Over the years, I’ve realized that to feel fully alive, I need to play.
I wasn’t always someone who thought about play. For years my life had centered on work. College at Princeton, grad school at Columbia, building a writing career and a comfortable life as a freelance writer… I’d pursued my goals with a fierce, unbending work ethic.
Then came the winter of 2007. I had just ended a five-year relationship. It was December, and the days were dark. Except for long overtime hours at a freelance job, I was holed up in my apartment. In every spare moment, I was clearing out clutter, assembling new furniture, reading books on how to recover from a break-up—working obsessively, as it were, to heal and move on.
I couldn’t bring myself to spend time with my friends: the last thing I wanted was a deep talk about my feelings or my life. All I wanted was to hibernate until the pain had passed.
Then, one day in January, I got an e-mail. It was from a meetup for Harry Potter fans, a group I’d joined during the hoopla around the seventh book release—and later forgotten.
“Ice Skating in Bryant Park: Put on your best themed fineries or character costume, wrap that striped scarf around your neck, and join us at The Pond!”
Somehow, that appealed. Quirky. Fun. No strings attached.
There’d be no need to talk about heavy topics with a group of total strangers, and if I didn’t like them, I never had to see them again.
But, I did like them. They were friendly, down-to-earth, and not afraid to have fun. Nothing like the social maladjusts I’d imagined each time I saw those robed, witch-hatted adults outside bookstores, lined up for the midnight release of the latest Harry Potter book.
Over the next weeks and months, I fell in love. Not with a person, but with the fun I was having. We followed a screening of Sweeney Todd with an excursion to a Lower East Side meat pie shop. We commemorated Harry’s disastrous Valentine’s Day date by taking high tea in elegant dress. We played Quidditch, sliding through mud and tackling each other to catch the Golden Snitch.
And one afternoon in March, I realized I was happy. Not just going through the motions of recovery or managing to forget my misery for one afternoon or evening… but genuinely, fully happy. Standing in my kitchen, alone, with the clear spring light coming through the windows of my apartment, I loved my life.
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