How I Found My Fun Again.

Just over a year ago, in my debut essay here on Coffee + Crumbs, I declared to you that I was on a mission to “find my fun again.” Can I confess something to you? That declaration took me by surprise a little. While it’s nice to think that it might have been a carefully considered goal that resulted from some sort of highly intentional practice in introspection and mindfulness, in reality, it was just a spontaneous reaction. While I had been wrestling with the idea that I had lost a part of myself for some time, it hadn’t really occurred to me to commit to finding it again. I just assumed that part of me was lost forever, or at least unrecognizably changed in light of my new identity as a mother. The work of raising two toddlers seemed to require that I devote so much mental and emotional space to being responsible, it seemed physically impossible to have enough room in my life for the kind of carefree fun that I was missing. When I wrote that debut essay, my declaration seemed to just appear in that final paragraph in spite of myself, the only appropriate ending. (Sidenote: This is why I write. Sometimes I don’t know how my own thoughts end until I write them out, and then the end just appears. I write the words, but then the words write me.)

So then there was this public declaration to find my fun again, on the freaking internet. Many of you even said you would join me on the quest. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know where to start. I wasn’t even sure it was entirely possible.

But guess what? I found it. I kid you not, I have had more fun this year than since before I had kids. I saw more live music this year than I have since college. I stopped watching TV. Pinterest has lost all appeal. We ate frozen pizza off paper plates more than we should have. I skinny dipped. I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge at 2am with my best friend from kindergarten. My kids ate PB&J for lunch almost every single day, and I didn’t feel bad about it once. I went to Six Flags and rode every damn roller coaster there. I let go of keeping my house so clean.  I let go of a lot.

I’m tempted here to give you a list of steps that I followed, or some sort of formula that ushered me back to my fun self. The truth, though, is that it’s all so much more complicated than that. As I look back on the past year, it feels like a winding journey, and I can’t quite retrace my steps. Most of the steps were mere moments, quick decisions, thoughts that I acted on before there was time to reconsider or fully evaluate.

While I can’t exactly plot out a map detailing the route I took to find my fun again, I can see the starting point and today’s “you are here” point with breathtaking clarity, and what matters most is this: I started in a place of scarcity, and today I’m in a place of abundance. 

Last year, when I made that declaration here, I was operating from a place of scarcity. I wouldn’t have articulated it as such at the time, but looking back, I see how feeling unable to shake off my responsible self and just let go was really a symptom of grasping at straws to feel whole. Keeping my house clean made me feel accomplished, so I constantly nagged my husband to clean up after himself, and I was exasperated by my kids when they made a mess. Keeping my schedule tight made me feel productive, so I crammed our days with activities that had me constantly rushing, always late, always watching the clock, always home in time for the scheduled bedtime routine. All that forced accomplishment and productivity was so fleeting, always leaving me back at zero the next day. I was exhausted. I didn’t even want “fun.” Fun just sounded more exhausting. Most nights found me in a heap on the couch after my kids went to bed, the DVR my reward for keeping it all together all the time. 

But I didn’t have it all together. I was lost. I was so focused on my kids, my house, and my duties, that I wasn’t paying any attention to how I really felt, what was filling me up and what was wearing me down. I had charted this course of productivity and accomplishment—two traits that had served me well over the years—and I didn’t bother to evaluate whether or not this course was actually making me happy anymore. It wasn’t, of course, and while I was too distracted with checking boxes to notice that, I emptied more and more of myself, perpetuating the cycle. 

So when my friend called me out at the campfire and caused me to see it all for what it was, I realized I had to chart a different course. So I started seeking joy more. In small moments and simple choices, without a real plan, I started saying yes to joy. While having a clean house was nice, it didn’t fill me up the way that watching the sunset did. While cooking balanced dinners every night made me feel a bit proud of myself, it didn’t fill me up the way that making my husband laugh did. And little by little, as I chose to leave the dirty dishes alone in favor of a family bike ride at sunset, or to let a babysitter make a frozen pizza for the kids while my husband and I stayed out past our bedtime at a concert, those moments of joy filled me up. 

I stopped feeling like I had to grasp at straws to feel good. I realized that to find my fun self, to let my own soul play, I had to feel whole first. From that place of abundance, from that fullness of joy, fun didn’t sound exhausting anymore. It felt necessary. It felt possible. It felt like a part of my identity. Just like that, I was fun again. 

Written by Anna Quinlan. Photo By Stacy Keck.