Commitment and Personality

Let’s get something out of the way first. I’m not one for commitment. I don’t like it very much. I prefer not to promise things. Commitment and I are old enemies. We haven’t gotten along since I was young. And here’s why.

When I commit to something, it usually means I’m agreeing to follow through. I’m not someone who’s great with words and a fairly firm believer that actions speak louder than words. In my case, it may seem as though my actions are speaking and writing, but I think that it is what you do and -how- you say things that tells more than what you say. For example, if someone asks me what I did in school today, my answer will be one that shrugs the question off. Most kids do this. They reply, “Nothing.” Does that mean every kid has the same personality? Of course not. What’s more important to pay attention to is not that they are meaning to say “Nothing”, but rather that they speak tersely, curtly, or perhaps cheerfully. Maybe instead of saying “Nothing”, you hear “Nothing much”, “Not much really”, “I don’t really remember”, “Nothing important”, and so on. They all mean “Nothing” and are intended to more or less dismiss the question. There is a difference though.

When I hear someone say, “Nothing important”, I get the distinct impression they are deciding for me what is important. That makes me take a step back and tells me something about the speaker. Maybe they’re a little arrogant or assume things easily? Maybe they’re just trying to be considerate and not bore me, but are just bad at communication? It can mean a lot. “I don’t remember”, for example, sends a somewhat different message. That can be someone not wanting to talk about it or not wanting to remember, or it can mean someone honestly not remembering. Rather than deciding for me what’s important, they decided that they didn’t think it was important and forgot about it. It’s a little rude and dismissive, but it’s also a bit more honest. That’s the kind of feeling I get from the words people say.

I judge pretty easily based on what and how people say things. I probably shouldn’t, but at the same time, everyone judges. This is just my way of getting an impression. I tend to focus a lot less on what people do and what they say and focus more on how they say things or how they stand and act. People like to pretend. They like to be contrary. They can be self-serving, justifying, and selfish. That’s a human. I can accept that about people. Everyone’s different, you’re going to get different people with different personalities. There’s no real harm in that. I can try and get along with anyone.

Here’s what this whole thing is leading to.

I don’t like commitment because of the following:

Most of the time, when I commit, I am making a promise. If you hear the words, “I promise” coming out of my mouth, I more or less do my darnedest to keep that promise. I don’t like saying, “I promise”, because my word is my bond. If I can not be trusted to follow through on what I promise to do, if I can not be believed… I want to be someone who can be considered reliable. Maybe I don’t always follow through. Maybe I shirk off my duties or flake. Fine. All that might be true, but when I give my word, I consider it one of my highest priorities. Even if I don’t want to anymore, even if I’m tired, even if I feel like I want to sit down and vomit until I pass out, once I’ve promised, I will keep to it as long as my body lets me. This is also why I despise making promises with indeterminate time limits or end conditions. I’ll be keeping my promise until the end of time. At some point, I internally set about a year for some promises, but if I’ve promised, then I’ve promised. I’ve committed and said, “Yes, I will do this. I give my word.” Assuming I gave my word or trying to pull me in with implied consent means nothing to me. It is only when I explicitly create an agreement with someone else do I get so serious about this.

That’s probably the part of me that gets so annoyed with people who flake out or quit halfway. I learned to give my 110% to something at all times. I don’t always do so, but I’m not able to easily quit. The thing about making promises is that I usually make them with other people in the interests of those people. I don’t flake on promises I make to other people that benefit them. That’s not something I want to do or can do. In a roundabout way, I am frustrated on people who commit too easily.

I’ll give two examples. I’ve taken Japanese in my high school for quite a few years now. During lunch time, there are often other students who need help with their classwork. Sensei [the Japanese teacher, who I shall refer to as ‘Sensei’ from now on because that is the way I address her] usually ropes me into helping, which I don’t mind too much. We have a club called “Japanese National Honor Society”, which has a list of tutors from the higher level Japanese classes who are supposed to help students in the lower Japanese classes who request help [tutors and tutees/students, respectively. Yes, I know tutees is not a word.]. Sensei will occasionally have students come in if they are struggling in their classes. Students are usually paired with a tutor. The pair will usually arrange a schedule between the two of them to properly meet and get work done. Usually, however, it is simply a matter of the tutors coming into the classroom on their assigned days, with or without their student. Even if they do not have a student they are tutoring, they should come in. There are often walk-in students or students who just need help. When you sign up for this club, you are expected to help. That is a large majority of the purpose of the club. You need 10 hours of tutoring every 4-5 months [every semester], plus an activity sometimes. There are other activities every few weeks, such as watching an anime/drama, eating some mochi and red bean soup, and so on.

There are no less than 20 tutors, minimum. The list was very large when I first saw it. Twenty is a nice estimate, rounding down. That includes, of course, all the officers of the club. Each tutor should only have one student, maybe two in special cases. Most students don’t show up because they don’t need help [as Sensei assigns all of Japanese Level 1 to this list], so most tutors only have one student. [Remember that even if they do not have a student, they should still come on the assigned days, or at least once a week, in order to get activity hours. Talking in Japanese in the classroom counts. It’s really that simple.] Within a week, there are a grand total of zero other tutors. I am alone. When I should normally be coming twice a week, I am showing up every day and have four students. All because those people who signed up committed and then backed out, leaving me with the short end of the stick. It was an agreement between all of us, but when one side can’t hold up their end of the bargain, everyone else suffers.

To be fair, that was only the first week. The officers usually showed up during their assigned days thereafter [one officer to one day], and there was usually one or two other tutors in the room with me. Usually. But this only happened after quite a while and it sometimes ended up being a problem because more people needed help than help was available. I hold the two people I know who come every week on their assigned days in the highest regard. Thank you for always showing up. If not for you two, my sense of commitment and responsibility would have me spending every day in that room, whether I want to or not. I’d never get any of my work done or get help where I needed it. So thank you. You took your commitment seriously. You followed through with what you signed up for. Another special case, so no one who knows me gets the wrong idea [not that anyone reads this]. I know someone who did not intend to become an officer, but ended up as one anyway. Rather than willingly getting into it, this person was more coerced into it and did not disagree because said person did not want the club to be in trouble. That person did not sign up for this, but for working hard thus far, even if you were unable to complete all the tasks that might normally be expected of you, thank you as well. I hold you in the highest regard.

So there’s the first instance of people not following through when they commit. They didn’t explicitly promise, but they signed up and entered into a clearly defined pact. The second instance is one instance of a kid I was tutoring in Japanese. It’s a simple enough story, but you might enjoy this one. Hyperbole and exaggeration abounds, but keep in mind this is all based on real events.

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I walk into the Japanese classroom that day, fully expecting the regulars to be there. The same old people who need help, are practicing, or simply hang out there. I notice one of the regulars getting help from Sensei. That was good, I figured. What I notice then is this freshman whom I shall affectionately refer to as ‘Baka’. Baka, who is Japanese, is in the first level of Japanese. In the first semester, I was tutoring him and another boy, but he slowly stopped coming. One thing I learned from trying to tutor Baka is that he constantly tries to brush things off as having ‘temporarily forgotten’, but actually knowing. I feel like I hear more excuses out of Baka’s mouth than anything else. That’s the first thing that bothers me. A refusal to accept responsibility, or an attempt to push it aside. Sensei called on me to ‘tutor’ Baka. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tutoring him, but I bit my tongue and pushed my more negative feelings down. Before we started, Sensei wanted to have a few words with me.

“Setsuhyou,” she said, “Baka is missing a lot of homework. Can you please work with him to get it done? He hasn’t been turning it in or doing it.” Of course he hasn’t.

I responded in the affirmative, shuffling back over to Baka to get to work. “So, what work do you have to get done?”

“I, uh… well, let me think…” This continued for two minutes before I glanced over at Sensei. She was working with one of the regulars, so I tried to prompt Baka a bit. Maybe we could just work on whatever he knew wasn’t done first? Anything was fine. Finally, after about 3 minutes of hearing ‘uh’ and ‘um’, I learned that he had some workbook pages to do. Okay, that was something. Awesome. “Alright Baka, can you get out your workbook?”

“Alright.” Three minutes searching for the workbook. “I don’t have it.”

“…Why not?”

“I didn’t know I was going to need it today, since I don’t have Japanese class today.” [A quick explanation, our school works on somewhat of a block system, where we have different periods throughout the day, 1-7, which we fill with our classes. On Tues./Wed., we take only the odd or even numbered classes and have longer periods (~90 minutes instead of ~50)]

“…But didn’t you know Sensei called you here to finish your missing work?”

“Yeah, she told me yesterday to come here.”

“But you didn’t bring your workbook so you could do the work.”

“Well, no, but still…”, and suddenly, a lot more ‘umm’ing and ‘uuh’ing. Congratulations Baka, you lack a workbook to do the work that you are missing. Fine. Keep cool, Setsu, it’s fine.

“Alright, we can borrow one of the workbooks in the classroom. You’ll just have to write the work on a piece of binder paper.”

“Alright!” Don’t be mistaken, readers. This isn’t excitement or eagerness to do the work. This sounded a lot more like, At last, I am not being cornered! An escape!

After getting the workbook, I ask him to pull out a piece of binder paper. 3 minutes of him looking through his backpack. At this point, I peer into his backpack while he is searching to figure out why he can’t get his stuff. I see one laptop, and a bunch of crumpled papers. By a bunch, I don’t mean the usual amount for students who go to our school. I mean 10-15 pieces of ripped up paper that act more like liner for his backpack than actual work. At the end of three minutes, I stop bothering and get some of my binder paper.

“Alright, here’s some binder paper. Can you get out a pencil or a pen so we can do the work?” Surprise of the century here, he -does not even have a pencil-. What. The. Hell. The Japanese workbook, I could accept. Fine, maybe he just forgot it. Okay. Maybe even binder paper. But he doesn’t even have a pencil. I’m more than a little frustrated at this point, and it shows, but I lend him a pencil anyway. And then he doesn’t remember what the homework is and can’t seem to find it. At this point, Sensei has noticed our predicament and asks if we need a print-out of Baka’s missing homework list, or at least to know. I’m tired of taking chances. Baka tries to say no, but I cut in with ‘Yes, please!’. Perhaps a little rude. Perhaps a little tired. Perhaps both.  At any rate, I soon find out Baka’s next magic assignment he needs to finish is a picture book. He got an empty picture book from Sensei, which he was supposed to do some sort of adjective activity with. I wasn’t sure exactly what at that point, but I just wanted to start something. “Alright Baka, can you get out the empty picture book?”

I figured he’d at least have this. It was a handout. He didn’t even need to remove it. Not. There. Three more minutes of searching later, I stifled a snarl and went up to Sensei, attempting to explain the situation. While she dug up a new copy, if she had one, we had a rather quick discussion. “Setsu, you see, Baka is a little… disorganized. Both in his head and how he organized, as well as his backpack and tools… Everything is just scattered. He doesn’t focus or concentrate.” Nooooooo. I hadn’t noticed, Sensei. My. Freaking. Bad. “If you could please help him a little? Well, whatever, just try and get a bit of work done.”

I returned to Baka with the new copy, glad Sensei was one of the most patient people I knew. As I got back, all I heard coming out of his mouth was more excuses. I don’t know where it was, I had it on me, I should have it, it was there five seconds ago, blah blah blah. Maybe I was just tired, but I was tired of seeing him try and not take responsibility. So I gritted my teeth a little, dropped the new copy of the picture book on his desk, and more or less told him he was going to flunk out of everything if he kept this up. He was going to screw up 9th grade, and if he somehow managed to make it past 10th by some miracle, he wouldn’t even get close to passing through 11th. He had to shape up and figure something out, or he was done for. I was nicer about it than I probably should have been, but my point was pretty clear. Things couldn’t continue like this. It let out a little steam so I could get a bit more patience to deal with Baka for the rest of the lunch period.

As we figured out the adjective picture book, I came upon several problems. First, what was the assignment? He didn’t know. After a bit of prompting to make him remember an assignment I did 3 years ago [I’m in 12th, he’s in 9th], I figured out he had to basically make a story out of adjectives. Then, he did not know whether or not he had to use specific adjectives. It was an assignment based on a handout of adjectives, and he did not know whether or not he had to use those adjectives. I was dying inside. Nevertheless, I explained to him that he did. Next “surprise”? He didn’t have the list of adjectives. I had to try and remember 16 adjectives from a specific list I had dealt with 3 years prior. The number of words I contributed? 15. He contributed 1. As I wrote the Japanese/English translations to the adjectives, I suggested he think up what sort of story he wanted to write about. I really should have known better.

Half way through writing out the translations, I noticed he wasn’t even thinking, he was pulling my paper away so he could read what I had written. After re-explaining, I finished up, but still, no dice. No freaking dice. After 10 minutes, using adjectives like hot, cold, tall, short, expensive, cheap, long, short [length], hot, and cold… He could not think up anything. This continued until the end of the lunch bell, at which point I wanted to flip a table because absolutely nothing had gotten done. It had been 50 minutes completely wasted that I could have spent studying or eating lunch. But no. I quickly explained to him what I would do and gave him a quick example before sending him out of the classroom. Any slower and I probably would have throttled him.

All because he took a class and refused to accept responsibility for it. No preparation, no work, just excuses, excuses, excuses. He committed and then backed out.

That is probably one of my worst encounters with people who refuse to stick with what they say they are going to do or back out… I don’t know. I’m not exactly the most studious either, but I’d think the least you could do is bring a pencil and binder paper? Or is that too much to ask?

Next time, I’ll probably discuss some more on commitment or add on to the end of this stuff about another encounter, one I wanted to quit. [No I won’t, see below.] But really, it’s better to at least try and keep going and give it your best shot than to just throw your arms up in the air and try to get out of working at all.

Maybe it’s because I put so much stock behind meaning what I say and being someone who follows through when he promises, but this sort of thing really bothers me.

Next time, I will probably talk about people who don’t put in effort, but expect to get success or good grades out of it. Zero input, maximum output/return. Worse yet, the ego and the belief that they are geniuses and deserve ‘A’s. Yeah, that’s probably what I’ll talk about next time.

This post has been a lot more casual in style than my other posts probably because I was telling a ‘story’, as well as talking about something I’m not really sure of. I apologize for the switching between writing styles I tend to do. Take care, all. And forget not that I am hypocritical.

A Little Something

Tap. Tap. Tap. The keys clacked in front of him as the lights dimmed outside, flickering off one by one, one by one, until there was nothing left. One by one, one by one, until not even the lights inside were left remaining. Everything was shrouded in darkness, except for that single faint hum of the monitor in front of him. Looking past the screen and out the window behind it, he sighed. It was quiet. Dark. Peaceful. It was peaceful… As the computer at his feet thrummed on, letting out its low bass hum as it worked, he only sat there, staring out beyond what was in front of him. The sky was tainted. It was not pitch. It was not dark. It had vague hints of the impending dawn, the soft and subtle brightness that tinged one side of the horizon. There was nothing else. The lights had all turned off, one by one, one by one, until only his remained. The dull thrum of the computer against the dull glare of his monitor… It illuminated nothing…

Tap. Tap. Tap. And still he continued to type, keeping the clacking of his keys soft and gentle, as if he wasn’t writing, but rather singing, letting his heart go, slipping into his keyboard. He had to keep it quiet, he had to keep it hidden, but neither his heart nor his words could stay locked up forever. Occasionally, they had to be let go, released, to hum in tune with the quiet thrum of the neighborhood. Tap. Tap. Tap. In one swift keystroke, the screen in front of him changed, but he was only half paying attention. For a brief moment, he focused on the world that existed across the globe, the world inhabited by one of his peers. For a moment, he was concerned, he was interested, he was involved… but within moments, he was once more pulled inside himself, wrapping himself more tightly in the fortress he had created. For a moment, he had existed outside his own world…

But he could not stay there long. He did not belong there. He did not belong anywhere. He could only pretend, only play at existing. Another keystroke, a light tap of the mouse, and the slightest grimace as a soft song began to play. Reaching forward slowly, carefully, he gently twisted the knob on his speakers. It was a song of the heart, a song well known, but it would do no good to force everyone to listen to his pleas, his cries, his songs. They all had their own lives, their own spheres… their own songs. And his song was no harmony, nor was it a melody… It simply repeated forever, creating dissonance, creating a feeling of lingering discomfort for all who heard it. His teeth clenched lightly as he tilted his head down, but still his fingers continued to move. Tap. Tap. Tap. His heart could hardly be stopped now…

A sound against the silence. A shuffling of feet, the creak of an old bed, and the soft padding sounds of feet traveling over a hard wood floor. Sounds to interrupt his peaceful silence. He could exist here, in his entirety, but he could not exist if he were to be seen. He was something that everyone knew about but did not want to see… So he hid himself away, the lightest exhalation signaling his disappearance. The music slowed, turning harsh and discordant, no longer uncomfortably nostalgic, but simply uncomfortable. No longer bearable… The lights turned from dim to simply glaring, an unwelcome intruder in the night… As the world lit up around him, he retreated further into shadow, changing from what he had been only briefly into what the world wanted to see.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing, Mother.”

“Yeah right… Get to bed. You’re so lazy, but you insist on staying up. I don’t know how I ended up with a son like you.”

“I’m sorry Mother. Good night, Mother.”

“…Mother, mother… That’s so annoying… Everyone else calls their mothers ‘Mom’ or something… Why can’t you be normal? Whatever, just go to bed.” A light padding retreat, sending echoes of complaints and regrets bounding across the hall.

A soft smile, a light bow.

“I’m sorry, Mother. I’m going now…Good night, take care. I lo-“

“Just go to sleep!”

“Yes…”

The light creaking of a door, the light click of a lock. The rustling of blankets. A soft click of the alarm for tomorrow… The ceiling was somewhat bland tonight. Slowly, softly, he let his heart, his songs, his dreams fade. He let everything fade, slipping away into darkness.