Patel: Hold your obligations to show others you care


Meera Patel, Columnist

It’s always fun to get dinner or meet up with people you care about. People look forward to spending time with their friends and family. Often, they plan around this time.

Sadly, however, last-minute cancellations are a common occurrence.

I’m not saying these cancellations are intentional. I have definitely had to cancel plans at the last minute on multiple occasions, though I felt terrible afterward.

But lately I’ve noticed people exhibiting a blatant disregard for established meetings. Friends will cancel on each other because they goofed off instead of studying when it was time to. Then they cancel at the last minute on another friend — one who moved a busy schedule around to fit this person that they care about. 

Don’t get me wrong: Academics are many people’s number one priority, as they should be. But if you’ve committed to go with someone to do something that you know is important to them, knowing that you will have to plan ahead and get assignments done ahead of time, then bailing on them at the last minute because you didn’t plan ahead is a little disconcerting.

If you’ve made a commitment to hang out with someone, try to honor that promise. It can be hard to keep your word when you have 10,000 things going on, but a little bit of planning can help make sure you get everything done and are able to spend time with people.

You may think that spending time with people isn’t that important. You think it shouldn’t be that big of a deal whether or not you make time to hang out with people. If they’re your friends, you say, they will understand that you have to get something else done.

But if you do this every single time you’re supposed to hang out, think about how it will make them feel. Of course it’s not a big deal if you didn’t go to Forever Yogurt with them that one day and suggested a time you could reschedule. It is a big deal if you said you couldn’t go at the last minute, then canceled again, and again.

Time is the one thing in this world we can’t get back once it’s gone. That’s why there’s such a rush to get homework done, get jobs, pay rent and do all those activities that come with deadlines. But it’s also the reason we get frustrated when someone cancels on us at the last minute after we’ve planned our time out so that we could spend it with them. After we’ve decided that they are important enough for us to schedule our precious time to meet them, they cancel, unintentionally making it feel like we aren’t important enough to warrant their time.

On one hand, it’s completely understandable for people to cancel if something comes up at the last minute. On the other hand, if it happens repeatedly, you start to lose trust in that person. Once you lose trust, respect goes next and then the desire to see them at all tends to evaporate.

Spending time with someone doesn’t have to be something elaborate. It can be as small as dropping by their apartment just to say hi, or sending them a text asking them how they’re doing. A text or an email takes time to compose, and still shows people that you care. Ideally, of course, we would want to spend time in person with someone, but the little acts do make a difference.

It’s always nice to notice that your friend made it a point to spend time with you, whether he or she has a meeting an hour after seeing you or if he or she purposely studies for a test ahead of time in order to hang out. It makes you feel like you are important to that person, just as important as academics. We all know that at Northwestern, saying someone is as important as grades is a huge compliment.

With a little bit of planning, maybe the use of a Google calendar and a bit of positivity, it is possible to do well in school, keep your obligations to the extracurricular activities you are in, have a job and still make time to hang out with people who are important to you. Just be sure to honor your obligations most of the time.

Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].