I’ve elevated fun from a “nice to have” in my life to one of my core values, and amazing things have started to happen. ~Janine Rudder
My supervisor is retiring. To celebrate her, the members of her team are creating a video montage of us describing our fondest memories of her. I spoke about her laugh – big, scandalous, and unapologetic. I also highlighted that she has this delightful gift of making fun of most of the situations she encounters. She has made fun and joy an intention in her life, which made her a more effective leader because people believe that she cared about them, not just their work product. I ended my 60 second farewell video by emphasizing that I am better for having known her, and I really meant it.
In nine days I will be off to the biggest celebration on earth – Carnival in Trinidad! I last went in 2014 and had such a spectacular time that upon arrival home I immediately decided to purchase tickets for the next year’s festivities. What makes the experience so unique and addictive is the pure, unabashed indulgence in having fun. It’s an ode to aliveness. Carnival revelers are dared to dance, sing, and behave as if no one is watching for the sake of enjoyment; and they fully accept the challenge. Fun is the point, which is why carnival so enticing.
For the past couple of years, I’ve elevated fun from a “nice to have” in my life to one of my core values, and amazing things have started to happen. I met and married my life partner whose soulmate country is also one of my most beloved places; I started meeting people for whom fun was a centerpiece of their lives, which is so charming and refreshing. I also ended up working for the supervisor I mentioned above whose daily quest for joy and laughter is more inspiring than she will probably ever know. I set the intention to have fun and the Universe delivered.
Prioritizing fun added a vibrancy and spontaneity to my life that fueled an excitement for living that had been missing. I started having unforgettable weekends in New York visiting friends, making time for my favorite Caribbean dance class, and just laughing more. However, there was a flip side. This unsettling feeling that I can best describe as a combination of guilt and doubt started lurking beneath the surface. When I stopped to explore it, I noticed that I was actually concerned about how much I was enjoying life. Somewhere along the way while living, I adopted the story that there is a limit to the amount of fun one should be having, especially after a certain age.
I decided to dig a little deeper and get curious about the story and found that it is deeply rooted in a few beliefs.
False Belief # 1: Life is supposed to be mostly hard and include suffering with a little fun sprinkled in.
It’s almost like there’s a cap on the amount of fun allowed in life. In my mind this led to a latent suspicion of any excess fun I was having, which really started to surface as my focus on enjoying life grew. What I didn’t understand is that there’s not a set way that life is supposed to be. We all get to make it up the way we want. I’ve decided that my life is supposed to be fun!
False Belief # 2: Fun is supposed to diminish as we get older.
The vast majority of the adults I encounter are completely consumed by the aspects of their lives that are totally joyless – their commute, overwhelming schedule, bills, etc. We’ve taught ourselves, and model for our children, that adulthood means managing life and not really enjoying life, so it seemed naughty to me to be having as much fun as I was. My intention now is to spend more time with adults who love, normalize and prioritize fun.
False Belief # 3: “Fun” people aren’t taken seriously.
I do believe there is some truth in this. The supervisor I mentioned above was mocked and resented at times because of her penchant for pleasure. However, she had the most dedicated, collaborative, functional team that truly respected and appreciated her. What I now know is that I can’t and don’t want to please everyone, and that fun can still be the essence of my life even though it may look different depending on the setting.