I heard the statement which is the title of this post many years ago when one of “Fran’s friends” visited Jacksonville University as part of Dr. Fran Kinne’s efforts to broaden the horizons of JU students. Dr. Kinne was, at the time, the President of JU and her Rolodex (for those too young to remember, this was a paper contact list system) was full of famous people with famous friends. So, on some regular basis, some of these folks made it to JU to speak with large and small groups of students. I was Dr. Kinne’s student assistant, as well as JU’s official photographer for such events, and because of this, I was close to the action. I have recalled this version of the statement for many years since. In preparation for writing this post, I contacted Dr. Kinne to try to refresh my memory of it. She remembers it slightly differently as “If you are bored, it is possible that you may be boring.” This is slightly nicer than the way I remember it, but the point is the same; when one laments about being bored, it is a way of saying that the lamenting person is boring or would be boring to others around them, if there was anyone around. Some would paraphrase this as “get a life.” As a college student who sometimes was on the edge of boredom, hearing this gave me motivation to do something when I felt bored rather than risk being boring. I recall, not long after hearing that statement, that I had an open weekend, no dates, no plans so I was potentially going to be bored. Instead, I grabbed a camera, or two, and went to the beach to photograph some birds. (And, that was back in the day when doing such things had costs like film and processing!) Anyway, the realization was there is much to do in the world, wherever one lives. Looking for something to do is part of the adventure. It is up to us to make our own adventures, to be creative, and to enjoy what is there to be enjoyed. It is this mindset that has kept me curious about the world and people (it is always interesting to find out what they think which is why our trial consulting work is fascinating). So, my take away from that long ago comment is get out and do something – don’t risk being seen as boring. And, enjoy the adventure. Alas, I don’t recall which of “Fran’s Friends” said this which makes me realize I should have kept a journal of all of those encounters with them. Another worthy lesson.
“I’m bored” is something I learned, from an early age, never to say to my mother. If I made the mistake of whining or whimpering something approaching “I’m bored,” Mom would assign one or more tasks to me, most of which were undesirable, to occupy my time. Having grown up mostly alone, due to my brothers being substantially older than me, I became masterful at finding something, anything to do to avoid becoming bored. There were always trees to climb, clouds to admire, sunsets to watch, beach sand to get between my toes, a bike to ride, books to read, and usually several eager friends to spend time with. When I began working at age 15, I learned that, just as Mom disliked hearing “I’m bored,” and could find many things for me to do, my bosses were well equipped to assign work, such as sweeping the floor, re-arranging the supplies, sorting paperwork, dusting shelves, etc., such that I quickly realized it was better for me to find work to do than appear to be searching for a task to ease my boredom. Boredom is not a feeling I have often experienced in adulthood. In fact, I rarely have free time to spend on doing nothing, in that most of my time is scheduled in advance. There are times when I long for those days of unstructured time, but they are few and far between. But, to follow up on what David says, one’s time is what one makes of it. One can be bored and boring or one can use one’s time wisely, in learning something new, helping someone, taking a walk, reading a good book, volunteering in a hospital or elsewhere, and, in general, working to improve the world we share.
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