Dear young friends-
I know most of you from school, but some of you are sons and daughters of other friends of mine, and I think all of you are fine people. It is not in the nature of criticism, but in a desire to help you out, that I write this letter and in it give away one of the great secrets of life. You didn’t ask me for this advice, but you would have if you’d thought of it, so I forgive you.
You are going to get bored very, very quickly this summer if all you do is play.
I know, right now, on week one of the Fantastic Summer of Awesomeness, you do not believe this. You are busy in the pool (photocredit Dandelion Moms), running through sprinklers, digging, jumping on the trampoline, playing video games, and all the wonderful things you’ve been able to do only in drips and drabs throughout the last long nine months. Good for you. This is entirely proper.
But soon, very soon, you’ll be bored with this. It seems impossible, yet if I recall to your mind the previous summer, you will find, deep in the back of your brains, a nagging feeling that you remember something like this happening before. It is true. It did. It will again. As terrific as cotton candy is, you cannot eat it for long before you just don’t want any more. Life is like this. You will want actual food, at some point. Likewise, you will want to stop playing.
You’ll stave it off for a while. You’ll invite friends over – and that is an excellent way of staying interested in life – but even that, if all you do is run around and play tag, will pale. You’ll start looking about at your balls and bats and jump ropes and yes, even your DS and your iPad, and thinking… “I’m bored. This doesn’t seem like fun anymore.” With desperation, because three whole months stretch ahead of you, and if the golden fleece of video games isn’t enough to keep you interested, what on earth can perform the task?
Fear not. Your kind friend Mr. C has some advice that will keep this at bay, and it goes like this:
You need to redefine play to include a lot of things you currently think of as work.
NO WHINING. This is good advice, and I will explain why. You won’t hate it as much as it may sound like you will. Here you have to trust me. Those of you that have been in my classes know that I can make studying economics almost (almost!) like fun, so please believe that I can make fun like fun, too. I’m a kid like you. You’ve suspected this, let me confirm it. And this, above, is my secret.
Here are some handy examples:
Playing the piano (or insert other instrument here). Yes, you hate practicing. This is because you are human. That won’t really go away much, but please note something: they don’t call it WORKING the piano. It’s called playing the piano because it is fun. It truly is. Sit down on the bench, pull open the cover, and start hitting the keys. Don’t practice (or, at least not right now). Just play.
Making a movie. The brilliant little device we call a phone (hilariously, given what we actually use the thing for) is great at doing all sorts of things, and one of them is taking pictures that move, hence the term “move-ie”. There is free software out there that will do animations and video editing and a host of amazing things. Pixar is giving away its software this summer. Take advantage of this. Making movies is work, but it’s the kind of work that doesn’t get old in a hurry. If you don’t want to shoot pictures of real things, this leads me to
Learning to draw. Your library (this is an ancient civilization’s version of the Internet, but some of these relics are still around, probably even one in your home town) has books on drawing and animation. I promise you. Your iPad can serve up even more of them, to say nothing of YouTube. If you think you can’t draw, that’s because you’re not thinking straight. Of course you can draw. Everyone can draw. I can draw. I went to a Disney animation class instead of Space Mountain, and they taught me to draw. I’m 45. I can’t draw a bath. But if you come visit me, I’ll show you what I did, and you’ll know I’m not making this up. You can do it. It’s fun. You know it’s fun because it’s a thing they stop you from doing when you’re in class and they catch you at it. Which brings me to
Writing. When I was in junior high, I had a geometry class that I loathed because the teacher was awful (it had to be the teacher – geometry is cool, I find out to my shock, thanks to Sal Khan), and I spent my time writing a post-nuclear disaster novel wherein a guy who looked and acted a lot like me got to pair off with a girl who looked and acted a lot like Dena Christiansen, whom I met at a dance and who never gave me the time of day until the world ended and I was the only one with a bomb-proof shelter. Haha. Anyway, although I didn’t do well in the class, I have become a writer, so it wasn’t a total loss. Writing is also work; ask anyone that has tried to put 70,000 words together all in a row. But it’s not like work work, because if you tell someone you’re a writer they will say, “but what do you do for money?” or if they are a concerned aunt “when are you going to get a real job?” So you know it’s mostly play.
There are hundreds of other things, like learning Sanskrit, fixing sprinklers, weeding (the weeds are evil. They must be hunted and destroyed), and cleaning your room (channel your inner Mary Poppins here) that don’t sound like fun but really are. And the great secret of people who are never bored, of course, is reading, which is actually another word for joy.
These are real things, young friends. Real things last, and lead to power and knowledge and satisfaction, all things of much greater durability than fun. You will need those things – they’re like vitamins and minerals for becoming Interesting. You want to be interesting. You want it much more than you want to have fun. Paradoxically, though, you will have fun becoming interesting. Call it a bonus, and you’re welcome.
This is my contribution to your wonderful summer. If these ideas don’t suit you, you’re not seriously trying, but I will take pity on you and make you this offer: send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me your tragic plight, and I will give you three things to do that will not bore you. One-time offer, so use it wisely, but never let it be said that Mr. C is only about school. I love summer even more than you do. I’m here to help.
See you in the fall. Be a better person when you get there. I will be, too.