Boredom and Living in the Moment

Our teenage nephew recently spent time with us. For the past couple of years, he’s been a frequent visitor during his summer vacation. Most of the time we don’t have any exciting plans and the older he gets, the less effort we make specifically to keep him occupied. He’s free to watch Netflix, chat with his friends on his phone, and play video games. That’s easy enough for us to manage.

A few days into this visit, he said “I’m bored.” This is a phrase we struck from our own vocabulary long ago. We have talked about how we don’t ever expect to get bored during early retirement. When our nephew uttered these words, my head exploded and we began a dialogue about why he was bored, what that meant, and what he wanted to do about it. During this conversation, Mr. Vine and I both caught ourselves making suggestions for things he could do or that we could do. I tried to avoid that, instead asking him to come up with ideas of what might alleviate his boredom. 

The exchange got me thinking about how we view boredom as a choice and how seldom I feel bored. It is not simply a byproduct of empty, unfilled time. For me, boredom doesn’t manifest then. If I feel boredom at all, it is when I am trying to avoid a task that I find unpleasant. 

Early retirement, then, feels like the ultimate cure to boredom as in theory we’ll never have to do another unpleasant task. Funny how it doesn’t quite work that way. This is why it is so important to practice for early retirement. 

During Mr. Vine’s month of unemployment and my working from home earlier this year, we got some early retirement practice. We never felt bored, but we found that we still had unenjoyable tasks that were not work-related. We found that implementing a new routine and schedule was helpful. 

With a schedule, the unpleasant tasks were limited and interspersed with activities we’d prefer. The best part of being untethered from traditional offices was our greater control over our time. We hope by the time we reach early retirement, travel will resemble something similar to “normal.” But now we’ve learned that if we retire and cannot travel, we’ll still enjoy ourselves. We will find new ways to be happy (even if that means we need to redefine this blog). 

It surprised me how much time I spent cleaning the house and cooking meals. I didn’t even have as much time for reading as I wanted. It was a huge bummer that the library was closed during this time. 

The big lesson was, for the most part, how much control we have over our own happiness. There is a proverb that says we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. Our approach to boredom and happiness is similar. Life is too short to wish away or to be discontent. Instead, we try to be present and enjoy each moment. 

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