Column, Opinions

Playing Outside: Not a Childish Endeavor

As I returned to campus from a restful Winter Break, I contemplated my hobbies—a reflection that emerged out of the time I spent indulging in them during break. I played cards with my mom and basketball with my friends, I dusted off my sketchbook and drew a bit, and I even bowled (there’s not a lot to do in New Jersey sometimes). 

I am really bad at some of those activities. Especially bowling, where in multiple games I scored sub-50. Yes, below 50 in 10 frames. 

But I don’t think that matters. Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters how well I bowled at all. We, Boston College students in particular, put so much pressure on ourselves to be good at everything that we do, including our hobbies. But if I enjoy bowling, why does it matter that I put nearly every ball in the gutter?

It doesn’t. 

I apologize for using a bowling alley as a metaphor for the rest of this article, but it aligns perfectly with the point I’m trying to get across, so bear with me. 

As we grow into adults, people often avoid doing things that we think we’re “bad” at because we equate happiness with productivity and performance. Sure, performance matters in school and in careers, but happiness and performance should not be so dramatically intertwined. 

Essentially, people take themselves way too seriously, failing to remember that life is meant to be fun. 

I cannot deny that I experience some joy when the ball rolls firmly down the middle of the lane and into the center pin, but that is only because of the many times I fail and do throw the ball in the gutter. Success does not feel nearly as good without knowing failure. Sure, getting all A’s feels great, but getting an A in organic chemistry after getting a few C’s feels way better. 

Over Winter Break, I noticed there were two drastically different groups of people at the bowling alley I visited: adults in professional bowling leagues and children. There were no adults who were simply there to hang out and have a good time, which I found quite sad.

This brings me to my next point. Why do we label some endeavors as childish when they are the ones that bring us the most joy? When was the last time that you rode a bike purely for fun and not for exercise? My friends and I used to ride our bikes up and down the block just because it was fun. And I think we don’t do this anymore because we don’t see it as productive. We would surely still have fun if we biked around the block tomorrow, but sadly, the appeal seems to be lost. 

Abandoning the activities that sparked childhood joy is particularly problematic when it comes to the great outdoors. 

Much like the bowling alley, I think that there are two distinct groups of people who regularly engage with the outdoors. There are professionals who must spend time outside either for work or exercise. Wildlife wardens, construction workers, and runners come to mind. Then, there are the kids, who go outside just to play. Most other people only engage with the outdoors for mundane tasks like taking out the trash. Not a lot of adults spend time outside to enjoy or explore nature, despite the numerous benefits of doing so. 

Re-integrating nature into our lives in an intentional way can be one big step in our journeys toward embracing hobbies and personal happiness. But, this time spent outdoors also has a greater purpose through its ability to inspire the environmental awareness necessary to garner high levels of public interest in the climate crisis. 

If society is going to realize how desolate the world would be without nature, people first need to take the time to recognize how diverse and beautiful the world is with nature. 

My most memorable childhood memories are all tied to exploring nature and playing outside. Even now, I get the same joyous feeling when I can take a pause from the stress of life and simply enjoy nature. For instance, when I go skiing, my favorite part of the trip is throwing snowballs at my friends or family on the side of the trails, not bombing down black diamonds. 

Though play might look a bit different as we enter adulthood, it’s important that we let our hobbies just be hobbies and not let them be bogged down with a standard of productivity. 

This is my personal manifesto and also my new years resolution. And because nature is the perfect place to re-indulge in hobbies such as coloring, walking, or doing yoga, who knows, you might find yourself becoming an avid environmentalist as well.

So, I encourage you to start by bowling a sub-50 game and not caring. I think you’ll be surprised by how much fun you’ll have, even if it’s all from laughing at yourself.

January 29, 2023