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All I want to do, sang Sheryl Crow, is have some fun. And yet, fun seems out of reach for a lot of us these days.
I found that out over the weekend, when I innocently asked my friends on Facebook to tell me which fun things they had planned for 2018.
I was expecting responses full of vacation places, and concerts, and new skills that my friends wanted to learn.
The first answer was essentially a list of the conventions, meetings and networking that my friend planned to do this year.
Okay, that wasn’t going to work.
I knew I had to edit my post, and pronto, or I was going to get a diary dump from all the ambitious people I knew and loved.
This wasn’t going to be Peru and the Grand Canyon and bread baking. It was quickly going to turn into a “whose brand can be built better” contest.
So, I amended it to read, “Not meetings. Not conventions. Actual fun.”
I still got a response from someone who insisted that all those seminars and meetings they planned to conduct were fun, because they were with fun and interesting people.
They’re also safe. They’re also you in charge. You might be having fun, but you’re still in charge. You’re still playing the role that you put on in your professional life.
And, yes, maybe some people are exactly the same professionally as they are personally. We all know the performers who don’t turn it off in a coffee shop. And the parents who can’t get out of the parent role, even when they’re out for dinner with a group of other adults.
That’s because it’s hard — very hard — to take off that mask once you’ve put it on.
Fun can be scary, I know. I’m Exhibit A.
Last February, I took part in my first Mardi Gras parade. I joined the Krewe of Nyx, the largest all-women’s super krewe in New Orleans.
Krewes, in case you don’t know, are the clubs that put on the Mardi Gras parades.
Staging one is an all-year event, with luncheons and meetings, and time spent crafting the souvenirs, called throws, that are tossed from the floats.
I’ve spent time in New Orleans my whole life, and after Katrina, I wanted to do more than send money to a food bank or the Red Cross. I wanted to spend quality time there, understanding and enjoying the city as it rebuilt itself.
Nyx was founded in 2011 and immediately had a lengthy waiting list for membership. When my chance finally came in 2015, I paid my dues, booked my plane ticket, and arrived to pick up my costume and buy my beads.
Then, it struck me.
I was going to be standing on a float for hours, tossing purses (our special throw) to the crowd, sending down beads and stuffed animals and doubloons.
AND I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO DO IT.
The idea of fun was paralyzing me. I was literally a nervous wreck the day we arrived at our floats to set up our stations (each rider gets a two foot by two foot space to stash their things).
No matter how many times people told me to relax, and enjoy it, I just got more and more wrought up.
And the fear didn’t lift until we were actually on our float, gliding into position (we had to wait about 30 minutes in line before the parade set off, which didn’t help my nerves).
But then, we were on the parade route. And we became goddesses of the night like the namesake of our krewe, sending down our souvenirs to an excited audience (although it was disconcerting sometimes to see people let beads drop to the ground).
On St. Charles Avenue, heading through the Garden District, I took some time just to look out at the rows of people, their faces lit up by the lights from our floats, their insides probably lit up from cocktails, all simply enjoying themselves.
In New Orleans, parade season runs about three weeks, so people get an opportunity to do this over and over. It’s all free to watch, and every parade is a little different — some long, like ours, some quick events.
Sure, traffic gets tied up, and the nights can be long, and it’s tempting to say that see one parade, see them all. But the mood is so festive that you can’t help but have — well, fun.
By 11 pm, I was exhausted and out of beads and wanted to do it all over again. It was fun. And what’s more, I had actually let myself feel it. Up on top of my float, I stopped intellectualizing.
I was just another one of dozens of women in our purple wigs and satin costumes, scanning the crowd to see if I could make someone smile.
That’s what I want for you in 2018. No matter how you define fun, go out and have some.
Break out of the persona you play at work. Stop defining yourself by your calendar. Pick something that will give you some joy, even if it’s just an hour playing hooky at Starbucks.
Dance in your car. Bake cinnamon rolls. Try a flight of craft beer.
Fun, you see, is good for your soul. You need success, of course, to pay the bills and to feel like you’re making a contribution. If your work is fun, then I’m happy for you.
But actual fun, is like a glass of water. We can forget that we need it. We can scowl when someone says, “you have to stay hydrated.”
Yet, when we go without it for too long, we know it. We gulp it down as if our life depended on it. And, when we’re really thirsty, nothing is more delicious than the simple fact of a glass of water.
So, have a glass of fun this year. And if you see me up on top my float come Feb. 7, scream and yell, “Throw me something, Micki!” And I will.
Follow Micheline Maynard on Twitter @mickimaynard