Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Okay to Be Bored

Only Boring People Get Bored
Flickr Credit: Richard Eriksson

When I was a high school freshman, we had to write a personal “Declaration of Independence from” something. I declared independence from boredom—I was going to live life to the full, see the beauty and excitement in everything, and never use “I’m bored” as an excuse ever again.

I still agree with that… sorta. I want to see beauty and excitement everywhere. The last time I can remember complaining “I’m bored” was perhaps last year when I had nothing to do and then began to hunt down all of Clue’s murder weapons in my house to compensate. Time well-spent, I say. In general, being bored is a life-waster. Who wants to waste their life?

Of course, some days I need convincing of that, but it stands. The habit of boredom does no one any favors.

And yet… I’ve been thinking about a quote from (what else?) H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden lately:

“Otto was finding the work challenging but not impossible, his own strange talents helping him to adapt quickly to this new way of life. The only problems he had were with the politics and economics classes, not because they were particularly difficult, but because he found them mind-numbingly dull. Like anyone else he found it hard to excel in subjects that he had little or no interest in.” –H.I.V.E., page 197

For Otto, this is the beginning of a villainous high school career. And he gets bored in classes his friends find interesting. And for me… I can’t say I’m unfamiliar with the feeling.

I’m not sure whether to consider this idea a transgression or a relief.

On the one hand, I attend a liberal arts college because I find value in studying a wide range of subjects, even if they aren’t initially interesting or relevant to my career choice. No matter who you are or what you do, I believe there’s benefit in knowing at least a little bit about English and math and science and finance and so forth. It’s unacceptable to find things dull just because they aren’t immediately relevant to me.

But then I’m the bored one.

I reread a paragraph on the culture of WWI for the fifth time because I haven’t made it all the way through yet. I take the occasional note on Catholicism while I switch between Pinterest and solitaire and doodles and blog posts because the lecture isn’t gripping me. My classmates share their responses to the homework and I daydream because that gives me so much more.

What’s the matter with me? I don’t find war or religion or reading boring! Not in the slightest. And yet… Those readings… those conversations… There were days when they were mind-numbingly dull. As much as I want to know about why people fight and what people believe and who people are the wonder and excitement did not come.

Looking back on the four years since I declared independence from boredom, I’m starting to think that boredom isn’t a thing you can simply declare independence from. Sure, it can be a lazy excuse to fail to see the amazing things around you… but I wonder if sometimes boredom isn’t a defense mechanism designed to keep you focused on what is important to you.

War and Catholicism and Spanish are all noble disciplines, but sometimes the details I am given or the way in which they are told lack. Maybe the things I want to know about them aren’t things you can find in a book or a lecture or a discussion. Maybe my boredom is the encouragement to keep looking elsewhere for what I want—in stories and books and media that is new and electrifying in my hands.

Maybe. I don’t know.

So I guess I find a little hope in Otto’s story. I don’t get bored because I’m unintelligent. I don’t get bored because the subject isn’t important. And while I don’t have boredom’s nature nailed down yet, I don’t think it’s because I haven’t fully defined boredom in my own mind.

I get bored because I’m a person. Sometimes, people get bored. That’s all. I don’t even have to know why.

I accept that I’m going to get bored again, just as I have been bored in the past. Even if I find subjects amazing and wondrous and fascinating in one context, I have to remember that they may be mind-numbingly dull in another. As for declaring independence from it? No. My declaration failed to realize that, like everything else in this life, boredom is inherently complex and tricky.

Perhaps I’ll think about this again the next time I get bored during class.

What do you do when you get bored? Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?


12 comments :

  1. Boredom is weird. :) I think it's also like an emotion--sometimes you just feel it without knowing the exact reason why, I guess.

    Usually when I'm bored I just try to find something that catches my attention,whether it's a different project, reading a different book, or something like that. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.

    I think boredom can be a bad thing if we let it take over and keep us from doing anything at all.

    Very thought-provoking post!

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    1. Hm, I've never thought of boredom as an emotion—actually, I've always considered it like the absence of emotion. Maybe.

      Yeah... That's good at home but if you do that in the middle of class your teachers get mad at you. XD But, you're right, if it is just you at home, then indeed, it will suck your life away.

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  2. My mum always used to threaten us if we said "I'm bored"...she'd make us wash windows. XD SO. I grew up never uttering the phrase. hehe. I'd always keep myself busy on my own or, erm, housework. >_> So I guess I've been sort of trained to reject boredom? But it's kinda different from not being able to entertain yourself to doing a thing which bores you. *nods* I was bored a lot in school, actually, not that I was mega-intelligent or that I was stupid (I hope?!? haha) but just because I wasn't interested in the topic. GAH.

    But on a different strain of boredom...I do think it's actually okay to have times where you can daydream freely and rest your brain. Those times may get tagged as "boredom" but sometimes they can be relaxing or helpful? IDEK. WHAT AM I SAYING. GAH. I SHALL SHUSH NOW.

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    1. Same with my mom. But I have learned that parents are not very good for bringing your woes anyway, so I just don't bring me woes to them anymore. But yeah, sometimes school is boring and you can't do anything about it.

      But I like your thoughts on daydreaming! It like... It does help to allow for relaxation and imagination to run wild when you can have that brain working, even if your body isn't. :)

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  3. My friend just started reading H.I.V.E, so I might get the books after her- it's been on my TBR for way to long, I think I'm missing out :)

    I always find boredom a frustrating thing. I hate feeling bored, but sometimes you just have to wait it out, sleep or something. I think it's anti productive, but as long as you don't let the feeling of being bored rule your life, I think you're okay :)

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    1. PEER PRESSURE PEER PRESSURE DO IT DO IT DO IT

      *nods* It is bad if you get in the habit of being bored, but if you use it constructively, I do not think it is bad, either.

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  4. I think it's ok to be bored sometimes. We can't always control what we find interesting, and sometimes, personally, I feel bored even when I'm doing something I love, not because anything is actually boring, but because I don't really feel it in the moment. I can't count the amount of times I found study boring, even though I was listening to lectures on subjects that I should have found really interesting. Boredom is pretty natural I think, and as long as it doesn't rule, it's my opinion that it's ok to be bored sometimes. Even if it is sometimes the most frustrating thing in the world.

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    1. That's so true. There are things like history where I will watch Crash Course videos the live long day, but when it gets time to listen to an hour-long history lecture my eyes pop out of my head and roll away. But yeah. Boredom can be good sometimes.

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  5. I think boredom during a class or something like that is your brain's way of saying, "Please, not this right now." Like, there are times when I am dying to watch a certain movie, and then other times when watching that same movie might feel dull and boring. The brain has different intellectual needs at different times, just like you might not always be in the mood for pizza or tacos.

    I don't tend to experience boredom as much now that I'm out of school, and when I was in school, I got bored when the material wasn't engaging my distinct interests. Like, I would objectively enjoy certain topics, but either the presentation was off or I just wasn't feeling it and I would have to keep my mind from wandering. I think if every single thing ever engaged us really well, our brains might start to explode or something. But aside from mandatory stuff that might not always be super appealing, I can't say I go up against boredom very often because I have a lot I know that I can do and it's just a matter of figuring out what that is. That said, sometimes I feel something like boredom but it's really just a desire to relax and do nothing and I'm cool with that because I think that can be healthy too.

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    1. That is very true! I especially feel that way if I've watched a movie recently and don't want to watch it again two weeks later. I really like your phrase, "The brain has different intellectual needs at different times" because I feel like sometimes people think that the brain will be stimulated by its need to learn X, Y, and Z things, but sometimes that isn't what the brains want.

      *nods* Since I'm still in school (though on break, woohoo!) I definitely relate with that. I remember being especially bored during class meetings and things, where we weren't even learning anything except how to graduate. Which would be understandably boring. But, I like your other thought, too, that you just have to find the thing you want to do. That's a nice thought!

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  6. Hmmm, that's super interesting. I was bored in school a lot because the topics just didn't interest me or I didn't see how it applied to my life, but I always forced myself to work through it and spend a lot of time on it so I ended up becoming more interested in it through willpower. (If that made any sense at all.)

    That is a super interesting idea though, that we get bored so we can focus on other things. If we focused on everything so intensely then we would end up not focusing on anything.

    I think it's important that we force ourselves to do things we're not interested in as well, though, because life isn't kind enough to let us do things that just we want to do. It's definitely an interesting idea. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yeah, I think willpower has helped me because it forces me to find the awesomeness in everything. At the same time, like you said, there's something to be said about spreading your attention towards things you're easily passionate about, and might be able to further with an easy joy.

      Still, I have to agree. We have to train ourselves to find something awesome in everything, and that takes some discipline. :)

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