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I Can Have Fun On A School Night!

A very important lesson resulted from an extremely tense moment in my life.

As is the case for most educators/counsellors, I have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. When I checked my schedule one fateful morning, I realized I had agreed to give a one-hour presentation on wellness at 1:00 p.m. that day. I was not prepared but did not consider one hour of wellness to 15 people a problem, since I had done it many times before.

I set off for my destination in Brandon, Manitoba, a 200-km trip, with barely two hours to get there. I did not know the name of the conference I was addressing and certainly had not organized any notes. However, I felt reasonably confident that I wouldn't need any notes for this one-hour presentation. I would just interact with the participants.

At exactly 1:00 p.m., I arrived at the Victoria Inn and went inside in search of Ballroom A. When I found the room, I discovered it was packed with approximately 300 people. "Whoops, wrong room!" Then I did the only thing a visual-type person could do under the circumstances and went looking for another Ballroom A. That picture of 300 people did not match the one of 15 still in my head. Of course, I was being ridiculous, and sheepishly returned to the original room and peeked in. A person appeared, dramatically relieved, started breathing again, and rushed up to me.

The Professional Development chairperson for the conference gave me a big crushing hug, which made me feel instantly welcome, and suddenly suspicious. She started to lead me to the front of the room, but my firm grip on the doorframe prevented her from taking me anywhere. She suddenly realized something was not right. "Oh, did they not inform you about the change?" "What... ah... change?", I stammered. My apprehension was driving the panic. "You are now the conference's closing speaker and speaking for two hours - and we're late!" I was suddenly totally alone, totally brain dead, and drenched in my own perspiration.

As I shuffled toward the gallows, ah, podium, my mind was racing. I don't have a single note on which to base my address. I have two hours to sum up and evaluate a conference I have not attended. In fact, I don't even know the name of the conference, nor its theme. On top of all that, I'm brain dead. If I'm asked for the names of my children, I will have to ask for clues!

The introduction was finally finished (all too soon, I needed more time to think) by this person I had never met before, and she turned to me and said "... I am proud to introduce Dr. Dan Rosin to you all." The word 'all' seemed to echo through a vast reverberation chamber. 'Proud' seemed doomed for replacement.

Have you ever made the laborious trip down to the basement to fetch something, only to find that when you get there, yo haven't the faintest notion what you wanted? That your mind was a blank? Well, that was me, nothing in my mind, a total blank!

Out of this absolute void of uninspired non-thoughts came a faint voice - my mother's. She cried out a message that would save me from that pit of despair and embarrassment, into which I was sinking deeper and deeper each minute. My mother stated, You are not supposed to have fun on a school night. Save your best time and energy for school. For sure, I had lost it!

Image! I was 54 years old, my mother was 'speaking' to me as I stood in front of 300 eagerly waiting, anticipatory people, and she is saying that I'm not supposed to have fun on a school night. Five out of seven nights I am not supposed to have fun! And that's all my facsimile of a brain could dredge up from my vast storehouse of knowledge.

I did the unthinkable. I went with it. I said it out loud. I didn't know what the audience was thinking, but they seemed to be approving. Hopefully, they thought that I was beginning my meticulously prepared presentation: Oh good. Very clever. He jumps right into the theme. A good beginning. I continued.

"How many of you subscribe to a similar message that says you are not supposed to have fun on a school night?" I wasn't entirely sure what that really meant, but it sounded pretty good. I held my breath; I believed I could hear the audience's thoughts, but perhaps it was simply wishful thinking: He asks us a question to get focused. Great technique. This guy knows what he is doing. To be honest, I dared hope for only a few responses - even one. So, when the majority put up their hands, I started breathing again. And for the next two hours we explored the message "I am not supposed to have fun on a school night", its origin, and the debilitating effect that it's had on our lives to date.

I'm sure I am not overstating the impact of this message as 'debilitating' when you think that five out of seven nights you are not supposed to have fun, but rather save that energy for something more important, such as your work. Five our of seven nights are work nights, and by the other two, if you're not too tired, one might be used for play. By the end of the work week, many of us are exhausted and just want to hit the chesterfield and be left alone.

In addition to the 'no fun on a school night' belief,many of us subscribe to the notion that if we are not working all the time, as we have been programmed to do, then the only other available options if we want or need downtime are sickness or fatigue. If we want time away from work, we make ourselves so sick or so fatigued that we can then take some guilt-free time off for ourselves. Pitiful!

We need to learn to have fun every day, and not to save it up for the two days on the weekend, or a couple of weeks of summer holidays. Let's learn how to have fun and seek balance, every day.

If we are to get and stay healthy, we best challenge my mother's message and change the belief to:

I can have fun on a school night!