Life Skills: Taking Responsibility

We all find ourselves bored at times, it’s normal. It’s when the boredom sets in and feels almost permanent that it becomes a problem.

That’s the situation I found myself in, many years ago now. I grew up in a small town, and it was great when I was little. But as a young adult there just didn’t seem to be many opportunities. I didn’t go to university because I didn’t know what I wanted to study. So I got a safe government job which certainly wasn’t my passion.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life

I have a friend who, as a kid, knew she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. She wanted that, and when she grew up, that’s what she did. Four years of study and that’s what she became. It’s now ten years later, and it’s still her passion.

That definitely wasn’t my story. So, before long I felt like there was nothing left for me in the country and I decided it was time to find something new, something different. So I moved to the city and had been living there for about a year. But rather than creating a life for myself in this great new place, I was remaining almost solely connected to my old life. Not that staying linked to old friends and family was a problem, it’s just that it was like I’d moved away physically, but emotionally, I was still 100% there. The only people I’d see socially were my old friends. I’d travel there almost every weekend, I even found myself with a boyfriend who lived in my old hometown.

I was living in the past

To begin with, I didn’t see this as a problem. There was always something going on back ‘home’. I enjoyed my weeknights on the phone with friends or my family, making plans for the next weekend or the next holiday I’d go back home for. It wasn’t until, years later, when my friends started getting married and having children and had less time for me that is started being a problem. But it really hit home when my relationship broke up. That’s when I started getting lonely.

By now I’d been living in this new city for a few years, and I hadn’t tried striking up a friendship with work colleagues or anyone new because I was always busy with my old friends. Now, when I found myself with what felt like all the time in the world, I was finding it difficult to connect with these people outside of work hours as previously I’d always avoided it.

I had lots of things I loved to do, I loved shopping, reading and running, but none of these were very social. So every evening I’d find myself watching some TV series till all hours with a few wines. I’d try phoning my friends, but now they were all busy with ‘bath time’ or were preparing lunches for the next day and were having less and less time for me. The weekend would come around, and friends were now busy with playdates or swimming lessons. So I’d go shopping or to a farmers market and walk around, alone.

I didn’t know how to meet or create a connection with people within my new world; I didn’t know how to make new friends. Because I’d spent so much time living in the past, I’d missed out on so many opportunities. I now felt like I was just existing, the only connection I was getting was from colleagues at my 9-5 job, and it wasn’t anything meaningful.

Of course, there were times that I’d have fun, on weekends when there was a family dinner or a first birthday party, but then Sunday night would roll around, and I’d get the inevitable Sunday night blues.
I knew there was something more out there. I knew I had something more to offer life. And I knew I was doing the world around me a disservice by not making the most of it.

I knew I could be happy, but I didn’t know how

What I wanted more than anything was to be social. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to connect with new people. I knew the things I loved the most were spending time with my friends, and I loved helping people, but I didn’t know how to incorporate that into a meaningful, fulfilling life. I didn’t know how or where. So for a long time, I stayed the same, using television and alcohol as an escape. I felt like I was wasting my life and what a sucky way to think about yourself!

I knew there was more to life; it just seemed out of my reach. Every day was a challenge, and I didn’t know what to do. I started getting really down. It called it extreme boredom, and it was causing a lot of pain. I had moments of happiness, and I remembered times of being happy in the past. So I knew I could get there again and I could keep it there, I just didn’t know how. Looking back, I think I was waiting for life to come to me, rather than going out a creating a life that I desired.

I had to make a change!

It wasn’t until my best friend told me that I had to do something. We were on the phone one night, and she said I had to do something, anything to make a change, because every time we spoke her heart would break from me sounding so helpless.

And it broke my heart to hear that I was hurting her and made me question; if she cared that much about me, why wasn’t I caring enough about myself to do something about it? Doing the same thing every day clearly wasn’t helping. And I’d already worked out that no one was coming to save me. I knew it was time to do something drastically different.

I had to find a way to breakthrough

A friend of mine, who’d recently moved from the country to the city too, told me they were going to an information night about mastering yourself and your emotions and asked me to come along. As uncomfortable as I felt about going, I didn’t make up an excuse not to go, as I had nothing else on, so I went.

One of the biggest things I discovered, was that I was responsible for the situation I was in. I was responsible for not having the connections I wanted where I now lived, I was responsible for not having hobbies that involved people, and I was responsible for not loving my job. And, I was also responsible for changing it all.

And to be honest, that wasn’t necessarily easy to hear. It meant that I had to do something that I wasn’t used to. I had to learn how to grow my confidence enough to step outside of my comfort zone. I had to remember that what I had now was not working and I had to do something different, something new, even if it felt uncomfortable to begin with.

I used to think meeting new people was scary. One of the ways I started to find it easier, was by doing the most simple task, which was asking strangers for the time. This used to be easier when we didn’t all have mobile phones that we could so easily refer to for the time. But it was just for the purpose of the exercise. Then I started of thinking of all the other questions I could ask. Any excuse to speak to someone I didn’t know, for the first time. “Do you know what the score is of the big game?” “Excuse me, do you know where the nearest post office is?” “I beg your pardon, are you from around here because I’m looking for a good place to eat lunch”.

Before long, I found I was able to approach anyone to ask them pretty much anything. I also started approaching the people I’d never usually speak to. You know, the person you see who you find intimidating; a director at a work function, or an attractive person at the bar? And the questions I asked became more likely to generate a conversation “Hi, can I ask where you shop because I love that outfit you’re wearing?” “Hello, you seem really interesting, what do you like to do for fun?” “Excuse me, I loved the work your team did on that last project, can you tell me more about it?”

How I used my new skills

So with these new skills, I started to make huge changes, and heaps of them. I started going to a community choir, not because I’m a great singer but because I thought it would be a good place to meet people. I started a volunteer job so that I was spending my nights doing something I felt was valuable. I started a book club at the library. I joined a running club that ran every Sunday morning followed by coffee. I started reading trivia questions out of the days paper in the work lunch room. And the list went on. Over time, I kept trying new things, salsa; cooking classes; rock climbing; end of the month work drinks, anything I could think of that I thought I might enjoy and also involved people.

What this meant was that I was creating new positive associations to how I spent my time, in and out of work, and to living life. And, whilst not all of the activities I tried out stuck, I met some great people and found some hobbies that I love. These days I am living life to the fullest. I actually have to schedule in nights at home. I’m never really bored. I might even hear myself say it occasionally, but it’s usually with a smirk because I know there is no limit to the number of things I could be enjoying, and in that moment, I am choosing to be bored.

And because boredom is just an emotion, and we all know emotions can change in an instant, the better I get at choosing when they change and what they change to, the more fulfilling my life becomes.

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