Fun: A Choose Your Own Adventure, How-To Guide

SELF | 10 mins

The last thing God said to me was, “You’re not very fun.” Ouch.

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I was at the beach with my family. I’d snuck out early one morning, well before sunrise, to steal a few moments away from Ninja Turtles and toasting Pop-Tarts. I asked God to speak to me. And that’s exactly what He said. Honesty, I couldn’t argue.

Somewhere between three toddlers, moving to a new city, and chipping away at medical debts that have lingered so long I’m thinking about charging them rent, I’ve forgotten what it looks and feels like to have fun. Or, to put it more precisely, I’ve learned to convince myself that “having fun” actually looks like completing necessary tasks. Let’s be honest, mowing the grass isn’t fun. It’s just a 20-minute break from changing diapers. Putting new brakes on the family van isn’t fun. It just saves me $200 and the pain of having to rewatch that episode of Yo Gabba Gabba for the thirteenth time. Grocery shopping; doing laundry; binge-watching Netflix until your spouse leaves you on the couch—none of that is fun. That’s because “necessary” and “fun” are opposites. If you have to do something, it’s not fun. It might be important. It might be wise. It might even be vital. But if you have to do it—like file your taxes—it’s not fun.

Fun is about freedom and joy. It’s about laughter and coming to life. It’s about breathing deep and being present. Fun is about becoming fully human. And if life has you hyper-focused on productivity, which is totally me right now, fun will absolutely feel like a waste of time. But perception and reality aren’t the same thing.

God was right about me. My life has become a long to-do list. I’ve gotten a lot of important stuff done. But I’ve painfully neglected the one thing that hasn’t felt necessary—fun. And because of it, my tank for the rest of life has been empty. Fun fills us up. The “necessary” drains us. And the gaslight of my life is glowing. It looks like me being impatient with my kids, hurtful to my wife, distant from coworkers, and rushing from one thing to the next, with little free time to enjoy the presence of anything but my checklist.

As a child, having fun was easy. I lived for it. I climbed trees. I played baseball in the road. I traded Pokemon cards. I watched Star Wars until I could quote the entire thing. I read books. I did art. I went outside on summer nights and caught fireflies. I literally laid on the ground of my bedroom and listened to music. And I did lots of hanging out with other people… doing, well, nothing.

I also devoured Choose Your Own Adventure books—you know, the ones where you were part of the story, had to make choices and then were directed to turn to a specific page to learn the ramifications of that choice. I loved those things. I need to learn to choose adventure again, to be filled up before I pour out, to do something fun for the sheer fun of it. If you need that too, I dare you to join me—or, at least, to keep reading.

How To Have Fun: A Choose Your Own Adventure, How-To Guide

  1. You’ve made it this far, so I’m going to assume you’re like me—you need help having fun. No shame, we’re in this thing together. Take a second and think: what was the last thing you did that you’d describe as fun? When you’ve got it, jump down to #3. If you can’t think of anything, jump to #11.

  2. You’re not reading these prompts in numerical order, are you? That’s not how this thing works. Go back to #1 and do what it says. Also, you were just eaten by a troll for not following directions. Sucks to be you.

  3. Let’s start with the positives… you’ve had fun in the past. Good thing, no one likes a fun virgin. Consider your answer for #1—the last thing you did that you’d describe as fun—was there a larger, overarching, practical purpose for the activity besides fun for fun’s sake? If the answer is “Yes,” go back to #1 and think of something else. If the answer is “no,” proceed to #5. If your answer is “Yes, but it might have been morally questionable” go to #13.

  4. Seriously, what are you doing here? Follow the answer prompts. You shouldn’t be reading this. Also, you died of dysentery.

  5. You’re tracking with me. Fun can be practical, but we need to stop convincing ourselves that “getting shit done” is fun. It’s not. You might feel better when you’re caught up on email, but that doesn’t count as fun. The last time you had fun, were you with someone else? If so, proceed to #6. If you were alone, proceed to #7.

  6. You had fun? With another human? You party animal. We’re going to name a mixed drink in your honor. Now, it’s time to make a choice. What was the most fun aspect of the event you’ve been thinking about? If it was the person you were with, go to #8; if it was the “thing” you did, go to #9.

  7. Hiking alone in the woods, going to a matinee and not sharing your popcorn with anyone, finding a quiet corner in a coffee shop and blazing through that fantasy novel you’ve been putting off—that can be fun! Open your calendar and schedule some alone fun time. Seriously, it’s not real until it’s on your calendar. Fun is important, so don’t you dare double book over it. You’re almost finished—jump to #15.

  8. You have a fun friend?! You’re living that #blessed life. Text that person right now and ask to hang out again. The “thing” you’re going to do together doesn’t matter. Just get some time on the calendar with them. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 weeks from now. Set it. Don’t forget it. If you really wanna take it up a notch, add queso. After you send your invite text, go to #10.

  9. You’ve got an activity in your mind that brings you joy. Maybe it’s kayaking. Maybe it’s going to a concert. Maybe it’s drinking coffee. You can do that thing with someone else. Or you can do it alone. Here’s a secret: being alone isn’t awful. It can actually be fun. Now you get to make a choice. If you want to try your fun activity by yourself, go to #7; if you want to invite someone different to have fun with you, go back up to #8.

  10. You have a fun date! Squeal. You’re amazing. Now stick to it. After your fun activity with your fun friend, I want you to try something new: having fun by yourself. Extroverts, don’t run off into a crowded mall. Time alone can be very healthy as it creates space for you to think, process, and feel. Enjoy fun time with your friend, and then jump #7.

  11. You can’t remember the last time you had fun? It’s cool, me neither. That just means we get to run some fun experiments. What is something you’d like to try? What do you suspect would bring you joy? Forget the practicalities of the activity, this is about living the good life. When you have an idea, go to #12.

  12. You’re going to try to have fun—I’m pumped for you. Now, think about the “fun activity” you’re planning. Is it illegal or morally questionable? If so, go to #13. If not, go to #14.

  13. Going to jail or ruining your life isn’t fun. Fun is important, but it’s not an excuse to do something stupid. Go back to your previous answer and think again. Also, your starfighter was shot down in a barrage of enemy fire for questionable decision making.

  14. Look at you! You’ve actually got an idea of something to do for fun. Brilliant. Do you want to share the fun with someone else? If so, go to #8. If you need some introvert time, and want to have fun alone, go to #7.

  15. You’re about to have fun. Are you excited? Me too. After you experience you’re alone-fun invite someone to join you. Don’t force yourself to die in the woods alone to learn this lesson. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, ask someone if they want to watch a movie with you—when you’re both on the couch, click here. Now, go to #17.

  16. What he said.

  17. Look at how fun you are! I can hardly believe it myself. Now stick to your guns. The practical side of your life will try to say you can put off the fun. Don’t you dare do that. It’s not an either/or—it’s a both/and. Do the necessary things in your life—paying your bills, getting your oil changed, having dinner with the in-laws… but also make fun a priority. If you do, I think you’ll be surprised at just how much life you’ll actually be living. We only get some many days, let’s have some fun while we’re here. I actually think God’s cool with the idea of your life being a feast. See? Or how about here? Or this advice, from the wisest man who ever lived? One last note if you’re married—jump to #19.

  18. No prompt points here. Facepalm, people. Here’s a song anyway. It’s fun. Get it? Fun. It’s punny.

  19. The health of your marriage will be directly related to how much space you make for fun with your spouse. So while you’re running this fun experiment, by all means, hang out with friends, but don’t forget about the person sleeping on the other side of the bed. Schedule a fun date for just the two of you. Fun was one of the first things that drew you two together and I believe, no matter how far buried it may feel, it’s still there, just waiting for a little time and effort to unearth it. Don’t wait for God to get your attention on the beach.

Written by Caleb Mathis on Jul 24, 2019
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...

Discussion Questions

  1. How’d your Choose Your Own Adventure path go? What stood out to you?

  2. What’s your biggest barrier to having more fun? Why?

  3. Commit to a pattern of play you can try for one month. Tell the friends you’re with now if you’re processing as a group, or forward this article to a friend to tell them what you’re going to do (and maybe encourage them to have more fun too.)

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