Replace boredom with inspiration

A shot of Marburg castle taken on a run through the woods yesterday

Sun has finally hit the normally cloud-scattered sky in Marburg. It’s been beautiful for days, chilly but not cold and the rays are bright and dappled by leaves and branches. A friend of mine gave me the inspiration to make a self-care list. As well as trying new things and dedicating time to hobbies that roll into dust bunnies through everyday busyness, it’s important to ask yourself what you need. After the essentials of food, shelter and income, I survive off little and simple things: to be outside is a bookmark for tomorrow. It’ll remind us of where we left off, what did we want to see? Who did we want to visit? Where do we want to go? As fortune has it, I live in a place where being out in the forest or walking along the river is, for the moment, very much accepted as long as you follow the rules, i.e. keep in your party of two and be respectful of others.

I live with three people. I’m sure a challenge for lots of us is how to spend quality time with loved ones, not so much time that you get on one another’s nerves but not too little that you feel their absence. In this house, like in many others I assume, we share mealtimes, often go for a walk or run in the afternoon together and in the evening we’ll watch a film, documentary or play some music. After a while, even this pleasant holiday-like routine can grow repetitive. I don’t like using the word “bored”. If boredom is your biggest worry then you’ve got it pretty good. But boredom is more complex than just being in the privileged position of getting to be bored. It is slightly existential. The utterance “I’m bored” that we might hear a child say to a parent, someone to their housemate or a partner to their other half carries more meaning than the fact itself. By telling someone about this feeling you have, you’re asking them to help you get out of the boredom hole you’ve fallen into and you’re pleading, “give me a task or tell me something of interest that will fulfill me”. I asked one of my flatmates recently if they’d like to go for walk. “But why?”, they responded. “We’ve already been for three this week. What’s the point?”. Even something so beautiful and peaceful as a stroll, most often highly-desired amongst busy scheduled people, becomes mundane.

I remember as a young child I would sometimes whinge to my parents and they’d reply, “How can you be bored?” They had a point. We had a garden to play in, toys in abundance and, with three siblings, each one of us had camaraderie at hand. When we did moan about our lack of creativity and imagination, I imagine we were looking for something greater than just whiling away the time. I think we do wish to be inspired and we shouldn’t expect others to give us that but be able to find it ourselves. As a child I was almost definitely “bored” from time to time, but in general, I rarely describe my present state as being bored. If anything, I get worried from time to time that I’m not accomplishing enough, or I’m not being “productive” or I may find myself in a rut. So to ensure that boredom doesn’t get the better of me, or any other existential angst for that matter, I love to outline my goals in the form of a list or two.

The Self-Care List (inspired by Isabel)

  • Walk, run or cycle everyday, even for just half an hour. Fresh air and exercise is my go-to medicine. You can use up some pent-up energy and release those happy endorphins. I run for my life, I run to feel alive.
  • Be creative: a goal of mine is to write, draw or play piano everyday. This one comes quite easily to me because I love all three things and I try not to set too high a standard for myself, but try to enjoy it for what it is. Some songs I’d like to learn on the piano include Barfuß am Klavier (AnnenMayKantereit), Everything I Wanted (Billie Eilish), Fast Car (Tracy Chapman), Mountains to Move (Nick Mulvey) and My Baby Just Cares For Me (Nina Simone). I’m also enjoying writing about the things that inspire me. You don’t need to remind yourself to stay positive if you surround yourself my ideas, stories and a reality that fascinates you.
  • Spend quality time with my flatmates. I fear just living alongside people. I want to know them well and share the experience. That’s why I’ll time my daily run or walk to fit in with their schedules. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try and suggest something we can do together like playing some music together or trying to draw one another (thanks Dec for this idea!).
  • Ensure I have a steady income: this is the hardest at the moment. My normal batch of ten lessons a week had initially been reduced to three. I’ve been spending time trying to find new students and asking around. It has somewhat paid off and my student number of three has now turned into a more promising five. I’ve added this one onto the self-care list because having an unstable income can be profoundly unsettling and it’s therefore important to dedicate time to finding work especially in times like these.

Things to look forward to for after quarantine: This second list is to keep spirits high. I often catch myself thinking, “Ah, I’d love to do X”. This list has helped me change the conditional “would” to the future “will”, i.e. I’m looking forward to when I’ll be able to do Y.

  • There are two restaurants I’m dying to visit. Both remind me of my trip to Portland in April of last year. One is an American-style diner on the outskirts of Marburg. There’s even a Cadillac jutting out from one of the outer walls. It looks so cheesy, I can’t wait. Another one is right next door to our flat. It also looks a bit like diner, almost like the ones in the States where you can get bottomless top-ups of coffee and a hearty meal. Slightly nostalgic, very indulgent, but yeah, that’s on the list.
  • Once we’re able to travel again, I’d like to visit some forests around Hessen that I’ve been wanting to visit all year but not yet reached. Odenwald, Burgwald and Taunus are amongst my must-sees.
  • I’m a café person. I adore taking a book or two, or my laptop, to a café for a few hours and embracing a new workspace. I miss that somewhat and will very much relish the change of scene to come.

Thank you for reading! What are your inspirations?

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