Boredom is the frog that kissed the prince. Or something weird like that. As a kid, you got bored when you had nothing to do. Growing up, you get bored because you are often doing something you don’t want to do.
I knew what I wanted to do when I turned ten. And thirteen. And sixteen. And eighteen. At ten, I wanted to be a cricket player. My life was dedicated to the sport and I trained under the toughest conditions: open drainage, uneven surface, heat, cold, rain, transformers shooting electricity, booing fans that wanted to know where I lived because somebody had to pay for their broken window/television/nose. Throw in some moving vehicles for hand-eye-life coordination and my dreams were being solidified by the hopelessness of everyone around me.
Thirteen. I got a miracle of an introduction to the teenage world when I got the 8th rank at school. The world around me went bonkers. Because the general trend was I fail at least three of eight subjects, remain at the bottom of the class, sign my dad’s name on the exam report and go off to play cricket. So, for the first time in history, my Dad got to sign the report card. And I wanted that historical occasion to play out again. Given the personal circumstances, my batting average dropped and I retired from the game. Now, I just wanted to break into the top three at school. And I did. It felt great.
Then, I turned sixteen.
Now, I just wanted to hang out with girls. If you think this is a drop in aspirations, you are the one that’s abnormal. My life involved testing out how low low-waist jeans are could go and how cool I would look wearing the letters C.O.O.L around my neck. Naturally, I played the guitar or at least walked around with one. Grades plummeted. But the Elvis in me said, love cures all, repeatedly.
At eighteen, I wanted to be an electrical engineer. No surprise that it only went downhill from there. At nineteen, a coder. At twenty, a CEO. At twenty-two, no clue. At twenty-three, no clue. At twenty-four, no clue. At twenty-five…
This chronological existential crisis is neither new nor unique to me. But for every one of the points until twenty-two, I worked hard on becoming what I wanted to be. It may seem like I was just a lost kid which I was, but I was never bored in the classic sense of the word. There was always something to do, however short-lived.
It’s what’s commonly known as a phase. Like the time you wanted to be the milkman or Bubbles from the Powerpuff girls.
There’s this tacit understanding that at some point, these phases must stop. It’s called adulthood. Phases show a lack of seriousness and commitment. Not to mention, immaturity. An adult is someone who can set his/her foot down and say, I want to become a..errr..consultant.
That’s what happened to me at 22. There were no more phases. Preparing for B-school (hat-tip: chronological existential crises) doesn’t count as a phase not because I didn’t make it to one, but because it was dumb and gives the other phases a bad name. Given the boredom, I went to some school anyway.
Question: “Why are you applying to our school?”
Answer: “Because I want to change the education system in India. And address the sanitation problems. And save water. I want to un-dent a dented universe.”
Bullshit. I was bored.
After a phase-less phase, the school helped bring back some phases. The one that lasted was this, writing. The inner child or whatever showed up I guess. It felt like I was sixteen again — wink wink (blame the inner child).
Some people ask me if this (writing) is what I want to do with my life. Hopefully, they won’t after they read this. And this. History says I won’t last long in this phase, but I am grateful for whatever time I am getting here. Because I missed this.
The truth with phases is that you’ll look like a clueless loony to most people. Parents will be concerned. The girl/boyfriend will want to punch you in the face. Friends will stop taking you seriously because they know you are in another one of your idiosyncratic idiocies. Also, be sure as heck prepared to wake up every day thinking your phase is gone and you are going to die, penniless.
Welcome to adulthood.
Phases don’t show up as often when we grow older. That’s why we also become boring, serious people. Occasionally, something knocks on the door. If you sit there doing nothing, or worse — working on a powerpoint, it will go away.
If you sit there wishing for it to come back a later time, it generally won’t. But, if you are scared to open the door because it may rob you of your borrowed dreams and may leave you standing alone and naked in the rain, that’s when you know someone special has arrived.
Let it in. In the art world, this thing is called a muse. You can call it a phase/hobby/your side hustle, but don’t ignore the muse just because you plan to meet her (as is earth, so is the muse – a her) once you are older. At least, buy her lunch and see how it goes.
Because sometimes, you enjoy the lunch and welcome the muse and she just ends up staying a few years. You will wake up every morning thinking the muse has left. That can happen anytime. Or it may not happen at all. Your muse may just bring in more of her friends and your life can turn into a creative cacophony that wakes you up every morning.
Adulthood without phases is hardly memorable; hurried shades of grey at best and excavated lifelessness at worst. The stories you will tell are about the phases you went through; the rainbow: the rain, with the sun.
Get the door.