Reclaiming my right to recess

Children on a playground climbing a jungle gym

Sure, being an adult has its perks. You can stay up late, watch R-rated movies, and even eat ice cream for breakfast if you’re so inclined. (With my IBS, I’m not so inclined.) But I’d gladly give all that up if I could get my morning and afternoon recesses back. Why does recess have to go away when you grow up? All they give you in adulthood is a measly lunch hour … and maybe a cigarette break, if you’re lucky.

I hate to exercise.

I mean, I really hate to exercise. I hate it more than life itself.

But you got to do it. If you want to live a long life and accomplish great things (or even if you want to be a humor writer, like me), you’ve got to maintain your body.

A healthy body promotes a sharp and healthy mind. (It also discourages fellow beachgoers from laughing at your Speedo.)

I realized today that I need to exercise more.

And by that, I mean I need to exercise, period. As in, performing some sort of enhanced physical activity — something beyond my current regimen of rising from the couch to find the taquito that slipped between the seat cushions. (If it’s fuzz-free, it’s still good. Just got to brush off the cat hair and any loose change.)

It dawned on me that I’m tired. I sat down this evening to hammer out a post, and I was dismayed because I had nothing. My brain was dead. Static. Foggy.

I was tired. I’m always tired.

And I’m tired of always being tired. 

I work hard all day, and when I come home, there’s nothing left. No energy to write. No energy to read and comment on other blogs (and sorry for that, by the way). No energy to cook.

I mean, I barely have enough energy to microwave a couple of taquitos. (That’s why I spend so much time searching between the couch cushions.)

Granted, I have some digestive issues that sap my strength. Apparently, I don’t process protein well. (And we’ve discussed in length my penchant for taquitos.)

But that’s no excuse. Too many people have overcome obstacles far greater than mine, and they’ve gone on to reach their full potential. (Of course, they actually had potential to reach for, whereas I’m brushing cat hair off of microwaved meals. But I’m not here to focus on the negative.)

I promised myself this evening that I’m going to exercise for 15 minutes each day.

Fifteen minutes.

That’s a commitment … for me.

And actually, it seemed sort of daunting, at first.

But then I realized: Fifteen minutes was the length of my morning and afternoon recesses back in fifth and sixth grade.

I loved recess. My friends and I would play handball — lots of handball. Or else we’d dangle from the jungle gym and throw pebbles at the girls. (And really, what better way for a boy to express his affection than by chucking a marble-sized rock at a girl’s head?)

And like those rocks, a thought struck me:

I’m miserable in my adult life because I no longer have recess.

My friends and I always looked forward to recess. Recess made life worth living. No matter what assignment we were doing or even if it was Movie Day, we always watched the clock with fervid anticipation, counting the seconds until recess.

Why did we ever give that up?

The school district snuck it away — a sort of bureaucratic death by a thousand cuts.

In seventh grade, they took away morning and afternoon recess, leaving us with only an abbreviated break after lunch.

And by ninth grade, even lunch recess was gone.

But it didn’t matter, because by then we were hustling off campus to chain-smoke cigarettes and pick up chicks — which, for me, still meant throwing pebbles at them. (I never did quite grow out of that phase. Of course, I never did get a date, either.)

I need recess in my adult life. I go to work, but there’s no longer that frenzied yearning as I stare at the clock, waiting for the bell. Now I just stare at the clock and wait for my demise. (Or for my retirement; whichever comes first.)

But I’m bringing recess back — even if it’s in the evening, on my own time. I need that frantic, physical activity to keep me young.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be playing handball, or — heaven forbid — throwing rocks at chicks. (I vowed last weekend to give that up, after an awkward experience at a nightclub.)

But it does mean I’m going to hustle on the elliptical for 15 minutes straight, reliving the glory of my youth and recapturing the sprightly essence that makes life exciting.

In terms of recess, 15 minutes isn’t that long.

As a kid, in fact, it seemed much too short.

So that’s how I’m going to keep this commitment. I’m not going to consider my promise as “exercise.”

“Exercise” implies drudgery and pain and internal self-judgement.

Instead, I’m going to consider it “recess,” which means letting loose, forgetting life — flailing around with reckless abandon.

Because isn’t that what life is, anyway? We’re all just flailing around, searching for a purpose, a reason — a deeper, more profound meaning to it all.

If you’re going to flail around, you might as well do so with reckless abandon. Many of us flail around, but it’s the “reckless abandon” part we let go of.

So yes, I still hate exercise. I really hate exercise.

But as for life itself … well, let’s say I’m brushing off the cat hair and all the loose change.

48 comments on “Reclaiming my right to recess

  1. Incidentally, I’m in awe of your mastery of pick up techniques when you were at school. Throwing pebbles! Who would have guessed that was the secret? I’ll bet that brought you lots of female attention, and possibly an appearance at juvenile court. My own technique was to shut my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears whenever anyone of the opposite sex walked within 50 yards of me. I’m not sure how successful I was with the girls. I couldn’t see or hear them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Throwing pebbles did bring me lots of female attention. Unfortunately, it was in the form of the 60-year-old playground teacher, who blew her whistle and assigned me detention for three weeks. Not a great introduction to the dating scene.

      I like the technique of sticking my fingers in my ears and closing my eyes. I actually use it to avoid assignments at work. It can’t be your problem if you didn’t see or hear about it, right? Unfortunately, my boss isn’t amenable to my perspective on the subject.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve always thought that if smokers get a break to pursue their habit, non-smokers should petition for a non-smoking break. I actually took one for a while but found that hanging around outside the door with the smokers caused me to breath more second-hand smoke than I could stand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve thought the same exact thing! I used to venture outside quite often back when I smoked, but in the years since I’ve quit, I rarely leave my desk. When I was a smoker, I was the office pariah, but now it seems like everyone smokes. Where were all these people 10 years ago to keep me company?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I still remember the awful naps we had to take as children. My mother enforced them with the persuasiveness of … well, a mother who wanted to catch up on her reading, I guess. Forget about recess, I just wish someone would tell me that I absolutely MUST go and sleep every afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny how perspectives change as we get older. When I was a kid, an afternoon nap was an insufferable punishment borne of sinister cruelty. Nowadays, I’d give anything to doze off after lunch. Yet every time I try, my boss yells at me.


  4. What I remember about recess was probably from middle school when all the cliques would hang out in their separate snobby circles. So recess doesn’t have a positive connotation for me. If it gets you moving though, go for it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • There were definitely the cliques, which did seem to start in seventh and eighth grade. If I tried to ask out a girl, my friend would say, “Dude, you can’t talk to her! She’s not in your league.”

      “Yeah, but what am I supposed to do?” I asked. “None of the girls are in my league. My league is just me and you. We’re the gunk that people scrape from the bottom of the barrel.”

      In fifth and sixth grade, there were two distinct cliques: the Boys and the Girls. If you were a Girl, you spent recess jumping rope or picking flowers to give to the playground teacher.

      If you were a Boy, you ripped off your shirt, smeared war paint across your face, and engaged in epic battles of life and death. The slide became a fort, which had to be defended from enemy ranks. The pea gravel covering the ground became buckshot that could be hurled by hand to keep the advancing combatants at bay.

      The horrible skirmish would rage in all its bloody glory until the playground teacher declared a ceasefire by blowing on her whistle. Members from opposing armies would be dragged into the principal’s office, prisoners of war taken hostage by an undefeatable authority.

      Ah, yes. The good-old days. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you, Allen. Those cliques were out of my league too. They were the quintessential mean girls – not just mean to boys but other girls too. Hope you don’t meet up with them at your gym on recess😌

        Liked by 2 people

      • Not to worry — I have a supernatural aura that repels women with my mere presence. My repulsive gym outfit should keep those mean girls at bay, too.

        (It’s not a particularly useful skill when seeking out relationships, but like Peter Parker’s Spiderman, my extraordinary abilities are a cross that I must bear.) 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  5. And by that, I mean I need to exercise, period – ME TOO! I loved handball and kickball. Totally hung out with the boys and got picked to be on a team right away… even tried my skills at kick over and got okay at it. Yes, recess. I can see it now. Where’s Allen, oh, he’s on the playground. Dude it’s recess. He’ll be back at the bell. Line up on the dots!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So YOU were probably one of the girls who got picked over me when teams were being chosen. Now there’s an insufferable humiliation for a sixth-grade boy desperate to show off his wicked kickball skills. In those days, being passed over for a girl was an unspeakable affront. As boys, we relished in the animal-like savagery of contact sports, and brutal domains like that were no place for a girl. How dare a GIRL infiltrate our brotherly fellowship and outperform us athletically! To be picked last behind a girl was a degrading humiliation that took weeks to overcome.


      • Well, I got picked smack-dab in the middle after the good guys. So you wouldn’t have been frustrated with me because there were still others. I was typically the first girl chosen. There were (3) of us.

        Liked by 1 person

      • In truth, I was frustrated with myself because I was a terrible player. Well … not even “terrible” is a strong enough word. I was a horrific player — an anchor not that not only dragged down the team’s performance, but also its morale. Not to go too overboard here in my describing my athletic performance (or lack thereof), but having me on your side was an insurmountable handicap that put the team at a steep disadvantage.

        However, it’s always easier to blame a girl for taking your place on the team, rather than to acknowledge that you can’t catch a ball … even when when it falls in your hands. (And yes, it’s always humiliating to chase after a rolling ball as the opposing team scores run after run.) 🙂


      • Wow to “drag down a team’s performance,” seems like you had a really long 15 minute recess.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Well, I was exceptionally good at it. 😉


  6. I’m sorry for your health issues. I understand what you mean about being tired of forever being tired. Loved this post and your always profound way of looking at things. And I also love your idea of recess. That concept is so much more “freeing” than the burden of an exercise regimen. I think I may steal it. I mean borrow…borrow it. Of course I meant borrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha — thanks, Wendy! By all means, feel free to steal — or “borrow” — the concept if it helps to remove the soulless drudgery that the term “exercise” implies. It’s a miserable word, and I hate it.

      I’ve grown so weary of gym equipment, exercise routines, and fitness instructors barking like drill sergeants, as if staying in shape is possible only by adopting a militaristic regimen that involves red-faced yelling and super-tight shorts. Exercise is supposed to be fun and freeing and noncompetitive. And there’s no rule that says spandex has to be involved. 🙂

      I do feel my health improving, too. I think a lot of it is self-imposed stress. Learning to breathe and let go has proven to be more challenging than any fitness routine I’ve ever done before.


      • Wow, I can so relate to the “breathe and let go” sentiment. It is the hardest thing to do sometimes. At least so far as I have found.

        And you’re right too about the whole exercise thing. It should be enjoyable but the whole notion has morphed into a huge commercially driven (which is where the competitiveness comes in….gotta be better than your neighbor!) concept that sucks all of the joy out of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly. Exercise should be getting out and moving and having fun. It shouldn’t be an instructor on a DVD showing off his chiseled six-pack and screaming at you for your pitiful inadequacy.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Allan, I couldn’t believe you actually used my interview with you as your own. Not that I’m complaining, I’d rather you talk my poor physical condition as if it were your own, So I just wanted to write and say thank you for taking the hit for me, and drawing all the attention away from me and my blubber. Your the best! ‘oD

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Now, if only I could find a way to get the needed exercise without having to do it myself. Then I wouldn’t have a stagnant brain that omits words, and puts commas where periods should go when I comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I say bring back naps like we used to have in Pre-school. Have a one hour postprandial nap, get up, do a bit of work, have a snack and think how invigorated and full of energy you be when you got off work and went home. Personally, I think the work day should just end at lunch, nothing ever really gets accomplished after lunch, everyone is just falling asleep at their desks.

    Liked by 1 person

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