The year I tried to juggle 1,407 balls in the air and still be nice to strangers in the super market taught me an important lesson: Busy isn’t a synonym for happy. Full doesn’t mean fulfilled. And people are pushy assholes in line at the deli counter.
All of us are busying ourselves to death—sometimes quite literally—and the parade has got to stop. Are we really so strapped for time we need to be composing emails on the toilet? Dear John: Sorry I didn’t write back sooner; I wanted to give your message the attention it deserved…
Chronically busy people are always the biggest humble braggers, too, am I right?
:: I’m just so busy. What, with the new house and my promotion to Fuck You I’m Senior Level, I haven’t had the time to get a manicure in weeks!
:: LAX > IAH > ORD > PHL > MIA >. I miss my bed.
:: My pants don’t fit me anymore. 🙁 I’m just so busy I forget to eat.
Listen here, Go Go Gadget. Simultaneously patting your stomach and rubbing your head wasn’t actually a big accomplishment then, and it isn’t a big accomplishment now. I’ve got your number.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the busy brigade and the badge of honor that accompanies it—overwhelm—and I’ve come to a conclusion:
Because when humans are bored, you know what they do? Whatever it takes to not be bored. To stay distracted, prove we’re important, feel like we’re doing something, avoid committing homicide, and ultimately fill our days. And so we make ourselves chronically busy.
There’s just one problem: Whatever it takes to not be bored isn’t a very good strategy. See also: Piss poor.
So we end up burning the candle at both ends because we’re bored and we don’t know what else to do. We end up rushing, hurrying, running, racing through life to an imaginary finish line because we don’t know what else to do. And we make ourselves anxiety-filled crazy people simply because we haven’t found anything more meaningful to fill our time with.
Busyness isn’t the problem. It’s the symptom. The symptom of the kinds of lives we’re living—the kinds that look full but are hollow and empty, and for all intents and purposes, are boring us to death.
Because of this, I actually started studying the science behind chronic boredom. I started studying the actual psychological pain that chronic boredom causes: Severe restlessness. Dissatisfaction. Angst. Depression. Weariness. Despair. Melancholia. And even the actual fun fact that you’re twice more likely to die young.
Turns out, you really can be bored to death.
And so many of us feel this way, don’t we? So many of us desperately want to feel alive—but instead, we’re left chasing our own tails, always hoping that this next thing will be the thing that saves us.
It’s sort of like what happens when you want something to eat, but you aren’t sure what. So you start by making yourself a sandwich, but soon realize that wasn’t it. So you go for some potato chips, but that wasn’t it. So you have a few spoonfuls of ice cream, but that wasn’t it. So you migrate to leftover spaghetti, but that doesn’t do the trick either. Now you’re onto a bag of marshmallows, but STILL NOT HITTING THE SPOT, and the more you eat, the more annoyed you get, because even though you’re stuffed you’re still craving that ONE THING and you don’t know what it is so you go ahead and HELP YOURSELF TO EVERY REFRIGERATOR IN AMERICA.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. It happens because we couldn’t really put our finger on the one thing our body was actually craving. So we used a trial & error method of feeding ourselves, yet, we’re still left unsatisfied.
And as it turns out, chronic boredom happens the same way: It’s a fundamental lack of understanding of what we really want.
So we use a trial & error method of spiritually* feeding ourselves, so to speak, moving from activity to activity to activity to activity, and yet…we’re still left unsatisfied. Sometimes it lasts years. Sometimes it lasts a whole lifetime.
*First time I've ever used the word “spiritually” and meant it.
So naturally when I began researching this, it was pretty disconcerting. What’s going on here? Are we nothing but a bunch of morons who just can’t get it right? Why is this so tough? Shouldn’t we know what we like? What we love? What turns us on? What excites us?
Well, maybe not.
It isn’t our fault.
And there is a way out of this maze of life feels like a neverending loop of sameness and nothing really makes me excited so how about I just nibble on these here potato chips until I don't notice anymore?
But—it requires a kick start of the brain.