My friend Eleanor shared this idea with me before she headed off to Ghana for a year of volunteering for a think tank.
Eleanor said that what a whole bunch of us have been doing in our 20s is structured play – enjoying life and having adventures while making sure it looks good on our CVs.
Whoa, truth bomb. This is me from the ages of 21 to 28. Here are some ideas for structured play (directly from my CV):
- Student exchange (x2)
- An internship overseas
- Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (how about Australian Youth Ambassadors for Personal Development and Parties in a country where a modest allowance lets you live like a queen)
- Masters degree (x2)
All of these things were both good for my CV and FUN.
I thought I was being clever (and it worked – once I got a job against people who had had steadier careers because my employers liked that I’d had a variety of experiences).
I, like almost every other twenty-something I know, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so wanted to try a few things out before committing to path. Structured play gave me heaps of time to get to know myself and write lots of blog entries.
But I’m starting to wonder whether structured play is a crutch for control freaks. Is it just a security blanket for the over-achiever?
As I wander through life I variously contemplate what it would be like to make a radical move in my career. “What if I started my own business?” “What if I became a florist?” etc. etc. (I KNOW you do it too).
But, despite the last ten years of my life looking quite fun and a little bit adventurous, I didn’t ever really risk all that much.
Structured play is ALL ABOUT MINIMISING RISK.
Now, as a 30 year old, I’m starting to realise that my appetite for risk is shrinking and will probably continue to shrink as I march on towards 40.
So I spent my 20s not taking real risks, and now I’m unexperienced in risk-taking, and less inclined than ever before to try it (I’m not saying I wouldn’t take a risk, just that I’m less inclined).
Structured play might have seemed like a good idea at the time – but now I wonder whether I wouldn’t have been better off taking at least one really cracking, heart-stopping risk in my 20s. Perhaps I should have done something that wasn’t guaranteed to translate to a nice entry on the CV.
I realise now that most mistakes (risks that didn’t pay off) of your 20s are so damn easy to conceal if you want to conceal them. But even better than that, it’s getting less and less shame-worthy to have made mistakes as our world is chilling-the-hell-out about playing by the rules. Non-conformity is not just acceptable, it’s marketable.
So, what’s the answer?
- Is structured play genius or a crutch?
- Is the ‘take-home’ that wild-stupid-risk-taking is something easier to do now (at 30) than later (at 40 or 50 or 60)?