I have lived in the same neighborhood my entire life and I consider myself one lucky individual because there is simply something magical about it. It’s not because I am sentimental either, because even my friends and their families who have lived there and moved elsewhere say the same thing.
Every once in a while I will walk around and visit the numerous parks, stroll through the trails, visit my elementary school, or just look over in awe at the beautiful mountains and trees. I relive all of the wonderful things I did as a child. Back then it felt like life was a 24/7 cycle of playing.
Sometimes I will get sentimental because so much has changed throughout my 27 years of being on this earth. The menagerie of various tree and plant species is nowhere near as abundant as it used to be. The houses look brand new even though they’ve been there since the 60s and 70s. The bridge that lit up the night with its blue lights and connected two neighborhoods together has long been gone, and all of my childhood friends have moved to different areas of the world.
For a while, the streets were oddly quiet, questionably too quiet. Not consisting of a cacophonous roar of children laughing and yelling like the neighborhood I grew up in, where there were children that played in the street from summer’s dusk to summer’s dawn. But recently my neighborhood has experienced an influx of young families and I hear children playing in the streets again, and it brings me so much joy to think that these kids will have good memories of this neighborhood too.
On one of my walks, I started to wonder: when did I stop playing outside? I can’t put my finger on it, but I do remember turning 13 was a big deal to me because I told myself I was no longer a child. But I still explored the neighborhood, and still played with my dog when I would take her on walks, take her on walks, and watch her in joy and amazement when she would get lost in the bushes.
As I got older, I stopped exploring the valleys, I stopped utilizing my imagination, and I was more likely to be inside on my computer than I would be with friends.
Thinking like this used to make me feel morose, but the more I have been reframing negative or melancholic thoughts, the more I realized I actually never stopped playing. I never stopped exploring, as I travel the world and find hiking spots in my city all the time. I never stopped utilizing my imagination; I just stopped playing with ideas in my head and put them on paper. I still play with my friends, it’s just that instead of playing catch we work out or enjoy leisure time together.
I don’t think we ever stop truly playing, but I think the language we use to describe the action does. Being active becomes a chore, another list to cross off our weekly to-do list to make sure we don’t gain weight. But I think if we look at working out as playing, we will enjoy it more.
The next time you work out, skip the regular work out and try something new. Go on a hike, take a class you never thought of taking before or start a challenge with you and your friends.
It doesn’t have to be working out either. The next time you indulge in your hobby, remember why you started in the first place, and harness that feeling of joy throughout your process.
We’re never too old to have fun. Let’s start having more of it.
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