A friend who lives in LA was staying with us here in Vermont a few weeks ago. His formal background is in engineering, but he is a business wunderkind and is helping us to start up our small business. He currently works in digital & internet trademarking, and has been spending a lot of time with YouTube for his work. He brought up the idea of “content” and seems to think that many, many people in this world are bored to tears.
People do seem to love watching short videos of other people doing things. I hope my tone does not seem snide, I also enjoy watching the sometimes truly amazing things that people do, and the internet is a miraculous way to share the moments that may have been previously relegated into the “you had to be there” category of storytelling. Our friend placed content into a new context by demonstrating how providing content on the internet can generate revenue through advertising. One simply has to provide content compelling enough to make the video “viral” and you can start generating income. My friend theorized that people are bored enough to watch a lot of crap, and that this task need not be as difficult as one might think.
Boredom. I had never really thought about it before. I thought all people were similar to me in the way that there are just never enough hours in the day to create all I want to, to eat and drink all I want to, to catch up with all the laughter and tears of the people I know the way I want to. I never have enough time to write all the letters that should be written, or to read all the books that interest me. I have a list longer than Santa’s Master Scroll of all the places I want to travel and the people I want to get to know better. Even at my worst, my emotions keep me busy enough to need a personal assistant.
Sure, money is an obstacle for some of my more grand pursuits, but planning for the future is an activity I often enjoy in itself. I am starting to believe that a shift of perception is all that is necessary to be impressed by the content of one’s own life.
I was raised in a free household. My parents were young and democratic, fun-loving and easy-going, although poor and over-worked. My sister and I had to do well in school, but that was pretty much the Rule of Law in our house. Anything was acceptable as long as it didn’t affect your grades, participation or attendance. This upbringing may have contributed to increasing the “content” of my life quite a bit. It is a difficult task to compare your own life against another in matters like these -where quality seems to be what is measured- but I am not necessarily speaking of better or worse, more of humor and tragedy and the ability to enjoy both of these parts of life for the spark that they add to living.
Here is a more recent example of some of my daily content. Thanksgiving 2013:
My mother and father have traveled from Addison County to my sister’s house in Winooski where we are going to celebrate in the American tradition of watching football and eating a lot. We never have a regular holiday routine, every year is different, but at the approach of Thanksgiving it seemed like we were going to simply celebrate like a normal family.
I had recently started watching football as a result of my boyfriend being from Wisconsin, so let me reveal a bias and say that the Green Bay Packers are the greatest team in the universe even if we are currently 5-6-1 and Aaron Rodgers may be out for the rest of the season. Nothing piques my interest like a community effort and a sense of camaraderie so when I learned the Packers were owned by their town and when I began to meet some fans and saw how much they loved their team I was hooked. (Also, Eddy Lacy is an unstoppable machine whom I have a rather large crush on…)
The day began by streaming the game online and witnessing a crushing defeat by the Detroit Lions 40-10. I think my mother busted out the bottle of Jim Beam, who is responsible for the following shenanigans.
We were all spending the night, so we started to pretend we were cowboys or something and began to toss back shots of bourbon. My immediate family likes to pretend we can handle our booze. I am the only one who will openly admit I can’t hang when I drink but I do anyway on this occasion. My sister is the only one who actually CAN hang when she drinks and thank goodness she was hosting because she keeps a good head on her shoulders. I should also mention, because it is funny, that she can drink way more than any of us and she is by far the smallest, weighing in at 105 at a height of 4’11”. My Dad and I are giggle-monsters after two beers, and he is super tall and I weigh a lot more than she does. One of those inexplicable things, I guess.
Okay, here’s the scene, Mom is cooking two turkeys (her friend shot them in the wild so they were smaller than your average supermarket bird) mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, etc. She is dashing back and forth watching the game while my man is helping her and doing the same.
We are probably four shots deep when Mom starts chopping the brussel sprouts. Chop, chop, chop… Oh no. She has cut off the tip of her finger. She quickly moves to the sink and we all crowd around her trying to help. One thing mom hates is when we all crowd around her trying to help. She tells us to “find something to do” while she deals with it. This hearkens back to her parenting style and the idea of boredom.
"Find something to do" is a response I heard a lot as a child. Every day when we were little, rain or snow or sunshine, my mom would lock us out of the house for an hour to play. We were by ourselves, me and my sister, she was not watching us out the window, and the only rule then was we had to stay in "earshot", whatever that meant. After the outside hour was over, she would then lock us each in our own room for an hour for "Quiet Time." During this time we could read or play or do whatever we wanted to quietly. Some people may criticize this hands-off parenting style but I feel that it made me the person I am today, and I was certainly never bored. The instruction "find something to do" was very good advice, because it is truly a solution to a problem. You are feeling like you want to entertain yourself or pursue something but you are not sure what or how. You must take an active role in seeking adventure, change, and innovation. Atrophy and boredom will never roll out a red carpet for you, but your imagination and the forces of nature will.
Mom has ran her finger under cold water at my sister’s suggestion and wrapped it in a towel. There was quite a lot of blood, probably also because of the alcohol. She holds her hand above her head, and continues to cook. We beg her to take her to the hospital. She scoffs at us and tells us to stop being wimps. I shake my head and laugh because what else can I do? My sister hits the music, we have another drink, and we start dancing and finish preparing the meal together. After all, the Packers are way behind.
Before we sit down to eat, my boyfriend take five dollars out of his pocket and throws it in the middle of the table.
"I’ve got five on it" he says, "That Sylvia’s fingertip is somewhere in those brussel sprouts."
We all look at the dish and turn green. Gulp.
He goes on, “You don’t have to eat them if you don’t want to… But everyone can throw in the pot and winner-takes-all.”
I am horrified by this, my mother is mortified, but my dad immediately takes out a five spot and throws it down. All around me, pockets are being dug into. My god, people love betting.
No one took home the 45 bucks that day. Luckily, I think we managed to avoid cannibalism. Mom’s finger was fine and is almost healed now. As we sat around the table, I thought of how grateful I was that this was the version of my life. No freak-outs, no yelling, no wimps. No secret drinking or “turn-the-music-down” utterances. I silently looked around the table, eyes glittering, and was extremely thankful for it’s content.