By Nathan Mark
I meet weekly with a dear friend of mine who just turned 70. He has given me so much wisdom and advice over the years that I told him at one point that I felt like our relationship was very one sided. I felt like I got way more out of being his friend than he got out of being mine. A few weeks later he said to me, “Nate, you mentioned that you felt you get more out of our relationship than I do…well I have something I would like you to teach me.” I thought, “Hmmm…what could I possibly teach him.” This is a man who is 70 years old who has done a lot in his lifetime. He has more life experience than I probably will ever have. “I want you to teach me to have fun.” he said. “I have had a very hard life and have spent my whole life working very hard, but I feel like I never learned to have fun.”
I didn’t really know what to say. I have just taken fun for granted my whole life. It occurred to me that in general, my generation is very entertainment driven. I don’t think we actually can comprehend fully a life without fun. Furthermore I think we tend to make a lot of our decisions based on how entertaining something may be. My friend is 70 years old. His generation has seen a lot. He has seen a lot. There seems to be a difference between my generation and my friend’s generation when it comes to entertainment. My friend’s generation understand that there are many things that we must do in life that are not fun, they are not entertaining but must be done just the same. I look at myself and I think I have always had the expectation that I must have some sort of fun in my life on a regular basis.
This whole discussion got me thinking about fun and made me ask the question: What is fun? This thing that I seem to take for granted in my life, what is it that makes something fun? So when my friend asked me to teach him how to have fun my first response was this: ICE CREAM. 🙂 Ice cream is fun, right?. One of my favorite memories as a kid was when my family would spontaneously go out for ice cream. Ice cream is an inexpensive way to add a little fun into your life.
But the more I thought about it, I didn’t really know why ice cream was fun. It just is. But is it the ice cream itself that is fun or the experience? In my opinion, Ice cream at home is not as much fun as going out for ice cream so maybe it is the spontaneity of going to get ice cream that is fun.
As I thought about myself and what I find fun, I think I have finally discovered the secret to fun. Do you want to know what it is? Okay here it is. BREAK RULES. Yes, I really mean break rules. No, I do not want you to go rob a bank. Please don’t go drive 110 m.p.h. in a school zone. Here is what I mean by break rules.
We all have unwritten rules that we live our lives by. For example, most of us probably have a rule that we live by, that we do not go for walks in the dark at midnight. It is something we just don’t do. I use this example because this is exactly what my wife and I did while visiting her family one Christmas. They thought we were crazy! But we had such a fun time walking in the snow in the dark. It is one my favorite memories with my wife and one of the things that made it fun was it was something we did that didn’t make any sense. Life doesn’t always have to make sense.
I used to run the Jr. High program at a church in Chicagoland. At one of our summer events we made gallons of chocolate pudding and had a giant chocolate pudding fight. The students are still talking about it to this day. Why was it so fun? We broke a rule. We live by the unwritten rule that you don’t throw chocolate pudding at people. You have to be able to ask this question: “what is the worst thing that will happen?” “The kids might stain their clothes.” We had all the kids bring clothes that could get dirty. Problem solved. “Pudding will get everywhere.” We had the pudding fight in a pasture where it didn’t matter. Again, problem solved.
You also have to ask the question: “Is it really that big of a deal if ______.” To have fun by breaking rules, you just have to make sure that the consequences are acceptable. Obviously it would make no sense to go for a walk at midnight if you have a job interview at 7 am the next day or to have a pudding fight after in church clothes, in the sanctuary.
Now I am married to a planner. She likes all her ducks in a row. She likes everything planned out to the “T”. And that is okay sometimes too. You can plan fun too, but even she would admit that her life has been a lot more fun when she learned how relax and “go with it” when my spontaneous nature comes out.
Here’s an idea. You probably have a rule that you didn’t realize that you had, that you don’t go away for the weekend without planning out where you are going. Break that rule. Just get in your car and start driving. Just remember though, spontaneous fun and rule breaking is never about the destination. It’s about the fun ride there.
I was on a walk with my family the other day and we walked by by a flock of geese on a patch of grass by the road. I looked at my three year old and asked, “Would you like to chase the geese?” His eyes lit up so without a moment of hesitation, my three year old, my one and half year, my 9 month pregnant wife and I chased geese. It was so much fun! As children, we are really good at living in the moment and not caring what other people think. As adults we view living in the moment as immature and we care what everybody thinks. We do need to be mature when its time to be mature, but I firmly believe that there are times in life when, for a little while its okay to live in the moment. We need to plan for the future but we also need to stop once in a while and do something crazy. Break a rule! Chase geese!