“Life is more fun if you play games.” – Roald Dahl
It was a day when the phones cried, the computers wept, and the flat-screen T.V.s suffered from mental breakdowns. We were going ‘back into the future.’ February 1, 2017 marks the date when everyone entered the realm of the pretend: the age when half of our friends was made up of a group of teddy bears and imaginary people. The land that has turned to into a barren, apocalyptic waste land by adults, who wanted ‘kids’ like me to grow up. If growing up means to stop laughing, to stop thinking my own thoughts, to stop making my own decisions, I think I should have told 6-year-old me to move into the neighborhood playground.
Play is such an insignificant word now. Play. What is play? It is the very first word every child knows how to define. The word that every adult files in the deepest depths of their mind cabinet. To me, I consider it as being able to do whatever you please (as long as it is legal, right?). It is being able to dive into the tangled thoughts in one’s mind and make it a reality. In the following podcast, Dr. Peter Gray describes “play,” it is the ability to self-direct and self-control an activity, primarily for enjoyment. Notice that Gray accentuates on the fact that play is voluntarily and consciously done by an individual. By the constitution and the definition of play, we should be living in the state of freedom. Yet, by the age of sixteen or so, it is as if someone suddenly yanks my arm and ties it to two strings, making me the toy, chaining me down, making the roof of the puppetry theater the only limit I can reach. How am I supposed to learn and grow as a person if I am not able to find answers to my questions? I cannot see everything I need from the perspective of a mind that is no longer my own.
For that brief period on February 1st, in English class, I was playing a game, not living in it. I was no longer an object in a stimulation. This time I was the puppeteer, not the little ‘Pinocchio.’ “Mom, today I was a real boy girl!” It was like waking up from a dream nightmare: the curtains had been lifted and light shone through the dark, obscure box my puppeteer had shoved me in. Suddenly, the limit was the sky again. I was the queen of my kingdom, the ruler of the handball court, the girl who traveled to the lands of ‘Terabithia.’ Letter grades, percentages, even the feeling of stress did not feel like an anvil crushing upon my chest anymore. That day, I did not care that I only received five hours of sleep because for the first time in a long time, I was playing the game of life, and it did not matter if I won or lost. I had unlimited turns and limitless time. I no longer felt as if I was the white rabbit who held an endless clock, telling me that time is limited and playtime had become a fool’s pastime. I could take risks and not worry about the consequences. Every moment was not made upon a do-or-die decision, unless if it is chess. Unlike every other day, I was not trying to out-compete every student on campus in order to heighten my chances to attend a university, but instead my only opponent was my friend. My face was not filled with popping veins or a blank stare, but a more of a poised, vivacious look. I had total control over everything. I oversaw the entire game board. I knew the places where I would fall and succeed. The power I was given to determine my every move I made was overwhelming and exhilarating.
But that’s play. Having two balls on the tennis court instead of one. Doing a foot race in a pool. Bear crawling on a track. Breaking the rules. Being creative. Being an Alice in one’s own Wonderland. Following a yellow brick road in a black and white world.
Rules should not apply to the game of life because who is going to make them? The one who makes these ‘rules’ ultimately makes us his/her marionettes. One is not given life to sit still and let time consume him/her.
February 1st, 2017. T’was a totes rad day…