Yesterday in class a student rushed through the classwork as quickly as he could. “It’s not a competition, you know,” I said.
He nodded. “Yes, I know.” But he hurried on and then he had to sit and do nothing. He fidgeted, he sighed, and stared at his now empty desk.
“What are you going to do over spring break?” I asked.
“Nothing. There’s nothing to do.”
“Nothing? Are you going to sit and stare at a wall all week?” Although that is something.
I have several students like this. I ask what they are going to do or what they did, and they answer, “Nothing.” Sometimes I hassle them about it. “Where did you do this nothing? Did you do nothing sitting down or standing up? Did you do this nothing all day or did you take a break to sleep?” Sometimes after that I get real answers. Sometimes I get laughter and, of course, nothing else.
I suggest things to do. “Hey, there’s the kite festival this weekend!” or “You could sign up for Dragon Boat!” or “There’s live music for free at Waterloo Records!” and they shake their heads. No. They don’t want to do any of that. And later they whine, “Teacher, there’s nothing to do!” It seems like they’d rather be bored than engaged.
I don’t understand. Here I struggle to do everything, and they struggle to do nothing. Granted, I’m their teacher and they may well not want to tell me what they do. After all, they ask me what my favorite thing to do is and I say, “Write.” This makes me weird and suspect. It doesn’t help when I admit I’ve never been to the outlet mall.
But at least I’m never bored. In fact, if I wrote another six-word sentence memoir, it would have to be–I’ve never been bored with life.
But why should that be?