The freedom of doing things just for fun

Last night, my name was picked and I got to tell a story on stage at The Moth.

(I didn’t tell any stories involving wedding dresses, as they ended up not making good stories. More like good anecdotes. I told a story about a brazen comment in a conversation with my first principal-to-be.)

Because I didn’t think of a good story until I was parking my car, I didn’t have time to practice telling it out loud. It wasn’t as polished as I would have liked, but it came out well, the audience was responsive, and I had a good time.

The judges were not impressed, and my scores were pretty low (relative to the way scores typically run). And while that stung for a moment, overall, it didn’t matter.

I got to go on stage, tell a story, make people laugh a little, and have a good time. My motivation wasn’t to win or to achieve a certain score.

It didn’t matter what the judges thought, and their opinion didn’t take away from the fun I’d had in performing.

If they had loved it and I scored well—aside from a really high score also not being appropriate because it wasn’t that good—that would have added another dimension, but either way, it doesn’t change the experience of the performance itself.

This lack of being tied to the outcome is a relatively new thing for me.

I’ve had a bit of it in learning to play ukulele. I felt pressure to play a little bit well when I played with classes, but I have been playing just for fun for a few years now.

I had some but not enough in the bouldering competition I entered last year.

The photography game app has been delightful to get positive feedback from, but there are definitely some pictures that I like a lot that I think are objectively good photos that just don’t get a lot of attention.

And it doesn’t matter. Because I’m taking pictures for me. As long as I like them, they’re good. It’s disappointing if no one else likes them, but the people in the app aren’t my primary source of validation. (But I’m close to finishing in the top 100 in one of these silly games, and I’m pretty excited about that! I digress.)

Even blogging. It’s important to me that what I put up here is well-written and thoughtful, but ultimately, I’m writing to write. Very different experience than when I was blogging as part of my business.

Many things that I’ve done for fun in my life have been solitary and without tangible results. For example, I’ve always liked to read in my free time. There’s nothing external to disconnect from.

And the activities that had results were fun but anxiety-provoking because I was always worried about how I was being judged. Music especially.

So my next step is to see if I can infuse this disconnect into other areas of my life, because it’s very liberating. It doesn’t provoke poor quality—probably better quality in many cases, because I’m not stressed or anxious—and it’s just … fun. Even when it’s work, it’s fun.

Process. Not results.

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