I grew up reading and listening to stories of far off worlds and epic adventures. One of my favorites was the 1991 classic, Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg. The premise of the story is that Peter Banning has to save his children after they were kidnapped. The twist is that he is really Peter Pan who left Neverland and Captain Hook has stolen the children to lure him back for a final glorious battle. The key is for Peter to remember how to play the Pan and become the most feared, trickster leader of the Lost Boys. Looking past the swordfights, the flying, and the pranks, I believe Peter’s real mission was to learn how to play again. I believe that we all once knew how to play, I’ve spent days in my own Neverland, but now find ourselves unable to recreate the happiness playing brought.
I grew up playing but have never thought about what that means. I was able to concoct massive stories with illuminated settings and multiple characters while fighting a battle, establishing a farmstead, conquering a mountain, or being an apprentice, but what is the purpose of all that? Playing, the act of engaging in play, is the dedication to wholly immersing yourself in the make believe. When I played, I was lost to the world, my senses would not be centered around the cars driving past or the walnuts strewn across the lawn. They were reconnected to a world of my own. I was never bored as a child, nor was I ever in need of a distraction. I would simply disappear into a storybook plot and pass the hours by as I spent minutes, days, or weeks in my imagination. I challenge everyone to think of the last time they were bored or when they did something simply to fill dead time. I would then ask if they have any memories of feeling the same way in childhood.
Lately, I have found myself passively filling time by browsing the depths of the internet. With the onset of quarantine and the separation from socializing, I have little to do besides schoolwork and am spending hours a day staring at screen for school and for leisure. I spend my time with meaningless games and activities that do not fill me with purpose or satisfaction. I envy my younger self and the hours I spent on countless adventures and worlds. I have become Peter Banning and have forgotten my way to Neverland.
Play is a mysterious being, that haunts our recess of our brain until we can bring it forward and shine a light on its brilliance. I have endless hours of joy with memories of play in my room and backyard. I know I have lost my way and wish to find my happy place. I will always hold play in high esteem and hope it will be a large part of my life to come. I hope to skip through meadows, waltz between trees, and sway with water as I grow old, living in a world where the unimaginable is found with just a bit of practice. I am still working on a life of play, but I look forward to knowing how to fly and fight and cock-a-doodle-do!