Today’ll be a continuation of my recent theme of being (fashionably) late responding to things. I, by the way, decided recently to say a hearty “feck that” to the imperative of responding to stuff immediately or not at all. Today: things I’ve been thinking about a Captain Awkward post from March. March!
Way back in the end of March, Captain Awkward answered a letter from someone asking advice on being less boring. The letter writer felt that their life was in a rut, that they didn’t do anything interesting and were worried about being a boring person to talk to. The letter broke my heart a little bit- the LW talked about having read tons of articles with titles like “best hobbies for 20 somethings” and “how to meet new people”, as well as on topics like being a good listener and building social skills, but that none of it really stuck for more than a few days and they just didn’t feel.. interesting.
We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be interesting, don’t you think? We’re a relentlessly social species living in a society where we focus incessantly on competition and act as if love and belonging are scarce commodities to be fought over. It’s not surprising that interesting feels like a thing we need to aspire to.
You’re going to say there’s a catch now, aren’t you
It’s a pity, then, that interesting doesn’t exist. Not in any objective sense, at least. We can’t learn the interesting things, tick the interesting boxes and become a person that everyone wants at their dinner party. Interesting is a subjective mix of who I am, who you are, what we have in common and how we are different, and that unpredictable spark of chemistry that may or may not be there between us. Interests in common help, sure, but we’ve all met people who like the same things as us who we find dull as dishwater. And we’ve probably met people who were drastically different who we found fascinating.
You can’t predict interesting. It’s one of those things that is too dependent on the whims and vagaries of far too many people to be reliable. There’ll always be people who don’t like you. I mean, there’s people who don’t like me, and I’m bloody brilliant, y’know?
You can’t measure interesting. Without seeing into the minds of every single person who encounters you, you can never tell for sure how interesting you really are. You’re stuck with your interpretation of the actions, filtered through your brain with all its insecurities and biases. Is that person bored of me, or has she just not had enough sleep in days? Is that other person trying desperately to find an excuse to get away from me, or are they simply preoccupied with the things they need to get done? And is this person listening to what I am saying because he’s interested in what I have to say, or is he just being polite?
I’m not saying that interesting doesn’t exist, or that some people aren’t more interesting than others. It does and they are. But chasing after interesting can’t be anything more than stumbling through the dark towards invisible, moving goalposts made from cobwebs so fine you’d never ben sure if you’d felt them or a trick of your mind.
That, and doing things because you think they’ll make people find you more interesting is.. a terrible way to become more interesting.
Got a better idea?
I prefer to aspire to interested. Where interesting is about other people, interested is about me, my brain, and what makes it light up.
In some respects I’m almost certainly a lot less interesting than I used to be. This past year I’ve bored more than one person silly talking about roller derby (I’m lookin’ at you, Ladybro. Thanks for putting up with me <3). The worst that happened? I got told to STFU after crowbarring skates into yet another conversation, decided to keep the worst of my rhapsodising to people who want to listen (I’m lookin’ at you, derbs. And also you, Tumblr), changed the subject, and moved on. It wasn’t the end of the world. And yet, despite becoming a person who really wants to bore the life out of a substantial portion of my friends, having that interest in my life made me a hell of a lot happier, and got me meeting dozens and dozens of new people who’ll talk with me for literal hours about wheelyboots and the finer points of the 2014 WFTDA ruleset. What’s yawnworthy to Ladybro is delicious to the derbs.
Interesting is subjective. Interested is subjective too, but it’s all about choosing what to do based on what’s subjectively awesome to you. Where we can’t really measure our overall interestingness, there’s nothing difficult about working out whether or not something’s interesting to you. Is there some spark to that thing that draws you to it? Do you want to learn more? Do you think about it even if you don’t have to? Does it make you smile, or fascinate you? Yep, you’re probably interested.
And fortunately, with a good seven billion of us on this rock, if you go with interested you’re bound to find yourself some of what’s interesting to you.
- What To Do When You Hear Crickets On Conference Calls (intercall.com)
- #558: Help I’m boring (captainawkward.com)