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I Stopped Being the Flake Who Cancels on Everyone

Life is what happens when you're busy actually sticking to plans.

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For the first eight weeks of the year, I decided to do something kind of insane. I was tired, over-extended and so, so cold, but against all odds, I forced myself to not cancel any plans. Sure, I wasn't perfect—I got sick a few days here and had a work emergency there—but I never let the Netflix lazies grab a hold of me.

I dragged myself, tired and on the brink of illness, to a family Superbowl Party. I took the train for an hour to a housewarming party and reconnected with former co-workers I hadn't seen in three years. I evangelized a friend to attend a Sunday night birthday dinner miles away because she said she would be there, even I couldn't believe I was friends with someone whose pal would schedule a party in that bullshit timeslot.

If you immediately vomited out a bunch of gape-jawed emojis after reading "Let's Get Drinks", The New Yorker's cancellation article-turned-best thing ever, you know firsthand why keeping all my plans felt like such a big deal. This winter has turned many of us into hermits, if not actually brought about some kind of mass urban millennial human hibernation. In other word, social life: R.I.P.

Let's acknowledge something out the gate: Staying home is delicious.

That's why I didn't tell anyone I was doing this. It seemed impossible. Hell, even I didn't know if I could keep it. But after only a few weeks, I couldn't believe what was happening.

Let's acknowledge something out the gate: Staying home is delicious, and I know that better than anyone. My jeans have not buttoned since I have discovered the joy that is sitting on a plush couch with one hand plunged deep into a CostCo-sized bag of SkinnyPop. Staying at home is like being in a crib as a child, laid out on a cozy one-man island with everything you've ever needed right next to you. And who doesn't want to sleep like a baby?

I get why we've all been so terrible to each other. Drinks are expensive. Coats are hard to button. Windburn is real. We live in a new frontier of horrific weather and increasingly exciting options for staying home and watching weird, two-star straight-to-DVD movies featuring British celebrities. And what makes it such an issue is that it's so easy to poop out. It's so easy. You can't even discuss the concept of bailing without mentioning John Mulaney's infamous joke, "In terms of relief, canceling plans is like heroin." And good lord, before I began living like this, I would shoot up a ton.

Canceling isn't even the absolute worst thing you can do, either. That's reserved for being a complete no-show. It almost feels responsible to let someone know you won't be coming. But last-minute canceling is the emotional cheating of a friendship. It's so easy to send that text message, but the impact lingers, and the annoyance over someone bailing last minute leaves a mark. (At a friend's dinner party recently, everyone was talking about the person who didn't show up. Do I remember any other conversation I had that night? Nope, but that one is seared into my brain.)

Last-minute canceling is the emotional cheating of a friendship.

So many times—so many times—during those two months, I reeled with excuses for backing out of plans. I was too worn-out to do a cardio dance class. I was too tired to make that breakfast coffee date. I was running behind and just wasn't sure if I could make it to dinner with an old friend and was so sorry! But each time, I refused to break. I dragged my sorry sack of bones through those weird jazz combos, I chugged that cappuccino, I had a wonderful 45-minute dinner with a pal who, now, I can't wait to see again. I bought tickets to plays friends were involved in and ignored my inner monologue sputtering "You contributed by spending money! You don't actually have to go!" all the way to the will-call window.

Now, I'm not a party surfer, wasting my weekends attending events because I'm too scared to say no. I only made plans I intended to keep, pushing all the other nonsense by the wayside, which means this whole process actually made me more honest, too. Unless I've met your parents or we're childhood friends, I'm not going to attend your birthday party. And, as this process has proven, I'll now say that to your face. (Ends up, I was brave before Kate McKinnon was.)

It's just that making plans and keeping them felt so good that I kept going. Even if I stayed at a bar for 25 minutes and came immediately back home, I stuck to my word, because it was important to me, and as I learned, when you don't let yourself cancel, you won't cancel. I've attended more exercise classes than I could imagine in the past month because if I book it, I'll show up. Same with dates and dinners and work drinks.Unlike how I felt when I'd bail last-minute, I never regretted following through. It may not end up being the best party, or the most memorable dinner, but the process of committing myself to showing up helped reboot the part of my brain that had become so inconsiderate.

Being dependable is a muscle that needs to be worked, flexed and used so it can become strong.

Our ability to cancel so easily has made us addicted to impulsive selfishness without realizing the long-term effects it has on our family and friends. Especially now, with our day-to-day wrapped up in a series of screens, it's more important than ever that we actually show up in person when we say we will.

It all came to a head in February, long after my initial idea, when I sat room-spinningly sick in my bedroom, debating if I could (or should) attend my future sister-in-law's fashion show. While I'd usually be sitting remote in hand, riding my newfound illness as far as my DVR queue would take me, I instead found myself in the bathroom, throwing on a wine-colored lipstick before heading out into the 8 degree weather to attend the show. And that's when I realized: My plan had worked. The blueprints I'd set to get out of the house—no excuses, no bullshit—had given me the structure i needed to stick to my plans, regardless of how easy it was to stay home.

The truth is, I don't think it would have mattered much to her if I went or not. I'd see the pictures online, praise them equally, and send her the same congratulatory text. But I found through those two months that it would matter to me. I want to take pride in being a person who is reliable, who won't bail whenever they feel like it or show up only when it's convenient to them. Being dependable is a muscle that needs to be worked, flexed and used so it can become strong. Sure, the high from canceling plans and serving yourself is euphoric, but never forget: What goes up must come down, too.


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