Dungeon of Drabness
by Ali Can Duran, Izmir University of Economics, December 10, 2008
Studying abroad was my first experience living far away from Turkey. I didn’t know what kinds of problems were waiting to me. Unfortunately I met my biggest enemy: boredom. When I arrived in Cortland, because the campus was so big, I thought that downtown Cortland would include many things to do for fun. It should be really lively. But I was wrong; it is a small town and it is hard to find different things to do. The bars and restaurants offer reasonable fun, but after a certain time, the same things get monotonous. Small town conditions like Cortland’s may make people bored. I firmly believe that monotony creates mental pain, and mental pain creates failure in your life like a chain reaction. This failure can appear anyplace in your life, like a failure in your academic life or a failure in your relations due to your depressed feelings. But most importantly and obviously, these failures are an obstacle to your happiness. Nobody wants to live with boredom. Regrettably, Cortland is the nest of my biggest enemy, boredom! The cure for boredom is evidently recreation. Recreation may be planning and exploring a new place, starting a new hobby, or falling in love. In any case recreation is the way of seeking happiness.
Happiness is the most important virtue of my life, and so I’m always looking for it, like everyone. The best place to begin looking for happiness is the environment of your town. Therefore, the place where I live, whether temporarily or permanently, should be alive and exciting to provide mental pleasure. If I experience mental pleasure, there will be no obstacle to my happiness. I will have instead the inverse chain reaction, not the negative one of monotony, mental pain and boredom. In other words, if I am stuck in a boring place, it means that my soul is stuck between my depressed feelings. And I can’t escape these feelings without recreation, especially in small town conditions. Therefore, we always need to find diversions, hobbies or people to get the full flavor of life and to achieve our pleasure by avoiding boredom. For example, Julide who is one of my Turkish friends attends a Tae Kwon Do course. She is a sophomore student in Cortland, and she explained why she chose to do this: “the reason why I decided to do Tae Kwon Do is because I needed to do something that can relieve my mind after classes and endless homework. It really helps a lot. It’s like meditating. After practices even if I feel very tired, my mind gets relaxed and I feel happy. Besides, being involved in marshal arts is quite exciting.” It seems that Tae Kwon Do is the best recreation for her to avoid boredom. Whenever I see her after her practice, she has a big smile in her face.
Every person needs to find his or her happiness somehow and should know what happiness is for them. Matthew, my American roommate, says: “Happiness is the idea that when things are going good, your mind is satisfied. Although, without bad times, would people be happy? I also believe when people feel most alive is when they conquer their fears. For example, if I were afraid of heights, a rollercoaster would make me feel alive.” What Matthew mentions is non debatable for me because I always feel happy when everything goes well and I conquer all my fears whether, physical or emotional. For example, I have kakorrhaphiophobia, which means an abnormal fear of failure. This phobia appears as failure in academic life for me. Thus whenever I think of the possibility of failure, I feel exhausted. On the other hand, whenever I succeed academically, I feel extremely alive and relaxed as Matthew says. Again, if we can’t conquer our fears, fears will create mental pain and so extreme boredom like a chain reaction. Naturally every person has a different perspective on how to find his or her happiness. Dr. Boynton shares her experiences from her adventurous life, trying to avoid boredom: “I used to be bored when I was in my 20s. I travelled, got married multiple times, drank too much, and thought that pleasure was the way to get rid of boredom. Luckily I found pleasure in reading and writing. Otherwise I would have ended up in a very different place with a very different life. Still, I was looking in all the wrong places for happiness and satisfaction. It turns out to be an inside job.”
The first place to look for happiness is the environment of the place where you live. Cortland is my first challenge to fight against boredom because its small town conditions make it a nest for boredom. It is hard to fight with an enemy on its home turf. The first few weeks were exciting enough because the campus and the downtown were new places for me. But then day by day they got familiar to me, and I realized how limited my choices for recreation. Although the university offers many sporting activities, I don’t enjoy sports except scuba diving. In Turkey the best alternative to avoid boredom for me is scuba diving. It is more than my hobby. I feel in a different world when I am under the water. In other words, I can forget this world’s problems while diving. Therefore, the recreational activities that Cortland offers are not suitable to cure my boredom.
Then I asked myself, “Am I the only bored person on the Cortland campus?” or “Are there any people who share the same feelings with me?” I know I am not alone. Onat, a sophomore international student, explains why Cortland is boring, in his words “Cortland is really boring, because there are very limited opportunities; there is not too much activity. I have no chance to relax except to go to a few bars in downtown.” If a place is boring for us, it will affect our success in achieving our happiness. I know this firsthand; I cannot feel happy unless I break the chain reaction of monotony, mental pain and failure. Because of the boredom and no chance for recreation, I am not mentally purified from depressed feelings and consequently I feel unhappy. Looking for happiness in the place we live doesn’t work for Cortland because there is no recreation for me to relieve boredom. Thus, to avoid being bored, we may need to see different places to add new excitement in our life. Experiencing exciting places is recreational and, in the end, leads to peace of mind. Onat agrees about the need to experience new places; “As far as possible, I try to move away from here. I prefer to see new places, towns to get rid of the drabness of Cortland.”
Surely, we need to find some opportunities to go to different places for recreation whether the place we leave is boring or not. What if we don’t have a chance? In this situation, the best thing to avoid boredom is to find variety in places we frequent every day. Suppose that you always go to a bar and in there you always drink same beer and always play pool. How long can you enjoy this monotony? Not too long, I can tell you! At least, you should try different beers; you should play something different like darts or entering a karaoke competition for fun. These changes may not get rid of the boredom or make you happy, but definitely they can keep you from hitting rock bottom. Matthew tells how he chooses new things to do: “When parties become repetitive or redundant, I try to mix it up by going to a theme party like a “toga” party. It is very exciting to see everyone dressed as ancient Romans or Greeks.” It seems that a little variety can make you a happy person, at least for one night.
I used to be a happy person in Turkey. Why is Cortland a challenge for me? Can the answer be that I am not American? I can say that the answer is yes, because I left behind my familiar way of life in Turkey. My way to search for my happiness in Turkey was very different than it is here. I used to put gas on my car and mark one place on the map, then go to this place to discover something. This always made me happy. Sometimes I tried to find the best place to eat in the area which I marked or to find historical places. If I couldn’t find anything in these places, I used to go nearest village’s “kıraathane”. Kıraathane is a place where all males get together to chat, play card games or just drink tea like a café. But the big difference is that these places are only for males, a traditional café in Turkish culture. It is known in other cultures as an “Ottoman cafe house.” The reason I chose to go to these cafes is to meet very friendly and hospitable people. In other words, meeting these people and sharing their lives makes me very happy. All these travels to new places are the best way to escape from the pressure of boredom for me. But I don’t have a car here. I don’t have enough chance to discover the places near Cortland. But if I were an American, I could have a car and do the same things. My friend Senol Celik also believes that being Turkish in America triggers boredom. Senol, a Turkish sophomore student, explains what is missing in Cortland for him: “When I was back in Turkey, I used to hang out with my friends and we used to go to the games of our city’s soccer team which was once one of the major soccer clubs in Turkey. But here in the US soccer is not a major interest of people and there’s no major soccer clubs around, so I miss my days in the stadium of Eskisehirspor.”
When I interrogated myself about my own boredom, I realized that there is something missing in my life in Cortland. Something is pushing me to feel boredom more than I normally would. The amount of enjoyment which I get is not the same that I got in Turkey. I realized that I feel this way because my girlfriend is not here with me; I am not fully happy anymore. My happiness is always at the peak point when I am with my girlfriend. For me, if you are in love, you get more taste from what you do normally. This is our first experience living apart for so long. My girlfriend has also realized that our love makes life happier and more hopeful to us. Gamze, my girlfriend told me what this difference is “I am happier with you because I don’t care the reasons and results of what we do together. Everything which I experience with you has a different meaning because of our love…. The place doesn’t make you happy which you are in; you create happiness yourself with your beloved in there. I mean happiness becomes our product one way or another.”
Happiness is not a thing which appears by itself; you have to find it. You have to relieve your mental pain created by monotony because mental pain is the cause of boredom. Tensiz Gyasto better known Dalai Lama, who is the expert of happiness for many people, says on interview with Barbara Walters: “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. . . . Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.” I’m still trying to break the chain reaction that keeps me from happiness. But I know I will find it with my beloved. When I get together with her, I feel extremely alive. That will be my way to escape boredom and find happiness. In any case happiness is a product of people’s try to find it.
Tasoz, Onat. Personal interview. 25 October 2008.
Carpentieri, Matthew. Personal interview. 25 October 2008.
Boynton, Victoria. Personal interview. 27 October 2008.
Gizir, Julide. Personal interview. 03 November 2008.
Yigit, Gamze Yudum. Telephone interview. 06 November 2008.
Celik, Senol. Personal interview. 13 November 2008.
Gyatso, Tenzin. Interview with Barbara Walters. “Heaven - Where Is It? How Do We Get There?” ABC News. 20 Dec. 2005. 19 November 2008.
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