Do More Fun Sh*t

Marion Leary
6 min readDec 14, 2023


Yoga at Citizen Bank Park

Until six months ago, I was not engaging in anything I would consider fun. I was at the end of a five-year slog to finish my #PhD; I was mentally, emotionally, and physically worn out.

Once I defended though, I started living my best life again (did you know there are these magical things called weekends?). I have begun re-engaging in things I find interesting and restorative. Thus, I am living by a new motto: Do more fun shit. I have probably taken this to excess, but what can I say? I have a lot of time to make up!

Before I finished my PhD I put together a list of things I wanted to do that I had not had the time for previously. Here is a sampling of them in no particular order:

Spend more time in nature. This one makes my heart happier than anything else. I recently wrote about my love of and need for nature and how it replenishes me. I am in constant awe of this planet and all that it gives us. Doing more fun shit is not a one-way street, though, and I understand that I am privileged to have the time, resources, and support to do them. This is why I am starting to volunteer again for causes I find fun and inspiring, including Natural Lands Next Gen Council.

The NextGen Council members “see a future for our region in which conservation is a universally held value, and all communities are represented, welcomed, engaged, and invested in the outdoors.” I want to be a steward of the lands we inhabit (acknowledging that they are not our lands but the lands of indigenous and native peoples who still live here) and help raise awareness of and connection to these natural lands for all who want to enjoy them especially those who have inequitable access to them. This council will be a step toward that goal. I can’t wait to start working with the council in 2024 (when my term starts) to foster these connections.

National Arboretum, Washington DC; Ontario, Canada

Spend more time with friends. Boy, have I taken this one to heart! I have been proactive in reaching out to and making plans with friends. This is two-fold for me — first, my soul is filled when I am around others who thrive in ways that I thrive, but also, I am someone who always feels like they need a buddy. I am a twin, so I assume this need started well before birth, in the womb — thanks a lot, mom. However, I have also learned over the past year that it is okay to do things alone. This is something that I have started embracing as I do more fun shit.

Do more birding. Birding is the best of all worlds for me: it is outside in nature, it can be done with others or alone, it makes you be still, but it can also be competitive when trying to find different types of birds. I love it so much that I recently signed up for a birding retreat in Vermont in May 2024! I will drive up there by myself, knowing no one. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and leaning into the geeky things that I like to do.

Birding at Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust

Learn to juggle. This one is a lesson in persistence. I have not gotten better with practice, but will eventually prevail!

Learning to juggle.

Pickleball, Running, and Biking. I love being active. It keeps me out of trouble. Pickleball came to me at just the right time, and I am obsessed with it. It is really a lot of fun. On the other hand, running is less fun, but I am learning to enjoy it. As biking has become more of a commuter sport for me, it has lost a bit of its appeal for fun, hence the running. Though this year’s Bicycle Coalition’s Holiday Light Ride did infuse some more cheer back into riding!

Pickelball; Day 2 of running; Holiday Light Ride

Draw more. I bought an iPad so that I could draw more. This has gone more slowly than I’d hoped. I still think I am coming down off of the dissertation burnout, and this is one of the by-products. My goal is to get back to drawing the birds I see while birding.

Build more Legos. I know I am a grown-ass adult, but I love building Legos. There is something about the solitary activity of following a set of instructions while listening to music and building a tangible thing that really soothes me. I began sorting all of my thousands and thousands of Lego pieces so that I can try to build existing Lego sets with the pieces I have at home. It is slow-going but enjoyable.

Cook more. Cooking is something I enjoy thoroughly. I love being in the kitchen (by myself) and completing the step-by-step tasks that lead to a scrumptious end. As someone with a lot of food allergies, if I want to partake in the plethora of amazing food from around the globe, I need to cook it — and cook it, I do. During the pandemic, I chronicled the many new recipes I was cooking — and I haven't stopped. You can read those blog posts here and here. Over the holiday break, I will venture into gluten-free bread making. I am really looking forward to it!

Do more geeky stuff. I get called a dork by my sister a lot, and I couldn't love it more. I mean, I am Philadelphia’s reigning Geek of the Year. This is why I love museums and events that nourish that side of me. I have leaned into this part of me a lot this year, and I f*cking love it.

International Women in Air & Space Museum, Cleveland, OH; Start Talking Science, Science History Museum, Philadelphia, Pa; Science After Hours, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa

Doing more fun shit these past six months has made my life fuller than it had been in the many years previous. It has made my mind calmer and my heart happier. I learned a lot over the five years in the PhD program, but mostly, I realized that I don’t want to wait until I’m retired or close to death to live my best life. I want that now. That is why I highly recommend that in 2024 and beyond, you start doing more of the fun shit you love, regardless of your comfort zone or what others might think. I’ll be doing lots more of it, too — so if you want a buddy, hit me up.



Marion Leary

Science geek. Passionate abt Philly, resuscitation, social media, scicomm, innovation, art, & helping others.