This I Believe

Ashley - Honolulu, Hawaii
Entered on January 23, 2007

The Power of Playing

As a 23-year-old “semi-adult,” I’ve decided people are growing up too quickly: adults focusing on careers and retirement; teens fixating on body image, popularity, and sex; and even children obsessing over brand names and cell phones. Folks get caught up in becoming what they think adults should be instead of who they really are, and in the process, forget they’re all just kids who need a break.

So I believe in recess. Fun, sweaty, silly recess. I believe in never losing the child within. The kid who plays tag, laughs at knock-knock jokes, and doesn’t care what people think. The one who loves splashing at the beach all day. No make-up; just messy, salt-water-styled hair. The kid who devours pizza and cake at a party instead of saying, “No, thanks,” because it never mattered how the swimsuit fit, as long as it could withstand rolling in the waves and hold the sand that inevitably collects in all the wrong places.

They say when life gets hectic, the solution is to should sit and regroup. I say, “Go play!” Take a spin on the monkey bars. Dance while someone else watches. Go barefoot. That’s how I lived my childhood, and I can’t remember ever being upset for more than a moment.

As a child, I read for hours, engrossed in the fantasies words brought to life. Now, pleasure reading doesn’t exist. Instead, I complain about the drudgery of reading and my resulting lack of free time. How nice it once was to whine, “I don’t wanna go to school,” to avoid multiplication tables, stay home, eat Otter Pops, and watch cartoons. Life as a child was so simple…my how things have changed!

But I am not condoning irresponsibility. Kids know the basics: looking both ways before crossing the street and brushing their teeth before bed. But still they remain innocent. Stress-free. Something as silly as a stain won’t ruin their day. So when “adulthood” gets to me, I look to my inner child.

My favorite childhood playground was a resort with trams meandering through the property, boats navigating waterways, pools with waterslides, and a dolphin pond. It’s beautiful – a palace, really – and I used to pretend it was all mine. Last weekend, to ease the stress of a paper, 100-plus page reading assignment, and upcoming finals, I chose to enjoy life at my former palace. No makeup; just messy, swimming-pool-styled hair. I played on hammocks, kicking my feet in the air to make it swing. I ate whatever sounded good, though, on this occasion, the “grown-up” in me preferred lobster, wine, and soufflé over pizza and ice cream…but that’s okay. My worries disappeared.

If people take time out for recess each day, business would be honest, “cool” would mean sharing chocolate instead of driving an expensive car, and ultimately, life would actually mean living.

The influential philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, said, “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” It just goes to show – some of the world’s most successful adults believe in child-like innocence.

When I grow up, I want to be a little girl.