Back in early May, I went to a Walrus Talk on the topic of Play. I’ve been to several of these talks now and I really like the format. Each one is roughly 80 minutes long, with many speakers who each give a short talk so if someone’s boring, you don’t have to suffer too long before someone else comes on. I was super pumped to attend this talk because I really wanted to hear Ken Dryden and Mary Spencer. Funnily enough, the talk I liked best wasn’t even one I cared that much about when I was purchasing my ticket.
I got my ticket to this event before I got my time tables for my summer classes. I haven’t written about this here yet, but I went back to school part-time last summer to get the degree that I never finished. To my dismay, it turned out that I had to be on-line to “attend” a live session with my new French classmates and professor at the very time I expected to be listening to some interesting talks. I had to do some fancy rescheduling to attend a different French session so I could still go to the talk. The details are pretty boring but basically it involved cancelling a lunch with a couple of friends, one of whom was a dick about it. Unfortunately, that is something I am getting very familiar with. Not everybody thinks it is as important for me to be in school as I do, and that is okay, but it does tell me a lot about certain relationships. In short, I was feeling pretty fucking stressed and my classes had barely even begun.
And that is when three-time Olympic champion, Marnie McBean walked onto the stage.
Marnie said something that completely re-framed my relationship with stress. She said that “mature” play, that is, the kind of play that you’ve been doing for awhile, that doesn’t have the blush of new love on it anymore, is about embracing stress, being okay with it.
“Too often we are trying to avoid stress,” she said, “but truthfully, given the choice, we will choose a stressful situation nine times out of ten because being stressed is way more fun than being bored.”
Wow. Nailed it.
School is hard work; however, it is also play. It brings me joy and confidence. When I started, I put no expectations on myself. I didn’t know how I was going to do and I didn’t want to burden myself with any expectations about achieving super grades. But now that I’ve been doing it for awhile, and the grades are coming more easily than I thought they would, I have very high expectations of myself. And sometimes that leads to insane fits of stress. Like the I may have actually been crying over an academic essay on Hinduism* one day in June kind of stress. Fortunately, Marnie has a solution for expectations, too!
“Learn to frame joy and play as you like it … Don’t let expectations burden you and take away play. Let expectations lift you up and inspire you.”
The narrative about stress and expectation is that they are always negative but Marnie McBean flipped that upside down. I practiced using my stress and expectation to motivate and inspire me in my classes this summer, and Marnie, she’s onto something. How lucky that I got to hear that revolutionary idea exactly when I needed it.
If you feel like getting inspired, I recommend watching Marnie’s talk. It is only 11 minutes long, and you can check it out here.
* I got an A+. So totally worth it, right?