When was the last time you climbed a tree? Painted a picture? Performed a cartwheel? And I don’t mean with the kids, I mean for yourself; just for fun. Do you remember the last time you had fun? Pure, unadulterated, wide-grin inducing, tummy tickling FUN?
Recently, I interviewed Red Bull parkour pro Ryan Doyle. One of the world’s most bouncy record-holding athletic performers for jumping, swinging and ricocheting off walls, roofs and any fixed objects that take his fancy. I asked him when did he begin bouncing off buildings and he replied, ‘When did you stop?’ Bloody good question. When did I stop jumping, skipping and climbing for fun?
I probably stopped such childish past-times when I was a teenager. That’s usually the time when we break from play-time and start taking life far too seriously. Climb trees? How childish. And once that miserable mind-set beds in, you can kiss goodbye to fun and frivolity FOR EVER! Or rather, spend the rest of your adult life fighting the natural urge to have fun for fear of the other grown-ups’ condemnation.
I went to a dinner party last month – not my pastime of choice as I have issues with sitting still – and once the usual ‘my house is bigger than your house’ chatter ceased, I enthusiastically suggested a game of sardines. You know, sardines. Where one person hides and the rest of the gang has to find them; once discovered, the seeker squeezes in to the same hiding place. 5 people squashed into a wardrobe is hilarious and, in my opinion, how all dinner-parties should start and end. My opinion, of course, was not shared by the other 8 guests who stared at me with tilted heads, like dogs do when you confuse them.
Why is being silly seen as childish? Why is there such an impenetrable dividing line between activities we can partake in as children, and those which must stop once we reach a certain age? And who are the fun sponges making these rules?
Andy Kirkpatrick, one of Yosemite’s most prolific rock-climbers, told me in a recent interview that we should all harness the energy of our inner chimps. Play, swing, have fun! (copious sex optional.) Ask yourself, would I laugh if I tried doing a hand-stand? Go on, try it, now. Do a handstand against your living room door and tell me it wasn’t enjoyable. Now go outside and find a tree to climb. Climb it. To the top. How do you think you’ll feel? Unhappy? Nope, you’ll feel alive. Stu and I climbed trees last weekend; something we hadn’t done properly in 30-ish years. It was brilliant fun. We sat two-thirds of the way up an oak tree and watched – like Robin Hood and his Merry Men – the plodders below who never even looked up.
Now, there is a fine line between being silly and being weird. I’m not suggesting you take Big Ted and Jemima to work, or buy a second-hand pram to push around your kids’ dollies. Although, if that makes you happy, why not. But you might want to leave those pastimes off your Tinder profile. I am suggesting that you cast aside your inhibitions and have fun. Yes, your neighbours will judge you for doing roly-polys in your garden. Yes, your friends will snigger when you suggest a game of rounders after Sunday lunch. And, yes, other shoppers will stare when you fly down the aisle on a trolley. But is that reason enough to stop you having fun?
There are no rules for enjoying your life, and despite the limiting beliefs of others around you, you do not have to cease having fun because you’re a grown-up with responsibilities. That mind-set will accelerate your path to old age. Do you want to be the crotchety old person with a sour bum-hole mouth bemoaning those crazy youngsters for racing their skate-boards through town like Marty McFly? Or will you be the old person teaching your pals to pole-dance?
So, remember the Off the Ropes mantra: seek more, do more, be more. If you don’t, in a blink of an ageing eye, you WILL be that crotchety OAP just wishing you could have your time again. Put the phone down, turn the TV off and get outside. Find your chimp! (Just don’t start picking nits from other kids’ heads).
To hear how some of the world’s most inspiring, pioneering and adventurous fun-seekers do it, tune-in to the weekly Off the Ropes podcast, available via the website, iTunes & Stitcher Or subscribe to weekly updates at the bottom of this page.