“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” -Carl Jung
I have two daughters. A few years ago, the older one was in kindergarten and the younger one had started attending the preschool program at the nonprofit where I work.
Becoming a parent is a life-changing, full-scale seismic event. During that time when my daughters first started school I felt, finally, like the dust had settled. I took a deep breath, looked around, and realized I had my body and my mind all to myself (for a few hours a day anyway) for the first time in over six years. And I had no idea what to do with either one.
While I was experiencing this post-parenthood existential crisis, I was also learning, through the education and advocacy work I was doing with my nonprofit, about the developmental importance of play for children. And I was feeling a little jealous. For children, play is a way to deal with complex emotions, to feel their bodies move in space, to experiment with their own voice, to try out different roles, test relationships, discover creativity and feel their own power.
When, I wondered, do we adults ever get a chance to do any of that? (And, seriously, why wasn’t I doing more of that?)
So I made a conscious choice to add more play into my life and into my work– to embrace the creativity and quirkiness and general weirdness that make up my personality, rather than try to hide these qualities under a responsible “adult” veneer. I started talking to people about play, and reading everything I could get my hands on about play. I watched children (my own and others) as they played, and I played with them. I even attended a national Conference on the Value of Play. I needed to know: at what point in our lives do we adults stop playing– and why? When do we become so self-conscious and serious and forget the one thing that all children are born knowing– that the world is a beautiful, ever-changing wondrous place?
In my own process of remembering, and playing with my children and my friends (and with words, ideas and photographic images– with these objects that I love), I discovered a truth: my passion, my talent, lies in reminding others of the beautiful connection we all have to each other and to simple everyday wonder, magic and playfulness. I can do this as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as a photographer, as a writer.
Whatever my medium– the point is that I have to do it. It’s what makes me happy; it’s the way I’m most me, the way I can make the world just a tiny bit better while I’m here. And I discovered this about myself through play.
What would you discover if you remembered how to play?
Say yes to play by supporting these organizations that support play for children and adults: