My mom used to lock me outside.
“A boy your age ought to be outside,” she’d say, slamming the door as I stumbled into the oppressive summer heat.
She’d had enough, probably.
Or maybe not enough of something else. She was always asking for peace and quiet, so maybe it was that?
I remember trying the screen door, finding it locked, then looking around my lawn as if it might offer some kind of support.
“Nope, we’re stuck out here, too,” it seemed to say.
We lived in a small neighborhood filled with old people. There was a kid around the corner whose parents refused to let him play with me because my family was “too rich.”
We weren’t rich.
For the most part, I rode my bike around aimlessly, or wandered through the woods, or looked for anything that could spark my imagination.
I didn’t play sports until much later in life.
I was never working on “my game.”
Instead, I was always telling myself stories and inventing and acting out fiction.
The forest behind the house was filled with ghosts. Or stone golems. Or werewolves. The lightning bugs that drifted upward and speckled the yard in yellow lights were spinning galaxies and planets that I navigated through in my space ship.
The statement “My mom locked me out of the house” might raise an eyebrow or two these days, but these formative years spent outside weren’t bad.
There was one overwhelming emotion in my childhood, though — an undercurrent that flowed beneath everything I did, especially in the summer.
I had nothing to do.
And having nothing to do led to everything that I love.
I worry about my kids sometimes. All kids really — these never-bored human beings who are constantly connected, constantly engaged with something, watching something, getting little tiny dopamine hits all day long.
If I hadn’t been bored, I’d have never have picked up the guitar and strummed out my first few clunky chords.
If I hadn’t been bored, I’d never have written my first short story, or hidden around the corner from adult conversations, recording them in my notebook or read a mountain of science fiction books that shaped my ideas about the wondrous world around us.
Fast forward over a decade and these activities as so cherished I am uncertain how I could cope with the trials of life without them.
Being bored is the catalyst to all creativity.
I don’t know when we became afraid of this idea, but it happened. I get it. It can be scary to stare down the inner workings of your own mind, to find far less or far more there than you anticipated, but if you stay there a little longer, past the uncomfortable part, you might hear the small glimmer deep inside you that whispers:
Play the piano.
Write a poem.
Ride your bike.
Do anything besides drag your thumb a fraction of an inch down a touch-sensitive screen, searching for likes and fulfillment from a piece of software that only wants to sell your data to advertising firms.
Instead, choose to be bored.
Lock your kids outside.
Lock yourself outside with them.
A version of this post was previously published on CourierNews.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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