One morning circa 2019 in some nondescript building on University of Michigan’s campus, a member of my cohort who I barely knew turned to me and said, “You’ve led such an interesting life, haven’t you?” The comment was confusing mostly because it a) was immediately preceded by me telling some banal anecdote about the summer I’d spent working nights at a local furniture factory and b) demonstrably untrue. My life was not more interesting than anyone else’s in that room, especially given that one of them was at the time using dubiously legal software to record phone calls in a cross-country custody case against her boyfriend’s ex-wife.

It’s convenient, when you’re a writer of any sort of nonfiction, to have a well of amusing anecdotes and I-can’t-believe-that-happened-to-you sorts of stories to fall back on. It’s also dangerous, as “this will make a good story later” has been the tipping factor in an not-insignificant number of my decisions, including that time I subjected my friend to an Airbnb in the spare bedroom of a thirty-something Irish bachelor named Sean who I got drunk with on poitín that one of his friends made in their bathtub. (According to me, this was much less sketchy than it sounds. According to my friend, it was not.)

I don’t believe I’m one of those writers who’s been blessed with the ability to effortlessly twist the mundane into something fascinating or poetic, so most of the time I’m stuck wringing what meaning I can out of those moments that squeak past mundanity into inane absurdity—and, sometimes, creating them for myself. This is how I ended up with all that gay porn and that box of Ukranian garden snails.

Maybe that’s why I could trick my classmate into believing my life was interesting. When I asked her why she thought that, she shrugged self-consciously and said that it just seemed like I’d done a lot of stuff for someone who was only twenty-two.

The cynical conclusion is that my classmate’s life was even more boring than my own—remarkably so, if she considered a three-month stint in a factory as a qualification for interest. Minor extrapolation posits that most people’s lives are excruciatingly boring, except for celebrities and rich people and that one friend you had in college who got drugged and robbed by a family of con artists while backpacking through Thailand.

And after a month like this one, when everything was complicated but in a way that is both highly technical and not amusing, when you read nothing worth commenting on and every thought you had about anything has already been espoused by someone more eloquent and witty than you, universal boredom seems like the inevitable end of human experience. Utterly meaningless, God is dead, etc., etc., etc.

On the days when I’m older and wiser and more charitable, though, I know the opposite interpretation is the truer one. That everyone is interesting, or would be interesting, if they had an editor and an inclination to share, and if I had more empathy and patience and predisposition towards reading memoirs.

I used to think that everyone naturally grew those things as they got older (especially that last one), but now I’m less sure. I hope so—in the way that I hope it’s true that boring people really are just interesting people who also happen to be bad storytellers—but it might be one of those things you can only learn by doing. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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