The Power of Boredom

How to use boredom as the ultimate lifehack.

The Power of Boredom | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I listened to such an interesting podcast this week: Am I Boring You? from the Freakonomics Radio podcast. This is a really great show and I highly recommend it. They aways have interesting content, and they are great storytellers.

Boredom has been a huge interest of mine for a while. Earlier this year I asked: Would you rather be busy or bored? I think it’s a fair question. Would you rather have too much on your plate, or nothing at all? This podcast asks a series of very good questions: What is boredom? Why do we get bored? Does everyone get bored? And, what does it mean?

My takeaway from the show is as follows:

Boredom is an emotion that has developed over time, similar to other instinctual emotions (fear, love, hate, etc.). These emotions are mental triggers that lead us to act. For example, when we are afraid we summon the power to either fight or take flight. Boredom is an emotion that is caused when our brain recognizes that what we are doing has no purpose.

You have mental resources, they’re scarce and they’re really important and valuable, and boredom develops as this signal that mental resources are not being used wisely, they’re not being used on valuable pursuits. -Amanda Markey

You will feel bored when you are in a situation that does not stimulate you, either mentally, physically, spiritually – whatever you wish. When your brain recognizes that you are wasting your time, you will feel bored!

Evolution gave us emotions for survival. So, fear is useful. Anxiety is useful. And even boredom is useful, because you don’t want an organism who just does the same thing over and over again without learning anything. It would be good to equip that organism with an emotion, an urge to move on when they don’t think that they’re learning anything new. -Angela Duckworth

It makes perfect sense. You may be sitting there, wasting your time away, feeling restless and bored and you just don’t know why. It’s because you are not learning anything new! Because you are not challenging yourself! Because you have become stagnant! Your brain recognizes this and it’s trying to tell you something!

The key is to recognize the symptoms of boredom and use it to change your life. The next time you feel bored, you need to stop what you are doing and get out of that situation! Think about what you are doing at that very moment and why you are not learning anything new. And then make a change. Never put yourself in that situation again. Change your attitude. Course correct. Do something that enriches your life, that makes you happy, that makes you feel like you have a purpose.

Do something. Do anything.

Listen to Am I Boring You?  and let me know what you think!


Is Justin Trudeau a Feminist?

“Because it’s 2015.”

I was pleasasntly surprised to see this clip of PM Justin Trudeau’s response to a reporter’s question about why he was so insistent on having gender parity in his cabinet:

*mic drop*

The Liberal Cabinet will be comprised of 15 women and 16 men, compared to the Conservative Cabinet of 12 women and 27 men. So, what is more spectacular here: adding 3 female Cabinet Ministers, or cutting 11 male Cabinet Ministers? The power is in your perspective.

Is this piece of strategy a reinforcement of affirmative action? Are these women simply filling the 50/50 quota? Or, are these women the best for the job?

But why not put women, or people with disabilities, or visible minorities in the spotlight? Putting them in high-profile positions of power is a huge statement: They can do this job – and so can you. That sounds like a very inspiring and uplifting message to spread to all Canadians. It sets a good example.

I’m looking forwad to the day when gender equality, and equality for all people is simply a non-issue. We will know we’ve achieved true equality when we can stop prefacing everything in terms of gender and race.

Let’s address the issue: identify the problem, implement changes, and move forward. We are all Canadians and we are all equal. Now, let’s stop talking about fluff and move on to the important issues.

And, if you were wondering:

Book Club: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

From tragedy comes an opportunity to inspire.

The Opposite of Loneliness | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

The story of Marina Keegan is tragic and heartbreaking. Marina died five days after graduating from Yale, while driving home with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend fell asleep at the wheel. He walked away, she died. In an effort to preserve her memory, her parents, friends, and teachers collected pieces of her writing from class assignments and school newspaper articles. They are compiled in a collection of short stories and essays, The Opposite of Loneliness.

Where were you five days after graduating from university? Or college, or high school? You were probably surrounded by friends and family, flooded with a sense of relief after completing such a milestone, enjoying the best summer of your life, and ready to celebrate from now to eternity. Can you imagine such a cruel world? To be ripped away at the ultimate peak of your life so far.

The first half of the book features a series of short stories. I preferred the collection of personal essays in the second half. I think Marina, as a person – who she was and who she could have been, is more interesting than the terrible circumstances surrounding her death which has unfortunately overshadowed her talent and her work. I feel that her voice comes through in the essays. It’s almost like she slips out of the pages to have a conversation with you, about her Celiac disease and trouble with gluten, her memories about the beached whales, or her recent travels abroad. Marina’s story is more compelling than most of the book, and I couldn’t help but mourn the lost opportunities and potential that we will never get the pleasure to experience again. Through her essays, she lives on.

My favourite essay is Even Artichokes Have Doubts published in the Yale Daily News in September of 2011. It showcases the feelings all seniors and new grads have from time to time. Wondering if what we’re doing is really worthwhile or if we will leave an impact on the earth when we’re gone and whether any of it matters anyway because one day the sun will die and we will all wither away. Marina wrote a lot about the impact of death and our own mortality. It’s ironic, but she mused about her legacy and impact without ever believing that her time would be cut short.

Marina lived with a full heart and open eyes. She lived with passion and determination. These should be the things to remember about her life and this should be her legacy.

And above all, to remember that we should treasure every moment and take each and every opportunity that comes our way. Every day is a new day, and every day could be your last.

A Brief Selection of Weird Search Terms

I think I’m really reaching my target audience.


I’ve been meaning to write this list for a while because I get such a kick out of it. Something changed in the terms of service for WordPress or Google over the past few years so I’m getting fewer search terms coming down the pipeline, but man, they sure are wacky.

There are a bunch that make sense. Lots of searches for my name, Carleton, Seneca… A few people I have written about. A weird surge for Lauren Conrad Braids, Realistic Horse Costumes, and Guac. And then the crazy:

kanye west’s outrageous high heels
why my ” and @ button are swapped (I still don’t know)
swords of famous people
there is no modern romance (re: swap boxes)
jaguar cichlid breeding (ew why?)
where can i buy a wallet in fairview mall
can i use paper clips to start an avocado
people freaking studying
why the changing of the guards at buckingham palace is so exciting (because it is!)

i am not boring
people who gets bored there the one who are boring
do not waste your feeling status
im learning to be alone
feeling bored and lonely photo

The moral of this story is that Big Brother is watching you! I think we are all in agreement that anything you type, click, view, or send is in the public domain. So keep that in mind while you’re browsing. Nothing is a secret and there is no such thing as privacy on the internet.

Book Club: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Now, with discussion questions.

The Girl on the Train

I was responsible for leading the Book Club discussion this month. We had chosen The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The marketing for this book was insane. There were posters all over the GO train, subways and buses. It must have worked well, because as of now, it’s still on the NYT Best Sellers List. We had to see what all the fuss was about.

Overall, I thought it was an entertaining book. I don’t love modern fiction, and I am not really into the Thriller/Mystery genre, but I really enjoyed this book. It is a great book club selection and an easy read and I would recommend it. I also heard that they’re going to make a movie based on the book starring Emily Blunt, so pick it up now before they re-print the cover with the movie poster.

I had to craft some discussion questions for the group. Please feel free to use these, or modify them to suit your own book club. Obviously, there are spoilers.

The Girl on the Train
Book Club Discussion Questions

1. At first, I didn’t realize that Rachel was an alcoholic. Commuter trains are very common in the UK and I was unsure of the rules. I assumed she was in the dining cart on a VIA Rail train. It took a few pages to realize that she was on the equivalent of a GO Train and constantly drinking – which was a huge red flag. My first impression was that she was a huge loser, and that she was the probably the bad guy, but as the novel went on, I realized that she maybe wasn’t the worst character, and that there were characters who were much worse than her. What was your initial impression of Rachel, and how did it change throughout the course of the novel?
2. One of my favourite novel elements is an unreliable narrator. A narrator who lies to the reader, or who doesn’t tell the whole truth, or whose bias is so strong that it alters how the story is presented. Rachel, as an alcoholic, is unreliable because she has blackout periods and her memories are cloudy. One element of a mystery or a thriller is that we as readers do not know the full story and the author will leave us clues along the way. In this instance, we are especially kept in the dark because what little we do know about the story based on Rachel’s memory is hazy. Rachel is as frustrated as we are because she can’t remember any details. Did you feel that this quality as a narrator increased the mystery/thriller element of the story? How would the story have been different if Rachel was 100 per cent coherent at all times?
3. The structure of the novel is interesting in that it has a morning and evening segment for each chapter. A lot is presented in both segments, but there is a lot of blank space in between the morning and evening to fill in. Why did the author structure the novel to mimic a commuter train, and how did it enhance the story?
4. Rachel thinks about Megan and Scott every day on the train. She is borderline obsessed and envious of their lives. The story takes a dangerous turn when she inserts herself into their story. Do you notice a difference between what Rachel does on the train – watching strangers and projecting thoughts and imagining about their lives – and what we do through social media (Facebook, Instagram, or watching celebrity reality TV)? Why do you think people are so interested in the lives of others, and when does watching go from harmless to dangerous?
5. One theme of the novel is addiction, Rachel is an alcoholic and Megan is also dealing with addictions of her own. What role does the addiction play on shaping their characters? How does it motivate them to act throughout the story?
6. Another huge theme in the novel is infidelity or vice. It seems like everyone is cheating on each other. It seems like everyone is doing something bad. Anna, Tom, and Megan are cheating. Megan enters into a relationship with her therapist, Kamal. Rachel is an alcoholic. They are all very flawed characters. Can you root for a character who does bad things? And, is anyone either good or bad or can you have both elements in the same person?
7. Another huge theme of the novel is about womanhood as projected through being a wife and mother. Rachel, Anna, and Megan have very different experiences being wives and mothers. At one point, Rachel states “I liked my job but I didn’t have a glittering career, and even if I had, let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things – their looks and their role as mothers. I’m not beautiful, and I can’t have kids, so what does that make me? Worthless.” This sentence particularly stood out for me. How does this sentence make you feel? Do you think it is accurate or truthful?

Our next book club selection is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and it comes highly recommended by some people whose opinions I value and trust. I am excited!!   

Happy reading!!

This Summer

Happy Labour Day!

Summer 2015 | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Jays | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Spartan Race | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Spartan Race | Paper Clips by Maggie de Bara

Nike Women's 15k Toronto | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Jays | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Jays | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Jays | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

This summer has been an adrenaline rush! Can you believe it’s already September? I feel like it was NYE two seconds ago. But here we are. Hope you’re enjoying this long weekend.

Let’s go Blue Jays!

Toronto Fall Concert Series

August was on the brink of September.

September is a blank page. Summer is winding down and as I am always looking forward, all I can see is Fall. And with it, the start of my favourite season. Packed with lots of birthdays, the greatest weather, the best holidays and a lead up to my ultimate favourite holdiay season-Christmas, and the best cold weather activity – concerts!

Toronto has a few really great shows coming up. Below are a few of my faves on the way.

Ratatat @ Sound Academy – September 2

The Fratellis @ Danforth Music Hall – September 16

Chvrches @ Danforth Music Hall – October 4 and 5 -> Apparently sold out but I’m looking into it.

Coeur De Pirate @ Phoenix – October 7

Blitzen Trapper @ Horseshoe – October 9

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness @ Danforth Music Hall – November 15

I’ll update the list as new shows are added. Get your tickets early and often. My two favourite ticket vendors: Soundscapes and Rotate This. Both are cash only, so hit the ATM beforehand. I guarantee there’s something for everyone.

Nike Women’s 15k Toronto

Runnin’ through the 6ix with 13,000 of my closest woes.

On Sunday, I came, saw, and conquered the Nike Women’s 15k on the Toronto Islands. Somehow, I managed to completely avoid the rain during the actual run and it was really beautiful! The whole course was so amazing, including a whole stretch by the Billy Bishop Airport with a gorgeous view of that Toronto skyline I love. Nike put on a great show and really took care of us. They had DJs, drumlines, and a gospel choir (!) scattered along the run, and lots of spectators cheering us along.


There were so many photographers along the route so lots of opportunities to grab that elusive white-whale perfect insta but… it’s hard to run and smile! I was trying to focus on my plan: 1-5k set a strong but steady pace and clear away from slower runners in my wave. 5-10k keep quick pace and settle in to push back when I hit the wall… usually around 9km. 10-12k recovery mode with deep breaths and prepping for the final  push. 13-15k double the pace at the boardwalk and sprint the last km. I probably passed about 100 people in the last stretch. I finished strong and leaped over the finish line in triumph! I still feel like a million bucks!

During my training I averaged a comfortable 10-minute mile, so I was aiming to finish the course between 1:30 to 1:45 — and I finished in 1:33! I am really pleased with this time. This has been a great experience and really good practice for… the Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon in October! My goal will be to finish the half in under 2hrs! These mountains aren’t going to climb themselves. See you on the finish line!

How Much I Love Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ Music Video and Why

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Can we talk about Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ music video for a second? I absolutely love it! It’s definitely more Tarantino than Miller/Rodriguez in my opinion, but equally bamf #girlpower overall and the Kendrick remix is such a nice touch. I love how Taylor Swift has come out swinging in the last few years as a full-blown feminist.

Beyonce = Feminist

Honestly, I didn’t have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn’t quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, “Oh, feminism’s not really on my radar,” it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn’t as threatening. I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived. A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.

And with this new music video, she has shown us the true meaning of #girlpower: lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. While, yes, I guess the girls in the video are literally tearing each other down Deadly Viper Assassination Squad-style, the most important thing to marvel at is the fact that Taylor Swift was able to wrangle such a huge cast of musicians, actors, and models (all her friends!) who are each killing it in their own industry.

This video is, above all else, a celebration of female friendship between strong and successful women of all ages. It is a refreshing and inspiring example of modern, moderate feminism (aka #modfem) and for that I say: Thank you, TaySwift!!

Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana

Welcome to our new baby princess!! 

Princess Charlotte

She sure is a cute little thing! And we have a beautiful name: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Charlotte wasn’t even on my list of predictions, but the signs were all there. I should have picked it out!! And it was a lovely choice to honour both William’s grandmother and mother.

I love it! I am thrilled for them both!!!