I’ve spent the last month or so up in the Shenandoah Mountains working as the Artistic Director for a Music and Theatre Camp. This place is one of my favorites in the world, even after traveling through parts of Europe, and is truly a place apart.
Being in the mountains, MAT camp (as lovingly rebranded from MAD, Music and Drama) requires a lot of hiking up and down trails, sleeping in screened in cabins, practically bathing in bug spray, and complete removal from technology like computers and phones, though thankfully we still have indoor plumbing. Working at camp forces me to disconnect (the reason for the long absence from this blog) and take time to be in the present. This can be very difficult, especially as the BTSWorld app just came out and I am itching to play it, but is something that I believe is good for me.
I think boredom is underrated. When I was young, I used to complain to my mother, as all children do, that I was bored. She would give me suggestions like coloring, playing with my stuffed animals, taking a walk, and if all else failed, cleaning. The prospect of doing any chores quickly quieted my whining, and eventually I learned to entertain myself. I don’t really do that anymore.
When I get ready for bed in the evenings, I listen to audiobooks. Typically I listen to ones I’ve already read, like Harry Potter, so I won’t stay up wanting to find out what’s next, but this is a new phenomenon in the world of Alex. I didn’t have a phone until high school, and I didn’t have a smart phone until I was 16, so I didn’t have constant access to entertainment. Occasionally my siblings and I could talk my parents into letting us move a small tv into our rooms for the night so we could watch movies to fall asleep, but this usually led to fatigue-induced grumpiness so the tv was rare. Sometimes my sister and I would listen to music while falling asleep, like jazz or classical, but while soothing, didn’t entertain me in the same way audiobooks do now.
As a child, while waiting for sleep to come to my overexcited brain, I would tell myself stories. I created entire worlds in my head, some based on books I was reading or existing in tandem with those universes, others completely of my own creation. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
I remember a time when we were in between moves, so my family temporarily moved into a small 2-bedroom apartment. It was raining so we couldn’t go to the pool, we’d already played the board games we had with us, and we didn’t have any toys as they were still packed away in boxes waiting to be brought to our new house. When complaining to my mother about being bored, she suggested I clean the bathroom, so I immediately went and found something to entertain myself. My brother, sister, and I drew a bunch of different sea creatures on paper, then placed them around the apartment, pretending to be touring an aquarium. If I had been in that situation now, I probably would have just pulled out my computer, scrolled on Facebook for a while, and then watched some Netflix.
The point I’m trying to make here is not that technology is inherently evil or bad, I just think I sometimes let it be all consuming. Boredom forces creativity, and I think that’s something I’ve been lacking recently. Working at camp means that I don’t have instant access to the technology I’ve become dependent on, and suddenly I’ve become more creative. (Some of that comes with the job description of Artistic Director, but still.) The other day, I made Harry Potter style wands with my campers using wooden dowels, hot glue, and some paint and glitter. I also helped make individual journals with scrapbook paper and string.
Working on crafts and being creative is something that both calms me and excites me, centers me and causes me to think outside the box. I just had to be a little bored to remember.