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Boredom is Stupid, Histrionic, and Vain. Knock it off! Here’s How.

from Flickr user mesaba.

Yesterday morning, walking up the hill with Child to school, she said, “Does Santa make TVs?”

“I don’t think so.” I said this because I don’t want her asking for a TV for Xmas.

“Oh man!  I really want a TV for my room.”

“Well, even if Santa could make you one, I would tell him not to bring it.”

“What?” Shrilly.

“Why do you want a TV in your room anyway?”

“In case if I get bored.”

“Well you know, Child, there are all sorts of things to do instead of be bored.  You can color or play with one of your hundreds of toys or go outside or dance or write or read or draw…”

“But what if I do all that and then I am bored.” She interrupted me.

“You won’t be.”

“I just really want a TV in my room, mommy.”

“Oh?”

“And a DS.  When will you buy me a DS?”

“Who knows, Child.  Maybe never.”

To her credit, there was no more shrill “What!”ing.  She is pretty good at hearing “no,” all things considered.  But her single-mindedness  is impressive indeed.  She, I think, may possess my obsessed gene.

All this got me thinking about how:

Boredom is Stupid.

I live with two people who often profess to be bored.  It makes me nearly blood lusty every time they do.  I don’t really view it as in my right to scold Fella over his, but Child’s accustomed to my earful whenever she talks about being bored.

I don’t rightly remember when it was that I decided that boredom was not something I wanted to engage in.  But Irecall knowing, when I was fairly young, that there is ALWAYS something to do.  I am never bored.  It takes so much effort to be bored.  You have to ignore everything around you and make up reasons not to derive joy–even minor joy–from activity–even minor activity.

If I am attending a boring talk or conference or meeting, I write or think or read–discreetly, so as not to be rude.  There is always something to think about.  Always.  Even if it’s just wondering what the chair in front of you is made of and how it came to be.

Here, let me show you:  I wonder how much money it costs to produce that one chair, and how much the machines it was made on cost, and whether the chair has been inspected by a number of people, and what catalogue this venue used to order this chair, and if they ordered a hundred with it, or just the one, or a thousand or more.

And you know what’s super cool about the future in which we live?  You can ask the internet.  So what used to be just exercise for my questioning muscle has become an information treasure hunt.

Boredom is Histrionic.

I think that people who profess to be bored are more interested in the stomping and slouching and whining that they believe boredom warrants than they are in examining the real source of their boredom.

That is pathetic.  It is unbecoming.  It is arrogant.  Professing boredom is like saying, “I know too much to be interested in anything.” And I say a great big FUCK THAT.  Nobody does.  In fact, the more one learns, the more one sees that there is to know.  And if you don’t already know this, you’re doing it wrong.

Boredom is a vain habit of mind.

Boredom is a vacuous vortex of laziness.  But more than that, boredom is a choice.  Being bored is like being on birth control.  Or like being a republican.  It involves a complicated set of thoughts, and after all of that, a choice.  After a time, this choice becomes the rote choice, and boredom gets easy.  It is, certainly, easier to tell yourself there’s nothing to do and then do that, and feel sorry for yourself about it, than it is to get up off your rump and set the world on fire.

But I’m not talking about setting the world on fire here, people.  I’m talking about playing with the pebbles in your driveway or drawing a picture or reading a book or even (though I think TV contributes to boredom more than relieving it) watching TV.

There is never legitimately nothing to do.

People who say they do drugs because they are bored are lying.

People who do drugs do them because they want to.  They feel like they have to explain it, so they say they are bored, because boredom is something that people seem to universally profess and experience.  And probably, too, because doing drugs is socially taboo and mired up in all kinds of cultural and personal and moral and legal negativity.  So they give the demon boredom all the credit for their enterprising recreational recklessness.

My point is that there are a million and one things that a person can do instead of being bored that aren’t drugs, and that people should probably stop blaming boredom for drug habits or unplanned pregnancies or low achievement on standardized tests.  We should not give boredom that kind of power over us.

Here’s how.

First, whenever you catch yourself saying or thinking, “I’m bored.”  Stop.  Don’t say it.  Go to the bathroom.  Look in the mirror.  Give yourself a pep talk.  You’ll probably only have to do this once or twice.

Say: “You are in charge of yourself.  You are your own master.  You do not have to be bored.”

Then, take a deep breath and look around you.  What do you see?  If you see a mess, clean it up.  If you see a wall that’s a color you don’t like, make a plan to paint it–go online to do room mock ups, or get in the car and drive to the paint store.  If you see that your yard has sprouted 800 dandelions, remember when you were a kid and all the obnoxious or fun or delightful things you used to do with dandelions.  If you see a pile of paper, pick up a piece and draw or write something.  If you see a book, read it.  If you see the TV, look for something else.  If you see your spouse or children or roommate or sister or whoever, tell them you like them and ask if they want to go to the park.  Or if they want to make cookies or think about painting a room with you.  When you’re done, just keep looking.

If you can’t see anything to do, go to plan B.  Finding a way around boredom will get easier the more you practice.

These are things you can always do.

Tell yourself a story: any story, one from your past, one you want for your future, one you make up.
Doodle:  Here’s a TED talk about how cool doodling is.
Take a walk or a run or a hike or a dance.
Think.  Thinking is an activity. Sometimes, props help.  Like paper and a pen.  But it’s equally rewarding to just let your mind wander.
Sing.
Talk.
Hop.
Dance.
Masturbate.
Clip your fingernails or toenails.
Daydream.

Here are things you can almost always do, but will need a prop (or several props), or a buddy.

Read.
Surf the Internet.
Ride a bike.
Go to the gym.
Cook something.
Write.
Color.
Draw.
Have sex.
Skip rope.
Do hand-rhymes.
Reminisce.
Argue.
Go someplace, like the library or a museum or to your neighbor’s house.

Boredom is the enemy of enterprise, development, and learning.  Conquer it, my friends.  And be more productive.

Do any of you have strategies to combat boredom, or a favorite story about a boring time that became a not boring time because you scared up something fun to do?

6 comments on “Boredom is Stupid, Histrionic, and Vain. Knock it off! Here’s How.

  1. You’ve obviously never worked at the Heinz pet food factory, watching labels on tins go by for 8 hours every day….or any other such job.
    I have.
    8 hours a day, earphones on to protect me from noise, no company, no radio , no conversation, nothing but watching pet food go by on a conveyor belt. The high point of the day was when a label was crooked. Stopping the conveyor belt was a deeply exciting moment in a tedious day.
    You could do none of the above list….(well, I suppose, had there been a man around we could have bonked our heads off and nobody would have noticed…one day on the line I practised singing arias loudly and badly to see if anyone noticed…they didn’t) .
    It was my duty to concentrate on the cans going by, and you cannot concentrate on that and do something else. I tried. I failed. I had to just learn to watch the cans and let go of my intellect.
    I mostly agree with you…I’ve only been bored for 6 weeks in my life…the 6 weeks that I worked for Heinz.

    • I am mostly talking about leisure boredom–like when a person chooses to be bored at home. But I reckon there are probably folks who would not be bored watching pet food labels go by. Factory workers, what little I know of them, strike me as a highly responsible, dedicated bunch. They are proud of the value of their inspections, I mean, and are driven by that pride to stay “on” and do a fine job, which to me, does not count as boredom.

      Sometimes, when I’m proofreading, I have to re-read big chunks because I let my mind wander, and I realize that I haven’t noticed or marked anything in pages. I don’t think that counts as boredom either, I think it counts as under-engagement. And I think that learning how not to be bored, how to maintain engagement, can help a person keep focus in such situations to stave off the boredom…

  2. This is wonderful, April! You know, I can’t remember the last time I was bored. You’re right–boredom is stupid when there is a wonderful big world out there to explore, in person or via books. I love your attitude.

  3. Once, Mom said to me after I complained of being bored, “Well you must not have a very good imagination then.” I never complained about being bored again because I wanted to have a good imagination.

  4. [...] doesn’t have much to do with youth in my experience.  Contentment, like productivity and boredom, is a choice.  It’s yours if you want it, youth, weight, culture, job be [...]

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