On Friday I took a field trip to the Toronto Science Centre.  It’s been over thirty years since I last visited and I asked the same person to accompany me: my mother.  This time she didn’t have to carry my lunchbox around while I ran through all the exhibits (although I still made her hold my stuff while I used the washroom).

I’m a big believer in field trips, especially as an adult.  I take the day off work just as we used to take the day off in school and that same giddiness returns as I pull into the parking lot of whichever attraction I’ve chosen – in recent years, I’ve visited the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg and the AGO.  The Toronto Zoo is next on my radar.

I started taking field trips again when I experienced a strong yearning to use my brain in a different way.  So many of us sit at our computers day in and day out, and our eyes just get tired of staring at that screen all the time – at least mine do.  It takes a dramatic change in my environment to shake me out of that fixed state and re-wake my imagination.  As Janice Marturano states (in her book, “Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership), “we need to remove ourselves periodically from ‘task-based focus; so we have a time when we can stumble upon a new connection or association.  The creative brain craves that space.  But when we have a calendar fully packed with meetings, and a task list that fills several pages, the spaciousness we require for creativity is minimal… A constant stream of thinking actually gets in the way of wisdom that lies deep within each of us, what we have learned and experienced over time and stored because of its importance.

With Marturano’s recently-read words in my mind, I gave myself full permission to take the day off and go play.  Thankfully, my mom was around to give me a ride (old habits die hard – for both of us).

There are so many exhibits at the Science Centre and you can’t expect to look at every single one in a given day.  In fact, I was initially overwhelmed by so much stimulation in each room that it took me a while to adjust to looking at things in a reasonable way: just as I had learned to do at the McMichael Gallery and the AGO, I let my eyes lead me to the displays that appealed most, and didn’t force myself to spend time with those that held little interest.  It’s a good practice inside and outside of a tourist attraction and one I’m developing to help me pick and choose through all of the information I’m exposed to each day.

Outer space has always been a draw for me and so we lingered at the Chris Hadfield display.  That guy is so profound and I was delighted to read the following quotation he texted from space:

“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction.  Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that.  Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person.  You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in.  Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.” (Chris Hadfield)

Now that’s a sentiment I’d like to share with my career transition clients – with emphasis on paying attention to the decisions we make each day and a slow but steady approach to creating change in our lives (of course, not all of us can identify exactly what excites and challenges us or who want to be and that’s when we need to turn to developing our process for creating change and moving forward regardless, read more here).

After the space exhibit we sat through an IMAX film on Humpback Whales.  It was a lovely film (the many kids in the theatre “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” throughout, with delightful spontaneity) although what impressed me most was that I didn’t throw up or have to leave early – that screen is gigantic.

Next on our agenda was lunch and I have to say this was the most enjoyable part of the day for me.  My mother and I don’t get to see each other that often these days, and even our phone calls are frequently interrupted by dogs barking in the background or chicken burning on the stove (both mine).  I’d forgotten what a difference it makes to be face-to-face with someone you care about, particularly for longer than an hour or two at a time.  While my mother ate a granola bar and drank chocolate milk and I tried to chew through a pre-packaged sandwich, we shared our thoughts on a variety of personal subjects.  As childlike as I felt on this field trip, I also recognized how wonderful it is to sit across from a parent as an adult and have a much different conversation then we did when I was ten.

With our energy lagging at the end, we walked through a makeshift rainforest and admired a giant, twelve-foot bear replica in the woolly mammoth exhibit, before calling it a day and turning to make our way back out to the exit and the car.  I fell into the car seat just as exhausted as I’d been when I was a kid, and just as content.  It was a great day of giving my work brain a break, re-connecting with a loved one, and re-igniting my creativity.  I can’t wait till the next one.

For your own reflection:

  1. If you could take a field trip, where would you go?
  2. What are all the excuses you make not to?
  3. What permission do you need to give yourself in order to take a creative break?