Why Can’t You Commit?

A few months ago, I decided to start hosting an informal reading series at my apartment. There were two reasons for this: 1) I needed motivation to actually produce any writing and a forum in which to share it and 2) many of my friends had expressed these very same needs. So, three times now, I’ve invited some writerly friends – and some friends who are appreciators of writing – to come over, drink some wine, share some work and indulge me in reading (or performing) some of the most horrible fanfiction found around the internet. (I needed a gimmick and the fanfiction thing seemed weird and delightful enough.) The first two readings were great. The participants were eager and we got to hear some great writing. Naturally, I was really excited to host the third reading, which was last week. And then no one showed up.

OK, two people showed up. Which is better than zero, I know. But it made me feel really shitty. And not just because there were so few people there that I was forced to read the 500 unedited words I had written of a new story that’s based on an Appalachian murder ballad. (We would have had one reader otherwise.) I had invited people to an event that I’d committed to and cared about and invested in. (Planning this kind of thing takes time and a little bit of money.) And then not only did very few people respond to tell me whether or not they could make it, but also many of those who said they planned on coming told me that evening that they could no longer attend or didn’t bother to tell me at all.

I’ve been frustrated for a long time by the general lack of response I get when I invite people to something. I never seem to know how many people are going to show up to an event I’m hosting, which always makes me anxious. When I hosted the first two readings, I didn’t get many responses and those that I did get were pretty noncommittal, so I didn’t know that anyone was going to show up to those either. This last time, all of my worst fears were realized when I was sitting in my apartment 30 minutes after the event’s starting time and there was still no one there but me.

I’m sick of this.* I don’t think it’s personal when people don’t show up or respond to an invitation. Generally, I’m angry that nobody can commit to anything. Like, is everyone too cool to say, “Thanks so much for inviting me, but I won’t be able to make it”? Are people “avoiding confrontation”? Are they just lazy? Or are they all waiting for some better option to materialize? I mean, I get it. I like seeming cool. And I hate confrontation just as much as the next person. At times, I can be lazy. And sometimes, I like waiting around for better options. But…I don’t like being an asshole, so usually I try to give people an idea of whether or not I’m coming to something. (Even if I don’t have to RSVP. Which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually mean anything to like 50% of you anyway.)

I don’t plan to host an event and invite people to it because I’m bored or I feel like forcing them to do something. I invite people to things because I like them. And I want to spend time with them. Or I think they’d be interested in attending a party/reading/whatever. (I know for a fact that everyone is interested in parties. I’m less sure about who is interested in attending literary readings, so if you’re definitely not into it, let me know!)

It would have been nice to know in advance that no one could make it last week. I could have canceled the event. Or I could have still gone through with it, but without any of the anxiety I was feeling about so few people showing up. I personally would have had a lot more fun if I hadn’t been worried for that entire day. And I’d bet that would have made it a lot more fun for the people who actually did come.

This rant isn’t directed at any individual. I feel that non-commitment is a larger – perhaps “societal” – problem. But we can change this! Starting now! So, can everyone just, the next time you get invited to something, think for two seconds or look at your calendar and respond to the invitation. You don’t even have to give them a definite answer. (Though definite answers are really nice.) Any answer is better than no answer at all.

*I mean, I’m definitely guilty of having said that I was going to a large public event/birthday/holiday party and then not going. I’m not perfect.

What I Accomplished in 2012

Not much, it turns out. I was looking through my “journal” – a Moleskine I purchased in 2008 when I was in college and still have not filled nearly five years later – and I found my New Year’s Resolutions from last year. I don’t remember writing them down, but I do know that I was hungover and alone in my apartment for the majority of New Year’s Day 2012, which I’m sure had much to do with my state of mind while I was writing. I can’t see myself writing half of these things down as “resolutions” now. (I mean, I actually didn’t write down any resolutions for 2013 so, this last statement is pretty true.)

Here’s my list of resolutions for 2012 and what I did with them:

* Re-learn how to play the piano

(I didn’t even TOUCH a piano last year except for one time when I sat down at my parents’ piano and played the chords from “Hey, Jude” for about a minute.)

*Learn how to play the guitar

(Nope. Though I did think about contacting Marnie Stern for lessons.)

* Continue German study

(Nein. This didn’t happen either. I mean, I still think about taking German classes all the time but at this point I would probably have to start in a beginner’s class and ugh what’s the point?)

*Go back on Weight Watchers

(Um, I did this a few times for a few weeks at a time. And then inevitably I would have a sort of binge-y weekend and would just totally forget about tracking points and whatnot and then eventually I would remember and I would think to myself, “Howwwww did I ever do this religiously for over a year?”.)

*Try online dating again

(Haha. This didn’t happen. In fact, I ended up deleting the OKCupid profile that I hadn’t updated in two years.)

*Tweet more/funnier things

(OMG, ugh. I know. I feel bad for the Haley of January 2012 who wrote this. But then again, I didn’t anticipate publishing this in any kind of public forum, so…there we are.)

*Deactivate Facebook at some point

(I wish. I did this once a few years ago and it was incredibly freeing. Unfortunately though, it’s the only way I get anyone to look at this here blog, so I’ll keep these virtual shackles on as long as that remains true.)

*Write more/on a schedule

(Actually, I did this! I did start writing a lot more. I don’t know how much I’ve been able to keep to a schedule but I’ve at least put more words on more pages than in years past.)

*Get a new job

(I did this too! This was probably the biggest thing I accomplished in 2012 considering all of the effort and time it took. So…Huzzah!)

Maybe you’re wondering what my 2013 resolutions are. (Probably you’re not.) I didn’t think of any before the clock struck 12 on January 1st, but I’ve tried to think of a few since – frankly, since I started writing this – and not much has come to mind other than that I want to not put so much pressure on myself to do things. Like, I really don’t think I intended to learn the guitar last year because I knew I wouldn’t have the time or drive to do it, but I put it on that list and when I read the list a year later, I felt kind of bad about not even trying. This year, I think I’ll be much better off if I focus on and enjoy the things that I’m actually doing rather than lamenting not doing things that I knew I wasn’t going to do in the first place. And now I will get 2013 started off right by bringing this post to a close because I think I’ve stopped making sense.