At what age did I start taking myself so seriously? I try and answer this question and I realize there is a tie to my age by default, in that we use time to measure life but it wasn’t a variable that was causal. So, what experience caused me to take myself so seriously? My Mom telling me about my Dad’s addiction and what that meant for me as the “man” of the house, newly anointed in that moment. By the way, I was 10.
I became a serious little man. I didn’t have time for nonsense and to this day, nonsensical drives me nuts. That brought me to another question. When do I take myself too serious and when do I just play? Now, that is a great question. I realized, around strangers, I took myself extremely serious for a multitude of reasons. One, they needed to know I meant business. Two, I couldn’t allow anyone to one-up me or make me feel less than, so, I would ensure they wouldn’t even dare think about it. Lastly, it allowed me to project an imagery of myself as I saw fit to paint that day. I got to be whatever I wanted.
On the flip side, when I was with family, friends, loved ones, teammates (especially teammates), I never took myself too seriously. I was fun loving, engaging, and ready for anything, completely bare bones of who I was. Even when it came to game time in athletic endeavors, the game itself was serious and my approach to the game, as well as the opponents was serious, but I never took myself too seriously. I would laugh and joke. I would keep things light when it was okay to do so. When the time called to focus up and get to business, I would but I still knew it was just a game.
I was fortunate enough to be reminded about my playful attitude when my Mom brought over an article clipping from my playing days. It was a bio piece about my level of “heart, attitude, intensity, stellar play, and genuine presence.” As I read the description of the journalist’s interaction with me, I saw and felt the playful attitude, which prompted the questions posed above.
Remember when we were kids and simply asking, “Wanna play?” was what it was all about? Play is the essence of life. I know you think your work is serious business and maybe you make some change that will ripple through time, but that doesn’t mean you need to take yourself so seriously. In the words of Carl Sagan, we are merely the “pale blue dot,” in the cosmos. That shouldn’t frighten or dishearten you. It should exhilarate your senses. We are so lucky to be here. To be alive. The odds are crazy that we made it! Why spend your time being so serious that you miss the pleasure and pain in everything?
I started playing again. I stopped thinking about how important I was or thought I was, no matter how important I felt my work may be. Your work and you are two separate entities. Your work may be serious and you may have to approach it in certain ways but you are not your work. That is merely a product of your behavior, your effort. When you can separate the two, loosen up the collar, start to have some fun and play, the whole world looks like a jungle gym. The question is …
Are you too cool to play at the park anymore?