I hear a lot that play is for other people. Of course, the most common refrain is that play is for children, not the adults who expound this maxim. But I also get it about lots of other groups.
“It’s what parents do,”
I hear from childless worker bees.
“I imagine single people have time to play,”
I hear from stressed parents.
“I’m too busy working to have time to play – that’s for people with free time.”
“The only adults I know who play are those workaholics who talk about working hard and playing hard.”
You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this: play is for everyone.
And if you think it’s not for the group you identify with – or is for a group you don’t – it might help to stop and think what reason the others might have not to play themselves – and why they’d think you can.
Making time just to play is hard. It involves putting yourself first – or at least realising you need to refill your own cup if you’re going to help others. This is why I always advocate finding where you already play first, so you can at least do that activity a bit more consciously.
But I would be loath to stop just there – because everyone deserves to make some time to play, and would benefit from it. I don’t see play as an optional extra to a life, but as a vital part of a full and functioning human experience. Sure, there’s a hierarchy of needs, and when you’re starving you may not take time out from seeking food to play. The fact that adding play to that hunt could make it happen faster, or at least more pleasantly, is another post. But most of us aren’t starving or searching for shelter.
For many of us, if we feel we’re struggling it’s because we feel it’s important to buy something new or better, not because we’re lacking the basics. And as we strive for more I think it’s pretty vital that we add the right ingredients for a happy life – play being one of them – rather than just those that are visible and fed to us.
It can be a lonely place when you feel that other people are supposed to play and you are not. So let me reassure you that very many people feel that way. They each have a different excuse and call it a reason, for why they aren’t the people to play.
If you’re needing permission, I’m happy to dispense it. If you need telling, I’m happy to prescribe play. Ultimately the right to play can only come from you, but luckily it’s yours already, because you are a homo ludens, after all!