Friday, March 15, 2013

A Matter of Time

Had I not bailed on my Saturday night plans (sorry, Jill!) I would've missed this.
It was on the drive back from a very impromptu weekend trip with one of my closest, oldest friends. We had dropped everything at 5 p.m. on a Saturday night to take advantage of an unexpectedly luxurious (and free!) weekend getaway. And in the car the next day as we moved along the Pacific Coast Highway back toward L.A., she said, “I’m just surprised you didn’t have plans and were able to get away this weekend.”

Me? Not have plans? Please. I plan in my dreams, and she knows it. “Oh, I had to bail on my plans last night,” I told her. And though I’d felt a little guilty, one doesn’t just pass up a free night in Newport Beach at one of the nicest resorts in the U.S. “I also was supposed to go to a movie today, but that fell through anyway.”

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but the next thing I knew as I was driving along was that Katie was in my passenger seat glimpsing into my world. My very color-coded, full, and until now fairly private world. That is, the one documented in my master calendar.

Tangerine for meetings requiring prep work. Purple for social events. Green for personal appointments. Teal for travel. The entries have notes, lists of items to bring, reminder alerts and location addresses. She saw my calendar entry for that day: “Matinee With C.” She lit up with glee, so excited she could barely contain herself. I was uncomfortable for a second, unsure where this was headed.

“I am so excited! I feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse into your inner workings! I’ve always known you worked like this, and now I know how you do it!” I am pretty sure she actually clapped her hands. No joke. I’m not overusing exclamation points here, either.

She explained that she’s always known when I plan to do something on a given day, I will do it. And so when we make plans for a certain day, it’s important she follow through. For example, when I asked her to go on a road trip with me on April 27, she was straightforward. Instead of blindly committing, she said she wanted to go but wasn’t sure she could commit to that weekend. I appreciated this and we proceeded to have an hour-long conversation about my calendar, of all things.

And as we talked about it, I realized something very important. Katie asked how I had developed this trait, so I thought about it.

When I was young and awkward and all the things no one wants to be as a freshman in high school, I would get excited if someone wanted to hang out with me. I had very few true friends, but occasionally I’d find myself laughing and talking with one of the girls in my class. Afterward, she would say, “We should do something sometime!”

At first, they were the best words in the world, this promise that perhaps there was a budding friendship about to happen. That maybe I could stop reading alone by myself during lunch time and instead be normal and fun and happy.

But the disappointment would set in as time passed. I realized that phrase was not a promise, nor was it even sincere. If someone wants to hang out with you, they just do. They set aside a time for you and they follow through. They don’t use vague terms like “we should do something sometime.”

I vowed at an early age that I would not say I’d spend time with someone unless I intended to follow through. Sure, I’ve been guilty from time to time. I try really hard to understand that some (most?) people do not operate this way. But as for me? I never want to be the cause of anyone feeling the way I felt as a fat and discouraged freshman in high school.

So that’s part of why my calendar looks the way it does. It does mean I have to step outside of my comfort zone to be spontaneous (which is something I’m learning to be more and more). It does mean I’m almost always busy. But it’s because I don’t want to forget a commitment. I don’t want someone to think they are not important to me or that someone else is better than they are.

It’s amazing to me that so much of the way I run my everyday life stems from feeling undervalued as a kid. All I can do now is make sure that the people in my life don’t feel undervalued by me. It’s just how I work.

I will never be able to make it to every event (FOMO, anyone?), and I will probably flake from time to time (still sorry about your birthday 2 years ago, KH). But one of the ways I can show people I care is with my time.

Again, I do know not everyone works this way. But every one of you does have some special way to show those around you that you care. So own it. Do it. Make sure the people around you are seen and known. Just do it, because you really never know when it could make all the difference.


  1. Jess. I remember this about you, and now in retrospect I realize I was probably, at one point early in our friendship, a source of frustration and possibly pain for you. My own problem was not wanting to disappoint people, so I acquiesced (verbally) to all potential plans, not really considering too intently whether I'd be able to deliver. My brokenness talking to your brokenness... wow how easily we traipse into minefields in our friends front yards as we inadvertently create fields of our own. I know you didn't create this blog to fish for an apology from a friend you had several years ago, but I can speak truthfully when I say that falling out of touch with you was hard for me, and I reflected on our past with a strange sense of guilt and failure that I now understand, thanks to the vulnerability of your post. Thank you for self-divulging in this way. You're a true great.