At the pool, my youngest begs me to go down the water slides with her.
I have that feeling that I’m too old to do this sort of thing. But then I see something that changes my mind.
The Italian Mama goes down the slides whether her children are with her or not. She does it for her own fun! I watch her climb the steep steps in her red bathing suit and then emerge in a great splash at the bottom of the slide.
I follow her to the slides, challenged and inspired. I remember her telling me that in any given day, 80% of life is work and only 20% is fun. We want to tip the balance in favor of more fun.
On this day, I think we did.
Journal: How are you going to increase the fun today?
I’m in class, teaching difficult things. We stress, we furrow our brows, and we cramp our fingers around our pens as we engineer new thesis positions. We sigh with discouragement as we discuss urgent social and political matters.
I lean back, cross my legs, and expose the socks I’m wearing underneath these business slacks. Striped pink socks with monkeys on them. A few people laugh out loud.
I’ve always worn whimsical socks. I put them on as the last accessory before I slip on my boring (but extremely comfortable) work shoes.
The socks remind me not to take myself so seriously. The day stretches before me: difficult, stressful, urgent. But the subtext of the whole day–the story underneath my professor attire–calls out to me. There’s something fun here. There’s something quirky, delightful, and refreshing. Even in pain, even in sorrow, I can discover a way to giggle or roll my eyes at something silly and unprofessional.
Might there be room in my serious day for the trivial thing that delights? And why wouldn’t that thing be a sock? Socks provide protection, covering, and warmth. Sometimes I need to buffer the deep and distressful with the delightful and diverting.
Living with flair means I don whimsical socks. Seriously fun when I’m taking myself too seriously.
It’s a big weekend in my town. It’s a big party weekend. This means I avoid campus and expect a really low attendance in my early classes on Monday. It’s always the same story: students act out this script of what it means to be a college student.
Last year, a man came to my office hours and asked me if I had any ideas for how he could stay out of trouble. He’d been arrested, he’d had several underage drinking citations, and his GPA had plummeted from a 4.0 to a 1.7. Feeling like he’d squandered the last four years of his life, he asked me what I did for fun that didn’t involve getting drunk. He wondered what a life looks like that doesn’t involve partying. As I talked about my own college years, he started to make a list for himself. He was writing a new script.
So, as a shout-out to my students who want a different script for their evening, I’m providing 50 ways to stay out of trouble. I once heard a speaker say that the definition of pleasure is: “having fun with no negative consequences.” Living with flair has something to do with experiencing pleasure in ways that don’t harm you or anybody else. Hence, my tried and true 50 ways to stay out of trouble.
1.Learn the moves to “Beat It” (or Thriller, or Single Ladies, or any dance)
2.Cook a gourmet meal with your friend. (Remember: good things happen with cutting boards)
3.Play improvizational games (Watch “Whose Line is it Anyway” or just play charades)
4.Organize your desk. (This will feel really good)
5.Do a movie marathon of 1980’s John Hughes movies. Or James Bond. Or Spielberg.
6.Visit every coffee shop downtown and evaluate each one. (I did this one Fall semester)
7.Plant something. (I’m doing this now)
8.Call your parents. (I should do this)
9.Call somebody from your childhood.
10.Read a bestselling novel. Then go talk to people about it. Book clubs are cool.
11.Go thrift store shopping.
12.Find neighborhood garage sales and buy unusual things.
13.Go to a local park and swing very high so you can jump out of the swing.
14.Go for a long walk. See if you can walk for an entire hour.
15.Search for new music on iTunes. Fall in love with a new band.
16.Get into a fascinating conversation with a stranger.
17.Go to church.
18.Plan some dreams for the next decade. Write out your personal mission statement.
19.Help somebody do something.
20.Watch people. Tell a story about their lives.
21.Learn a new sport.
22.Start a “flair” blog and tell me about it.
23.Get a great night’s sleep.
24.Go to a fancy grocery store and buy the most expensive chocolate just to try it.
25.Go to a pet store and hold all the new kittens and puppies.
26.Find a creek and sit by it.
27.Build your own kite and then fly it somewhere. You can google instructions.
28.Start a collection of some really obscure thing.
29.Learn to draw something.
30.Make a flip book comic.
31.Go in search of the world’s most comfortable slippers.
32.Learn a different language. (I want to learn Chinese this summer)
33.Go to a toy store and play with the toys.
34.Hang out at a bookstore and read for an hour.
35.Volunteer to help at a shelter or a community center.
36.Join a club.
37.Drive down a country road. (Rt. 550 changed my life)
38.Learn double dutch jump rope.
39.Do something that gets your heart rate up for 40 minutes and see how good you feel.
40.Practice being alone for an entire evening.
41.Donate stuff you don’t need.
42.Read a chapter in a textbook because you want to learn something, not because it’s on the test.
43.Reread a book from your childhood. (I reread To Kill A Mockingbird)
45.Make a scrap book.
46.Invent a game to play.
47.Create an ad campaign to motivate people to do something.
48.Teach somebody how to do something.
49.Watch an entire season of a show on DVD in one day. 24? Lost? The Office?
50.Make water your beverage selection for the whole weekend. Hydration can change your life.
So there. Here’s to living with flair.