Work Hard, Play Hard
In third grade, I woke up at 5 AM in the morning to memorize a letter. It was a letter for my grandparents – my pioneer grandparents. I pretended like it was a cold winter in the 1800s and my Mama had to knit the family thicker socks. I had to write this letter for my Social Studies test. That’s right, at the age of 8, I got up at five in the morning to memorize the answer to the final question in my third grade test. Mind you, my mother wrote it for me.
I memorized it so well that I got a perfect score. My teacher was so proud of me. Imagine – her ESL student wrote such a heartfelt letter to her hypothetical pioneer grandparents. She even had me read it in front of the class.
You could argue I didn’t deserve the grade. I cheated. After all, I didn’t compose this letter. But I was the one who rose at 5 AM to memorize it. Yes, I cheated. But I argue, I showed commitment and obedience to my studies and my mom (original writer of pioneer letter). I put school above everything. I always had a pencil and lined paper. Do you think I cared when my crush was finally playing in the nearby park that afternoon? Nope. “Books before boys because boys bring babies,” was my Grade 7 mantra.
“You’re so studious,” my aunts would comment. I still carry this attitude to this day. I wouldn’t call it being “studious” though. I would called it “workaholism”.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s like this. I know a few people who grew up tied to lots of commitments – school, work, extracurricular activities. We say yes and give our time. But the moment we want to saying no, guilt and shame coat our guts because we workaholics can never say that.
If you catch us saying “no”, perhaps it’s because we’re burnout, we don’t feel appreciated, or we’re just fed up.
I wrecked my nervous system in second year. I was balancing two part-time jobs, a full university course load, and volunteering at a research lab and a youth group. I also toyed around with caffeine, checking to see if it can turn me into a more efficient version of myself. I saw other university students do this, so why can’t I? I pulled this off for four months. Then I had pleasure of meeting my first nervous breakdown.
Did I learn anything?
Yes. No matter how hard I push, there are times I can’t handle everything. But I also learned, that I had forgotten to give time for myself.
I still carry these workaholic tendencies. I say yes whenever my boss offers me hours on the weekends. I say yes when there’s a new project to do for the youth group. But this time, it’s a bit different.
I gave myself time to play. Working 9 to 5, cooking, doing laundry, catching up with friends/significant other, or spending time with your family is hard to balance. It makes you scream. You find yourself reaching for a magical button where one push can add more time to the day or add more energy to your body. You know you need time to rest. But did you know you also needed time to play?
Play is when you create time for something you love, something that’s fun. Almost always it’s a hobby. For instance, I love drawing and painting. It’s my favorite way to spend my weekends. Now you might say “wait, you’re an illustrator, doesn’t that still count as work?” No silly. You’re not listening. This is for me. Not for a paycheck, not for a gold star. But for me.
Play, it turns out, is just as important as rest. It let’s us relax. It makes our brain work it’s creative side. When we set aside some play time, we do things just because they are fun. No need to worry about perfection. No need to worry about efficiency. The only rule during play time is “have fun”. (Thank you Brené Brown for writing Gifts of Imperfection.)
How do I find what I like to do?
My brain freezes when someone asks me “what’s your hobby?” Word vomit would rise to my throat. What’s my hobby? Eating? Sleeping? Wait, those are just normal human processes. Holy crap I’m boring.
Now that I finally carved out time and returned to what I love, I can fully answer it. Drawing.
To find out what kind of “play” will be best for you, there are two questions you can ask yourself to guide your path:
1. What activity do I miss the most?
Do you find yourself daydreaming about playing your guitar? Dancing? Singing? Sewing? Playing tennis? Reading a book? Maybe that’s where your play time can start.
2. What did I love to do when I was 10 years old?
Before social media distracted you, thanks to the machine at the palm of your hand, how did you spend your time? Were you like me, surrounded by paper and pencils, dreaming of owning all the pencil crayons in the world? Or maybe you went out to collect leaves? Did you play video games? Or did you like making things like gimp bracelets (lol remember when that was a thing?) Maybe that’s where your play time can start.
These two questions helped me narrow down what I wanted to do during play time. There are times when I’m tempted to try all the hobbies that popped into my head, but for now I’m returning to my roots. I bet 8 year old me would’ve loved to spend hours drawing instead of memorizing a letter for Social Studies.
You’ve worked hard from a young age. It’s time for you to play.
Let me know what you think and share what you love to do during your play time.