Steady now: bored and busy

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

When I was a kid, boredom was not an issue.

In elementary school, I was one of those kids who liked discussing big-picture issues with adults and had trouble looking my counterparts in the eye. I was fascinated by how energy worked and whether our brains were fixed in some ways and malleable in others. I wanted to talk conspiracy theories and the Bermuda Triangle (another post). I wanted to fact check teachers and know more about everything.

I was happy to nerd out, and boredom was my ticket. With all the discussion about how technology is/is not changing everything, for better or worse, I often think about what it would have been like if I'd been connected as a kid.

If I'd had a cellphone, access to the classics at the push of a button, I doubt I would have ever looked up. And perhaps I'd have a social media account that would suck time and create personas as multilayered as the fictional characters I read about and would later attempt to write.

Because I didn't have technology, however, I had to learn to wait, to observe the world I saw and solve the mysteries bit by bit. I had to embrace boredom.

Fast forward thirty years, and we're all armed to the teeth with technology. We're all doing everything all the time. We know a little about a lot, and if we don't, we can find out.

Always moving

For this reason, we're doing more. Convenience being the false gift it always is, we have higher expectations at our jobs and we feel compelled to have side gigs and businesses we want to start and families and passion projects. We are all photographers and meme makers, digital artists and writers.

Many of us, across generational lines, are doing as many social things as we can, and this is, in part, because we're so visible - or our characters are. We're all recording our lives and sharing with the clear expectation that others will listen.

Meanwhile, many of us, especially the creative types I know, are so busy they have no time left to be bored.

This is dangerous! To be endlessly doing is to be stuck in a feedback loop: "I do, I post, I wait for attention. I do more."

I'd like to see a counter-trend. One about taking time to ingest and digest what's going on right now, for good or bad. One about a willingness to build in time to be bored - just bored enough, that is, to listen to details and read small print.

Not everyone has to pray or meditate for 20 minutes a day. But we can all spare the minutes. We can take that 20 minutes and read a short story, write about how overwhelmed we are, cook a meal, attend a play or community meeting. We can spend that time calling a friend we haven't called back. We can just sit and stare at the wall and process.

More than anyone, I've always wanted to do it all. To experience everything. But I realize I can never keep up. Perhaps time-space is more slippery than we know. The universe seems to be telling us so.

So here's the thing. We can find minutes. Even if that means waking up earlier. And in those minutes, perhaps we can rekindle something necessary.


Creativity prompt:

Next time you feel bored, even for a minute, fight the urge to check Instagram. Instead, let your thoughts go wild. Observe whatever is around you. Don't write, don't do anything. See if you can last for 20 full minutes.

THEN write. THEN create.

Warning: Magic might happen

xo Jen