The joy of saying ‘no’

I’m an over-committer. That sounds like the kind of fake weakness you’d make up at a job interview. It should be somewhere along the same lines as ‘I get too stressed about deadlines’ or ‘ I just work too damn hard‘.

In actual fact, being an over-committer means that I briefly give something a try, and then immediately decide that it’s just easier to do it for the rest of my life, never let anybody down even if I have a good reason, and probably join a committee for it if they have one. I buy all the stuff. I watch all the videos on Youtube. I spend hours and hours on Netflix trying to find TV shows and films that even slightly touch on my newfound biggest passion ever. I do one taster session and then strap in for the rest of my life without a second thought.

Sometimes these brand new loves stick around because I genuinely do love them. Case in point: I started tap dancing on a whim because I liked the noise the shoes make (please note that I never said I get into things for intelligent or profound reasons). Eighteen months later I’m on my second pair of shoes and I can even sometimes use the word ‘flam’ with a straight face. I’ve moved from a dance studio in London to a school gym in Cornwall, and I’d keep it up somewhere else without a second thought.

Being new in town, though, and in need of Cornwall friends, I’ve definitely taken on more than I can keep up. Promise me, however vaguely, that it might be ‘a good way to meet people’ and I have always been thereIt’s just that it’s a lot. I do tap dance on Mondays, yoga on Tuesdays, roller derby also on Tuesdays, choir on Wednesdays, paddleboarding any time of the week… I basically do more extra-curricular activities than some middle class five-year-olds whose parents already set their sights on them going to Cambridge.

So. I’m giving something up. This is not a big decision at the best of times, but it feels like one to me, an over-committer. I wrestled with guilt over what the people at (spoiler alert) Roller Derby would think when I never showed my face again, and I worried that quitting would make me, well, a quitter. But the fact of the matter is that one of any number of megalomaniac world leaders could press one of any number of giant red buttons before I become any kind of asset to Cornwall’s Roller Derby scene. My main purpose in practices was to provide an extra challenge as I lay on the track after falling for the ninetieth time. I enjoyed learning to skate, but I don’t need to be so good that I can stay upright with someone kicking the skates out from underneath me – I’ll just make it a personal policy never to skate with arseholes. I met some lovely people, but I now see half of them just out and about, because that’s what happens when you live in Cornwall, and we say a friendly ‘hello’ to each other anyway, so the social mission was accomplished.

I am done.

It feels incredibly liberating to actually draw a line under something for once. For years I’ve stayed in clubs and on teams long after the magic had worn off. I’d drag myself out of the house and get on the train or the bus, all the time hoping that whatever I was going to had been cancelled for emergency-but-not-like-a-life-or-death-emergency reasons. Maybe like a power cut. Even when the time came to quit it would usually be some other reason that did it. A clash with a new job, the whole organisation being shut down around me, or even a move to Cornwall. I’m actually still technically on one London-based committee because I clearly didn’t quit in strong enough terms.

My point in all of this is to say that for once in my life I have admitted that I don’t want to do something any more. The reasons are trivial. It is mildly inconvenient to get to, I really like a nice Tuesday evening at home, and when the summer comes I will have absolutely no hesitation about sacking off my teammates to hang around at the beach, and that is not the attitude anybody is looking for.

But the thing is, those reasons are enough. It’s fine that I just don’t like something so I’m not doing it any more. It’s even fine that I spent fifty quid on some skates before I figured that out. A decision that will negatively affect zero people is not a decision to feel bad about.

If this inspires anybody to quite anything please do let me know because I’m going to use this new Tuesday evening gap in my precocious-child-esque schedule to officially launch my life coaching business.

JK, everybody. JK.


2 thoughts on “The joy of saying ‘no’

  1. i bow down to you and your dedication to social missions – truly impressive! please give me some of that?! i get home and stick on my pyjamas and do a facemask 6 nights out of 7 and wonder why sometimes i feel like i have no friends haha. you on the other hand – phwoar?! socialite extraordinaire!!

    but yes – its completely and utterly fine to stop doing something because it’s not working for you anymore. gotta look after numero uno!

    katie. xx

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