Boredom isn't always bad.Posted by None Hitwonder in Personal
A year ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which in retrospect should have been no surprise, but when I was a kid, my mom would have preferred to have a carpenter ant up her peehole than admit to a complete stranger that her offspring was anything less than perfect. Like most kids, I had huge swaths of free time, especially since I wasn't squandering them on tedious things like homework, and as such, I was very good at filling that empty space with reading, writing, and drawing. When I built my first computer, I used it to learn how to edit audio and abuse photoshop. When the high school got wired internet and I had missed enough homework to feel too guilty to show up to class, I spent all my time in the computer lab, teaching myself HTML and building my first website.
As a kid, I always said that boring people get bored, and that there was always something to keep me entertained, even if it meant writing script in my head to type out later. I realize now that I was bored all the time, and I was channeling that boredom into these creative pursuits that seem unfathomable to me now, when I can barely sit still long enough to learn GDScript or Lua, or to write, or to draw, or animate, or make music, or any of the creative pursuits that are so important to me. I'm an unemployed part-time student with even more free time than I had as a child, and I can't seem to get anything done. Why is that?
I've gotten so good at filling my spare time with distractions, that any time I don't spend doing what I have to do, I burn away doing anything I can to leave my mind and body and be somewhere else, whether it's video games, pooping around on the internet, or, well, that's really most of it. Check this out:
This is the cumulative time I've spent as a space wizard in the Destiny universe, and is only one of a number of games I've played over the past several years, and holy living fuck, that is a lot of hours going into one thing.
To be clear, I'm not saying "rrgh video games bad;" I obviously love the dang things or I wouldn't be trying to make them. I do, however, think that I have become adept at filling my time with never-ending escapes from reality, to the point that I am not spending nearly as much time doing the other things that I want to do, which may happen to be a bit more challenging than fighting the Darkness et al.
Okay, so I've also been depressed, and even before the pandemic I was isolated from my friends, having moved states twice in the past few years. So much of the active part of my life has been driven by other people. It's not their fault; I get that from a childhood spent feeding a narcissist. It's led to a bad habit of trying to stay out of my own head by filling my spare time with...stuff. Destiny in particular has been a welcome distraction in that sense, and served as a way to connect with some of my friends in a virtual space, but mostly, I've been grinding alone and hiding from myself. I'm not going to be mean to myself about it; I could've done far worse than getting fat while fighting digital monsters with space magic. It's not, however, doing me any favors. I need to be making things more, because that's what gives me life, what brings me joy.
Now, I didn't expect to get into the rougher parts of my specific situation in the course of writing this, but I guess that's part of the joy of ADHD: the tangents. My point in all this is that we've all gotten really good at filling every free moment with whatever we can. We're all chasing the dopamine, and we all carry a dispenser in our pockets now, among other places. It's easier than ever to avoid being bored, but abundance doesn't necessarily equate to quality, and boredom isn't always bad.
The way out of my rut is boredom.
I have to accept those silences back into my life, for the sake of my creativity, if not my sanity. It turns out that motivation is as as unreliable as inspiration, and it's taken me 40 years to arrive here.
Better late than never.