Monday is Memorial Day and it marks both the unofficial start to summer and Ms. Post’s acceptance of wearing white clothing once again. I love this time of year for many reasons, but not least that it reminds me of the feelings of being younger and the endless possibilities that summer held. That time between the end of the school year and the beginning of the school year where you could run around barefoot and feel like you had no cares in the world. The days seemed to last forever and those three months felt more like three years. Now as an adult, I feel like I blink my eyes and the summer is gone.
As an adult, we want to recreate that feeling of a youthful summer, so we try to pack the summer with as many activities as we can. Activities that are wonderful and fun and eventful, but sometimes they are so packed together and scheduled out that before you know it you are looking at the end of August and wondering where the summer went. How do we slow down our days and try to enjoy the summer in the same light that we did as a young person?
Anna Quindlen, a favorite author of mine, wrote the article, Doing Nothing Is Something, in 2010, and I came across it recently. In the piece she writes about how her summers as a child were not filled with camp after camp or endless scheduled activities, but instead a lot of sitting around and being bored. She points out that “I don’t believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.” She points to psychological research that widely suggests that “doing nothing” is actually the time when humans do their best thinking, and she questions whether or not creative thinking has been “systematically stunted by scheduling.”
I’d argue that this is true for both kids and adults. We need to allow time to be bored, be okay with not constantly being entertained, and be at peace with the thoughts in our head. Not fearing being alone and still, but instead embracing the enlightenment that we can receive by doing so.
Quindlen writes, “Perhaps it is not too late for American kids to be given the gift of enforced boredom for at least a week or two, staring into space, bored out of their gourds, exploring the inside of their own heads. ‘To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do,’ said Victor Hugo. ‘Go outside and play,’ said Prudence Quindlen. Both of them were right.”
In celebration of Memorial Day and the summer to come, I am going to do just that – Go outside and play.
*Image available for purchase on Etsy at GraphicAnthology