Recess

Over the past few months, I’ve been taking regular time in the middle of the week for “recess” with my friend, Yi Zhang. We basically hop on a Zoom, make art, and share. We mainly do it because it’s fun, but there’s a deeper meditation underlying these sessions.

We’ve observed that others seem to value us for how we bring art into our work, both directly and indirectly. However, this is usually seen as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have, things that are best done on our own versus company time. Why, and what do we lose when we view art this way? As Yi exclaimed, “It’s not optional for me. I need to do this.”

Other things we often treat as outside the scope of work include rest, relationship-building, and self-care. Why, and what do we lose when view these as separate from our work? Some fields do integrate these things. In sports, rest is part of your training regimen. And, in primary education, recess is part of your school day.

Hence, recess. If it’s useful for my 10-year old nephew, it’s probably useful for me too. I don’t have anything too insightful to share about our sessions, other than that I love them, that they energize me, and that I want to do them more often with more people. I also track them on my timesheet as part of my work day. My timesheet is for myself, only — I’m not billing any clients for this time — but it still feels like an important declaration of values and boundary-setting.

This morning, I came across this blog post about a brand of CBD sparkling water called, “Recess.” Here’s their tagline on their website:

An antidote to modern times. We’re just here to help people feel calm, focused, and creative despite the world around them.

I chuckled when I saw it, I think their marketing is brilliant, and I don’t begrudge the person for sharing her enthusiasm (and a discount code) for it. My friend and colleague, Odin Zackman, has often talked about how we should not only take sabbaticals but find ways to bring the essence of these sabbaticals into our every day life. If drinking a can of flavored water does that for you, I am all for it.

And yet, I found it a bit sad for how reflective it seems to be of modern times. Suffering from the chaos of everyday life? There’s a drink for that! Or a drug. Or better yet, an app! Why have actual recess when you can buy a can of soda with the same name?!

Here are some related musings I’ve written about in the past:

  • In my most recent Faster Than 20 blog post on Journey Mapping, I wrote, “We often treat art as optional — nice, but not necessary. Doing this end-of-year ritual with my colleagues the past four years has helped me realize that this is a mistake, not just with Journey Mapping, but with many of my exercises. Practically speaking, when you create something that’s beautiful, you’re more likely to look at it again. More importantly, the act of creation leads to an understanding that’s far deeper and more meaningful than a set of sticky notes can convey.”
  • I participated in a workshop for the CIA in 2006. I mentioned the importance of play, and I saw a lot of backs stiffen, which led to an interesting discussion about what “play” actually meant.
  • One of my regular practices for the past decade (!) has been Wednesday Play Days, which was inspired by Odin. And here’s the exhaustive story of my seven year journey to learn how to slow down and bring better balance to my life.
  • “Art” can sometimes have a narrow definition. In 2013, I wrote about how I consider my work a creative practice. I mentioned “social artistry” — a term I learned from Nancy White — and also shared some of Elissa Perry’s poetry. Both Nancy and Elissa have continued to inspire me in how they bring their art to their work (or their art to their art!).

Leave a Reply