Dear Boomer: Bored or boring?

Jan. 9, 2024, 10:38 p.m.

Fifty years ago, I rode my Kawasaki from Portola Valley onto campus, usually squeaking into class just on time. While much has changed since then, one thing has remained constant: our humanness. We still search for meaning and need connection. We still have dreams and we still screw up. In the last 50 years, as I’ve changed careers and locations, I’ve never stopped appreciating and observing my fellow companions. So, “Ask Boomer” anything. Surprise me. Life is short. Let’s add on to it.

— Helen Hudson ’74

Want your question to be featured in the next column? Ask Helen here!


“I want to travel around the world and am worried about when the optimal times are to do it. I’ll be in the best physical condition to travel when I’m young, but that’s also the time I’ll have made the least amount of money and will be focused on building my career and family. I feel like once people have a family and stable job, it becomes very difficult to go on these kinds of trips. In my retirement (I know I’m thinking very ahead), I’ll have saved money and will have more time to travel but will likely not be in as good of physical condition. What is your advice?”

Dear “World Traveler”:

You’re right. You are, “thinking very ahead.” What’s up with that? You and I know absolutely nothing about the future. Nothing. It’s all conjecture. Don’t put your eggs in that basket. Maybe you are in your best physical condition right now, but unless you’re climbing Everest maybe that doesn’t even matter. Maybe you’ll “have a family” and “a stable job.” But maybe you’ll never marry or have kids and have a series of jobs. Maybe you will have “saved money” in your retirement but who knows? You might be bankrupt by then.

The truth is you can build your career while you travel. These days with remote work, one can do almost anything almost anywhere. Also, it might be more satisfying for you to travel WITH a partner. It’s not all that fun having dinner by yourself in a romantic café on the Champs Elysée. My advice? Don’t think of it as all or nothing — now or later. Book a flight to somewhere you want to visit this summer. Maybe invite a pal to go with you. Don’t make a BIG plan. Keep it simple. See how it goes and send me a postcard.


“How did your values evolve throughout your different stages of life?”

My first impulse was to say that my values have stayed the same. However, I Googled “values,” and they include honesty, creativity, courage, loyalty, compassion, humility, kindness, gratitude, altruism, generosity, dependability and self-confidence. Different life stages demand different things of you. Time and the different roles you play change you, whether you like it or not. So, after pondering the list, I think several of my values have changed.

I am more honest now than I was in my youth. When you know who you are, there’s no need to fabricate anything. I’m still creative but in less demonstrative ways. I’m not as physically courageous, so no more racing motorcycles or jumping out of airplanes. However, I’m more personally courageous. There is very little to fear when most everything you feared has already happened to you. I’m still loyal to a fault. It’s probably in the DNA.

My compassion for others has grown. I had very little in my youth as my exposure to the world at large was infinitesimal. My bubble was tiny. No internet. No cell phone. No Google. No nothing. Now, I can experience the entire world in the palm of my hand. My humility in my youth was nonexistent. I was huge in my own mind. Today I could not feel tinier in the awesomeness of the universe and so many greater people.

My kindness is likely the same, but I act on it more often now. My gratitude has deepened as has my altruism towards the elderly, infirm and needy. Maybe that’s because I am one! I continue to be fairly generous but I no longer give money to those who beg on the streets. My self-confidence has quadrupled because nothing takes the place of time and experience. Once you have that under your belt you’re pretty invincible — until you’re not, of course.


“I’m a senior and for the first time ever, there is no love interest in my life … I’ve been in two intense, whirlwind relationships since I was 17, but now, I’m truly just focusing on myself and my friendships, and I’m … bored. It’s especially hard when all of my friends are in relationships and talking about them too. What do I do? Love, ‘bored girl.’”

Dear “Bored Girl”:

You are not gonna like my answer. I remember the first — and last — time I said, “I’m bored.” It was summer in Phoenix, Arizona. I was 16, living with my grandmother and our air conditioning didn’t work. It was 110 degrees and too hot to do anything. “Granny! I’m bored!” I whined. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Helen, an intelligent person is NEVER bored.” From that day on, having decided that I was intelligent, I can’t remember ever being bored. Perhaps it has been a self-fulfilling prophecy?

You imply that your “boredom” emanates from a lack of a love interest. Are you saying that your life is only interesting when you’re coupled? Are you saying that now that you’re just “focusing on yourself and your friends,” you and your friends are “boring?” Here’s the thing. “Two intense, whirlwind relationships” are just that: things that whip up intensely, pass quickly and are of little consequence.

You, however, are of GREAT consequence. Use this time alone to build yourself as a person. Learn a new language. Take up an instrument. Become an expert on something. Add colors to your palette. The more colors you add the more interesting you’ll become. The more interesting you become, the more interesting people you will draw to you. The more interesting people you surround yourself with, the less chance you’ll fall prey to boredom. Now get to work.



Login or create an account