When I was a kid, THAT was my favorite sentence, “I’m bored!” Whatever I was doing as a kid, there was usually some moment in time where I felt, SO BORED. My mother’s answer was always, “go play outside,” or “go read a book.” I always felt like, “play outside?” how is that going to be exciting? It’s just a yard with trees and branches and stuff.
However, I distinctly remember reading a book that changed a lot of that. It was a book that forced me to look inside, for the first time in my young life.
I can’t remember the book’s title to this day, but I do remember a moment from it. There was a character – a boy, I think – who had to do some Mr. Miyagi-type stuff for some reason. There must’ve been a tutor or a mentor of some sort, but I can’t remember him or her either. What I remember is that the Mr. Miyagi-type character roped off a small section of the yard for the boy. Literally, he put 4 stakes in the ground, connected the stakes with rope, and told the boy to go sit in the square. He said the equivalent of, “There’s a whole world in that square. Sit in there until you find it.” The boy does and at first, of course, finds nothing. Nothing, but more boredom. He tosses and turns, fights it out, gets frustrated, and finally relaxes into the box that “contains the world.” Shortly after that, he saw an ant within the square. He followed the ant with his eyes until it met up with other ants and then they all walked back to the ant hill together. The boy watched the ants work and live, for hours on end, completely fascinated because there was – indeed – a world within that square of yard.
I never forgot that piece of the story, though I can’t remember the book, or any of the characters names. I think it was the first time that I connected to the idea that the biggest struggles are the internal ones.
I have a favorite movie called, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, it’s an adult version of the boy in the yard-box theme. A young gymnast is talented, but arrogant. He pushes the boundaries on everything. He never treats women with respect, nor does he treat his own body with any. Until, one day, he’s in a horrific motorcycle accident. His leg is shattered and he’s told that he’ll never compete in gymnastics again. He goes through the requisite depression, until he meets his new mentor – Nick Nolte. (Oh, how we all wish Nick Nolte could be our mentor!) Through odd sessions on “what is the self” and paying attention to one’s life and surroundings (all taught in a gas station!) the gymnast slowly comes back. Eventually, he competes (and wins) again. The story is the author’s own. It has become a cult hit of a book and a movie for those who are searching for more.
These days, I am never bored. I make my own schedule and I DO sit here wondering, am I never bored because I’m an adult and therefore, finally, the master of my own time? Or is it something else? Have I discovered a way to live out the ideas of my head in a fully satisfying way? Through writing, perhaps? I’m not sure. I do know when people say, “Oh, I could never not have a 9-5 job. I’d lose myself, I need the structure,” when I hear that, I laugh. I think if I every hold down another 9 to 5er (and I’ve had many) I may simply lose my mind.
The only time I’m bored anymore, is when I’m doing something I shouldn’t be pursuing. Really. That’s when the boredom sneaks in. When the project isn’t quite right, when the freelance gig has had all of its creativity sucked right out of it, that’s when I get bored.
I know Google has this philosophy (and a lot of companies are also starting to follow it) where a certain percentage of the work an employee does can be ON ANYTHING. Literally, it doesn’t have to be based on the employee’s sphere of expertise, it doesn’t have to do with the employee’s department, it literally has nothing to do with the company’s bottom line. Google believes that allowing for such free thinking, “play” time, eventually leads to innovation. The non-work related time is the most valuable time that their company can spend. In other words, the less bored their employees are, the better the company does.
What about you? Are you still feeling bored in your life from time to time? Or have you kicked boredom to the curb?
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