I rarely hear an adult mention ‘play’ when they boringly regale me of their day’s events. I wish they would. Then maybe I would not feel so beside myself.
I understand that people need to work, or go to work, or work on problems, or work out, or work for the wo/man, or work it. I understand the need to work. It is what keeps idle hands out of satanic shackles and into profitable, sociable norms. But playing is not just child’s play.
Playing was once a spontaneous act in my daily life. As a little kid, I would play because I wanted to, not because I had to. Upon aging in society, I realized that time for play was casually being sponged off by more adult-like responsibilities. Playtime was eventually shoved into a formulaic part of our schedule. Recess, though applauded for allowing kids to roam free , was yet another allotted part of day.
My shriveling freedom was not concerning. School wasn’t particularly oppressive because I too wanted to work (learning to read books about magical monsters requires work). What bothered me was the eerily quiet dismissal of play post-childhood.
What does play look like in adulthood? Adults I’ve spoken to could not confidently tell me. Is there recess in the adult world? Innovative workplaces do well to schedule free time for employees to explore and refresh cognition. Inserting recess into the daily grind can be a boon for the bottom line.
Then why does ‘play’ trigger cagey behaviours from the adults I research? Perhaps the mention of play is so displeasing because it evokes ‘infantilizing’ behaviour , of which many adults work hard to rid themselves. There is no need to fear shame here, since you should not play to be a child again, but to be an adult. Play so that you can be happy and helpful, despite inescapable adult tasks.
Playing seems almost nonsensical in an adult world, where purpose must be unearthed in every act and whim. Why play? To relax, relieve, de-stress? I agree play is vital to all, child and adult alike. But as an adult, there is no way to play without intention. That is a luxury lost in childhood. Children play just because. Adult play is premeditated. Yet, this shouldn’t deter you from playing. Instead, let that remind you of your irrevocable adult status. One that joyfully coexists with the child within, but not without.