Making Time to Play
Mirth! Joy! Reckless Abandon!
When I was young—a rather petite and shy little boy, that is—you might have needed the jaws of life to pry my hands from the chains of a swing or the monkey bars of a playground. I would shriek at the dizzying spells of a merry-go-round and run up (to slide down from) a slide in rhythmic perpetuity.
My childhood was kind of magical in some ways. I played hopscotch and often sat on a branch of a guava tree while I joyously devoured its sweet, ripe fruit. To get out of the house, I spent summers riding my bike to a place called Lion’s Park where I would sit and stare out into the gorgeous lagoon it bordered (and of course, attack the playground).
One important quality about my life that I miss about my youth was the frequent moments of unbridled bliss I experienced whenever I was at play. Life is complicated as an adult, and the independence we assert as such comes with so much responsibility. There are bills, a barrage of emails to write and answer, therapists to appease, cars to endlessly drive, and households to maintain. Moments of bliss free of pressure or worry have become quite rare. They are luxuries that are vastly available in childhood but diminish exponentially with each passing year.
As adults, the instances that we consider “play” are far removed from what they once were. Grownups have sex with each other. They drink alcohol at a club and dance all night. They play games on digital consoles or on their phones for hours. Of course, all of these activities can be fun, but they often happen within a compartmentalized and very busy existence. Sometimes, they are a form of avoidance and distraction from having to do something difficult. Adults playing around often comes with an unwelcome caveat.
Whenever I go to a park these days, I see the adults pushing the kids on swings. They are not the ones gliding down the slides or dangling from the monkey bars. There is something sad about this sight, but I understand that having a bunch of adults hogging the playground would not work either. Besides, most adults do not seem to consider any of that fun anymore.
These days, moments of blissful, unbridled play are instances I have to actively seek out and curate within my busy life. I am not into alcohol and drugs, but I find other ways to make them happen.
When I am not preparing for a show or learning something new on the piano, I sometimes noodle around and improvise with no goal other than just to play. With no emotion to express or song to sing, this is serious fun for me. Here is an improvisation I recorded on my phone:
Here is a little video of me playing with my kitten Chopin.
Just yesterday, I taught my niece Victoria how to play the super-fun game of speed with a deck of playing cards. She caught on well, and time flew by.
Most days, I have to be a boring adult, and when I look back at my life, I often regret that I took so many things so seriously. I did not take the time to enjoy myself along the way.
Thankfully, I am still alive and breathing. I can seek out fun and mirth and unbridled joy even if they have to happen in small doses. I will take all that I can get. If I come across an empty playground, I attack everything. I love my abstract flower doodles, and sometimes, when no one is around, I dance.
Whoever that fun-seeking, petite, and shy little boy was, he still lives somewhere within me now, and I have to consciously remember that he deserves his own time out in the sun.
No one ever questions why children are ever at play. It is simply integral to who they are. Maybe I should not question or have to justify experiencing uninhibited joy in my life too. It can be integral to me just for the fun of it.
Yeah, just for the fun of it.
P.S. For those of you who live in the greater Nashville area or in Sarasota, Florida, here are my upcoming shows:
12/03/2023: the French House in Nashville, TN (w/ special guest Josefine)
12/10/2023: Piano Sessions at Aviva in Sarasota, FL
Please mark your calendars and come out to a show!
This past week, I took some time to stroll down memory lane. I thought about my early days as a musician and flipped through a bunch of old photos. When I first moved to Nashville, I started playing in a bunch of open mics. Eventually, I mounted shows in small cafes and music venues. I remember feeling both excited and tired all the time. It was a lot of working doing all those things. These days, I am blessed to have a band of musicians to play my music with, and my approach to live performance has more to do with creativity, personal growth, and self-care than it did before. Nonetheless, that younger version of me still had so much to learn, and I learned a lot of it the hard way. With space and time, my life has gotten better, and I am thankful.
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