On May 12, 2002, Newsweek published an essay by Anna Quindlen called, “Doing Nothing Is Something.” It was a beautiful piece of writing on the lazy rhythms of summer that she recalled with nostalgia from her own childhood. In it, she bemoaned the fast pace of modern life and the contrast between what she experienced in her youth compared to the experiences of over-scheduled teens in middle-class society. The article has even more relevance now given the advent of social media and smart phones that keep us routinely engaged. Instead of contemplating our navels on someone’s back porch while swatting at a few mosquitoes and talking to the neighbors.
“I mourn hanging out in the backyard. I mourn playing Wiffle ball in the street without a sponsor and matching shirts. I mourn drawing in the dirt with a stick,” she writes. (I’ve included the link to the original article here).
As a single woman without children, I spend many weekends and evenings alone. And at times, I’m quite bored. This reality has been particularly on my mind as the days grow longer and the warm weather drives everyone outside to engage in activities. Yet no matter how much I sometimes judge myself for having these stretches of quiet time, I realize how vital boredom truly is whether you’re in a partnership, family, or alone. Having time to do nothing and to be in solitude is a rich experience that our society has little tolerance for. This intolerance only grows. It’s viewed as non-productive, anti-social, and unhealthy. Yet is it any healthier to constantly engage, particularly if participating in meaningless activity or superficial relationships? And how does one cultivate any sense of purpose or creativity, if there is never any time to simply dream and think?
So if you find yourself feeling a little restless or bored at some point this summer, consider it a gift. It’s a great opportunity to embrace simply being. Without having to prove anything or exert anything. And that is a rarity in our current day.