Reimagining Boredom

September 6, 2021

Abrar Hammoud

Several months ago, a friend asked me, “What’s something you own that you wish you didn’t?” It was an amusing question and quite timely. During lock-down, a source of fun was rediscovering treasures I forgot I even owned and items I was puzzled to have accumulated. It didn’t take long to think of my answer.

“Paperclips,” I replied and further explained that while I appreciated their utility, nothing was exciting about them, and they hadn’t changed much since their invention.

Over the past year, many of us have experienced days that haven’t felt exciting and haven’t seemed to change much, either. We may have felt the type of boredom that transforms daily routines into daily ruts.

How can we break out of these ruts? Just as doodling, daydreaming, and people-watching have done to stoke our imaginations, boredom can spark curiosity and creativity.

The following are things you can consider in your quest to shake things up:

  • Play: Take things apart, alter them, see how your possessions interact with other things or how they change over time.
  • Embrace constraints: As often said, necessity is the mother of invention. Restrictions can work to our advantage and challenge us to use available resources in unique ways. For instance, Jago Randles, a chef quarantining in Vancouver, went viral for the interesting (and impressive) ways he cooked with his hotel appliances. (His dishes included Crème brûlée with caramelized strawberries, eggs benedict, and salmon with rice vermicelli and steamed bok choy!)
  • Observe yourself: Reflect on what you interact with regularly yet may take for granted. How can you transform those items in fascinating ways? You could also explore your pet peeves and consider how objects around you could serve as solutions for daily inconveniences.
  • Set limits … or don’t: I decided I would try to use paperclips with tasks involving food, an area they aren’t traditionally used. I discovered they make great cherry pitters and are also useful training vegetable vines in my garden to grow up around stakes.
  • Have fun: This is the most important part!

With a new semester comes new routines. To prevent them from slipping into ruts, take some time to reimagine boredom. Your ingenuity will freshen the ordinary and awaken your imagination.

In my case, my friend’s question propelled me to think of other items that bored me, such as the many pennies strewn across my house. Between the paperclips and pennies, I’ve got a fun sculpture in the works!

Abrar Hammoud

Abrar Hammoud is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation. Her research explores resilience in collaborative teams, particularly connections between artistic expressions of failure, belonging, and willingness to take creative design risks. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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