Thursday, July 02, 2009

In search of some old-fashioned summer fun

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

Wow! July already, eh? The kids' backpacks are put away for the summer. Teenagers are getting used to those new summer jobs, and people without air conditioning are swearing to every god out there that they'll invest in it "next year".

For the record, I have central air conditioning at home, and I can only say that I would rather hand over my favourite body parts on a plate to a hungry dog than give up walking around the house with icicles hanging off my nose in the middle of summer.

While summer is a time to have fun and relax for many, I'm finding myself a bit wanting in that very area of my life. Last week, I wrote about goal-setting and getting things accomplished. I've written about everything under the sun over the nearly four years that I've been writing this column... but I've never written about having fun.

When my "wheel of life" was critiqued in front of my last Effective Personal Productivity class a few weeks ago, the one negative comment that I received -- and rightly so -- was that I wasn't scheduling or planning some "down time" or "fun" for myself. Everything was based on accomplishing business or work-related goals.

Quite frankly, it was bang on. Some people, I suppose, would think that I don't have enough fun based on their own definition. No, I won't jump out of an airplane for "fun". I won't wrestle a starving tiger for "fun". And I won't wave a red cape in front of an enraged bull and yell "Olé!" for "fun", either. Some people call that sort of stuff "fun" and "adventurous". Personally, I think it's all suicidal.

But that left me to start thinking about what I actually believe is fun. I was quite horrified to figure out that I don't honestly know. Is going to movies fun? Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I enjoy it and all that... and it depends on the movie. But if going to the movies is my definition of having fun, I have to confess that I've only had fun at that particular activity about three times in the last five years... maybe even longer.

The weird thing is that I have absolutely no qualms about going to the movies by myself but just never get around to doing it. When I was a kid and teenager, I used to go all the time with friends. Saturday and Sunday afternoon matinees at the Paramount, Capitol or Highfield Square (where the food court is now) were a staple of many weekends. Top Gun and Grease played at the Paramount. Jaws and Tootsie played at the Capitol. Charlotte's Web played at Highfield Square.

So I can't blame my lack of going to the movies lately on not having someone else to go with. I just don't bother going.

I'm not a big-time traveller, although I have my passport now and certainly have the world as my oyster. I would need a travelling companion, however, and being single when most of your friends are all married with kids isn't exactly conducive to having fun travelling. Even if I found someone to travel with, I dread not wanting to do what they want to or wanting to impale myself on the pointy end of a wrought iron fence by doing something I detest.

It's hard to define "fun", isn't it? I mean, hanging out with friends and partying is fun, I suppose. But there are only so many times you can do that before you get a registered letter from a lawyer saying, "Dear Sir: Please be advised that your liver is suing you for child abuse." Well that just ain't no fun, either!

For me, having fun and summer just don't go together because I don't like the heat. Someone asking me to sit at an outdoor cafe for a meal in the middle of a hot and sunny July day sounds about as much fun to me as sticking my face into a pile of glowing red-hot charcoal. Either way, I'd end up burnt and miserable.

So if more outdoors-y activities are out for the summer, what about indoor activities? There are always museums. Day trips to visit family and local tourist attractions. Renting movies to watch at home. Going out to dinner with friends.

I'm not bored. Believe me, I have plenty to do. But I need to find the balance between work-related stuff and fun. I've got plenty of work... just not enough fun.

I just need to figure out what's really (really!) fun. And for the life of me, I'm not sure. What a strange situation I find myself in. I know what others consider fun. The problem is, I'm not sure what I really consider to be fun.

I guess that's my next goal: try a few new things to determine what out there it is that I consider something fun to do. I don't need to make money from it. I don't need to have it become a financial or time burden. I just want something fun to do.

It sounds so simple, but I'm quite honestly baffled. What a dilemma! I guess knowing exactly what you don't consider to be fun is half the battle. The other half is finding out what to do to have fun. Maybe I need to start going to clubs and partying again -- not that it was ever something that was high up in my repertoire. Maybe not!

I kind of feel like Charlie Brown right now: kind of pathetic. I think maybe it's time to take up skydiving after all. Maybe I need to kick-start the "fun" part of my brain by doing something shocking. Or travel somewhere dangerous. Or eat a barrel of tacks.

Maybe... just maybe... I'm getting sick of playing it safe? Interesting...


Sarah Butland said...

I wish you the best if you try something "suicidal" but it's really not necessary. While reading this article I almost thought it was something I wrote which is even more pathetic because I don't like calling attention to myself not knowing how to have fun.

Think of it this way - do you find it fun to write? Did you enjoy your night at Reveille? I figure you can have fun and be productive at the same time - especially when it comes to people like us.

Sometimes when I am out at a movie or "having fun" I can only think about what I could (not should) be doing but that stuff can wait for a productive work day.

You'll find that happy medium, and you'll forget that at one point in your life you never knew what having so much fun was all about!

Best of luck. Hope to read about what you find to enjoy.

Paul Melanson said...

Fun can be defined as anything that puts a real or virtual smile on your face. I have no trouble at all having fun. For example, I enjoy watching live music so I seek out concerts and I consider it fun since its so enjoyable to me.

Surfing the web, watching TV, and writing can be fun, but unless its balanced out by other activities, a person risks becoming too one dimensional. And multi-dimensional people are more fun to be around!

I have a few suggestions. Firstly, in my opinion, you don't need a traveling companion. You even extol the virtues of traveling alone by stating that you're not sure about having to deal with the desires and peccadillos of others when on the road. I've had tons of fun traveling alone.

I think you need to find something fun to do outside of the four walls of your house. You seem to have found plenty of fun inside the house, now see what's waiting for you out there.

Personally, I can see you riding a big Harley Davidson motorcycle. Now that's fun! But if you want to stay on four wheels, why not take a performance driving course and then go for laps around a race track? You can use a regular car to do this - although using an SUV type vehicle is probably not a good idea (centre of gravity too high).

Or go and rent a Go-Kart at the Centre for Speed track in Barachois. (Actually, I just found that and may even do it myself when I go down to NB).

These activities will give you a sh*t-eating grin and get your adrenalin pumping and are very safe to do.

Think outside the box .... :-) Good luck and have fun!

Ray Hiltz said...

As I got older, Brian, some close friends remarked on how I've become serious; that I don't seem to be having as much fun anymore.
Well, a failed marriage, an identity crisis and a career change has a way of turning that smile upside down.

A few years have passed and I've once again seemed to have found my "centre". And I've come to the epiphany that having fun is not about a drunk fest, or a day at the beach or a ride on a rollercoaster. Having fun, like Paul M. says, are activities that put a smile on your face.

It could be coming up with a witty blog, meeting a particularly onerous deadline and rewarding yourself with a cocktail (insert spirit of choice here). For me, it's watching dance reality shows, cheesy movies, singing and dancing along to Motown hits as I do my Saturday house chores or just sitting around the deck with friends and having a laugh.

Feeling like you have to have fun is sort of like feeling you have to have sex, both give you an acute case of performance anxiety which results in your inability to achieve either goal. I think that's why the summer can be stressful, especially if it sunny. You have this pressure to go out and have "fun, fun, fun".

Having fun, like most things are best when they happen spontaneously. You can't just put a Beach Boys record (record?) on and just expect to have fun rain down on you. If you do things you enjoy and a little smile creeps up on you - then, by golly, you just may be having FUN.