It’s okay for you to be boring

Your life doesn’t always need a cool filter.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

A few years ago, I dated someone who I couldn’t keep up with. He wanted every day to feel like an adventure. One time, he messaged me saying he wanted to go on a three-week backpacking trip. Starting that weekend. I had to spend a day explaining how that couldn’t happen.

First off, I was in the middle of my dissertation.

Some time away would be good for me, he countered. Imagine how much inspiration I’d find on the trails and peeks and waterfalls. “You can write at night in the tent,” he said.

To him, a dissertation meant taking selfies in libraries with great lighting. Not spending entire days at home in your pajamas, gently underlining loaned books in pencil so you can erase later.

He did extreme sports almost every weekend and invited me along. But I had to turn him down. “Dissertation,” I’d say.

“But you’ve got an entire year to do that,” he’d answer.

One time I ran what they call a “color run” with him to seem more interesting. It’s a 10K. Except people throw colored chalk at you ever mile. By the end, you look like a rainbow.

I hated it. The chalk dust made me cough and wheez. It blinded me, even though I wore goggles.

After the first mile, I started throwing my hands up at every color point and shouting, “Don’t!” But they laughed and doused me anyway.

At the end, everyone was taking selfies. I peeled off my clothes at home — now ruined, and took three consecutive showers. The whole time I thought, wasn’t running a 10K exciting enough? Why did I need to look like something out of Guardians of the Galaxy?

Many of us have become obsessed with leading interesting lives. Blame it on Facebook. Instagram. Reality TV. Social media has made things worse, but this problem dates back as long as I can remember.

Who gets to define what’s interesting? I enjoy dressing up for cosplay conventions. Running long distance. Making sarcastic comments on Twitter. I like travel. But sometimes it exhausts me. Sometimes I just like to stay home and do things that don’t make for exciting stories.

My relationship with Mr. Adventure didn’t last that long. Maybe a month. But the way he lived, a month felt like a year. His energy was exhausting. It didn’t feel natural. For the first time, I started to wonder if I’d become old. Dull. Uninteresting.

A defining moment happened on his birthday weekend. Yes, sigh. He was the kind of person who celebrated the whole weekend. Me? I couldn’t spend the entire weekend with him. I had a stack of papers to grade. Even if I’d “blown them off” like he advised, it would’ve been a miserable time.

That Sunday, he posted a selfie from a friend’s house. Another big party. Lots of photogenic faces. He’d written his goals for the year on a big piece of poster board. They included stuff like:

Cave-diving in Argentina

Repelling in Puerto Rico

Take a gondola through Venice

Write a novella

Go on an ironic big-foot expedition

Build a house for someone else

Run a marathon

Propose to someone

Yeah, that last one made me squint. Did he mean me, or just anyone? I couldn’t tell. That was the problem. It felt like he was living his life solely for his followers. His audience.

Even worse, I didn’t feel like a girlfriend. I felt more like a prop for his selfies. He referenced me and my writing a lot, but didn’t actually know anything about my dissertation or what I was teaching. Whenever I tried to talk about my actual day, he would offer advice like this: “You know what you need? A PR consultant. You need to work on your personal brand.”

And I would have to explain, “Those cost a lot of money.”

Then he would look down at the ground and say, “Oh, I guess.”

My idea of a good time was just sitting around, drinking wine. Or going out with another couple to a pub. These casual events didn’t meet his criteria. We always had to do something extra.

Like try to convince some acquaintances of his at a bar that we were old high school sweethearts. What? Why? He didn’t know. So he did most of the talking, and I just nodded. Awkward.

Some people, you don’t really need to break up with. You just cool off. That’s how we ended. He got bored with me, and I delved further into my dissertation.

A few months later, he met someone more his speed. Or so it seemed. They practically synced their social media feeds. Every day brought a new reel of filtered couple’s selfies.

At first, I was slightly jealous. Then regret sank in. He and his new girlfriend looked so beautiful together. They looked like they were having fun. Every weekend, they drove to some remote, photogenic spot and took pictures of hikes, picnics, afternoons by some fountain or monument or abandoned shack out in the country.

Dammit, I thought to myself. That could’ve been me. Instead I was spending entire days alone, eating microwavable meals between rounds of revision and lesson planning.

Later that year, they got engaged. But their marriage lasted six months. Shocking. A few weeks after that, he started posting some realizations that surprised me. He’d been living too fast, not reflecting enough. He knew now that he needed to slow down and cultivate some real relationships.

There’s no hard feelings between us these days. Sometimes we comment on each other’s pictures. We’re still loose friends. I think he eventually came to respect my slower life style.

I’m not boring, after all. It’s just that our expectations have been twisted out of shape by Facebook envy.

Maybe we were just at different periods of our life. As I slid into my late 20s, the appeal of extravagant weekends was wearing off. I was more focused on writing my dissertation and finding a job. He wanted fireworks every day. I just wanted to teach, write, and go for long runs.

After an adventure, I need downtime. Who doesn’t? One person’s boring is another’s content. An Instagramable life isn’t sustainable for most of us. I don’t need to spice up every mundane thing I do to look more interesting than I am. I’d rather do what I feel like and not stress.