Bored Without Work

I don’t know what to say to people that proclaim they would be “bored” if they didn’t have to work every day. I have to believe that I am just misunderstanding them somehow. They couldn’t possibly genuinely be saying that they are that empty, boring, and directionless as human beings. What do you MEAN you would be bored? I don’t think they grasp what that statement insinuates.

To me, when someone says they’d be bored if they never had to work again, it breaks my heart. Do they realize that means they have no personal motivation or interests to pursue? They really believe their heads are so empty that without someone else beating their back with a whip, they wouldn’t know how to move forward? They have no goals other than the ones set for them? I can’t imagine a sadder existence than that.

Also, have these people never been bored at work? I’m bored at work nearly 90% of the time anyway. Our system is set up illogically. We are forced to sit in offices for a certain amount of time regardless of how long it actually takes to complete the tasks we have for the day, leading us to actually be less productive as other (better) countries have demonstrated through shortened work days/weeks for their employees.

Maybe it’s more about the social stigma attached to not working. Perhaps these people have an image in their head that it’s either work 40+ hours a week, or literally sit on your couch 24/7 and watch TV. Capitalism has seeped so deeply into their psyches that they cannot fathom what it would mean to live for themselves. Maybe saying you’d be bored without work is a strange form of virtue signaling. I could never stop working. I have too much self-respect and am a motivated, productive person. I enjoy contributing to society. There is always the subtle insinuation that those who don’t work a 9-5 job do not contribute, which is obviously not true.

I personally think many peoples’ talents are wasted by the way our society is set up. I think I would be able to offer society much more value if I were able to spend my time as I pleased, working towards my own interests instead of struggling and exhausting myself in a structure set up by other people in which I simply do not fit. If everyone wasn’t constantly expending all of their energy stressing about money and working for other people, who knows what amazing contributions individuals would be able to make? Even if you already work in a creative field or are self-employed, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to take into consideration what other people want or what would make the most money? You’d be able to be more true to your own interests and creative ideas. You’d have so much more freedom.

It also saddens me to imagine most people seem to be unable to even conceive of activities other than work that would be fulfilling. Even if you enjoy the work you’re doing, like I do, I would still prefer to not have to do it. That’s not to say you’d have to stop either. It would just mean you weren’t dependent on it in order to feed yourself. Just that small change would inherently make the work itself more enjoyable. There have been studies that show even when you like an activity, if you’re paid for it, it becomes less pleasurable. Your mind begins to rationalize that you are doing it, not for the enjoyment, but for the money, which is less fun.

If you are someone who believes you’d be bored without the need to toil for our capitalist overlords, here are just a few of the myriad of options you could devote your time and energy to:

  1. Volunteer work
  2. Activism
  3. Learn a new skill/hobby
  4. Learn an instrument
  5. Study a different language
  6. Go back to school to learn about a subject you enjoy
  7. Make art
  8. Spend more time in nature
  9. Travel
  10. Spend more time with family and loved ones
  11. Workout
  12. Practice yoga/meditation
  13. Invent something
  14. Clean
  15. Home improvement projects
  16. Write
  17. Read
  18. Draw

I could go on, but you get the point. There are a limitless amount of things that you could do besides work! You really wouldn’t find any of these alternative activities adequate to keep you from boredom? Or are you just considering some of these things as work? If you don’t have to do it for a paycheck, it’s not work. I don’t mean literally any amount of physical or mental exertion when I say work. I mean traditional employment. There is a big difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because you have to, even when it’s something you love.

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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up

To this day, I have no answer to this question. I never did. I always felt like a weirdo for not having an answer. Everyone else didn’t even seem to hesitate before happily responding: firefighter, policeman, doctor, nurse, etc. My own mother used to be concerned that I always replied: I don’t know. I was confident that someday I would have an epiphany and know exactly what career I’d like to pursue. Someday I’d be able to answer confidently like all the other kids. I was sure of it.

Unfortunately, I was applying to college before I realized that epiphany wasn’t coming. I was confronted with the huge decision of what to major in when I still wasn’t sure what options were even out there or what I would be best suited for. My parents had never been particularly passionate about their jobs, so I never really expected to be either. In my mind, I couldn’t grasp why anyone would actually want to work anywhere. Working in general seemed awful and constricting. I just wanted to live my life. I wanted to be free to do whatever I saw fit on any given day. It seemed like a nightmare to be locked into doing one thing forever. So I basically soldiered onward with the assumption that regardless of which career path I choose, I’d end up hating it.

Thankfully, I have always been very intelligent and can achieve pretty much whatever I put my mind to. I was free to select any major and know that I’d be capable of handling the course material. At first I went for the sciences because I knew that’s where the money was. If I was going to hate my job either way, I might as well make some money. However, after only a semester of that, I decided it was too much effort and stress for something I had no passion for. I gave up on the idea of being rich and decided my quality of life from day to day was more important. I decided to switch my major to psychology since my Psych 101 class was the only one I actually enjoyed.

At the end of the day, I was very lucky. I managed to accidentally fall into the exact right field for myself. Not only do I find psychology and the human brain endlessly fascinating to learn about, I am able to use what I learn and the interactions I have with my clients to help me be a better version of myself, which is also one of my favorite things to work on.

Through my own experience in education and the workforce, I’ve come to realize that we as a society are asking kids all the wrong questions. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even as a child I thought that was a peculiar question to ask someone so young. How the hell should I know? That was always what I was wondering. It’s funny when you really think about it. How many jobs are children even aware of? And of the handful that they do know, how much do they understand about what those jobs actually entail on a daily basis? I used to think there was something wrong with me for not knowing. Now I realize that even the kids who had an answer didn’t really know either. How could they? Does a child that says, “I want to be a doctor,” really know what it means to be a doctor? Don’t the kids that say, “I want to be a veterinarian,” just say that because they enjoy spending time with animals?

Honestly part of the problem is the apathy of the parents and the education system. You might as well ask these kids where they want to go to college. It the job of the adults in these kids’ lives to teach them what is available, to guide them toward goals that they are well suited for. I think instead of asking children what they want to be, we should ask them what they are endlessly curious about. We should ask them what they think they’d be able to learn about every day and never get bored. Then as those interests grow and evolve, parents and teachers should explain to children the different careers that would involve their interests on a daily basis. It’s hard to hate your job when it’s something that deeply interests you.

It’s such a shame all the ways in which our education system fails our children. School is supposed to prepare us for the real world, yet that idea has become a joke instead. I think a lot of people, like myself, have assumed that a lot of these things are being covered at home by the kids’ parents. However, when I began working in the community, I realized that there are sooo many people that don’t have responsible, caring, capable family members to teach them these things. Unfortunately it would be better for us to assume that children aren’t learning anything at home, because a huge proportion of them aren’t.

For the limited time I get to spend with the children I meet everyday, I am going to do my best to ask them the right questions. Then they may at least have a concept of where to start. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I can do at the moment. Hopefully someday I will become a teacher and get a chance to make a bigger impact on the next generation. But if you are a teacher or if you have your own children, try asking them what they are interested in learning rather than what they want to be. Help give them an idea of what options are out there for them and what those options actually look like in practice. Give this upcoming generation a chance to thrive and love what they do in the future.

50 Career Day Ideas and Activities