I'm a strong believer that all good, important work is inherently difficult to do, and can only be sustained if it's done playfully. Yes, social justice is a super serious and important topic. So is serving under-resourced, trauma-impacted, or sick folks. But can important work also be fun?
My vote is a strong and emphatic yes.
I'd go so far as to say that good, important work needs to be done playfully. We don't have a choice but to have fun while we're working! Otherwise, we'd all burn out long before we can finish the job. Play is what keeps the daily grind fresh; it's what keeps us creative and resilient. Without having fun with all these serious tasks at hand, we wouldn't be able to sustain our emotional or intellectual selves.
And if we can't sustain ourselves, how can we even get shit done?
Just ask the teacher who makes up silly songs to teach math, or the healer who jams with her musician friends on weekends. Not only does this prevent the work from feeling like the "slog", but it makes it more engaging for everyone involved--both the ones being served, and the ones who are serving.
Play, fun, and creativity: these are all the same thing to me. Even just saying these words out loud (try it!) is energizing. Can you feel that? There's a child-like lightness that's associated with them.
What comes to your mind when you think about play, fun, or creativity? Maybe a feeling, sensation, visual, or memory?
For me, I often think of laughter with friends and playful movement.
It's no surprise that I felt the most effective and joyful when I was embodying these things during my very first (and probably most difficult) job as a camp counselor for children and adults with disabilities. No matter how grueling each camp session was, we'd end the week with a camp-wide talent show. I'd help my campers into silly costumes, don a purple wig and red tutu, and bust out ridiculous dance moves with them as we all grooved to the music. It was during these times that I was able to best connect with my campers, my co-workers, and my role as counselor and mentor.
Fifteen years later, I still feel the most present and productive when I let myself laugh and be a little silly--both during and outside of my work. This can be as subtle as wearing quirky little cat earrings, or as seemingly ordinary as sharing funny moments in my day with colleagues. It doesn't matter how small the action is; what matters is that I'm deliberately incorporating playfulness into my otherwise serious and important responsibilities.
Now, it's your turn. It's time for you to take fun seriously!
It's easy for grown folks to take themselves too seriously, and as a result, they put aside activities and ways of being that they think are childish. But being child-like is not the same as being childish. Being child-like--that is, being playful and using humor to your advantage--can be one of the most effective ways to sustain the very "adult" things you do.
What is one playful, fun, or creative activity you'll do this week? Or how will you do one task this week in a playful way?
Write it down. Schedule it. Put it in your calendar.
If you make play a habit, I promise you'll start feeling more resilient and energetic in your daily life. And that is no laughing matter.
Cheers to your inner goofball,