“What did you get up to this weekend?” My brother asks me one Sunday evening at one of our regular family dinners.
I ponder the question. It’s an innocuous one, offered as an easy in for conversation, but it’s also one that, for me, is fraught with deeper meaning, ugly presumptions lurking under the surface-level question. Let’s see, I think. I slept in, I read my book (Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library) and I journaled about my feelings: ‘Why I’m so unhappy’, I’d scrawled in my journal that very morning. I made some lunch. I cleaned the toilet. I sat down in front of an empty Microsoft Word document and tried to create a structure for a novel I still don’t think I can write.
“Not much,” I end up answering. “Had a quiet one, did some cleaning, read my book.” He smiles, politely. “You?” I ask. This time, like many others, my brother, eyes alight, recounts a weekend spent exploring; yesterday, it was a little-known gorge southwest of Brisbane. If it’s not an outdoor adventure of some kind, my brother’s weekends typically involve working in his garden, painting, adventuring with his black Labrador Hobbs, or attending games’ nights with his friends.
The conversation goes silent. Not for the first time, I wonder if I lead a boring life, if I’m boring, and the idea settles uncomfortably in my empty stomach. I shake my head and start peeling carrots, listening now as he and my other brother strike up a debate about politics, throwing opinions around a topic about which I know almost nothing.
What does it mean to be boring?
A quick Google of the word ‘boring’ tells me that, “as an adjective, boring describes something (or someone [gasp]) that is tedious, dull and lacking in interest.”
So, to be boring is to be uninteresting, the very antithesis, clearly, of interesting.
Still here? (Not bored yet?)
But what makes something, or someone (double gasp) uninteresting? An overuse of parentheses? (Hopefully not.)
What I think is interesting
As soon as I came home that Sunday night, belly full, face warm, heart-stricken, I took out my journal once again and, scratching out ‘Why I’m so unhappy’ I added instead, ‘What interesting people do’. Then, I made a list.
After a few minutes, my list looked like this.
- Learn and ask questions
- ‘Do’ things, especially things that scare them
- Have hobbies
- Have goals
- Are passionate about ‘something’
- Are well travelled (but not of the ‘I went to X city on Contiki’ persuasion)
- Tell funny stories
- Appreciate art, books and music (bonus points for creating any of these).
I thought a bit more, and added these to the mix after considering the expectations I put on myself to be ‘interesting’.
- like outdoor adventures and extreme sports
- are thrill seekers
- ride motorbikes
- are always fashionable
- post hilarious stories on Instagram
- are famous, living lavish lifestyles of which we can only ever dream
- are ED surgeons, firefighters, criminal defence lawyers…
Satisfied with my list, I turned to my partner, who was sitting beside me, though not, it seemed, in any way disturbed by existential crises.
“What makes someone ‘interesting’?” I asked him.
He looked up from his phone, thought for a moment, and replied, “I thought it was pretty cool how one of my old housemates cycled around Europe.” Then, he plunged his face back into Facebook.
I scrunched my face. Honestly, I thought, if I sat next to this old housemate at dinner and he discussed his bicycle trip around Europe non-stop over mashed potatoes, I would probably be bored.
However, if I sat next to someone who had cycled across Europe and then wrote and published a book about it, then, I think, I would be more intrigued, and probably a little jealous, too. I expect I would poke them with questions about their writing process, about publishing, if they, too, ever suffer from imposter syndrome. I’d gloss over the part where they had to replace their tyre in Nice because, who cares, and I’d get right down to the nitty gritty involved in sitting, day in day out, and structuring something that goes 90,000 words long and where each of the 90,000 words has its place.
And why? Well, clearly, because I like writing, and I’d love to write and publish a book. You could cycle halfway across the world in nought but your underpants, but I would be far more impressed if you sold a book about it.
So, can ‘boring’ really be defined?
I think this is an excellent illustration that the notion of ‘boring’ is subjective, like being ‘good’ enough or ‘smart’ enough or ‘pretty’ enough. Ask a hundred different people and you’ll have a hundred different definitions about what each of these adjectives mean. It is entirely dependent on all of our own interests, likes and dislikes, and, lying at the very root of all of these, our thoughts.
In my own list above, sure, I think it’d be neat to talk to someone who’s a firefighter or a criminal defence lawyer, likely because their lives are so different from my own. But, after I learned their stories about defending crims and the world from fiery destruction, I think I’d just like to talk about what they do when they’re not at their respective jobs. And if that were cycling then… See. You. Later. (Joking, of course…)
There are many people out there who, like me, would rather read a book than ride a motorbike. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean I somehow don’t measure up to be a motorbike-fiend’s friend or partner; that simply highlights a different interest. And differences make our connections all the more colourful.
What are you making it mean about you?
Remember that worries like ‘I’m boring’ only ever exist because, in some small part, you believe them. For example, I’m not afraid that someone would think my hair is brown, because I believe, quite simply, that I have blonde hair. If someone told me that I had brown hair, I’d shrug and maybe suggest an eye test. You can adopt this mindset with anything, whether it’s hair or a personality trait. If you believe in it yourself, you won’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
And that’s what I think is worth practicing here: that is, loving yourself for exactly who you are and what you like to do. Because you are all that matters. Cute, little old you.
If you worry that you are ‘boring’, maybe you think that something is missing in your life, or that there’s something that you want to be doing but are not from some reason: out of fear or self-doubt, perhaps. If so, I’d encourage you to figure out why. Get that journal out, like I do.
Then go for it.
But if you are worried that you need to acquire a specific trait or thing, or enjoy a specific activity, to be interesting, remember that what anyone thinks is ‘interesting’ is dependent on them: on their thoughts and experiences. If you’re trying to be ‘interesting’ to everyone you ever meet, you’d face an unending battle to love and excel in pretty much everything in life. Better to love what you do, because you will always be with you. Then, you can show your lovely unique self to others, and be curious about that which makes others their lovely unique selves, too. Because, in my opinion, there’s nothing more ‘interesting’ than that.
A little note…
When I first sat down to write this blog, I was struggling with depression. Depression can often bring about feelings of apathy, or of being empty with no real interest, passion, or drive. At first, I didn’t think I could possibly have depression, thinking that I have no real reason to be depressed. Now I understand that depression can affect anyone, whether you are the Prince of Wales or whether the only ‘throne’ you sit on is in your bathroom…
I’m now getting the help I need and encourage you, if you find that you are feeling similarly, to reach out for help.