By Pop-Ups Andy

As I headed down the jet-bridge onto the plane, something hit me. Not physically, but emotionally. I had to take a moment to check-in with myself and regroup my thoughts. Through a deductive soliloquy of ‘been there, done that’ I ruled out nerves, new places and the task ahead as potential reasons. So what was the problem?

I never got to the root of the issue at the time, but now, as the same scenario looms in reverse, ten weeks later, a similar feeling is brewing. I’d re-confirmed that I still love travelling, I still love LA, SCV Adventure Play are awesome and Playwork is still, by far the best job in the world… so what then?

Then it hit me. Yes, of course! Risk. I’ve spent half my life talking and advocating about its necessity, but then struggle to recognise it when it’s right there under my nose.

Maybe it wasn’t the fear of what was ahead, but more what I was leaving behind? Prior to heading out to California I had recently undergone a significant change in my working circumstances. I had just jumped out from the comfort and safety of a fixed-site, salary and security and was parachuted into a situation where I had the permission to follow my own agenda, to adapt and respond accordingly, to be able to push myself into slightly uncomfortable situations, but under my own direction and control.

My time in California was fast-paced, eye-opening and taught me a lot. I presented at the NAEYC conference to over 100 professionals on incorporating the playwork approach into education. Together with SCVAP I ran Pop-Up Playgrounds with diverse groups of children and their families across LA County which were underpinned by a weekly session on Eureka Villa, where exciting things are unfolding and some real playwork magic is already  happening! As part of my work with SCV Adventure Play I was embroiled in the LA2050 campaign for a chance to win $100,000 to develop Eureka Villa. It was an exhausting but exciting period which created new friends and contacts from around the world. My final project in December was a spontaneous piece of work at a local charter-school which quickly snowballed into a possible research study and small-scale documentary, focusing on the impact of the Playwork within the US recess environment.

Anyway, to cut a long but very exciting story short: Following your own ideas and interests, in your own way and for your own reasons can be a really big deal, even for an adult. I took a risk and stepped outside my very safe and warm comfort zone, and it reminded me that my bubble was small and the need is big, that risks are scary, but fear is temporary and without sounding too much like an insert of ‘Inspiration Daily’, my most important reflection was reconfirming that playwork is my purpose.

So here’s to 2017. Possibly the most volatile, unpredictable year in modern history. There is no time for comfort zones and inertia, it’s time for advocacy and protest, to take risks and make change.

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