I was babysitting a cousin of mine yesterday. She is about five years old and full of energy and imagination. We were playing a game where we pretended the floor was on fire and we had to avoid certain areas. We rescued imaginary animals and called imaginary firemen. She concocted a world from nothing but her creative power. She was so deeply invested in this scenario that there was no self-consciousness or embarrassment in her actions.
Kids are dedicated to having fun as much as possible. They wear their emotions on their sleeve for all to see. They see colour and feel the air. They aren’t thinking ahead or rationing their energy, which is why tiredness and exhaustion hit them all at once. They think: “I feel great right now, so I’m going to chase that bee for an hour and a half.” Which is great! Kids are completely present at all times and enjoy life wherever and whenever they can.
It got me thinking about what we lose as we grow older. And at what points in time we lose this presence. Here is my half-brained theory:
When kids start to grow up, for better or worse we slowly introduce them to boundaries. We start off by introducing them to ‘recess’ (not the TV show Recess, although we also do that as well). We introduce an allocated time slot where they are allowed to play and have fun. We tell them: “Jimmy, if you’re good now you will get a play time at 11 o’clock. That’s when you can play with your blocks and lego. But for now, work hard and be good.”
This idea of allocated play times is instilled in us in our formative years. And so as grown up’s we still have these invisible boundaries in us. We are constantly looking for permission to have fun.
Last weekend I did nothing but watch movies, lie on the sofa, play my guitar and eat junk food. It felt good in the moment but I couldn’t help feel guilty about not being ‘productive’. Why was I feeling guilty about doing what I wanted and enjoying myself? Similarly, I’ve been in conversations with people who have expressed guilt for enjoying quiet walks in the sun. Why?! We should be having fun all of the time. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. We shouldn’t feel guilty about doing things that make us feel peaceful and happy.
Grown ups are constantly looking for permission to have fun. If I want to dance, I tell myself I need to be in a place where dancing is socially acceptable. I either need to be at a wedding and drunk, or at a bar dancing ironically and self-consciously with friends. We are waiting for that invitation and permission to have fun. We are waiting for our own version of recess when instead we should be dancing all the time.
We spend our lives gaining more and more responsibility. Building up our ego and identity. However the older I get the more I want to revert to being a kid again. Having that constant creative mentality. Spend any amount of time with one and you’ll realise they hold the answer to happiness. Kids don’t check Facebook over and over. Or worry about taxes. Or wonder what Isis is doing. If they want to be famous they become famous. If they want to be a penguin they become a penguin. Their natural state is to create and imagine. Grown ups tell themselves “one day I’ll be happy”. Kids never have this thought as they are always happy in the moment. Grown ups are always burdened by tomorrow. Kids say: “I have energy now. Lets have fun now. Tomorrow doesn’t matter.”
So take yourself less seriously. Stop looking for permission. Go pretend the floor is on fire and save some kittens. Dance whenever you want to and tell someone they’re pretty.