“I’m Too Busy For Fun” Is a Fairy Tale We Tell Ourselves

Why is being an adult more limiting than liberating?

Photo by Mark Stenglein on Unsplash

Last week I took a walk around my neighborhood. It was already dark and cold outside and the lighted windows of the houses I passed promised warmth. I saw flickering lights of TVs and spotted people in their kitchen, making dinner. And then I saw two girls on the street before me, riding on something that looked like skateboards. As I came closer, I realized they had wave boards — and a lot of fun, riding them up and down the street.

I never had one of those or tried driving them but as I watched them, I felt the urge to try it myself. And then I almost laughed at myself, as immediately all those adult thoughts came to my mind.

Why on earth should I do this? I’ll probably fall and break a leg. And if that doesn’t happen, I’ll definitely look stupid as hell, as a grown-up woman on such a board, riding down the street.

And who has time for this? Besides work and my responsibilities, I certainly don’t have time to go and play outside. That’s a ridiculous thought for a grown-up. It further doesn’t seem productive or like something that grown-ups do, to recover in their leisure time.

And of course, in this cold and dark weather aren’t there other things to enjoy? After a long day of work who wants to drag oneself out of the house instead of relaxing on the couch with a blanket and a smartphone? We’ve been on our feet the whole day, we get to relax in the evening.

I continued my walk, thinking about the limits I instantly put on myself after having a harmless idea that sounded fun. Actually, I had no idea where those thoughts were coming from, so I started examining them.

As kids, we ask why a lot of times, since we have a multitude of questions. But when the answer is it’s fun, we don’t ask twice. We do it. As grown-ups, it’s not a valid reason, to do something. Of course, it’s fun to party all night, but we can’t afford it if there is work waiting the next day. So, we learn to suppress our urge for having fun in a certain way. Instead, we carve out tiny time bits in our days or weeks where we allow ourselves to do something fun.

I guess this is necessary since life does require more discipline of us than it did back in our childhood. Still, on that evening after my walk, it didn’t feel right.

Work and our responsibilities eat up our days and leave little time for ourselves. But on that evening, I jotted down the five major activities I participated in during the week. And how much time they took. And besides work, exercise and writing, I found I spent a few hours daily watching TV. So, if I’m still able to spend this amount of time in front of my TV, isn’t there time to do something that is playing and fun? Like wave boarding outside?

Sure, watching TV or scrolling through our smartphones is the more convenient alternative in our leisure time, especially in winter. After a long day of work, we’ve earned the right to give our bodies a break, to lay on the couch where it’s warm and cozy. Yet, how many of us have jobs where we’re active, where our bodies do the work? I guess for most of us, working means sitting in front of a computer while our brain does the work. We do feel exhausted after such a day, but that’s mental exhaustion. Maybe our bodies would be grateful if they were allowed to move, even in coldness and darkness. And actually, our minds would be grateful too. But we don’t conquer ourselves, to do this.

So, the limits I put on myself that evening seemed off in retrospect. Didn’t we always want to grow up, so that our parents couldn’t tell us what to do and what not to do? Wasn’t the promise of being an adult that we get to decide how to live our lives, when and how long to play? And isn’t the game we take part in ours to choose?

We learn very fast that the freedom of growing up and living life on our own comes with a multitude of responsibilities. Unfortunately, we further learn that as adults, the thought of having fun in life is met with skepticism. Think about how conversations with friends change as we become adults. We mostly complain about how tired and stressed we are and that there is no time left for enjoying ourselves. But isn’t that a fairy-tale we keep telling ourselves? A fairy-tale that is common and almost worn as a badge since it implies we’re doing important things. But as I said, I do find a fair amount of time each day to watch TV. Others may be stuck on their smartphones, on social media, or killing time with phone calls. This time could be used to do something for ourselves or to do something that is fun.

But we don’t do that. What would the neighbors say?

So I guess, we’re too often full of ourselves. We worry about how we live life, if we have chosen the right career path, and we’re obsessed with comparing ourselves to others. We rather look at ourselves through our boss’ eyes or our friends’ eyes. If we’d stop that, what would we allow ourselves to do?

It may not be wave boarding but we should do more of those things that look like fun, especially when our self-imposed limits tell us, we shouldn’t.

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