When I first started teaching at the high school level in 2001, many of us in the English department became acquainted with a man named Godfreid Holdamen. Mr. Holdamen was the kind of English teacher who taught against the grain and defied much of the methods being taught in the teaching programs. He was a person whose mission in life it seemed was to show students who dared walk into his classroom that everything they had ever learned was rubbish.
His classroom walls were covered in posters of artwork, displayed there not for the purpose of showing us his interests like a teenager hangs a Pink Floyd poster on his bedroom wall, but posters of serious art and photography that provoked thinking. He treated these classroom walls, even the ceiling, as a symbol of the inner workings of the human psyche. There wasn’t a blank space on any square foot without some visual representation or ounce of symbolism. These walls offered up a labyrinth of possibilities.
To illustrate Mr. Holdamen’s approach to teaching, there was an an old tree stump upon which was a collection of maybe 4 or 5 black and yellow Cliff Notes books and through them all an ax had been driven into them perhaps three inches deep. Holdamen taught us it wasn’t about getting to the correct answer in analyzing works of literature. It was about discovering some connection to our own lives and therefore unlocking some puzzle piece that would inevitably lead us to our destinies.
Did you notice I include myself among those under his tutelage?
If I can be so presumptuous to speak for him, it seemed to the outsider that his dream as a teacher was for the student who crossed the threshold of his classroom door to begin her own hero’s journey by delving deeply into her own soul and leave his classroom with a different perspective of herself and the world around her. His curriculum centered around accepting the call to adventure and taking the dive–this was imperative. For the hero willing to take on the call meant taking on one’s fears.
There’s no question, Mr. Holdamen was an inspiring teacher, but not everyone was willing to answer his call. There was one young man he could not reach. Perhaps the boy didn’t get much sleep or he was nurturing a video game addiction that kept him up throughout the night, but as soon as the boy walked into the classroom and hit the desk, he fell asleep. Mr. Holdamen never gave up. Out came 6 sheets of 12 x 18 white construction paper and he went to work.
The next morning the boy slugged into class, plopped himself into his desk seat, and soon enough, he fell asleep as usual. It was as if he was moving from one bed and into another, except the journey was longer. Plop like a wet towel.
The boy hadn’t noticed any changes in the classroom like the others who had discussed the changes at length before first bell. They thought it clever like everything else in Mr. Holdamen’s room and yet another example of his attempts to reach kids on a deeper level.
When the boy opened his eyes from his morning siesta, he saw the six sheets of construction paper stretched across 3 ceiling tile with fat blue and yellow letters that read:
The story of this young man has stayed with me for a long time, and having worked with teenagers for the past 15 years, I have come to know many students, both male and female, just like him.
“I’m bored,” they say.
Adults often discount lethargy in teenagers as an overabundance of hormones working inside them. And this is largely true, but it doesn’t work this way in all kids. Some teenagers appear happy most of the time, well-adjusted most of the time, and socially adept almost all of the time. So what is it they are doing to combat the doldrums of boredom and maintain such a great balanced life? How can students avoid becoming the young man in the story?
The answer to the question is really quite simple.
There is no question, most of us have suffered from boredom at one point or another in our lives. If we are bored enough, we may even suffer from depression. While we may believe depression is a condition that is happening to us as the wrong chemicals are being released into our bodies causing us to feel badly, it is often us who precipitate the action which would allow for the release of the right chemical to flow through our bodies so we feel better about our condition. In short, we do have the ability to snap out of boredom and depression if we want to. Simply put, by doing something.
Create. Do anything that will give you a sense of purpose.: go ride a bike and smell the sweet cut grass, draw a picture of a place you would like to visit someday, exercise as if you’re training for the Olympics, write a sonnet, go for a walk, breath, create a list of goals. Anything, but so something.
Steve Chandler has recently become one of my favorite people in the world. He’s a life coach, he’s written over 40 books, and he’s a celebrated public speaker and corporate trainer who delivers relationship and motivational workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada. I just got this information off the back of his book, Reinventing Yourself.
In many of Steve Chandler’s books, he tells us that if we are struggling with depression or feeling bored with life one of the best cures is action. Thomas Jefferson told us something similar when he said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Just act! Action will delineate and define you.”
So if you really want to feel better, or you are feeling bogged down about something, then you need to take action.
In order to battle depression, we need to first find the inspiration and willpower within us to get up. We may believe inspiration come from without, from some motivational speaker, but it really comes from within every one of us. Messages inspire, this is true. But the willingness to be inspired comes from within each and every one of us.
Within the word inspire is the Latin root, spirare, which means tobreathe. This is the same root found in the word spirit. If the spirit within me is none other than breathe, then who is it that breathes within me, but spirit? No one else breathes for me. I do that. Spirit is the driving force necessary to will us out of bed every morning, and if we don’t wake up like Mr. Holdamen’s student, we will hear not one message.
My daughter used to tell me, “Dad, I’m boring.”
Funny, huh? Dad, I’m boring. She was learning the nuances of language at the time and eventually figured out the correct form, but she was also speaking a truth.
The inability to entertain herself was hers and hers alone. She wanted to be entertained, she wanted life to take itself on and be exciting, she wanted above all to find a joy and love and laugh her way silly into that good night. But it isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to entertain her. The responsibility to entertain her resides in her own ability to tap into the breath within and fan her own flame. This has been our biggest challenge as parents–to offer her enough options to find what interests her and what treasures in life she truly values as worthy of spending a sincere amount of time.
There is no question Youtube and the iPad offer hours and hours of entertainment, but I think you would agree, after a while, even the iPad doesn’t necessarily cure the Boredom Syndrome. When devices are overused, technology helps to create it.
Human beings have urge inside of us, a flame that burns within. Sometimes that flame is small like a candle flame, and sometimes it rages like a bonfire. This flame is ours and ours alone. We nurse it daily, fan it to keep its embers burning and alive. Maybe that’s why exercise wakes us up, puts us in better spirits, helps us find the truth in an issue we are wrestling with. After all, oxygen keeps a fire alive, doesn’t it.
When we feel bored we have forgotten about the flame within us. We have neglected the flame. We have allowed ourselves to become complacent with our spirits by ignoring the flame and allowed it to simmer, to flicker, moments away from sending a thin plume of grey smoke into the cold damp air.
Boredom, however, is the perfect opportunity to fan the flame within us. The moment you begin to feel the need to sigh in desperation, you have created a moment of possibility.
Steve Chandler, in his bookThe Story of You advises people who face problems to overwhelm the problem with action. A person who procrastinates daily like me to write a book or story that has been brewing in the mind needs to take a week off, turn the phone off, or unplug your Internet Service Provider. Likewise, if you think you have a problem like boredom burdening you, then overwhelm the problem, become inappropriate with the problem, overwhelm the problem as if it was a bully on the school yard and you want nothing more than to knock boredom out of the park. Boredom after all is really only a perception, an idea in your mind. It isn’t a real thing, but an insignificant thought that you can own or leave behind by changing your thought process.
So what sorts of things can a person do to make boredom go away. To stick with our extended metaphor of the flame within us, the best thing a person like yourself can do is to blow onto the flame.
That’s right, breath!
Exercise can give you a sense of renewal, automatically turning negative thoughts into positive ones. Exercise can help you feel alive once again. So get moving! Get outside or stay inside and exercise!
Not good enough? No problem, here’s a link that lists 101 Non-Electric Things For Kids To Do When They’re Bored. One of my favorites is number 18. If this list doesn’t suit you, do a google search, there’s plenty out there.
By doing something with your body, you help bring your mind and spirit together as one. You will begin to think of some of the things you may have been neglecting in your life, some of the relationships you need to cultivate or nurture. You may even begin to think about some of your problems–which again are only perceptions of the mind–and let them go!
I do not mean to suggest depression is not a real dis-ease in our society. There are people out there in the world who suffer from a serious chemical imbalance and truly need the help of a psychologist or medical professional. However, I do believe that we can climb ourselves out of the rabbit hole of depression by willing a purpose into our lives.
The fact remains, a person who lays down will not get up if I tell her to get up. A person will only get up if she is willing to get up herself. Willingness comes from inspiration, and the will to do something–to act–comes from within each and every one of us.