I don’t think too hard about how I spend my time. When I pause to reflect, I have a vague sense that I have been fairly busy, but not terribly productive. A few weeks ago, after playing a game of Hearts with my family, it occurred to me that I could probably find a computer version of it on my laptop. It wasn’t heard to find (right in the folder titled “Games”, as a matter of fact), only I’d never thought to look before.
Within four weeks, I played over 130 games of Hearts, before moving on to FreeCell where I racked up 50 consecutive wins before turning my attention to Spider Solitaire. During a time period when I ought to have been focusing on revision for upcoming exams, I was taking “study breaks” hours in length to play another round of cards against a computer. Yesterday, it hit me: this has absolutely no benefit to me or anyone else. I am not even engaging in an entertaining and relaxing story line, but rather clicking through a series of basic problem solving puzzles which are largely determined by chance. I am accomplishing nothing: my experience and knowledge of the world is not being enhanced, my thinking patterns are not being challenged, I am not strengthening meaningful social ties, and I don’t even feel relaxed when I finish. The one commodity I never feel I have enough of, time, is one I am expending on probably the most pointless exercise I could imagine. And for a second I wondered: is this inevitable? Do I want to stop? Do I really care?
And then I closed my unfinished card game, went to my computers control panel, and disabled all the games which came pre-installed on my computer. Then I took things a step further: I googled a quick extension for Chrome which would allow me to block certain websites during set times of the day, and I told it not to let me on to Facebook except for early in the morning, at lunch, and between 9 and 10 in the evening. I wasn’t sure what the result would be. After all, I have never considered myself to be one of those “addicted to Facebook” people. I don’t even read all my newsfeed anymore. But it occurred to me that it would be a good way to make myself close the window down and not pause to check for new updates every half hour.
I don’t know why I made this rather abrupt decision. As I said, Facebook hasn’t been a problem for me. And really, I’ve only been playing cards for a month. But, I thought, it can’t hurt, and hopefully it will get me more focused on my studies. Maybe I’ll feel more productive and happy with my life if I don’t feel like I’ve been wasting it away. Keep in mind, all this happened yesterday. It’s not like this is the hugest existential crisis I have ever encountered, and really, it’s almost silly expecting any great change as a result. Still, life is full of tiny little moments where you think “today I’m going to change”, and sometimes you have to listen to them. So yesterday, I did. And how has today been?
I haven’t felt this bored in years.
All day, I have been nearly crazy with boredom. I was so desperate for something to distract me, that I googled for online sudokus to try to alleviate the tedium, until I realized I might as well just re-enable all the card games again (I didn’t.) I needed something, anything, to keep me from doing my work. But on the plus side, I actually DID read my entire newsfeed when I first got up, which was kind of nice. I made some dessert as a test run for a big dinner event coming up, which I’d been meaning to do all week. And now I’ve written my first blog post in… well, a while. Someone asked me before all this came up what I do with my time, and even then I had this nagging sense that I didn’t spend it well. I just couldn’t come up with a good answer. Today, I was wondering what I do when I’m not on Facebook or playing cards, what do I DO? In the silence which followed, I came to a realization: I listen to music. And I study my Russian.
And here’s what I’ve learned: boredom isn’t a bad thing. Boredom is that realization that you have time to spare. It is that sense which says “I am avoiding doing something I should, but it isn’t urgent yet, so I don’t have to start.” I would like to find a way to turn boredom into a catalyzing force, into something which reminds me: when you feel this way, it’s time to stop procrastinating. Get a move on.
Obviously, I still need proper study breaks. We all need “pointless” things to do to relax. I can always turn to Zelda when I need a break, or watch another 10 minute segment of “David Copperfield” on youtube. I don’t read: novels are too absorbing for during the day. But maybe I can start giving myself a half hour to blog again. That might be nice, too.