I was sitting on the beach the other day when I saw a girl with her mom digging in the sand in front of me. They were giggling as they dug their purple shovels into the sand. The girl seemed to be about five, and was full of life and joy. There was no right way to dig and she didn’t care how messy she got.
Moments later, the girl starts skipping towards me. “You are pretty” she says innocently. I began to cry, not out of sadness, but because I felt loved and appreciated. In two seconds I remembered the simplicity of this playground called life.
When did I lose this? At what age did I feel as if I needed to stop telling others they were pretty? Smart? Awesome? Loved…you name it. Why did I mute myself into becoming an adult? When I choose to play in this game of life, I am choosing to be in the moment of now. I am digging deeper into the sand and understanding that the castles I build are created by the beliefs I hold.
Watching children play is watching masters at work. They get it. For years, I lived off my belief that life was meant to be hard. I got the degrees, won the awards, got married, had the perfect home and still something was missing. Becoming an adult meant responsibility, success, marriage, stability and security. I checked each box off every day, yet found myself feeling heavy and lost. I did everything “right” yet forgot one thing. Was I happy? At the age of 28, I stopped, looked at the sandcastles I had built, and asked “Who said life is meant to be like this?” I realized that I was living by everyone else’s rules, and decided to ask myself what it was that I wanted in life. The answers started a playful journey to living one blissful moment at a time.
I believe our world is on autopilot most of the time. In order to choose our own path, one must believe in the possibility of MAGIC, PASSION, PLAY and LOVE. Play is all about believing. Believing that life is meant to be enjoyed, not survived, embraced not memorized, loved not loathed. I love to watch a kid make a sand castle, or paint a picture and see their willingness to create without rules, design without limitations, and build without expectations.
Deep down inside, I was craving to color outside the lines, or “mess” up without labeling myself a failure. I believe perfectionism bruised my soul, and distracted me from fully experiencing each playful moment. I was being told from society that in order to be successful I needed to do it “right” or be “good.” I was trying so hard to be perfect, that I forgot to enjoy the ride.
I was tired of being told that success involved sacrifice, competition, struggle and compromise. I decided to re-create a new way of defining success. Instead of struggling I wanted to celebrate. Instead of being “the best” I chose to be happy. Life became a playground, offering new slides to climb up and new jungle gyms to easefully explore.
Play became a way of life, not something on my “to do” list. I believe we are conditioned to wait for the weekends, vacations or retirement to finally be happy. I am not waiting.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.