At about 11:45PM ET, I was on Twitter and typed this:
But, that wasn’t the original tweet. The original tweet was actually supposed to read: “Keep making things you love and you’ll never be bored…” For sharing on social, it’s bite-sized and sounds catchy and affirming enough that it feels shareable, right? But we’re not in the business of cheating content for the sake of content—we, and when I say “we” I speak for the collective that is consciously coming together—are in the practice of healing ourselves and each other.
And some of that healing comes reckoning; a reckoning of the words, phrases and language we use to sometimes shame and guilt trip ourselves— and others— in the ways that we think will produce the most successful and more favorable outcomes. So, today, I want to talk about a word we tend to dread and live in fear of: boredom.
FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, in a pre-pandemic world was dragging all of us out of our pj’s, kept us scrolling through fitness and travel IG pages, and pushed us out into the real world— of trips, actual $200 dates and fashion shoots in elevators.
FOMO in a post-vaccination world is making sure everyone knows you’re still alive by showing a mask, a band-aid, and your vax card while also laying on a beach with a pile of books and an open laptop. Heck, even I suffer from this at times: consistently posting content across platforms, hopping from one Zoom call to the next, speaking to this podcast, hosting this panel. There is this notion that we have to be in a constant state of doing, that doing things actually coincides with our worth (see my last #SundayManifest on perfection.)
The reality? Boredom can actually lead to insights and a reimagined and reinvigorated sense of purpose.
Our boredom stems from our need to fill voids of space and time with things we deem meaningful. So, when we’re bored, we may read, or stream a film; we might go for a walk and play some music; we may cook or clean or call a friend; we may surf the internet and shop or scroll our social feeds; we may even take a nap or write an article on boredom. All of these things are really an act of avoidance, the avoidance of stillness.
That’s not to say that the above mentioned things aren’t needed—they bring us joy, peace of mind, and also at times a much needed distraction from our news cycle and some of the pangs of being a human being in this world. But they are also just that—distractions. They are all things, albeit healthy things, but things that can keep us away from being still, doing nothing, and being with whatever this moment has to offer. That moment can be simply getting from one breath to the next, or listening to the chirping of birds beside your window, or feeling the spring breeze air tickle the nape of your neck.
You see, boredom isn’t just boredom, but rather, it’s the anxiety around being with self—one’s thoughts, emotions and ideas. Because when we are truly present, what seems to be mundane is really an opportunity for introspection. And I’m not talking about the kind of introspection that’ll solve your relationship with your siblings, but the kind of quiet introspection that allows you the room, freedom, and space to be with things without feeling the need to run away from them. Some of my best tweets, pieces of art, conversations and ideas from projects have sprung from boredom.
Instead of trying to replace those times when it feels like nothing is going on with something, maybe we’ll all be much better off by staying with… nothing.
So, go out and get bored.
Joel Leon is a father, dreamer and story-teller. Follow him @joelleon.