Can We Make a Playdate? Reflecting on the Alliance 2020 Keynote During a Time of Change

By Audrie Tornow

How many boxes arrived at your home this week? One? Four? Amazingly, at a time where more boxes than ever arrive at our homes daily (thank you, Amazon Prime), a vitally important creative question demands to be asked: What did you do with the box? Did it become the recipient of your biweekly paper recycling? Did you just break it down and throw it out? Maybe you held onto it for an upcoming diorama project for one of your kids. But, what could it have been? It had limitless potential (as do you).

Do you know why a refrigerator box is an amazing house? No property taxes. Minimal construction costs. With duct tape, a can morphs into a chimney in seconds, and changing the carpeting is as easy as moving the box off the lawn.

When we met for January 2020's Alliance Annual Conference, our Keynote speaker Dr. Shimi Kang reminded us that playtime is our creative space; play is how we adapt and adaptability is the key to survival and success. Retrospectively, this Keynote was preparing us for much more than the few days we spent together in San Francisco, given the events of 2020.

However, the problem is we just don't play on a daily basis anymore. Why? Because we don't choose it. We could. Even for 10 minutes. Put down the phone and pick up a crayon. Blast the music and dance around. Transform that Amazon box into a spaceship or home for your favorite stuffed animal. I'm sorry? You don't have any available stuffed animals? Why not? Oh, they didn't go with the decor. They're in a box in the storage unit with other childhood memorabilia.

You see, what I'm hearing you say is, you packed away your imagination because your life no longer had room for it. I get it, at least conceptually. But I'm going to ask the question, when do you think you might have time for it again?

When you were 5 years old, toys were amazing. I know mine were. Going to bed meant you needed to stop playing. Sometimes. Perhaps, once the lights were out and the house was quiet, you might slither out of your bed and quietly sit on the floor. The story you had created hadn't come to the end, and you needed a few more minutes to play out the rest of the scene.

We were all amazing storytellers and creators when we had the time. Where did that time go? Well, it had been created by the adults caring for us. They cooked, cleaned, food shopped, worked, paid the bills. And we had limitless creative freedom. Lands of fairies and villains, astronauts and dolls, backyard forts and flowers...every day was an unwritten chapter just waiting for us to put the proverbial pen to paper.

And then, slowly, that available time became less. School, homework, friends and extracurricular activities filled the day. Even time with our families was something that we struggled to work into the mix. And playtime? Well, that just stopped. I think our dreams may be the closest to creative time that many adults have, and that's not exactly the same as what I'm talking about here. We need to make the time once again to play.

As adults, we forget all the wonder and excitement the future can hold for us. We find a job, it pays the bills, and we settle for the status quo way too often. We assume that we will have time again in the future. Someday. One day. Until the days become fewer and we wish we had taken advantage of missed opportunities that are long gone.

Recently, I rewatched Walt Disney's The Kid. If you have never seen it, I highly encourage a viewing. The main character is successful but not in the eyes of his 8-year old self. Measured against the expectations of his youthful vision, he is a loser. He doesn't fly jets, has no wife or family, and he doesn't have a dog.

Not to give away the ending, but we all have the chance to become what we once dreamed and have the things we once only imagined, if we are willing to dream again. And I guarantee you, you will not find that vision, dream or passion without giving yourself some time to daydream. Exit out of Netflix, back away from the laptop, and turn off the phone notifications. Play. You don't know where to start? Doodle on a clean sheet of paper. Build with pretzel sticks like they were Lincoln Logs. Line up your USB drives like dominoes. Draw an animated cartoon on a pack of sticky notes.

There are so many ways right in front of you. If we once again give ourselves time to play, what new ideas might we actually create? Take your brain’s prefrontal cortex out for a drive. Don't wait, do it today.

The 2021 Alliance Experience has more ways to keep you inspired. Register today.  

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