As a child one of my most vivid elementary school memories is of getting in trouble from my fourth grade music teacher for reading Little House on the Prairie while she was attempting to teach the class music theory – which I and the majority of my classmates were already well-versed in thanks to weekly piano lessons. I did this often, in many of my classes. Music, social studies, health class were all subjects which I came prepared for with my own reading material, but none more so than English.
There is nothing I loathed more in elementary school than being forced to read some horrible YA Canadian Lit with a transparent moral lesson embedded in its pages. These books were never interesting, challenging, or even very long – after two classes spent working on reading questions and group discussion, I had already finished the entire novel. The difference was that unlike my classmates I was incapable of focusing on a lesson I had deemed too boring to be worth paying attention to, and by the age of 10 I was already dreaming of that glorious place where I could study only things that I found interesting – university.
As children we are constantly expected to sit through our boredom, which is fine as many of the things schools attempt to teach us are by definition boring – things like values, morals, and algebra. The issue now is that as adults with internet access, smartphones and kindles there is really not ever an excuse for someone to complain of boredom. If you think you are bored while simultaneously in possession of a 3G iPhone with fully functioning mobile data or better yet WiFi, you are not bored, you are in fact just lazy.
The wealth of knowledge, games, entertainment and culture waiting at the tip of your carpal-tunnel bound thumbs is the greatest gift technology has ever given us. Accompanying this gift however is the struggle that comes when you must realign your focus and energy on a mind-numbingly tedious task. This horrifying reality is normally only experienced by those of you, myself included, who have been graciously allowed the gift of entering the workforce.
So what do we do? Millennials as a species are completely ill-prepared for this day-to-day monotony; everywhere we go, whether it is a ride on a subway or waiting in the doctor’s office, we have a multitude of amusements at our fingertips. This isn’t the time of 4 television channels and having to use your imagination in order to be entertained anymore. Do you even remember the last time you had nothing to do, read, talk about, converse on or engage in? This vapid state of mind only ever occurs to me personally when I’m at work. The real question is, is boredom a necessary evil?
Let’s compare with the adage that if everything was good all the time, then no one would ever appreciate the good things as it would become the norm. Can this be applied to boredom as well? If you lived without boredom, would you then never appreciate the excitement? I’m sure if someone spent all their days skydiving and windsurfing and rock climbing and whatever else outdoorsy-energetic type people do, then perhaps the regular excitement would fade away from doing these things. Would this person still find enjoyment after all their high adrenaline rush activities in reading a book? Who is to say – this is after all, an incredibly subjective and personal reflection.
My issue is how does one manage to survive and utilize this horrendously boring reality when we have been told all our lives to avoid it? How many times in our youths have we uttered the statement “I’m bored” to a parent or teacher, only to be told that if we are bored, we should find something to do? How do you find ways not to be bored like you were told all your life, when you are literally trapped by boredom?
Your work is boring, your life is boring, you live at home to save money (which is good) but you are then trapped by the tedious monotony of your responsible life (which is boring). This is when we have to realise that boredom, while perhaps the most soul-draining state of mind that I have experienced, needs to be harnessed into a motivational tool. Use it to inspire, to encourage, to break away from your desk chair and go back to school in a field that will land you your dream job. Because boredom I think is a millennials greatest fear.
We don’t fear failed relationships, financial ruin, debt, health deterioration – to many of us, especially the cynics, these are not things to fear because they are inescapable realities of life. We do not necessarily fear things that our parents consider tragedies like cancer or losing a job, especially when they happen “young” because any millennial can turn that into a blog with accompanying Instagram and use it to find themselves and cultivate their passions – no, what we fear is boredom.
We fear wasting our days away, not exploring enough, being trapped in a passionless career. FOMO is not just a hashtag, it is becoming our way of life, the basis in which we formulate why we want the things we want and how we plan on placing value for the things we want out of life. Becoming our middle aged co-worker/neighbour/family friend whose only joy in life is the next episode of The Voice – that is our greatest fear.
The possibility that we could become redundant, and irrelevant, that the touchscreen generation could look at us in the often condescending way that we look at the baby boomers – this is our greatest fear. The idea that we could do our best, strive to lead passionate, fulfilling and Instagram-worthy lives and still end up a boring human being full of regrets is the biggest FOMO of all.