I’m not going to lie: this month’s Issue sparked a lot of debate and confusion in my mind. Up until the day before the deadline, I had no idea what I wanted to write, and I was going out of my head trying to figure something out. I kept thinking and thinking, starting stories, then stopping them a paragraph in. I just could not get a grasp on what I wanted to say about commitment and I think it’s mostly because I’m so split on the way I interpret the word.
On the one hand, it’s being faithful to the one you love, or in any relationship. It’s about being reliable enough and trustworthy enough to uphold your end of that partnership. But on the other, it’s about dedicating yourself to something. Dedicating yourself so fully, that you hold yourself to doing it, and doing it with every part of you. It’s about signing a contract with yourself to ensure that you give everything you have when you go for it.
But then it leads me to think: Contracts are evil, right? Contracts are binding and restricting and a bunch of other horrible things. Contracts are corporate. So a commitment is like being sentenced to something… right? It’s like being committed to a Mental Hospital. Or is commitment just a higher form of being passionate? Being so passionate about something that you commit yourself to it and have no qualms about pledging and dedicating yourself to it, because you truly enjoy being bound to it. I guess the best example of that is Marriage. For some it’s a death sentence; for others it’s a way to bind themselves completely to the one that they love…
You see?! There are a million and one ways that this word could take me, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t try to encompass them all, or at least the ones that are relevant to me.
I guess that’s why I cheated. Yes, I know. As a prefect and an exemplar, law-abiding student, cheating is not something that should be part of my repertoire – well… too bad. It happens. I escaped the pressure of writing something about my own – most likely flawed – opinions, by cheating, and asking other people for theirs.
The process was arduous. I think I must have typed out the question “What would you think if I said the word, commitment?”* 50 times. But it was a credit to my commitment (see what I did there?) that I did it. And there’s no doubt in my mind that having other people’s input helped clarify the word in my mind.
When I first thought of commitment, I was thinking about the commitment and dedication I had to achieving my goals; the work and effort that I put into my extra-curriculars to make sure I get into a good university. Sure the relationship stuff crossed my mind, but honestly it just didn’t seem as important as the 12+ hours I spend a week training for things, participating in things, managing and volunteering for things and the rest of it. My first opinion of commitment was something that you spent time on, something that required effort; something that could be unpleasant and tiresome at times, but ultimately would be worth it.
Then I thought about that. Why would I do something that I dislike? I don’t want to be committed to something I hate! I definitely don’t like doing all the logging and paperwork for my Duke of Edinburgh Award, and I hate having to manage the attendance and publishing for my school magazine, but I do it anyway. Those are chores, not commitments; those are sacrifices I make painstakingly. But I do them anyway because I have committed myself to them. Here’s where the ‘ball-and-chain’ logic comes in, and any understanding I thought I had about the word goes out the window.
When I asked my friends (I basically raped Facebook chat for a few hours), I found the answers amusing and the patterns those answers followed thoroughly amusing. For the guys I asked, most would want to know which type of commitment I was referring to, “work or relationships”. From the girls, I’ll be honest: most were either lengthy speeches about “trust between two people” or the “catastrophe” commitment could be. Some people split commitment into things that you had be committed to, and things that you enjoyed being committed to; others felt that it was the duty you put into things that you were responsible for or owed something to, like your family.
Putting it lightly, the responses were… diverse. My favourite one was from a friend with whom I have long philosophical conversations. I asked him whether the word commitment had good or bad connotations for him, and he told me, “good”, because apparently fear of commitment is the first sign of becoming a sociopath.
Great, I’m becoming a sociopath.
I learnt a lot about the people I asked from their replies. It was truly heart-warming to hear about how my friends believed in commitment. How they saw it as a driving force in a sport, in achieving their goals, in doing the right thing by others. I guess my reservations about having to enjoy myself during a commitment made me seem a bit shallow after hearing that.
From my friends in relationships or recently out of them, I heard how much perseverance commitment took, but how worthwhile it was if it turned out right. Then I also heard how commitment is a really hard thing to make work, and that when it doesn’t, it kind of changes your perspective a bit, until you’re ready for it again.
After all the discussion and the different points of view, I’m still not absolutely sure what my interpretation of commitment is, but it runs along these lines:
To commit yourself to something is to willingly put in the effort to strive for an ideal or a goal that you have. Whether it be making sacrifices or enjoying yourself, it’s something you have to dedicate yourself so completely to making a success that you actually challenge yourself and strive to do better.
It’s a bit mish-mash and a bit sloppy, but so is my understanding. Maybe in time, when I find myself having to make serious commitments, I’ll understand it a bit better. But for now I’ll just continue to commit myself to my passions, however trying they (writing this), may be.
*The question was originally phrased “What would you think if I said the word commitment?” But as one of my friends kindly and completely un-patronisingly pointed out to me, the grammar was incorrect. So here, revised and rewritten. I hope you’re happy, you Grammar Nazi.
Sara continues to hide away from the world in her room – not because she wants to – but because her hectic schedule has deprived her of human contact for so, so long. Her days are filled with endless Alt-J, on repeat.