Types of Fun

“It’s more fun to experience things when you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
(Louis C.K. )

Have you ever heard about the types of fun? Ever think of “fun” as something to be separated out into categories or to put onto a scale? Neither had I, until I was sitting in a classroom studying Outdoor Leadership. The lecturer continued to explain the levels of “fun”, roughly defined as:

Type 1 Fun: You are having fun the entire time, the experience or activity is well within your comfort zone and isn’t seen as a challenge, but you enjoy it. This is what most people commonly acknowledge simply as just plain-old fun.

Examples from my life:  Playing soccer or basketball, snowboarding, happy hour with friends.

Type 2 Fun: You are miserable for most, if not the entire time, of your experience or activity. These experiences are often very challenging and trying, but when you look back you have fond memories and feelings of the experience, often as a result of overcoming a challenge, being able to brag (i.e. have that really cool facebook photo or a great campfire story), or simply appreciate the joy you get from testing your character and resolve and coming out on the other side better for it.

Examples from my life: Firstly, learning how to snowboard (I fell constantly in the beginning, ending days on the mountain bruised and discouraged, but I got over the hump and now I only derive Type 1 fun from snowboarding). Secondly, a really tough work-out that sucks in the moment, but feels good afterwards. Finally, a trip to the Sisters’ Wilderness in Central Oregon, where the goal of the trip was to summit three mountain peaks over 10 days. What actually happened was that my group and I bootpacked over 15 miles into the snowy wilderness, set-up camp at the base of majestic mountains, and then proceeded to get snowed on for the next three days by over five feet of snow. Instead of summitting mountains, we stayed busy by building snow structures and cooking. The commradary and friendships that were forged through this “suffering” will last my lifetime.

Type 3 Fun: This is not fun. At all! You are miserable during the experience, perhaps even think your life is in danger (it probably isn’t, but that’s beside the point), and upon reflection you derive no joy from the event either. You will never try to recreate a Type 3 experience. But you know what? You will gain some joy from these terrible experiences when you tell the tale of that time you “almost died”. If you’re having trouble picturing the kind of think I mean, just think of an experience that Tom Hanks would star in a movie depicting (i.e. Apollo 13, Cast Away, Captain Phillips, Sully).

Example from my life:  I’ve been very fortunate to have mostly avoided Type 3 “fun”. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a truly Type 3 experience. But I’ve at least had a Type 2.75 experience a few times while out on the river kayaking. The most notable was on a swollen, chocolatey brown, hellish river. From the second I saw the state of the water; I knew I was in over my head and had no business kayaking that day. The river looked like nothing I had ever paddled before. Within the first few minutes of paddling I had rolled four times (I don’t feel comfortable paddling anything in which I will roll more than twice), and my arms were lactic and exhausted. I was not having fun! In fact, I was scared and just wanted off the river. And I got my wish, eventually: I wound up in a nasty river feature called a “hole”[1], which flipped me again, and again and again.

I rolled at least seven times – I’m not sure of the exact figure as you lose track of these things when you are underwater. I hit my head on a giant boulder, and had no more air left in me, so I pulled my skirt (my last chance of getting out of my kayak), thinking I was stuck in that hole forever. As it turned out, there were three holes in a row, and I went through all of them). Once I pulled my skirt handle I was freed from the hole of death and I rushed to the surface of the river, disoriented and woozy. And yes, this is one of the few moments in my life that I felt my life was in danger.

Fortunately, I got a rescue on the back of another kayaker’s boat, and made it safely to shore. This experience was brutal and I didn’t even get back in a kayak for six months (before then I’d been paddling at least twice a week). But I learned so much from that day (like always trust your gut) and now, like most kayakers, I have a great beatdown [2] story (the kayaker who rescued me is a white-water kayaking legend). The only thing preventing this from being a true Type 3 fun experience was that I felt that pull back to white-water and six months afterwards I descended my first big waterfall (45 feet or so).

Since I first heard about the types of fun, I’ve been intrigued by this stratification and how these memories last or imprint in my mind. The most interesting thing to me, based on my own life experiences, is that I inversely remember them, meaning, I remember Type 1 fun days much less vividly than Type 3 fun days.  Don’t get me wrong, Type 1 fun is fun, that’s the definition of it, but it doesn’t speak to the soul. It is lacking a sense of adventure, the unknown, and doesn’t provide the framework for growth. I’ve grown and learned so much from my Type 2 and 2.75 experiences and made memories that will last a lifetime. I’m not always ready for my next Type 2 day, but I know I’ll be better for it!

So go out, try pushing your limits and finding some Type 2 fun!

[1] Wikipedia Whitewater- Holes

[2] This is a good video of a beatdown (caution some strong language is used)

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