Have you ever found yourself feeling things like…
“I don’t like being so busy that I don’t have time for myself.”
“I wish people could just see me for the things that I want to be valued for, instead of judging me by irrelevant expectations.”
“I’m frustrated when I’m not in control of my own life.”
“I wish I had access to kind, loving community that is more reward than work.”
“Why is it harder to do things for myself instead of others?”
“I wish I could just have some me time without getting interrupted.”
“I’m tired of not having time for creativity and relaxation.”
“I wish I could belong somewhere as just myself.”
I used to feel that way all the time.
Hi, I’m Jaya Berged. I’m a creative artist, coach, and dog mum in Melbourne, Australia.
I used to be a lawyer, a committed churchgoer, a devoted wife. But everything I did was following a predefined path, things that people expected me to do. That was what I believed life needed to be, and I was committed to giving it my best. But I often felt suffocated, like I didn’t truly belong, and I longed for something that I couldn’t define. I kept saying to myself, “surely there has to be more to life than this.”
I tried many different things. I tried studying more, serving more, working more, being involved in more groups, mentoring people, but the more I tried to chase meaning, the more it eluded me. My life began to revolve around the things that I believed made it meaningful, but when I faced setbacks in those areas, it was devastating – I found that I didn’t have much within myself to fall back on. For example in 2013, when I was rejected by my church for being an “insubordinate woman” (even though God knows I’d been trying my best to be good!), I fell deep into a depressive episode that lasted close to a year.
Something had to change.
I dropped my career in law and decided to pursue the arts full time. Everyone I knew told me “don’t do it!” because I’d spent years getting good at other things, did I really want to throw all that away? Plus, did I really want to struggle for the rest of my life (because who doesn’t associate the arts with struggle)? But I wanted to feel fulfilled, and I knew that the arts (especially writing and theatre) made me feel a way that nothing else in my life did. So I didn’t listen to the naysayers, and took the leap. In 2015, I set up my own theatre group, and my life began to change. Art is a portal into one’s own soul, and I finally began to connect with my true self, in the context of a community of other people also connecting with their true selves. I knew that this was the best decision I could have made for my life.
But old habits die hard.
I began to obsess over THIS in the same way that I had obsessed over other things in the past. I spent all my time working on my current projects, planning my next projects, maintaining my arts relationships, and growing my practice. I wrote and directed several shows, trained many groups of actors in India and Australia, expanded my practice to include music composition and reviewing all kinds of live shows. Everything was going extremely well.
And then I ran into my biggest setback yet.
In July 2018, one week before I was set to travel to India for a theatre workshop and production season, I ran into a medical emergency. I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, a 10/10 on the pain scale (I had never before known what that could feel like), severe internal bleeding (I lost half the total blood in my body), and I very nearly died. Thankfully, I was swiftly admitted and operated upon by the amazing medical team at my local hospital (they didn’t even have time to get consent to start blood transfusions!), and I survived.
A near-death experience is enough by itself to be life changing. But for me, it wasn’t just that I’d nearly died at 30 years of age. This was also my first “pregnancy” after six years of trying, and I felt miffed that my body had gotten it so wrong. The doctors also stumbled upon other concerns in my body, and told me I’d need follow up consultations and potentially more treatment to resolve those issues (I eventually had follow up surgery in 2019). I was also extremely weak from blood loss and took months to recover, but I was shocked to discover that my being out of action had absolutely no consequence in the world. During the whole time that I couldn’t work, I couldn’t serve anyone, I couldn’t create anything – life just went on as normal in the rest of the world.
The realization that all my constant effort and stress and labouring after outcomes was, in fact, fairly inconsequential overall, sent me spiralling into a full blown existential crisis.
I got back into therapy, EVERYTHING in my life went under the scanner, and I made my big discovery: life isn’t about meaning-finding, but meaning-making.
Fulfilment doesn’t come from following a path but from creating one.
My life needed to stop being about work, and start being about play. Because work is about outcomes, play is about process. Work is about being future-focused, play is about being present. Work is about doing one thing for the sake of another, play is about doing a thing for its own sake.
As the universe had shown me, my life exists here and now, for no reason other than simply because it does. And my best shot at experiencing fulfilment – at not being screwed over by setbacks, at finding substance within myself to fall back on if things didn’t go my way – was simply to stay present, to stay with myself, and to know that I get to assign my own meaning to my own life, actions, and outcomes.
Playground was born out of this shift in perspective.
This space is not about chasing outcomes, but about staying with the process. It is a space of curiosity, neutral engagement, wonder, openness to all kinds of outcomes without labelling them as “success” or “failure”. It is a space of warm, supportive, non-judgemental community where everyone is here simply to be themselves, and to play as they feel inclined.
Playground is also a space for authentic growth: in self-awareness, in creative practice, in social engagement, and in whatever else one brings to the space with a desire to see it grow.
I created Playground primarily for myself, as a creative solution to my own needs and for my own fulfilment. But I know that when one person feels a need for something, it’s unlikely that they’re alone in feeling it. So if my story has found resonance with you, I invite you to come along and join me in my catharsis, in this space of curiosity, creativity, and connection with community.
Playground is for you if…
- You want to learn to how to be present in the moment, and have a break from life’s stress, worry, and scattered thoughts,
- You want to prioritize making time for yourself, which can help your self-talk and teach your brain to believe that you truly matter (because you do!),
- You want to see things from a new perspective, including things in your immediate environment that you don’t notice even though they’re always there,
- You want to engage with new thoughts and ideas, things you wouldn’t necessarily think of exploring on your own,
- You want to expand your creative instincts, learn tips and tricks and creative hacks that will enhance your ability to problem-solve and create original work,
- You want to share inspiration with other people on a similar path to yourself, in a warm, safe, non-judgemental, and supportive environment,
- You want to begin or accelerate the process of creating your own body of work, something tangible that you can look at as a visual representation of your progress, without the burden of perfectionism.
What does the space feel like?
This testimonial from Bhavna (after attending one of my month-long online theatre workshops) is an indication of what you can expect to experience in Playground space:
For more testimonials, visit this link.
Where Playground Is
At the moment, Playground exists mostly online, with some in-person events taking place in Melbourne, Australia. Click below to check out upcoming events and workshops, and join the Facebook group to stay connected with the community.
I live and work on the traditional land of the people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respect to the Elders of these traditional lands and to all First Nations people, past and present.