It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
“Have fun is my message. Be silly. You’re allowed to be silly. There’s nothing wrong with it.” — Jimmy Fallon
A few days ago, a friend said to me, “Maria, you have got to start going out more! You have got to start having more fun!”
Her words landed like a thud because I knew she was right. I love my work, but for the most part, it’s pretty serious stuff. I’ve also noticed that if you’re not careful, your life can end up drowning in all sorts of seriousness as you get older.
So, I decided to take my friend’s advice to heart and make fun my goal for this summer. I know fun can seem kind of trivial when the world feels like it’s falling apart, but it’s actually an important tool that we can use to recharge. It’s also an ingredient to a life with purpose and the optimism we need to keep moving forward.
At my dinner table this week, I asked my daughter Christina and her friend Claire (both who are lots of fun) about the role of fun in their lives. Christina said it’s important to have friends who can make you laugh at just about anything. Claire said she enjoys going out, dancing, and talking to all kinds of different people.
Now, I don’t go out dancing, but I do have a monthly poker night at my house that’s pretty fun. I also go to New York once a month for The Today Show, and when I’m there I try to hang out with my cousins and friends who make me laugh. And when I’m back home, I also hang out with my kids a bunch, which I always find to be great fun.
My point is that my life isn’t short on joy, but I still know that I could do a better job of getting out of my house and consciously adding more fun into my life.
So, already this week, I decided to push myself to do something I wouldn’t have done before. I went to my friend Susan’s house for a special gathering. Ordinarily, after a busy work day, I would have just said no. But this time, I said “yes.” I’m so glad that I did.
Susan became a lawyer after her kids were in high school (how cool is that?) and she now works at The Juvenile Innocence and Fair Sentencing Clinic at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She is one of those friends who always seems to be having fun. She’s got a great boyfriend, great kids and deep, meaningful work.
At Susan’s house that night, there was a panel discussion featuring five young men who had been convicted of crimes as juveniles. (Two were wrongly convicted, and the other three were released after going through a special parole process for juveniles.) One of them was named Hugo.
Hugo recounted a conversation he once had with former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who commuted his life sentence for good behavior and enabled him to get out of prison early. Hugo said that Gov. Brown told him that politics is 90 percent bullshit. The other 10 percent is discovering what you were passionate about as a kid and having the courage to fight for it as a public servant.
I love that advice because it’s so true. I also loved listening to these guys tell their own stories because they were all open, vulnerable, smart, thoughtful and inspiring. It was fun hearing what they had to say because their voices felt authentic and real.
After the discussion, Hugo walked across the room and introduced himself to me. He approached me with a big smile and a welcoming handshake. (Turns out, he works with one of my heroes, Father Gregory Boyle, who I recently interviewed for my “Meaningful Conversations” podcast. I really hope you’ll listen because Father Boyle is doing life-changing work each and every day with former gang members and the formerly incarcerated.)
Hugo’s joy was infectious, and his appreciation for his new life was humbling. I loved meeting him because we really connected on a human level as we talked about gratitude, redemption and the gift of freedom. Connecting, it turns out, is one of my favorites ways to have fun, feel joyful and hopeful. It makes me feel less alone in our big, wide world.
Listening to these young men talk about prison may not be a typical “good time,” but I drove home that night feeling happy. I was happy that I had gotten out of the house, happy that I had met Hugo, and happy that I had heard a meaningful conversation about real-life stuff.
I felt a lightness when I got home that night. I felt gratitude. I even said to myself, “Maria, you do have got to get out more! That was fun!”
So this week, I want to encourage you to ask yourself: “What’s my idea of fun? Am I having any? What makes me laugh out loud? Who makes me laugh? Can I laugh at myself?”
Yes, there are a lot of issues to worry and care about these days. But having fun is good for your health, heart and soul. As for me, I’m glad that I stepped outside my comfort zone this week, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my summer has in store.
P.S. If you’re interested in finding out more about the clinic where Susan works, click here.
Dear God, thank you for the chance to wake up each morning and see the world anew. May I approach my days with light, joy and wonder, and pass that feeling on to others.
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