Tonight at sunset yoga for the homies, I was struggling to sit in a child’s pose because my bruised knees were still throbbing. I continued to do a starfish pose on my back with some deep breaths looking at the breezy palms over my head. My shoulders hurt to even lay flat on the ground, let alone move into the plank position without immediately dropping in the attempt to go to the cobra position. My bum is burnt and my lips are blistered. Even sitting in this chair currently typing this is uncomfortable. Everything hurts.
What got me to this moment in time of being in pain while at a soothing yoga session?
Too much play.
It was totally worth it though. I spent it doing things I loved spending my Saturday with an epic three-hour surf session at a new spot and playing hours of beach volleyball.
I know most people focus their attention on work-life balance. Here, on O’ahu in Hawaii, I’ve had such difficulty with play-life balance. I struggle to say no. Monday yoga, beach volleyball on Tuesdays and Thursdays, zazen meditation at the Zen sangha on Wednesdays, sailing on Fridays, then surfing, swimming, or hiking on Saturdays and Sundays. All of this busyness feels chaotic but I voluntarily opt-in to it all.
So many new things. Hawaii has been the place I get to explore my play more than any other time in my life. Even in my childhood, much of my playing was for a competition in swim meets, sailing regattas, soccer games, volleyball tournaments, or lacrosse games. Joy nor improvement was at the forefront of why I was in the game. It was to be obedient, to win trophies, and to be active. It wasn’t for the sake of progress like it is for me today. I feel like an absolute YES man. It’s a humbling experience, that’s for sure.
So what’s the point? I’m not one to rant. Living in Hawaii has been a literal dream come true that I never even knew I had until arriving here. But I’ve realized this go-go extremist mentality is a quick and ready way to burn out quickly or potentially injure myself.
This exploration to uncovering play started at the end of last year after realizing I had been so focused on work that I forgot to play. I took the plunge into taking an unplanned partial sabbatical last fall being significantly underemployed from freelancing to learn how to play. I’d forgotten.
When I was a kid and asked what the point was of learning long division or cursive handwriting, it was to get good grades for high school. When I asked why I was learning to dissect fetal pigs or learn how to do limits in high school calculus, it was to get into a competitive college. When I was in college struggling to graduate with my finance degree in four years and missed classes for job interviews, I didn’t get the point anymore. I was in this competition in school to all land a job. And then when I landed a job at a top bank in Detroit, Michigan in risk insurance, I felt more miserable and bored than ever. Where was the return on my investment for those 22 years of working the game of school? Where did it get me? More dues to pay?
During all of this, I forgot about the true essence of what life is actually about. Without joy, what do I have to look forward to?
With all the new pastimes I’ve adopted on the ocean and with mountains, which neither are things Michigan has, I’ve loved it. I love watching my progression in new hobbies and experiencing childlike bonding with new friends.
Though, what I’ve learned is that my 26-year-old body can only do so much at once.
Our bodies are machines, and since I don’t have a coach for all these different activities I don’t want to injure myself. This has taken a fine tuning to listen to my body and think in a long-term mindset rather than pushing my limits in the here and now. There is no sergeant like in The Officer and the Gentleman who is barking at me, busting my buttons, forcing me to exert my body to the max. Work and play get off balance without rest so I’ve chosen to make rest and play aforethought. Be proactive by making rest and play aforethought. Have a play-life balance.
There is a work-life balance and there is a play-life balance. Sure playing brings joy to my life, but I have also needed to learn how to say no. No to that spontaneous sunset surf session tonight because I have a 7 AM call tomorrow. No to freediving because of how I read about the death rate being 1 in 500. On top of those no’s, currently in my roommate’s toy closet, there are tennis racquets and a basketball. All of this is so tempting and piques my interest.
So much of maturing and growing up for me has meant jumping head first into my love of novelty and outgoing nature and then figuring out how many steps back to take. I don’t want to burn my future self out. I’m not invincible. I’m surely no superhuman.
Factoring in a play-life balance means prioritizing what is most important to you right now, allowing time for rest, and creating a joy of missing out, JOMO, rather than sadness for stretching yourself too thin.
Ask yourself how you can surface the purest form of play you enjoy. Incentivize your work with play as a reward, but make sure to account for rest as well. Don’t limit yourself. Think about ways that feel playful but can still feel like rest as well.
Some mindfulness methods I have found to balance out my life with rest to recharge include, hammocking, long walks alone, zazen meditation at the Zen sangha, reading, playing the ukulele, journaling, playing music, dancing in my kitchen, making cookies, and joy rides on my moped.
Do whatever allows you to relax and feel rejuvenated. If you don’t know how you like to rest or play, this is my invitation to you to start exploring. Have fun.
This was written alone. Thank you to Laila Faisal and Dustin Spencer.