As the semester kicks into high gear, my little red planner is quickly filling up with commitments, some too big to be quantified by a scribble in black ink, and others so unimportant that I wish I didn’t have to write them down in the first place. Even though they look the same on paper, they couldn’t be more different. So, in a frantic effort to bring more peace and calm to my life, I have decided to organize these commitments as either “shallow” or “deep.”What requires the deepest work from me, in which I am most engaged and invested, and what my participation is crucial in—those are my deep commitments. Editing the Record, for example, would definitely be a deep commitment.
A shallow commitment would be attending a campus event, participating in clubs, or even attending class. While these things can be important to me, they don’t always require much out of me in terms of my presence. I can be checked in, or checked out. I can miss a class or two. I can leave early or slip out of an event or meeting with no consequence. What is a shallow commitment for me might be a deep commitment to someone else. And that’s okay.
I have realized that my calendar is filled with shallow commitments. Tons of meaningless tasks to scribble off my to-do list and emails to answer. I am living my life largely in the shallow end of the pool, and it seems like all the treasures worth diving for are out of my reach.
It’s not hard to see where this tendency comes from—just look at the culture we were raised in.
“Get involved!” our parents and teachers told us, encouraging us to join band and soccer and chess club and spell bowl and the debate team and piano lessons and French tutoring and the musical and, oh while you’re at it, get a job. The busiest kids were the most successful. The busiest kids – who got to school an hour early and stayed until way past their bedtime – those were the kids who got the trophies.
They work hard, can’t you tell? They haven’t slept eight hours since the eighth grade, and even then, it was iffy. They tell you that it doesn’t matter how you choose to program your life, as long as every single solitary second is filled.
Yet living a life full of a million unimportant things is easy. It’s too easy, and it’s very unfulfilling. We all know that deeper commitments are more life-giving. So why are we so quick to sacrifice them when shallow commitments call our name?
I drop exercise and sleep and healthy eating, all aspects of the deep commitment to my health. I drop time spent with the meaningful people in my life—my commitment to loved ones. I drop time spent on my personal writing and art—my commitment to pursuing my passions and being creative. I drop all these things far too easily, and I think it’s time I stopped.
This semester, I will be working on honoring the deep commitments in my life and saying no to more shallow commitments. And maybe, I will finally touch the bottom of the deep end.