of peace that I now understand was necessary as a child – and still is as an adult.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy travel is it’s always a break from reality, but it’s also because you approach things with a sense of wonder. You are enthralled by strangers, in awe of architecture, looking forward to trying new things, and not worried what anyone thinks of you because you are essentially anonymous in a place. But if you truly think about it – what does that stranger passing by while you dance down the street matter to you? The worst thing that could happen is that they stare at you and possibly go home and tell someone, “I saw this crazy girl dancing on the street today. But damn did she look happy.”
Isn’t it odd how we cling to things like alcohol and drugs to reinvent that sense of release we felt as children? Alcohol gives you a ‘free pass’ to act a fool in the bar. Smoking weeds gives you the courage (or lack of willpower) to eat whatever you want and giggle as long as you can. These things bring up face to face with the realities of having an open, childlike mind once again. But the real trick is integrating those lens into our every day.
As I take the steps to becoming an adult – like buying a car and working full time – I’m finding it important to counteract these responsibilities with silliness and whimsy. My clothing is getting more eccentric. My goals outside the office soar higher than my childhood dreams. Instead of going through a tunnel on a playground and coming out to the other side, I get in my car and get as far away from reality until I come out onto another side of myself.
If I’m beginning to lose my childhood at 23, I’d rather spend my life trying to get it back than embrace the adulthood that will inevitably be thrust upon me.