It’s spring 2017, and I’m sitting in my apartment on a sunny Saturday afternoon, mindlessly scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch. I have just finished binge-watching all six seasons of Lost for the first time(!!), and grad school isn’t set to start for another month. This is the last time I assume I might have felt bored, but I honestly can’t be sure because 2017 now feels like several lifetimes ago (and in many ways, it was). Once I started grad school, it was pretty much impossible to be bored with impending due dates for 50-page papers, mountains of books and articles that needed reading, three-hour evening classes I had to attend (and stay awake in), and all the other time-sucking activities that come with going back to school again.
It’s been a year and a half since I graduated from USC, but the grind never really stopped. I remember saying to my best friend from my program that I wouldn't know what to do with free time if I had any, and that was true for maybe two weeks. It seems I now know (or maybe have always known?) exactly what to do with my free time, and since quarantine started, I only find myself in need of more. Millennials have long been accused of being “the burnout generation” (which I probably would have agreed on pre-COVID) but times have definitely changed. I now find myself internally beaming with pride at somehow having an endless to-do list while in quarantine by myself; it’s a large part of what has gotten me through almost 10 weeks of self-isolation without completely losing my mind.
So what does being “bored” actually mean? Being bored (at least, according to the dictionary) is: ‘feeling tired and impatient because you have lost interest in someone or something or because you have nothing to do.’ Easy enough to understand, but requires a bit of unpacking. Feeling tired is absolutely something I relate to on an almost daily basis, but not because I’ve lost interest in something. Quite the opposite–I have far too many interests for one person to reasonably partake in, and the endless rat-race with myself is sometimes exhausting. If I ever get “bored” of one thing, I simply switch to another task–thus “boredom,” even if it does momentarily strike, never lasts very long. As far as having nothing to do? It’s honestly shocking how much I’ve found to do while in quarantine. There’s always something that needs doing (or cleaning, reading, watching, buying, or consuming) at all times; a bottomless checklist of things I need to do or would like to accomplish.
Even as a child, I can’t remember ever complaining to my parents about being bored (I asked them to corroborate this memory, to which they enthusiastically agreed). I was either off in the woods surrounding my house climbing trees, at soccer practice, tearing through The Boxcar Children or Animorphs books, or playing “Night Games” with the other kids in my neighborhood. My mind may be a lot of things (Busy? Odd? Inquisitive?), but I’d say it’s rarely, if ever, idle. My stream-of-consciousness, overly active thoughts once prompted my seat mate on an airplane to inquire why I wasn’t doing anything at all on the three-hour flight we were on together, offering me some reading material as a friendly gesture. I was startled by his question, shrugged, and politely answered, “I guess I just have enough thoughts to keep myself busy for a few hours."
I used to think I was an extrovert who charged her anti-boredom batteries by being around other people (my mom also implied as much when we talked about what I was like as a kid), but now I’m not so sure. The strangest part about spending almost all of my time alone in my apartment, now that I’m “used” to it, is that I’ve never had a longer “want-to-do” list. Even with the gaping absence of my usual repertoire of activities that require exiting my home, I am busy. I feel like I’m constantly running around trying to figure out when I’ll have time for this, that, and the other thing–wishing for just a few more hours in the day, every day. I became a morning person a few years ago, but lately I’ve been feeling like a guilty high-schooler staying up past my bedtime on a school night, desperately trying to squeeze in just a little more time at the end of the day (which just results in me waking up at the usual time and needing a nap by the end of the day).
During the week, I start my day between 6:30-7:00am, letting the morning light from my widows wake me naturally. I read emails (always “The Morning” from The New York Times) and browse Instagram for news, inspiration, and hot goss until my alarm tells me to get the hell out of bed at 7:30am. I begin my work day at 8:00am, sometimes accompanied by an unfortunately non-caffeinated beverage, and generally power straight through until 1:00pm. I get my daily dose of Team Time during our 2:00pm check-in call, chatting about our inside-lives and seeing my first face of the day that doesn’t belong to Jess (we’ve usually FaceTimed at least once, or five times, by now).
I shut my computer and sign off of work around 4-5:00pm. Almost immediately, I start to panic about what I’m going to do that night because there are so many options: Do I try to finish the book I’m reading? Finally watch The Greatest Showman? Zoom with friends? Work on redesigning my (now very outdated) website? Call my parents? Search for new art for my apartment? Cook an actual meal? Work out? Take a FaceTime walk with Jess? Every single day I wake up thinking about a smorgasbord of activities that I’m genuinely excited about doing, but there’s simply not enough time in the day/week to accomplish them all. Sometimes I try (and fail) to just sit and do nothing, which never lasts more than a few minutes before my “want-to-do” list calls out her siren song.
I revel in the satisfaction of knowing that I can keep myself busy for extremely long stretches of time, even when the world outside is upside down. I’m quarantining solo, but I’ve never been more proud that I’ve somehow been able to adapt and thrive. To me, never being bored feels like some kind of personal triumph: a real win that I can grant myself when so many other things feel dire. Sometimes I wish that I could relax a little and just enjoy the pleasure of doing nothing, but I guess I see “doing nothing” as another activity I could probably check off a to-do list. Apparently, this strange way of seeing my personal productivity is a byproduct of being an Enneagram Type 3 (“The Achiever”)... but that’s a topic for a different post. ;)
If I had more time, here’s everything on my “want-to-do” list this week (and if you happen to need it, maybe you’ll find some inspiration here?):
- Read, read, and read. I have at least ten books in my apartment at all times that need reading, and each one seems to make eye contact with me, begging to be chosen next
- Actually cook full meals, instead of merely “assembling” things to eat
- Give my personal website a much-needed facelift
- Re-watch all my favorite movies (Inception! Gladiator! Moulin Rouge! Harry Potter!)
- Try my hand at gluten-free baking
- Actually do my hair for once
- Try making a new cocktail (or honestly probably a “mocktail," since drinking alone isn’t very fun for me)
- Finish re-watching Sex and The City from start to finish
- Re-organize my dresser to have a dedicated “WFH” drawer and consolidate all the things I’m not going to wear for a while
- Find and listen to exciting new podcasts! (Start a podcast???)
- Take more Peloton classes (haha honestly, never mind. I work out 3x per week and that’s enough for me right now)
- Read literally every article on The Cut
- Experiment with face masks and fancy skincare (need to finally try the Maelove serum everyone else is obsessed with!)
- Try yoga and/or meditation practices to quiet my crazy mind
- Write more essays and articles for the very platform you’re currently reading
- Teach myself a new skill, like CSS or crochet
- Watch a bunch of movies I haven’t seen, like The Greatest Showman (thank you Jess) or Portrait of a Lady on Fire (thank you Leslie)
- Actually write reviews on Goodreads (instead of just ratings)
- Finally organize my closet (six months after moving in...), especially my shoes, which are haphazardly thrown everywhere
- Re-read all the Harry Potter books
- Take an online class (Advanced Photoshop? Creative Writing? Underwater Basket Weaving?)
- Finally put some art on the walls. It’s time!!!
- Binge-watch early seasons of Grey’s Anatomy
The list goes on...so tell me: What’s on your “want-to-do” list this week?