Boredom, My Personal Journey …. Part 2

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This is a continuation of my previous post about boredom and apathy. In high school not much changed as far as a lack of a challenge. One of the things I did enjoy there was writing essays. That activity gave me free rein to say what I wanted and I always easily got A’s for my work.  Unfortunately I was never guided toward an avocation that would have exercised that talent I definitely showed even in my early days.

After high school college came. That is where I came upon the first real challenges in thinking.  Again I excelled in English Comp classes without much effort and the electrical engineering classes I took were challenging but not particularly enjoyable to me. That should have given me a clue that I was in the wrong major but being a naive farm kid that I was that just didn’t occur to me that I had options.

Rube Goldberg

After college I managed to get a job with a “major communications company” designing its consumer telecommunications products (plain speak — I worked for AT&T/Bell Labs designing the Trimline telephone). I really didn’t get much pleasure out of designing circuits and circuit boards so after about five years I moved over to reliability testing. That area allowed me to build all kinds of interesting Rube Goldberg machines  to life test a lot of different stuff.. That kept me occupied for another five years before it too became boring 🙂   Like I said I get bored easily and looking back I am amazed I lasted five years of doing basically the same things.

I then spent another five years doing test set design. That involved writing software to do the electrical and acoustic testing for the products we designed. It was in software design that I finally found something that kept my interest.  I moved from test set design  to a full-time software mode in the last ten years of my corporate life where I and my team wrote software apps for an engineering division. That work allowed my creativity to shine as it had never done before and it kept me from getting bored.

Boredom has always been a serious part of my life. I just couldn’t seem to stay interested in anything for any length of time. After I left the corporate world I opened my own cabinet making business. I had been into woodworking as a hobby for twenty-five years so that was a natural for me. But, that too lasted about five years before it was no longer a challenge. After you have built a couple hundred cabinets each one begins to look like the last one. 🙂

So, to wrap up this two post dissertation on boredom the statement by Professor Eastwood that “wanting to, but being unable to engage in satisfying activity.” got my attention. I guess it struck a nerve.  In some aspects it might be true but in others it failed to explain my boredom as being something without the necessary challenge.

Apathy on the other hand is something that I will never understand. When there is no urge to do anything that is probably the sorriest state of being. It kind of goes back to one of my favorite posts on this blog and that is “What is the saddest thing in the world”. Apathy is just another way of saying lazy minds.  I won’t get started on that again here as I am out of space but if you want to see the original post click on the reference above.

4 thoughts on “Boredom, My Personal Journey …. Part 2

  1. Hey, RJ. Apathy, to me, also feels like a real lazy cop-out for not seizing the day.

    As for boredom, I have my own response that I tried to share with my fifth grade students. For me, I saw (and still do) boredom as an opportunity and a challenge. To be specific, whenever we would be posed with a task of say, learning the state capitals (a somewhat boring – and possibly daunting – proposition for most), I would say outright how I thought could be a boring – but still worthwhile task. Then we would explore different ways to tackle the assignment – visually, audibly, etc. Keep it from being solely a rote learning event. Try to make it a creative challenge, based on ….. whatever! Use context techniques. Or even just see how LOUD (after using some memorization techniques) they (often individually as well as as a group) could yell the capital after I give the name of the state. Whatever I could do to make ALL the kids WANT to be a part of the lesson. Making learning a fun challenge for them was the challenge that I (selfishly?) gave myself in order to keep teaching challenging for me. And when THAT became boring to me, I knew that it was time to retire from teaching and move into another vocation (I’m currently a busker/street musician).

    See, the part of your (Eastwood”s?) definition of boredom that says “unable” rankles with me. That’s a negative, passive, can’t-do mindset that I have a hard time accepting. To me, boredom just means that it’s time for me to contemplate what I want to pursue next (which can even be just sitting and being content with doing absolutely nothing – kind of a Zen/meditation mode, perhaps).

    In this world of media explosion in our lives, I think we (and our kids, especially) are being pushed into the expectation that we are supposed to be entertained all the time by something or somebody else. Total mental self-reliance is fading away into reliance on someone else’s noise and agenda.

    Be well.


    1. Some very wise words here Steve. I wish I had had you as one of my teachers, maybe I wouldn’t have been bored so much (ha). Yes that is the trick to life for me, to be able to find something stimulating to do. In grade school and even high school, at least in the years I was there, was all about what the teacher planned for you and that was often repetition, repetition, which bored me to death. I did have a physics teacher that actually challenged the kids as you mention. I still think of her fondly. And then their was Mr. Schuler the old grufty history teacher/farmer that started me on a very long path in that area.

      The “unable” word is the one that got me also.

      Mental self-reliance is how I get through life. I find something I am interested in and tackle it head on. That is until it gets “old hat”. Thanks for the words. They are very stimulating 🙂


  2. “Mental self-reliance”. That is a great term, Steve, I like that a lot. And yes, that is something that is being lost with our kids. They DO expect to be entertained and they have a hard time “playing” without media or a person directing them. Reading books for pleasure and “alone” is slipping away too. Can we turn it around? Will the electronics and media get old and boring too? And what will these kids be like as adults? Are we raising mental midgets? I sure don’t know.

    R.J., I think it’s just your personality to need new and fresh stimulation frequently. Only you can find that interesting subject. Big projects are interesting for about 5 years you say? That makes me laugh. I know a guy who loses interest in his women friends after 5 years…like clockwork…he says he just gets bored. He has had 3 wives and many girlfriends! He’s about 73 now and surprise surprise…living alone. So, at least you haven’t gone down that road!

    I sometimes wonder if part of the process of aging is to lose interest in everything, bit by bit, until finally we don’t mind leaving it all behind. Morbid thought I know, but I can see it happening.


    1. My aren’t you also very philosophical today Jane. Reading books is how I staved off boredom in high school. I read several every month. It started out of course with the Hardy Boys but quickly moved on to Steinbeck, and numerous autobiographies and history books. I loved surprising my history teacher by giving him info on a subject that he didn’t know… I actually got a smile out of that old bird once in a while.

      No I didn’t mean to insinuate that big projects were interesting for five years. What I really meant was that electrical engineering was interesting for five years, then I moved on to another field, then another until finally settled into information technology toward the end of my career. There were a lot of different projects under the bridge during those five year periods.

      And no I haven’t been bored with my marriage that is going on thirty years now. My wife and I constantly challenge each other even after all those years. She is Ying and I am Yang it seems. A good match but sometimes frustrating. When I said until death due you part I meant it… I take my promises very seriously. Much more than life in general which is basically a joke , right?

      I sure am pleased that I have so many teachers read my words. Maybe I should have asked more questions of the ones I had?


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