What happened to playing?

May 23, 2018

As you know, I quit my “proper” job in December 2017 in the hope of changing my lifestyle. I wanted to travel less and have more of an opportunity to be creative. The travel less part is perhaps not being achieved at the moment but that’s for a very good reason which I will explain!

Right now, I’m on an epic journey across England as part of Eden Project’sThe Big Walk“. The idea is that four teams set off from Morecambe (the geographical center of the UK) and walk home for a big lunch on 3rd June. We have Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and English teams and I’m the Events Manager for the England route. On the way down to our finish point in London, we stop off at groups doing amazing things to make a positive difference to their community. We set off on Wednesday 16th May and have met groups such as Bentley Urban Farm, Doncopolitan, The Growing Zone and the Margaret Carey Foundation.

I found one of these groups, The Growing Zone, at the end of a dirt track flanked by allotment plots. The sun was shining and I was looking forward to being outside. I was greeted by June, a lady who I’m sure she won’t mind being described as older. June welcomed us in with the cheeky attitude and energy of a teenager. The aim of the allotment garden project is to bring together people of all ages and abilities in a safe environment, to encourage peer learning, build confidence and new skills focussed on the land and growing. The place is amazing; colourful, interesting, thoughtfully laid out.

What I loved about it, is that we were encouraged to play. We tried our hands at painting, burning patterns and words into wood, decorating garden ornaments and got the “stocks” out to throw wet sponges at the walkers. It was fun and silly and made me think about how little playing I do in real life.

Thomas, one of the walkers is 67, a year younger than my dad. He’s a cool dude, very calm and proper. He is a member of a golf club and has been sharing videos of what we have been up to on route with his friends at home. We have been creating video content for Eden’s Instagram Twitter and Facebook which has generally involved us making cheesy, ridiculous videos. Thomas remarked on how his friends can’t believe what he’s up to, it’s “not like him” to be so frivolous. I felt sad when he said that because he’s been having so much fun and to not have that in daily life seemed like a missed opportunity.

I realised that the change of lifestyle I wanted when I quit my job wasn’t just about reducing travel or increasing creativity, it was about playing. I had lost the opportunity to play and be silly. I realised from my short time at The Growing Zone, just how stifling I had found being sensible. The only real playing I have done this year was an impromptu snowball fight which I loved.

So I’m going to start playing and encourage others to do the same. I’m not sure what that will look like or how I’ll make it happen but it’s important to do. Playing is about dropping your guard and letting yourself make a fool of yourself. It’s letting go of these personas we are taught we need to adopt and being vulnerable in front of other people. Mostly, it’s about giving yourself permission to have FUN.

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