Boredom is a luxury and privilege that a very small minority of the world experiences. To be bored is to be part of the luckiest subset of people to have ever lived. And so it follows that complaining about experiencing it could be akin to complaining about not having to worry about basic needs. Such grievances can easily be cast off as a sign of entitlement or a lack of gratitude. Yet boredom, while a nuisance to begin with, can signal a creeping sense of problems more sinister ? existential dread, anxiety, loneliness, longing, and depression. A creeping sense that Tyler, The Creator wonderfully explores on the track ?Boredom?, off his critically acclaimed album Flower Boy.
?Boredom? by Tyler, The Creator
The genius of Tyler?s ?Boredom? is that it paints a picture that is simultaneously compelling, heartbreaking, and endearing. He is able to take a topic that can so easily evoke dismissiveness, but instead somehow provoke empathy. The expansive production and lush soundscape of the track makes it feel like you?re immersed in a colorful meadow, yet one you?re left to explore alone and without a map. It?s an apt analogy for those blessed to have a world of possibilities awaiting them, but are left unsure of which door to open.
Tyler?s own sense of aimlessness inspired him to create this song. In his interview with Jerrod Carmichael, Tyler describes this confusion and his own self-awareness of the privilege that goes along with it.
?It was weird to me because I?m in a tax bracket where I can kinda do anything. I have all these cars. I can go drive, but I have nowhere to go. It was confusing because [I didn?t understand] how I could be bored, [but it felt like] there was nothing to do?.
The mantra of the track, ?find some time / find some time to do something?, coats the entire track with that air of melancholy and confusion. The inability to overcome boredom signals a sense that you?re no longer moving towards a goal. Your time is purposeless, without direction, filled with nothing. And enough of those moments added together can make a life feel devoid of meaning. Enough of those moments, and boredom ?has a new best friend?.
Maybe Tyler?s boredom comes from feeling distant from his friends.
?I?ve been in this f***ing room so long / My eyeballs are turning to drywall / My friends suck?I?m over [them] / ?Hi y?all, y?all aint hit me all day / what the f*** is the problem? Is it me? / Cause I?m not solved?I?m bored.?
Tyler is putting his fears, vulnerabilities, and insecurities on full display. In just a couple lines, he expresses anger, confusion, sadness, and self-doubt ? wondering if his friends can weather the storms of his own boredom. As we get older, it?s natural for us to go through phases where we feel distant from the ones we once considered our closest. It is possible that the people in our lives are starting to go on different life paths, not dissimilar to Tyler?s own collective Odd Future, a once-close group of friends and musicians, disbanding in recent years. In these times of change, boredom can breed existential dread, isolation, and a drifting of friendships, which in turn only breeds more boredom. It is a seemingly innocuous, yet often vicious cycle.
Maybe the boredom comes from feeling unsure of his future.
?I been starting to feel like I don?t know anyone / So now I?m sitting staring at my ceiling, f***ing going / I have no idea where I?m going.?
These lines perfectly highlight what it literally feels like to be bored, but also the abstract sense of directionless when you have nothing better to do than stare at drywall. Tyler was 25?26 when he wrote and recorded this song, along with 2017’s Flower Boy as a whole. This age points to a larger trend of Millennials and Generation Z experiencing the ?quarter-life crisis?, growing more lost with where to direct their life. With so many options available, and so many comparisons ready to be made at our fingertips, it?s easy to become overwhelmed and disillusioned with it all.
Tyler is not alone. It is in human nature to hate the feeling of boredom. We want to be stimulated in someway, anyway. Psychological studies have proved that people will often rather choose a painful electric shock over simply doing nothing. Humans are prone to try to short circuit boredom with anything ? alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, television, food. But boredom in it of itself is not bad ? it is a sign telling us that we aren?t completely satisfied with what?s going on currently. If it?s chronic, it is a sense that our life isn?t what we want and that something needs to change.
Boredom can be the spark we need to find some semblance of meaning.
While this song does allow me to wallow in my own existential dread, especially as I enter into the waters of real adulthood, it also gives me hope. Despite the melancholy strings and Rex Orange County?s harrowing vocals that echo throughout the track, the climax of the song begins a new variation of that mantra: ?find some time / gotta find some time?. This time, it feels less aimless, the vocals less hollow, less spacey. Instead, the vocals grow and blossom, growing a tad more anthemic, a tad more intentional.
The closing outro reminds me that to move forward, I need to do something. Meaning doesn?t come from being done, but from the act of doing. It doesn?t come from me figuring out my amazing life purpose, but just from the simple act of trying to get there little by little ? whether that be spending time with friends and family, working on a creative project, volunteering for a mental health organization, applying for a job, or even opening myself up to spirituality. Sometimes just getting out of bed after hours of staring at the ceiling has been enough to spark the tiniest sense of meaning in my life.
Just like the nostalgia of ?November?, the seeking of romantic love on ?See You Again?, the loneliness of ?911 / Mr. Lonely?, and the struggles of understanding identity on ?Garden Shed?, ?Boredom? highlights the Flower Boy theme of the journey of being human. In the end, life can be hard. Understanding our emotions can be even harder. Especially when those emotions don?t seem to come from the tragedies of life we normally hear about. When everything in our life should make us feel whole, we can still feel lost.
But it?s okay to not have everything figured out. In fact, it?s human. There?s no race to get there, whatever ?there? is. We have time. We just need to find some of it.
Photo Credit: Apple Music