I have always been proud to say that I hail from the last generation of kids who were given the order to “go outside and play!” Even when my family lived on the south side of Chicago (in the hood) where busy street traffic and neighborhood thugs made it dangerous to wander, the lack of safe surroundings never prevented my mother from ordering us outside.
Through her bedroom window, my siblings and I had access to what seemed to be a stadium-sized tar rooftop. Our rooftop was just as “backyard” to us as any fenced-in area with green grass and a rusted out swing set. And the level of filth we managed to achieve from a few hours of play on that tar rooftop would rival any full-day at a park or camp in any nearby suburb.
As a child, I was full of energy and wonder. The idea of sitting indoors all day was synonymous with torture: cruel and unusual punishment. From double-dutch and Chinese jump rope to hop-scotch, cops and robbers and hide and seek, there was ALWAYS something to do.
As I got older, catching lightning bugs (technically called fireflies), playing Ding-Dong Ditch (which as it turns out, was a petty misdemeanor), Ghosts in the Graveyard and other organized sports, like kickball and baseball, became more popular ways to pass the time.
Rarely was the weather an excuse to stay inside or to declare myself officially bored. If it was rainy or too frigid outside, playing school, reading books or building forts with sheets and blankets were creative options for staying out of the way. To be honest, that fort thing never went over too well for me. With no washer and dryer in our house, we had to drag all of our dirty clothes to the laundromat. So playing with (translation: dirtying up) perfectly clean linen was not necessarily encouraged.
Here’s the bottom line: I was not allowed to think, feel or say that I was bored! In fact, I exercised the utmost care to never utter the words, “I’m bored” within earshot of my mother or grandmother. If I went even a decibel above a whisper, their response to my boredom would evoke sheer panic and horror–in everyone!
“Did I just hear you say you bored?!? You bored?!? Ok, well, go clean up that room/fold those clothes/go to the store/mop the floor/dust the end tables/read a book!”
And the worst suggestion of all to cure my boredom?
“Take a nap!”
Worse than being bored and unable to go outside was being forced (and sometimes threatened) into REM sleep while your mind and body wanted nothing more but to run and skip and hop and jump and flip and flop and …well, you get the point.
Watching television cured my boredom on those ‘stay-inside’ kind of days. Hands down-PBS was the best! From Sesame Street, Romper Room and Zoom to The Electric Company and 321 Contact, my mind was always encouraged to explore new thoughts and actually interact with the television. I didn’t just sit there and watch. I moved, shook and solved problems right along with the incredibly diverse casts,
To be honest, Sesame Street taught me how to memorize things, Romper Room had me convinced that the television was a two-way mirror, Zoom piqued my curiosity about the annoying resilience of cats, and alliteration had a fantastically, fun flavor whenever Electric Company was on. I will never forget how 321 Contact ( with lessons from The Bloodhound Gang) urged me to experiment and discover that writing “invisible”messages on construction paper required the use of real lemons and not the lemon juice that we used to make lemonade or Kool-Aid with a little extra twang!
So, why the trip down memory lane? Well, outside of the fact that I truly enjoy reminiscing on a time that was full of simplicity and joy, I need to call myself out on something that is difficult to admit, but necessary:
As an adult, I have become…(here it goes)…LAZY! Or, if I’m trying to be polite , I might use the word COMPLACENT.
Just a few days ago, I uttered those dreaded two words: I’m bored! And would you believe that for a moment, I actually had the nerve to look around as if to expect someone to shout out options of things for me to do? Really, Tyra?!?
Now that I am adult, hell, let’s be honest- almost middle-aged- and have the power to do pretty much whatever I choose in my free time, it is rare that I even opt to go outside. When I do, what happens barely resembles “playing.”
As a woman who used to be proud to call herself an avid reader, I am well-aware that I should pick up a book and read far more than I do. Yet, there are two books on my Kindle Fire and another two on my nightstand that have yet to see me turn past page 20. What’s the excuse? I can’t say that I haven’t had time to read because I have. What I can say is that for some reason, reading is no longer the default activity for me.
When it comes to television, unfortunately, it is no longer PBS that keeps my attention. In fact, with the exception of the occasional documentary on Netflix, watching television has very little to do with being engaged or interactive!
I think I have been lying to myself. Telling myself that my subscriptions to NPR Podcasts equate to me being well-informed. I think my profiles on social networking sites have been a front that give me the appearance of actually interacting and socializing with the world at-large. Not true. Instead, these things have filled me with a false sense of intellectual and social stimulation.
So, here’s the thing: If I can admit that I am not yet living a fulfilled life and have not yet done what I should to contribute to the world, then what gives me the right to ever say that I am bored?
If I want lived experiences, entertainment or excitement in my life (and I do), then it is up to me to create, seek and discover ways to have them!
My messy truth is this: Being bored is a choice. And it is one that I have been choosing because I have lacked the motivation required to work toward my vision.
My messy truth forces me to admit that as an adult, saying I’m bored is not a statement that has the right to request a solution from anyone else. It is, however, an indictment of my own inability to understand, feed, follow and nurture my purpose.
I’ve got serious work to do but one thing is for certain: You won’t hear this girl saying I’m bored anytime in the near future!