In so many places, society rewards "hard workers" and everyone pretends to be one. It's not okay to miss work because you need a day to be a human. You have to be sick, but not just casually sick because that would imply that you could work through your sickness. You have to have one foot in the ER and one in the grave and your doctor has to make a really concerning face and tell you not to go to work for a week. That's how sick you have to be: one day doesn't do it. You need a week. Or you have to die or lose a limb. I remember when Grams died, one of my co-workers thought it was "strange" that I took three days off, not knowing that I had to make food for the showing, organize my entire family, go through her belongings. I was sleeping maybe three hours a night and I could've easily taken a week off and still had things to do. But work should've been more important. I should've taken one day and got back to it. And people reward that behavior with, "Wow you're so strong! You're so tough! You're such a hard worker!" That's the mentality and it's nuts. Kill yourself emotionally and physically for a job. It's more important than family, friends, fun, and health.
Look, I can work hard. I'd just rather bounce around and eat ice cream. I don't think that makes me lazy. I think that makes me really smart and brave for saying that out loud because that's what you want, too.
Everyone says "work hard, play hard" but I disagree. I think everyone really could work medium and play way more. Playing extra hard doesn't mean "going up on a Tuesday," it just means that framing your life around play is a powerful concept. Follow me yet or do you think I need to grow up and get a real job?
It's okay. Sometimes I find myself thinking the same thing. But the thing with this unlearning process is that I am constantly yelling at that part of my brain.
Get a real job. I have one and it's becoming a better human!
Make more money. Do I really need more money? And when I get more money, will that be enough then? Or are we all just addicted to idea of more money?
Have a kid! You're getting old! No. Maybe someday but not now. And I'm not old! I'm younger than I've ever been.
Buy a house. You're thirty and wasting money renting! Do I really need to own a house? Do I really want to pay for a new water heater when it dies? Do I even know where I want that house to be?
So my journey right now is attempting to prioritize playing outside, and making that the best thing I can do as a human. Working just supports that. Think about what would happen if everyone prioritized a simple, wildly fun outdoor activity.
Remember when you dreamed of adventure as a kid? I wanted to go to space. I had absolutely no idea what that entailed, I just wanted to float around and eat that astronaut ice cream. Not a lot has changed. But for a long time, I thought it had to.
It's taken me years to get to the place where it's okay to prioritize fun. I used to fold myself into this business casual person that tried, but really didn't attend to the wrinkles in her trousers. There was that Ann Taylor version of myself that I had held for my thirties that never really stuck. I tried. But it always felt like a costume.
Costumes can be fun. But playing dressup only suits me when it's my choice and it doesn't happen often. When I have to dress up for work, I feel like I'm playing a character. Like I'm totally Dagwood Bumstead.
Thirty meant something when I was twenty. I had all these preconceived notions about what thirty would look like, borrowing heavily from my mother's life. Being twenty something was about "finding yourself" and then you find you! And then you buy a house, have some kids, pay attention to the quality of your shoes and carve out a nice little life and be in the same place long enough to know your neighbors.
Except I am nowhere near living the life of my mother. And I think that's probably okay.
But what I cannot forgive is that I'm thirty and I'm just now facing all these crazy questions and I'm letting myself struggle with them. What am I supposed to do with my life? And an even scarier question: Will I ever get to the point where I will definitively know? And if the answer is no, is it okay to be okay with that? And if the answer is "exactly what you're doing: enjoy every breath," and has nothing to do with my occupation, how long will it take to actually accept that answer, unconditionally?
It is so easy to start piling up adult responsibilities so I don't have to face these questions. These questions are hard. They take courage to face. Sometimes I want to quit, buy a house and think about stock market stuff. "Adulting" is easier socially because it's fitting in with what thirty year olds are expected to do. Settle down. Have a baby. It's an easy diversion and what is expected and completely great and wonderful if that's truly what you want. And I'm not sure it's what I want. But it's what I always go back to when I'm unsure and scared and way too focused on the future.
But my friend Willie Nelson told me, "Time will take care of itself, so just leave time alone," and I think it's time I start listening to that man.
Sometimes I feel like the best thing I can do is have fun, laugh a lot, make sure I'm really enjoying every minute I can, and other times I feel unfocused, like I'm wasting time, like if I sat down for a second and updated my resume and really gave the job search a good college try, I'd be in a better position. But sometimes there's nothing better than having that feeling of a never ending good day outside on the slopes, playing softball, hiking with good friends, not even having a thought about laundry, 401Ks, presentations or groceries. It's all about fun. And it's possible until you die.
When I waver on "work sometimes, play always," it's because I let that old mentality of working hard and being professionally successful as being the number one ultimate goal thing creep in. But who is that profiting? So I can pay down my perpetual student loan sooner? Who cares? Since when did we willingly give up belly laughs and all day smiles to be more financially "responsible"? Since when did we give up playing outside till dusk when the streetlights came on so we could sit in our armchairs and sulk about how rough Monday is going to be? We traded in our grass stained jeans to iron our work slacks and for what? How does this make sense?
I get that you can have both. I get that having a house and kids can be a great source of fun and happiness. I get that jobs can be fun, that you can have a job that you work hard at and also have a lot of good times. And maybe I will get there someday. But right now, I'm not focused on that road, and I refuse to do something I'm expected to do instead of doing something that I really really want to do. And I've met people that seem to have lost the ability to enjoy anything. I was that person and I never want to be that person again. It's death while still being able to breathe.
Don't grow up. It's a trap. It's a costume. It's an act. Protect the right to be silly in the grocery store on a Tuesday afternoon. Wear socks with bears on them. Watch cartoons. Perfect your nose spoon game. Play outside till dark. Sleep in and do laundry later. Take a mental health day and call it a mental health day. Be irresponsible once. Or twice! Set a precedent of taking care of yourself, in whatever way is necessary, instead of glamorizing "busy" and "working hard." Have a real day of nothing and don't feel bad at all. Brag to your friends about how much fun it was to do nothing, or everything! instead of complaining about how busy you are and that you have no time. That's your choice, you know. I work hard everyday, but I'm working on my spirit and my health before anything else in this world. And so far, it's been the best few years of my life.