Are You Sacrificing Your Joy and Playfulness?

I’m at the age where I think a lot about retirement. I’m not that close but many of my friends are either already retired or close to retirement. The other day I was talking with a doctor friend and it was somewhat of a heart-wrenching conversation. He described how he has been so consumed with his job and how he regrets how that has gone and the struggle he’s facing about if and when he can retire. It was a combination of a flawed system as well as his failings. I didn’t know what to say.

I don’t know anything about the medical profession and can’t imagine the times when you’re literally dealing with life and death. While it’s hard to relate to the life of a doctor, I did think about those in education who may face some similar challenges. It’s not hard to see that many educators are not thriving. They aren’t experiencing the joy of the profession and the system at times makes it difficult.

While I’ve spent the last decade or so talking about joy, I’m always somewhat hesitant with that message. I don’t know how much of it is based on individual experiences and circumstances. and how much of it is based on personal dispositions and personalities. I’m always suspect of anyone who tells you to “get over it” or “be happy”. I’ve always prefaced my message but saying, I’ll share my experience and I trust you can determine what and if it applies to you.

What I can tell you is that when it comes to my relationship with my work, joy has always won. I’ve certainly been blessed to work with people and organizations that have supported me for the most part. But there have certainly been times when it’s been difficult, when people have been challenging when I’ve felt like quitting. Like everyone, it takes time to get over those moments but I think because I decided a long time ago that play and joy were not ideas that were only for the young they are the basis of who I am today. There’s no question that the amount of time I’m able to spend with my grandchildren makes this much easier but I know even before that, I knew these things mattered. When I wrote my book, it was before any grandchildren and it was my desire to help educators get back to their own childhood and keep it with them. I’m still committed to that work and am grateful for any opportunity I have to share that message. While I’ve been doing it for a while, I forget the message remains and in fact is likely more important to share as time goes on.

I used to think this was just about a lack of joy but it’s also about the need to justify our existence through our work. Many times those that either act like work is the most important thing or think that work is the most important thing sacrifice joy and play in pursuit of…I don’t know what. Unlike my doctor friend we rarely are dealing with life and death issues in education and while I know many things are serious, I’m not willing to take myself that serious.

I was prompted to write this after a friend shared this video with me. It is eerily similar to the doctor friend shared with me and it serves as a reminder to remain playful and joyful no matter what age we are or what we do. It’s not easy but it’s what I believe makes for a beautiful life.