By: Emma Johnston
“Why do we work?” my dad asked me this the other day as I sat drinking a tea in his dining room and jabbering on about my busy schedule and my never ending to do list.
An array of answers came to mind. I work so I can pay the bills, I work so I can contribute financially to our family’s goals, I work because I find it meaningful and fulfilling, I work because if I stayed home I’d go stir crazy… there were lots of answers, but my father, the ever intellectual, didn’t really care about any of that. Sure, those are good and responsible things to say, and sure, he knows I’m not lazy or unambitious, so he’s not worried about his grandchildren going hungry, but he was looking for a specific answer.
I shrugged and waited, “we work so that we have the resources so we can PLAY!” he said. I found this concept revolutionary. I love to play! I love to go to the beach or go skating or go on hikes. I love taking pictures and going to the movies and kayaking. I love singing loudly and throwing parties and going to community craft nights. I love this stuff. I love seeking adventures and getting outside and sewing dolls clothes for my daughter and building Lego fortresses. Playing is the best! And I realized that it is a sad life to lead if I never play. If I’m so busy working, if my time is so full of deadlines and chores and laundry and meetings that I don’t have time to play – then that’s no life at all.
This realization was re-affirmed a couple days later when my son was recording the books he’d read since New Years on the Calendar.
“How many books have you read so far this year?” he asked as he recorded his third novel since the start of January.
“I haven’t had time to read.” I told him absently – The look of sheer horror and disappointment that shot across my son’s face made me stop in my tracks.
“Too busy to read?!” he repeated in devastation.
And I realized, to my own dismay, that this was in fact a terrible thing for me to say. I wasn’t saying that I was too busy to read (we are all given 24 hours a day, it is our choice how we use that time) what I was saying was that I had prioritized working, cleaning, chores, ‘busyness’ OVER reading.
Reading is something we encourage our children to do, we push it in the schools, we run library programs and book clubs and sell millions of books a year – why? Because reading makes our brains grow. It makes us see the world a little differently, opens our minds, pushes and extends us. Reading contributes to our mental well being, makes us more intelligent, more well rounded and compassionate. Reading gives us safe modes of escape, broadens our horizons and teaches us new things. Reading is more than just an important element of a child’s education, it is imperative to life long learning! Yet, even more than any of that, more than the cognitive and social benefits of learning and personal growth, reading is just – fun.
And I told my son, without any hesitation or forethought, that I just didn’t have time for that! The horror…the shame!
Between my father reminding me that life is basically meaningless unless you take the time to enjoy it, and my son, horrified that his mother would prioritize all the wrong things, I have experienced a significant sense of conviction. I was overpowered by the sheer realization that I don’t ever want to be so engrossed in an occupation or so caught up on the state of my house or so overwhelmed by the ‘chores and to do list’ that I don’t have time to PLAY.
I want, in 40 years to look back on my life and say ‘wow, that was fun!’ and then go out and play some more.
I want to carve time into my life, prioritize my schedule so that I can have fun, time in my day to play and laugh and enjoy. Otherwise, what are we all doing this for?
We only get one shot at life. One little glimmer of time and we have a choice how we use it. Yes, I’ll work hard. Yes, I’ll put in my full hours each day at my career and I’ll give it my all. Yes, I’ll do chores, I’ll do the laundry and clean the kitchen and get groceries – of course. But when I’ve done what I have to do. Once those bills are paid and the children are fed, I’m going to play! I’m going to take classes and go out with my friends, I’m going to build a snowman, and get ice cream and shoot my kids’ with nerf guns.
Heck, I’m going to curl up on the couch beside my son and read a good long book.
No more ‘too busy to have fun.’ No more misplaced priorities, no more push until you die mentality. If I only get one shot at life, I’m going to work hard, but I’m absolutely going to play harder.
Because, as the saying goes –
You need to work like a Captain,
But you need to PLAY like a Pirate!