Doing What You Want Without Apology

February 7, 2016

If someone were to ask you, "Hey, wanna go sit in a chair, pick a focal point, and stare at it for three or so hours?", would you feel like it was a darn decent way to spend your time and just roll with it? Is it really that different than suffering through social scenarios that you partake in only out of a sense of obligation?

Lately, I've heard the Derek Sivers "hell yes" policy mentioned several times that runs on this principle: if you aren't saying "Hell yes" to an opportunity, then do not give your time to it. It's all or nothing, so when really exciting opportunities come along, you're free for them. I would include a 3D pie chart right here to visualize the human lifespan within Earth's timeline, but the human slice wouldn't be visible because it is unfathomably negligible in its mortal brevity. In the hour of Earth's existence, humanity as a whole barely gets a fraction of a tenth of a second. But don't feel too bad - There is this graph to feel good about! We have more time to obsessively use well than anyone before us!

Several years ago, I lost my boyfriend and musical partner pretty suddenly to cancer. I've gone through all the stages of grief, hermitized, rejoined society, experienced an existential re-awakening, and finally come to truly understand the quote that says, "We have two lives and the second begins when we realize we only have one." I also have every illness WebMD has to offer from time to time.

This reality is easy enough for me to remember at this point in life and I have learned to surround myself with people that inspire me. I try to check in frequently and ask, "I am enjoying this right now, right?" I aim to enjoy, not to please. It becomes trickier, then, when the time-consumption at hand happens to be something for one of those inspiring people.

For example, I would not personally have a big wedding. Rather than a diamond and lavish banquet, I'd rather go on multiple trips or invest in the future. With the exception of family weddings, which are different because my family only reunites when someone marries or dies, I just don't get weddings. It has absolutely nothing to do with my feelings for the people getting married and I absolutely feel over the moon for them! I do always tear up. But the time and money spent on ceremonial convention boggles my mind.

Much of what we think matters really doesn't and that goes for the little things, like finding the right dress, as well as the bigger things, like how someone might de-friend you if you don't go to their wedding. In fact, some people might even be offended by my stating this opinion! It's hard not to be bothered when someone expresses wanting more of your time (or wanting you to like the same things) by getting mad at you. And some people just won't ever "get" you and maybe they're the ones for whom you can spare yourself an explanation. If someone threatens to take away their friendship because you didn't do what they wanted you to, then maybe it's a sign. Is the trouble worth it to save future adventures together in that space you do share?

Aside from the above considerations, here is a list of totally reasonable, non-offensive reasons that I think should be totally acceptable if you would rather stay home instead of going to a social engagement:

  • Not knowing many people - spending a couple of hours scraping the conversation barrel with people you don't click with is a good character-building experience, but it is also a decent concept for hell. It is exhausting and not something anyone should be forced into. "Oh, you collect spores, molds, and fungus? What's that like? " (x 3 hours)
  • Being tired - Sleep is a very unavoidable key to health and happiness. Depriving oneself of it for others can only lead to a vicious messing of the crankypants.
  • Being on a budget - drinks, brunch, and wedding gifts add up, y'all. When you live paycheck to paycheck, it shouldn't feel like you're being selfish for buying yourself a new sweater instead of using that rare extra cash on another registry item no one really needed. I love giving gifts, but not just for the sake of giving them.
  • Alone time is really, really wonderful and it's often hard to get enough of it. Giving it up unwillingly leads to resentment. Resentment leads to anger. Anger leads to deleting your Facebook account and speaking only to your dog.
  • Getting up early is the life source of one's inner rainbow - I thuhhh-rive on getting up before most people and doing everything! Going out late for whatever-the-hell-it-doesn't-even-matter sometimes just puts a cork in that enthusiasm, or at least like a soggy rag. An unwanted late night is an oil-soaked kleenex in your bursting bottle of moxie.
  • Preferring exercise or being outside - Social gatherings often happen indoors and involve eating bad food and drinking alcohol. Is it so unforgivable if someone feels they would benefit from a yoga class or reading in the park instead?
  • No excuse! If someone doesn't feel like it, someone doesn't feel like it and no explanation is owed!

Some people take exception to these things and feel like they're an expression of how you don't care. It's easy to forget that most people are desperately trying to make sure they make the most of their time here. I find myself thinking, "Who do they think they are?" when asked to explain my preference, but I think there is always a way to effectively garner an understanding of yourself. Their life experience has simply differed from yours and you just have to be patient enough and willing to provide that explanation to those that matter. It's important to balance doing what you want with maintaining a good impact on others.

So, basically, my point is this: Maybe rethink asking people if they're going to your party and especially don't ask for an explanation if they say no. When we die, what we walk away from is exactly what we went out and got, so respect how every individual uses that time! It has worked for me to try understanding where others are coming from. Look for the things you have in common and expect only that the other seeks to enjoy themselves as much. Just have fun! It's not so serious after all.

We can work it out!


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