Thoughts on Boredom and Walking

Walking
Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

New England weather doesn’t always lend itself to outdoor activities. We had the Polar Vortex, the school-is-delayed-due-to-icing mornings, the rattle-your-windows kind of a windy day, and more. So however idyllic it may sound, “go outside and play” doesn’t always work here. This means we are stuck with an endless loop of wanted screen time amid chants of “I am bored.”

Is that really a bad thing? What if being bored is actually good for you? It doesn’t even have to be good. Maybe it’s just okay to be bored. For the past many years, my travel related work has had me writing articles as varied as Delicious Hangover Cures From Around the World to Wolf Sanctuaries in Pennsylvania but never have I felt inclined to pen down a 10 point list on how to keep kids entertained on a road trip. Or say, how to navigate a cross-Atlantic flight fraught with delays and layovers, minus the meltdowns.

In an interview with GQ magazine, Lin-Manuel Miranda said “…there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom.”

Jerry Seinfeld once joked, “When you’re five and you get bored, you cannot support your body weight. I remember going to the bank with my parents … and I would lie down flat, like, ‘Sorry, Mom, there’s nothing I can do. This place is so dull, I cannot get up.’ This is what I think adulthood is: Adulthood is the ability to be totally bored and remain standing.”

So why not let kids get bored once in a while? It would at the least prepare them for adulthood.

In the midst of designing our child’s every waking hour with structured play, maybe we are missing something essential. Boredom often makes the mind wander into uncharted territories and foster a world of imagination that would be hard to come by during an organized activity. Another thing that gets lost in this labyrinth of constant monitoring is self-sufficiency.

Last weekend, when my son, who is all of seven and often “bored”, said he was bored for the umpteenth time, we did what we hardly ever do on a rainy winter afternoon. We went out to explore our new neighborhood. On foot.

Pretend obstacles and random races aside, the constant drizzle brushing against our faces compelled us to be in the moment. The weekend’s to-do list and other trivialities were left forgotten by the wayside.

Here, Elizabeth McCracken’s Bowlaway gives the humble walk a whole new meaning –

“In the mornings he would walk…. At the start of a walk, alone or moving, the sun at his back or cold rain down his collar, he was more himself than under any other circumstance, until he had walked so far he was not himself, not a self, but joined to the world. Invisibly joined. Had a religion been founded on this, purely this, he would have converted. Proof of God?….. Proof was in the world, and the way you visited the world was on foot…. Your walking was a devotion.”

This passage is something I visit often. If nothing, to make me want to stop whatever it is I am doing, pick up the baby, wrap him in his coziest carrier, pull on my warmest boots, and head out the door.

It’s even better when my husband and seven-year-old join us.

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