On commitment


I don’t have any tattoos due to my severe aversion to pain, but a few months ago it struck me that I must get one. It wasn’t so much that I was compelled to get tatted up; my reasoning went far deeper than mere flesh decoration. It dawned on me that anything worth doing takes commitment, and that is what I want to be reminded of everyday.

My Google searches for the Chinese symbol for “commitment” gave me some inspiration, since, after all, I’ve completed a semester of Mandarin Chinese and am just slightly confident that “Ni Hao” will get me just about anywhere in China. But when I decided I wanted that tiny symbol inked on me forever, I couldn’t make up my mind where to put it. Ideally, I’d want it on my hand next to the curve of my thumb or under my wrist, but then everyone would see it no matter how discreet I made it. I began to imagine myself living out the rest of my life explaining what this tattoo meant, eventually growing to loathe it because that kind of small talk bores me and then saving the money for the six sessions of laser tattoo removal I would need to make all this small talk about a very personal decision end. Not to mention the irony in having a tattoo that represents “commitment” eternally removed.

I started thinking about what commitment means to me and how it’s linked to my priorities. If I come close to having a panic attack over a permanent tattoo that has not even been etched, then am I able to commit to anything? I’d like to think my priorities are Fitness! Success! Being well-read! Good hair! But if you had a hidden camera in my home, you’d probably assume my real commitment is to drinking wine and eating Saltines and Nutella over the kitchen sink while watching a rerun of “Entourage.”

My dad raised me to believe this: anything worth doing is worth doing well. But the key word in there is the DOING part of it. Commitment isn’t just a state of mind. It’s a showing up kind of verb.

One time, I was havin’ some good old-fashioned pillow talk, and the man next to me was telling me about something he’d heard once at a conference he’d been forced to attend. Basically it was that James Brown had all the answers to getting things done:

1. Get up. (You know, get moving and show up.)
2. Do it. (Get things done. You have a task, so do it.)
3. Uggghhhhh! (This is the part when you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.)

The simplicity of this makes me realize I probably shouldn’t overthink the tattoo.