Commitment. It’s a scary word, and with good reason. It conjures up all types of images of white dresses and gold bands, or if you prefer, nooses and padlocked cages. And yes, I realize V-Day is just around the corner, as every red and pink storefront display cheerfully reminds us, so this may not be the best time to bring up such a loaded word, but I wasn’t thinking about it strictly in terms of a romantic relationship, though of course it applies.
Here’s the thing: I help run an organization on campus, and this week, only four out of six of our board members showed up to a mandatory meeting. Three showed up more than 20 minutes late. Last year, we held a meeting where only two people showed up, so the meeting had to be cancelled. This is not the first or second time that something like this has happened.
In any of a number of organizations I’ve observed and been involved with on campus, people show up late, or not at all. Just last week, Undergraduate House of Representatives lost quorum again and another round of bills and allocations got pushed back to the next session because of absent representatives. Or people take charge of an event or are elected to a position and then fail to do what they say they will do, or fail to do anything at all. So events get cancelled, jobs don’t get done, and the organization both suffers and looks bad to the public.
Imagine what would happen if everyone decided that it was okay to miss a few meetings or generally slack off on work. The world would pretty much shut down, as wait times for any place that provides any kind of service from restaurants to taxis to gas stations to movie theaters to stores stretched into eternity. It would be like the Hollywood writers’ strike or a Stinger bus drivers’ strike, except we’d be missing a lot more than our favorite TV shows and a ride to class.
Luckily, most of the rest of the world hasn’t adopted this attitude, but for some reason, it’s particularly endemic to college students, at least from what I can tell from this campus. Yes, we’re all busy. We have professors who pretend not to know that we have other classes and responsibilities and some of us really are starving college students who work 20 hours a week at a minimum-wage job to make ends meet.
But if someone makes a commitment it’s best to follow through. After all, when someone decides to join a club or run for a position or accept a dinner invitation, no one forced that person to do it. It was their choice to make that commitment, and it needs to be their choice to keep that commitment. If they can’t keep the commitment, they shouldn’t make it. If they thought they could keep the commitment but later found out they couldn’t, then they should let someone know and bow out, so someone who can keep the commitment can take over. It’s simple.
Of course, some commitments are easier to keep than others. A coffee date with a friend may be far more preferable to typing up meeting minutes or tabling on Skiles, but in all these cases, a commitment was made and should be kept. If you wouldn’t make your friend wait on you for hours at Starbucks, why would you do that to your boss, or the president of your organization? In the real world, that kind of noncommittal behavior leads only to one thing: being fired.
It shouldn’t be too hard to keep a commitment. After all, we make and keep them all the time. We make a commitment to our stomachs every day when we decide to eat. We make a commitment to our hygiene (at least every once in a while) when we take a shower. We made a commitment to our education when we decided to apply and enroll at this school, and we keep that commitment every day when we go to class, do homework, work on a group project, take a test, etc.
A lot of commitments are like this they need to be renewed every day or every week: a person who signs on to be an officer of an organization has to continually commit themselves to going to meetings, planning events, or doing whatever is required. The initial commitment isn’t enough: anyone can say they’ll do something, but it takes a bit more effort to actually do it.
The same goes for relationships (hey, I figured if it was this close to Valentine’s, I might as well comment). I hate to tell you, but that heady, butterflies-in-the-stomach, heart-pounding feeling of infatuation won’t last forever, and it won’t make for a lasting relationship either. Love is a choice, not just a feeling, and if you want to stay together, you have to make that choice every day. At the end of the day, it really does take commitment (just ask my fiance).
Of course, I’m the first to admit that I have problems keeping my commitments there are always so many. But if we could change our minds about how important commitments are and keep them (every commitment should be important, because you made it and someone trusts you to keep it) we might all be better off for it.