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Learning how to have true fun

Learning how to have true fun

A couple weeks ago The Smoky Mountain News hosted its anniversary party.

This year we celebrated 24 years. For an independent print publication in the digital age, this is an incredible accomplishment, and I’m proud to be part of the SMN family. The most enjoyable part of these annual soirees is seeing fans and friends of the paper. 

I’ve been writing my column in The Smoky Mountain News since Jan. 2016. Back then Scott McLeod was looking for a female columnist and asked if I was interested. I said yes not knowing exactly what I was getting into, but here I am almost eight years later and this column is something I cherish deeply.

With that being said, I go through phases where I wonder if I should give the space to someone else, but then we have the yearly party and I meet readers who feel like they know me personally from reading my column. They tell me how much they look forward to it.

They’ve read about the despair and grief I experienced over the death of my mom and going through a divorce, stories about my boys and my dad, meeting Matthew, the evolution of a blended family, moving multiple times, travel adventures, the publication of my children’s book and many other personal and professional transitions. 

I can’t express how much it means when readers reach out in person or through email with kind and insightful thoughts or comments. What these individuals may not know, however, is they mean as much to me as my column means to them. I’m a person who works out my feelings through writing, who sorts through deep-seated emotions by typing on a keyboard, and my SMN column has been a core component of a yearslong healing journey. 

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At this year’s party, I met one such reader who brought me a book to borrow based on something I’d written about. The book is titled “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again” by Catherine Price. In a recent column, I wrote about how adults, especially women, have forgotten how to have fun. Many women I know, myself included, are busy bodies, more concerned with being productive than finding joy. 

Even before the sweet lady gave me the book, I’d decided this summer was going to be all about slowing down and being more present. I made the commitment to reconnect to my inner child and remember what it felt like to have actual fun. I’m not talking about fake fun which may include scrolling through social media, binge watching TV or going out for drinks at bars. I’m talking about unadulterated light-hearted fun. 

The day after the SMN party, I began reading Price’s book. The author digs into the concept of “true fun.” She conducted a study where she asked a large sample of people to recall a time when they had “so much fun.” After aggregating the data, Price developed a definition of “true fun” to be “the confluence of playfulness, connection and flow.” This type of authentic fun only happens when people are being playful, when they are connecting with someone (or something) else, and when there is a sense of flow which basically means we lose track of time because we’re fully engrossed in an activity. 

With Price’s definition of fun on my mind, I sat on our back deck one morning with a cup of coffee and recollected recent experiences when I had true fun. I thought of tubing with the family down the Pigeon River, horseback riding with my youngest son at Smokemont, going to an escape room for one of our kid’s birthdays, visiting a metaphysical shop with two of my girlfriends where we learned about crystals, pendulums and palo santo sticks, paddle boarding and kayaking on the lake, and frolicking around downtown Asheville going to lunch, shopping and visiting antique stores. 

There is much more I could share about Price’s book and I’m only part of the way through. It would take multiple columns to relay the many concepts she highlights, but in essence, the hustle bustle mentality of American culture combined with the invention of smartphones makes it extremely challenging to enjoy good old-fashioned fun. We’re distracted by constant notifications, apps, texts, emails and so forth. Additionally, we carry a sense of guilt if we take time away from being productive in order to do something playful and joyful. 

The irony is when we allow ourselves to experience true fun, we’re actually more productive and happy in other areas of our lives. If you haven’t had fun in a long time, now’s the time to bring it back into your world or if you’re already good at allowing true fun into your life, kudos to you. 

Serendipity  has been the theme of my summer thus far. Even before I was given a book about how to have fun, I’d made a pact with myself to do just that. The book has only deepened my commitment and offered riveting information about all the attention thieves in modern society. Again, I want to thank our amazing readers and leave you with this suggestion. Get out there and have some true fun!

(Suzanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist with The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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