Play At Work
As far back as I can remember play was for kids. Games were serious and competitive contests. Winners were better and more masculine than losers. Parents bragged about winners and avoided talking about losers. Rules were written and unbreakable. Mature people didn’t play, they put their noses to the grindstone and were productive. I had lost my playfulness until the day that I met Fred.
I felt really odd and nervous entering a room full of strangers who were going to learn about play. But Fred immediately put us at ease. On his T-shirt were the words, “You don’t quit playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing.” With his soft manner and entertaining stories, he masterfully created a safe environment.
My school memories are mostly unhappy. No one seemed to care about this very shy kid, who walked around feeling inadequate, wanting to hide in the shadows and remain anonymous. Classroom lectures were boring, and tests that required regurgitating facts were meaningless. Most of the time I felt lost, alienated and inadequate.
How would you characterize your school experience?
Being motivated to become a teacher, made graduate school a better experience. However, in my last class the professor delivered what he referred to as his most important lesson of caution. The poignant message and warning – “Don’t ever become personally involved in the lives of your students.”
Being older than most of my fellow classmates, I didn’t pay much attention to this message. I’ve often wondered how many prospective teachers are given, and follow, such a warning.
Conventional wisdom teaches that the heart is weak and fragile. From beliefs such as, “The heart is mushy and unmanly” I learned to stifle my sensitivity. I grew into a control freak from beliefs such as, “Being open leads to being taken advantage of.” Beliefs such as, “Heartbreak is devastating” led to clamping a lid on emotional giving.
Distrusting my heart, I developed my athletic, sexual and intellectual abilities on the road most traveled to fame and fortune. Except for rare occasions, such as those magical moments of falling in love, I kept my sensitivity hidden behind protective walls, (Even though my story represents a masculine perspective, I know that women also learn to keep their hearts safely tucked away.)