I currently work at an elementary school as a teacher’s assistant. I am also a mother to an 8-year-old. I am fortunate to bear witness to the physical definition of play, beyond it being just a kindergarten sight word.
For 30 minutes of my workday I’m with kindergarteners, and every single day I walk out of that classroom thinking, “Man, teachers should be paid more” (seriously, they should). I also always walk out smiling and often laughing at the freedom they embody.
So unapologetically themselves.
Each one of them, just counting down the minutes until they can play at recess.
We’re all just counting down the minutes until we can play.
Play equals freedom to be our authentic selves.
At the end of every school day, my son asks: “Mom, can I go play on the playground?”
Truth be told, I've been the mom that tells him the playground is closed in an attempt to free myself from sitting there for 45 minutes.
But why? Why did I do this?
Obviously the first answer that comes to mind is: “Because I’m tired.” And honestly that is a true response—I AM tired, but how did I become a play thief?
He’s asking me to be free beyond the binds of long 6-hour school days where he’s not always free to just be. He’s asking to laugh and run freely with his friends, where no hand-raising is needed to accomplish a task. He’s wanting to express himself in one of the only ways he knows how—by playing.
He’s asking to freely be himself.
How can I turn that down?
We all work our asses off to reach moments of freedom. We all want to stretch out in our realness and show the world our truest colors because that is what comes naturally to every human being. We’re all begging to be our authentic selves 100% of the time; we just usually shove that feeling down in order to “pay the bills.”
That “I want to get away” feeling? That’s a nudge to show up for yourself, to take a break from what you’ve been made to feel is more important than existing just as you are.
The beach trip that you’re wanting to book looks so incredible because at the beach, you’re free.
Free from whatever stress is weighing on you at the moment. But that freedom is fleeting, isn’t it? You’ll leave your beach bungalow and return to your job, only to work your ass off again so you can plan a return to the same bungalow that helps you to feel more in touch with who you really are.
Look, I get it. We have to work to survive, and yes, that job may drown out the “good time” in you, but it is what pays for the beloved getaways. I don’t want you to quit your job, but I also don’t want you to quit your daydream. The past few weeks at work the students have been doing a lot of end-of-the-year testing. I’ve watched many amazing teachers incorporate play into their days to help alleviate stress for the kids. One teacher even brought in a bubble machine to encourage the kids to remember joy even in the midst of anxious moments. I’ve seen teachers give their students “brain breaks”, where they let them dance to music or get up and wiggle. This was a reminder to me that all of us can bring a little bit of play into our everyday, even at work or school?
To offset the waiting game until your next vacay, let’s find ways to tweak your days into being more playful!
Wear the clothes that honor who you are. Even in the midst of professionalism, nobody is going to get mad at you for bringing a little flair.
Lunch where you're happy. Most everyone gets a break at work. Use that time to uplift your day. Eat outside, go to a coffee shop, people watch, write a poem. Order or prepare a meal you’d have on vacay! Close your eyes and you're there (if only for a moment).
Listen to music. Music makes everything better, always. Dancing to and from in your car or on your walk doesn’t hurt either. Just as Florence says in this song: “and for a moment when I’m dancing, I am free” - you too can have that moment away from anxiety and stress—DANCE..
Aromatherapy. Smells are scientifically proven to affect the brain. Buy an oil that reminds you of your favorite place (this is where I buy my oils) Or burn a candle, or buy some lotion. Smell the smell!
Laugh. Even in the middle of a long work/school day, take a break and phone a friend, send a message, or retell a funny memory to a coworker. When you’re laughing, you’re playing.
Find Your Play
Watching children play, we can find ourselves reminiscing on the days when we were that “lucky.” Thinking back to when times were simpler and easier. However, even children are stressed. Trust me, it’s hard to learn 100 sight words in 9 months.
They’re working just as hard as we are; they’re just better at incorporating their joy into multiple moments of each day.
So, I ask you to learn from the children—they’re much wiser than we are most of the time. Playing tag might not be your jam, but I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t laugh going down a slide on their belly. Remember to take a “brain break” (or three) each day. Find your play—it’s waiting for you.
About the Author
Born and raised in West Virginia, you'll find Heather's heart outlined in the Appalachian mountains. She has strong passions for writing, healing, and music. She has spent much of her life spreading the message of ‘loving without conditions', all the while kicking up dirt - barefoot and dancing. While she has been an Energy Worker for over 15 years, a self-published author, and a business owner - Heather's truest love lies in being a mother...her continuous reminder of unconditional love and heartfelt laughter.