Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime

A Suburban Teenager’s Guide to Getting Bored

Advertising Agency
Los Angeles, USA
72andSunny senior writer Natalie Warther ponders how a quiet childhood is making self isolation more bearable

72andSunny Los Angeles senior writer Natalie Warther ponders how a quiet childhood is making self isolation more bearable. 

It was the first Friday night of Los Angeles’ ‘Safer at Home’ order, and after zooming my way through a very weird week of day-long cleaning sessions and panic-induced baking marathons, I found myself with nothing else to do but to put my butt in the bath. 

I was soaking with my legs propped up on the wall, drinking wine from the bottle, pondering where, exactly, the Hollywood rendition of ‘Cats’ went wrong when it dawned on me that this genre of boredom felt oddly familiar. 

I grew up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. Putting it lightly, there wasn’t a lot to do. We rode bikes after dinner. We picked flowers in the field behind our house. We found toads and named them. We took baths.  

As I grew out of childhood and into teenagehood, I spent a lot of nights in my bedroom with the door closed. “What are you even doing in there?” I remember my Dad constantly asking me. Honestly, I wasn’t doing anything. I was trying on all of my clothes, and flipping through those little books that came in the front of CDs, and recording my singing voice with a tape recorder we were supposed to use for piano lessons. I was trying to get my leg behind my head. I was writing, and drawing- a lot. 

I did all of these things because I was a teenager, and when you’re a teenager, there are rules. I couldn’t go see my friends, I couldn’t leave my house, and if I wanted to be entertained, I had to get creative. 

I remember feeling trapped at that age, the way I think many of us feel trapped now, longing to get out into the ‘real world’. But as I think about my life as a teen, I’m reminded that this genre of forced stillness can conjure up a very special kind of magic. It’s a kind of magic I feel I’ve been given a second chance to tap into, this time, while also saving lives.

And of course, it’s a privileged position to even be able to talk about boredom when so many others are facing sickness and unemployment, amongst other challenges. I am filled with gratitude for my health and stability every day, but I think many of us can agree that gratitude is just one of the many emotions that the ‘Safer at Home’ order brings to the surface.

So, if social distancing means you’re experiencing a lot more alone time than normal, and if that feels uncomfortable, I’d challenge you to be more fourteen. Get loose. Get weird. Trust that it will manifest creativity. I think most of us will find that the things our teenage selves did when no one was looking, as silly as they might seem, still feel good.

If you’re unsure about where to start, here are some prompts, written while eating a cinnamon raisin bagel in my underwear, because that’s what my inner teenager said I should do at the time.

  • Put all of your fingers in between all of your toes. Roll around like a ball.
  • Draw a face with your eyes closed. Open your eyes. Did you nail it?
  • Think of something so, so, so sad. (Puppy mills? Heath Ledger?) Now go to the mirror and check out what you look like when you cry. 
  • Can nail polish be paint? 
  • Lay down on the floor and stretch your arms out like noodles.
  • Open your mouth really, really, really super wide. 
  • Put on all of your old tube tops. Did one just become a skirt?
  • Lie on your back on your bed and dangle your head over the edge. Throw your arms back there too.
  • Peanut butter. Can it really go on anything? 
  • Pull an eyelash out. Make a wish (it counts).
  • Eat some chips.
  • Mine the yard for a four leaf clover.
  • Smoothies. What’s the deal?
  • Call your parents.
  • Take a nap. 
  • Do stuff naked.