Space to Play

"Play stimulates the parts of the brain involved in both careful, logical reasoning and carefree, unbound exploration."
— Essentialism, Chapter 7 (Play)
"When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality."
— Essentialism, Chapter 7 (Play)

I've recently read the book Essentialism which has inspired me to try and live life with "a disciplined pursuit of less" or in other words "Less, but better". Several chapters encourages the reader to make space for ourselves to play.  The author Greg McKeown quotes psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell on the power of play, "Playing has a positive effect on the executive functions of the brain. Executive functions of the brain include planning, prioritizing, deciding, delegating, scheduling, anticipating, analyzing."

The benefits of play really made me consider the question, what do I really enjoy? and am I'm incorporating it enough in my day-to-day? Times, seasons, and circumstances have changed over the years but the principle and outcome of play is irrevocable. It helps us destress (even if temporary) and helps us overall in prioritizing the right things. It might look different as we get older, start a family, and deal with pandemics, but I believe finding something is important for me to survive the day, help me relax, and make good decisions.

A question Greg McKeown poses in this chapter got me thinking:

What did you do as a child that excited you? How can you re-create that today?

As I looked back over my childhood, I recall pleasant times of street hockey, swimming, comic books, rc cars, and most predominantly video games 🕹️. I think it was the camaraderie of hanging with my friends, competing against the CPU and each other, and solving puzzles on a bright screen. Fortunately I have 4 children who love video games so I don't have to look far to find people to play with, now the type of video game is another story (I'm looking at you Rocket League 🚀💀). However, I'm looking for games to play together (Mario Kart is more my thing), so if you have any suggestions I can play with my kids on the Switch or iOS, tweet me!

As I dug deeper into the question above, I found that playing guitar in my adolescence was one of the main things that that got me through those awkward challenging years. I cut my teeth on a Peavey Raptor when I was around 14 and at some point moved over to acoustic exclusively and haven't owned an electric for 12+ years. I love the acoustic but something I missed dearly is being able to express myself on an electric guitar. There's just something about it. I also grew up googly eying solo guitarists like Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, and Paul Gilbert and have continued to watch their videos just because I dig their passionate lead guitar playing.

All that to say, playing guitar is one of those things where I enter that flow state and time stands still. I felt like this was an opportunity to connect with something I loved as a teen and wanted to see how it could help my overall mental health and other facets of work and life. I was fortunate enough to pick up a new electric guitar last week and am excited! I sound like crap but I'm enjoying every second of it! 🤘🎸

I'm setting aside time in the mornings to work on my chops and am also trying to talk my teenager to start an 80s band with me (not really, but it's fun thinking about).

I know it's a difficult time right now with Covid and it might not be completely feasible, but this post is to encourage myself and (hopefully) those who are reading to try to make space for something you enjoy.

"Play doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself."
—Essentialism, Chapter 7 (Play)

With ❤️ Andrew