If I Ran the Zoo

The sun is shining through the underwater tunnel into the sea lions’ habitat overhead as we watch Dixie, the California sea lion playfully engage the zoo educator. This game started as we sat on the benches watching the sea lions’ swim upside down, backwards and tumbling around. I’m not sure how long we were sitting and watching at Sea Lion Sound in the heart of our St. Louis Zoo. I just know it is a Wednesday afternoon and I’ve never felt happier playing hooky from work.

I am mesmerized as Dixie swims back and forth, up, and down, happy to have a human to engage. She is quite a character. The educator swirls her hand near the glass. Dixie gladly swims back and forth. When the educator stops, Dixie swims near her and nods her head-a clear sign she wants to play. We move closer to the glass and try it. Along with my friend Adam and I, there is a family with two small kids. They ask what I want to ask, “How does Dixie know to do this?” The educator explains that it’s part of her training, but in this situation, Dixie isn’t getting treats. She’s just playing.

Moving closer to the glass, I look at Dixie’s face as she slowly swims by. She is beautiful and even more so as she playfully engages the humans in the underwater tunnel. I could stay forever in the sunlight playing with Dixie. I loved her energy and her playfulness.

When I called the Zoo to confirm her name, the zookeeper knew exactly which sea lion I was talking about when I mentioned her behavior. “Oh, that’s Dixie! She loves to play! Everyone loves her!”

While Dixie might play all day, I usually respect the work week. And yet….

One of the advantages of owning and running your own business, is that when an opportunity for adventure arises, you get to say YES!

On that particular Wednesday, I had one meeting which I was able to reschedule. I had planned to use the day to research, listen to podcasts and write.

Hmmmmm, the choice to work or…. have an adventure and change of scenery? The latter option had a certain intrigue….

It was an easy choice. I threw on shorts, a tank top and headed out to meet my friend Adam.

It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day and I wanted to play. A mental health day in Forest Park seemed to be the perfect way to spend this Wednesday. The options were unlimited-we could walk, hike, bike. Visit the History Museum or the Art Museum. We were on the hunt for French Onion soup as well.

The plan, as usual with Adam was left loose with “just enough” planning so we knew the general direction of where we were heading. It gave me enough information to know what to wear and what I needed to bring. There wasn’t much of a plan after that.

And that’s how we both liked it.

This was quite new to me. While I have an adventurous spirit, it had been a while since I was hanging out with someone who also viewed opportunities as adventure and was willing to go for it. In addition, it was a collaborative plan, respectful to both of us which made me even happier.

Though I feel as if I have been working non-stop-between the thinking, the brainstorming, and the networking, I knew a mental health day had many benefits. I was reminded that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to remember that mental health is essential to overall health. It was as if the Universe was speaking to me! Take the day off! Go! Be free!!! Play!

I’m rather good at self-care. Yoga, Pilates, dancing, hiking, walking, and biking keep me physically fit. I read, take sunshine breaks, and connect with friends. Try to eat healthy foods-in my world chocolate is a food group-and get enough sleep. I’ve learned to close my computer (unless I have a deadline, or a client can only connect on a weekend) on Fridays and open it up again on Monday. I don’t even have my work email on my phone.

Something about playing hooky on a Wednesday felt decadent.

The change of scenery fueled my soul; allowed me to feel young, free and on my own.

There’s a lot of talk about living in the moment. Designing and creating our own lives. Enjoy where you are, the people you are with; in whatever you are engaged. Say YES! have the adventure. Seize the opportunity. Take care of yourself-in the way you decide.

When I think of Wednesday, I am transported back to that underwater tunnel watching Dixie playfully engage humans as the sun shone through the water, illuminating the sea lion, the water, and the blue sky. Expect Good. Sparkle On.

Photo credit: Adam Evers

About Pam Wilson

I've been writing since I can remember. At heart, I am a story-teller; making sense of my world, finding humor and light through writing. Now I help clients to write their own stories. As I continue my own writing journey, my passion is to help clients write their own stories.


  1. Sandye Muncy on June 2, 2022 at 8:35 pm

    I loved reading this! We all need a change of scenery or a day to rest!