Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys
If I see one more social media post with the caption, “I’m bored in the house and I’m in the house bored,” I think I might lose my mind. But on the other hand, I totally understand.
It’s been a strange journey taking classes online that weren’t meant to be online, being home, not being able to see friends or go places or basically have any semblance of our normal lives. Some days I’m swamped with work like I was on campus, but others it feels like I have nothing to do.
At first, being bored sounds like a gift from heaven. On any given day on campus, I would have killed for a free afternoon to go take a nap or watch Netflix. Each week, I longed for Friday to come when I could just be done and do nothing. Now, that’s pretty much all there is to do. I’ve gotten bored of being bored. And I’m pretty sure everyone else has too based on the amount of people posting about it.
The thing is boredom doesn’t have to exist if we don’t want it to. I often find myself thinking of new ways I can pass the time as I sit at home waiting for it to be safe to leave my house again. That works out fine, until suddenly I feel pressured to find ways not just to pass time, but to maximize my time. I ask myself what new language I should learn or what project I should begin. I don’t think of these things as ways to have fun, but as ways to make the boredom go away.
There is nothing wrong with doing nothing. Even during a pandemic, the pressure to be productive is as strong as ever. And then, even when we decide not to be productive, we gravitate toward things like our phones that allow us to pass time mindlessly. Sometimes that’s necessary. It’s overwhelming to be tuned in constantly, hearing news about death tolls and safety measures. But sometimes, being mindless is not the way to go.
Instead of fearing boredom, wishing it away with an Instagram post that takes 30 minutes to create before leaving you right where you started, we should lean into it. We can remind ourselves of the days before all of this when all we wanted was to be bored. When all we wanted was to plop on our beds and just shut it down for a while. Just because that option is available more often doesn’t make it any less viable. There’s something to say about choosing to be mindful, choosing to honor boredom when it comes and release the pressure we put on ourselves to do something.
Maybe this means eating breakfast without scrolling on Twitter or watching YouTube videos. It might help us during this time to just eat our food and not multitask. Or to take a walk with our phone on silent so we listen to our surroundings and nothing else.
Being OK with being bored is so unrealistic for so many of us. It can even be daunting, as a freed-up mind can allow negative thoughts to roll in. I think it’s worth a shot, though. If we allow ourselves to feel bored, to do nothing, we might also value our productivity more when it’s actually time to work or study. As we continue to stay home (please), let’s remember the moments when we wanted nothing else but to have nothing to do and be thankful for that time now.