In defense of boredom

A luxury we take for granted

In 2017, I set a new goal. I wanted to read. I wanted to read every book I could get my hands on. I started small with the Alchemist, and the next thing you know I was deep in the Game of thrones series, reflecting on Xaro Xhoan Daxos's story line. I loved every book I read, even the ones I hated. They gave me new ideas I never thought off. Reading is like living, but on steroids. You travel far and wide, through time, through history, and even into ideas, all from the comfort of your couch. I really enjoyed reading. But when I looked through my little online library this year, I found that I hadn't read a single book in 2022.

Not only I didn't read books, I also didn't write. This blog is starting to collect dust. The book I've been writing for the better part of 3 years is starting to fade away. The side project I started 5 years ago is experiencing code rot. What happened to me? What is preventing me from doing these things that I love to do so much? Is it that I don't like reading anymore? The pandemic has slowed me down a lot, but the very nature of a pandemic should have given me more time to reflect. We spent so much time locked up that some of us have learned to bake bread from scratch.

My obvious answer to why I stopped doing these things I love is because I don't have time for it. I got a job. That slowed me down. Oh, I am also the father of 3 year old twin boys. That takes up some time for sure.

When I'm done with my 9 to 6 or 7, I spend the rest of that time with my family. The pandemic has conditioned me to not really miss going out. But when I have a little time to myself, I go straight to bed. Sleep is also a neglected luxury.

Sometimes I wonder how I read all three Lord of the Rings books back to back. When did I get the time to do that? Is it possible that reading has lost its appeal to me? Maybe I have to find satisfaction from a different medium. Just last week, I picked up a book to see how I would feel about reading. My choice was 10% Happier, by Dan Harris. I thought I would have to force myself to read through each page of this unappealing author. I read the whole thing in two days, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I guess I still like reading. But reading the book came at a price. I read at the expense of spending time with my family, and a good chunk of my sleep.

How I wish I had time to be bored again.

When I read in my spare time, it wasn't because I was bored. It's because I had the time to do something I like. It was the same when it came to writing on this blog, writing the book, or programming. I had the time to do something I love. It was natural.

Now I have to explicitly plan to do those things. If I can still sit here and write, it's because I plan to do it. I take a few minutes before bedtime to read a book I like, even if it's something I already read. When I finish working, I open my side project and look at the last task I was working on and make minimal progress. And everyday I look forward to these little moments.

It's as if I make plans to be bored. During that time, my mind is free to wonder and explore those ideas. I plan for boredom with my children so we can do things outside of the rigid school system. It's a luxury that I had neglected but has shaped not only my career, but the person I am today.

Whenever I find myself with nothing to do, I remember that boredom is a luxury. So I try to make the most of it.


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