By Mr. Lu
In the midst of a seemingly endless darkened dreary deluge, I sat with Tessa after school working through an assignment. As we reviewed the questions, Tessa eyed the weather outside wearily and warily, and said, “Let’s finish up. I have to play soccer tonight.” Tessa’s club team had a stringent schedule, and Tessa stuck to it regardless of the glum weather. It made me think about commitment.
I was having separate conversations with a couple of students about the sport teams they were on. They both had limited playing roles. One of them talked to me about skipping some games. “I’m not going to play anyway,” the student said. “I’ll just be sitting there. I don’t want to miss school for nothing.” Michaela was sitting nearby, and she interjected, “You should go. You made a commitment to the team. You need to live up to it.” What does commitment mean?
Another time, Rubi was telling me about the dismal turnout and excuses for a club where she had a leadership role. The first meetings were great, but now, not so much. “I’ll have to threaten them to come to the meetings,” she said. Commitment was centre stage again.
Teachers often talk about student overcommitment and burnout. Jack and Adam told me how they were stretching themselves a bit too much, and maybe taking a particular course was not the wisest course of action. I suggested dropping the course, but they both shook their heads. “I’m committed,” Jack said. Commitment can be a funny thing sometimes. We don’t want overstressed and overcommitted students, but we want students to stick to their commitments. Wherein lies the balance?
I believe some commitments are really, “I just want to try this out” kind of deals. There’s nothing inherently wrong with dabbling, but communication is the key. You need to let leaders know you’re trying things out, you’re experimenting, you want to see how the first few times go, and you’re not truly invested. Leaders will appreciate and accept the honesty. It could be they won’t have you join until you’re ready to be there all the time, or it could be they welcome you with the understanding you may re-evaluate your participation after a couple of meetings. Leaders willing to accept this will need to plan for the possibilities of lower eventual turnouts. Slowly just not showing up is the worst way to back out. Mr. Huygens might be displeased to hear this, but I think it’s OK to drop a course, and say, “Hey, I thought I could handle it, I thought it was something else, but I can’t, and it’s not what I thought it was. I need to change.”
When we go for meals, sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. We look at all the fabulous items on the menu, and order too much. We spontaneously commit, because of the allure, because the feel good now vibe is rich and exciting. But when the meal comes, we don’t force down every bite. We stop eating, we recognize how unhealthy gluttony is, and we regret our spontaneity. We learn. We take a better measure of how much space an item takes on our plate. We understand ourselves better. We order more wisely the next time around.
To curb spontaneous commitment, it may mean curbing the spontaneity. It may mean waiting and thinking, and not jumping at the first announcement, at the excitement of friends’ voices. It may mean not doing ten things half heartedly, but doing one or two things really well. Curbing spontaneity isn’t necessarily losing joy, for there is no joy in meekly dropping out, but there is joy in conscious commitment when you know you’ve done it right. The process, the no shortcut, long hours of commitment, can lead you to a place you didn’t know you could go. This is the best kind of commitment where signing up is hard, not easy. Where it’s not about the fear of missing out, but the respect of going all in. Tessa and Michaela could tell you all about it. Follow that same path, and I think you’ll be healthier and stronger because of it.