When I was a kid, there was no such a thing called the internet. Fun, creativity, and imagination were the only thing we knew as organic. We had to use our minds to have fun. There were no iPads, no Gameboys, no Nintendos, no portable DVD players to keep us occupied while our parents dragged us to a boring dinner at a dark and noisy restaurant. On a road trip, we had to entertain ourselves somehow because we didn’t have the luxury of an in-travel movie screen descending from any car ceiling. I don’t think we even had a microwave. Seriously. Oh, but we did have calculators.
When I was a kid, we had to learn how to escape the doldrums and aggro-frustrations of uninteresting activities. In my house, throwing a tantrum wasn’t allowed so I learned a lesson in efficient self-preservation: do something smart and self-serving at the same time. One of those things was getting lost in encyclopedias. Another was pretending I was a worldwide explorer by perusing monthly National Geographics delivered monthly in their brown paper covers. My mother kept four of these gems fanned out on both ends of the glass coffee table in the room that we were rarely allowed to enter. I made an excuse to either practice piano or listen to her play just so I could get lost in the world, travel back in time, travel to foreign lands, be Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette or even Jacque Cousteau…in my mind.
Middle and high school rolled around and worldly subjects became suddenly available. I jumped at the opportunity to learn French and transcended my suburban mini-monde. I think this is because when I practiced my piano, I’d pretend I was Chopin in a dingy Paris apartment playing songs over and over again. Nonetheless, I escaped my cul-de-sac. I became interested in haute couture and educated myself of French designers. My bedroom walls were galleries of international fashion campaigns.
Fast-forward to college and I’m living in the Hammarskjöld dorm with…international students! Go to parties and there were…international students! As you can imagine, I was enthralled by their languages, foods, accents, and learning their cultures. I felt like I was finally alive and living…in Davis, California.
I didn’t have the opportunity to travel abroad during those years, but my best friend did and ended up meeting/dating/marrying her Italian love. I always thought that would have been me, but alas my life had other plans. I finally died and went to heaven aka I got to Europe when I was 28. I haven’t traveled nearly as often as my heart desires or bank account or responsibilities have allowed. But when I do cross the pond, the one place I always return to is Paris. Je ne sais pour quoi.
I totally digressed from the point of this article. The point is that my so-necessary survival-from-boredom mechanism coupled with the exposure to some old-fashioned hard-covered books and periodicals with photographers who combed the earth to share images a suburbanite could never dream of, delivered (to said suburbanite) a love of travel, cultures, foreign lands, and varieties of humans and their ways. This is a fascination, interest, hobby, whatever it is, that sticks with me until this day. It fuels me. I feel my core tighten up with excitement when I meet new people and their cultures, when I get to dive into the lives I read about while dreaming on the green velour couch in front of that glass coffee table. Because I love it, I welcome it, and it arrives to me in abundance. This is because I answer to my soul.
So thanks, God, for the boredom. It helped me cultivate my soul.