Once upon a time, I was told that boredom is the key to a stress-free life. After much musing, I believe that may be onto something.
When I was making an independent film, I used to drive from my house to the movie set at around 9 or 10 p.m., ready to start an all-night shoot that wouldn’t end until noon the next day. As I passed the rows of houses, mostly dark except for the blue-ish flicker of the TV screen, I wondered what the hell I was doing. Why couldn’t I just come home from work and watch television like everyone else?
Fast forward three years and I still ask myself the same question. My life has not been boring — I spent ten years living out of a backpack and traveling to over 50 countries. Travel was my full-time occupation, occasionally marred by the annoying necessity of actually needing another (paying) job to fund my travels.
A few years ago, I met up with some girls from my high school, some of whom I hadn’t seen for a decade. I was still in the midst of my nomadic lifestyle, which I had some trouble explaining to them.
One of them exclaimed, “You must be SO happy!”
I wasn’t. I was always stressed about money (the lack of it), plagued with existential angst, and constantly wondering if I was missing out on hitting the life goals that my non-nomadic peers had already accomplished. I was also consumed by worry that I wasn’t accomplishing anything with my life, even though I only had a vague sense of what those things should be.
But, at the time, I didn’t really think that was the point. When I stayed in one place for more than a few months, I could feel boredom setting in — so I packed my bags and left. I definitely wasn’t happy, but at least I had stories to tell, I thought.
Now, I’m not sure. After I stopped traveling, I quickly found new ways to make myself miserable. The three years I spent making that film were all kinds of hellish — and had a major impact on my mental health. And as soon as it was over, I moved on to my next writing project.
I met up with some girls from my high school, some of whom I hadn’t seen for a decade. I was still in the midst of my nomadic lifestyle, which I had some trouble explaining to them. … One of them exclaimed, “You must be SO happy!”
It’s a good week if several days go by without some sort of rejection email in my inbox. But it’s also a bad one because it usually means I haven’t had the emotional energy to pitch anything for a while, which inevitably leads to all sorts of unbearable guilt.
A terrible day might see multiple rejections come flooding in on a single morning. On weekends, I see people outside my window walking their dogs, having brunch, and enjoying beers in the sunshine — and wonder why I’m sitting inside tapping away at a keyboard.
Sometimes, I think I could just throw it all in and settle into the same sort of routine that probably makes for a happy life. I have a cushy day job that I have the luxury of doing from home in my pajamas and which I don’t think about as soon as I’ve stopped doing it. It’s not in any way rewarding, but who says it has to be? I’m healthy, financially stable, and have everything I need for a happy life. Objectively speaking, I’ve got it made — I don’t say that to brag but only to acknowledge how very, very lucky I am.
I also can’t say for certain that, if I became even more successful (and my life became less boring), I would actually be any happier. I remember reading an interview recently with Tom Ford, whose life is anything but boring — he said his son pointed out that every single day he came home from work complaining that he’d had a hard day. In which case, why do it?
So, if only I could stop trying to be a writer or a filmmaker. Take my free time back and spend it on doing things that don’t end in rejection emails. Maybe get a dog and walk it on weekends. You know … enjoy the simple things and all that jazz.
But, deep down, I know I wouldn’t be able to. I just wish I was wired for boredom.