During the pandemic, I often wished my agenda was as full of fun events, borrels, parties and social hangouts as it used to be before the corona-era started. However, I also knew that this overflowing agenda didn’t always use to make me happy, and even managed to bring me to actual tears.
In 2020, a friend of mine and I were having a break from our study session at the library. We sat on the benches at H3, with my agenda in front of me. I had such a fun week ahead: dinner with an old friend, going to a club, study sessions with friends, borrels from our association, a coffee date, lunches, the list went on and on. And while every single activity on there could be labelled as ‘fun’, and was something I truly enjoyed, the combination of them all together made me cry.
So why is it that while I enjoyed all of these activities, I didn’t look forward to the upcoming week at all? The answer might seem very obvious to you, but to me – at that time at least – it wasn’t. Eventually, I did realise it; I was doing way too much. A week has only so many hours, and with study and sleep somewhat prioritised, this just wasn’t going to work. This fresh-out-of-high-school girl wanted it all, but she couldn’t.
But then, how to proceed? Cancelling dinner with my friends? That didn’t seem very nice and wasn’t something I wanted to do at all. Maybe not planning so many things in one week then? Fair point, but mentioning you’re available on a Thursday 1,5 months later isn’t appreciated when trying to pick a date with a friend group. I disliked both of my options, but I also knew a weekly crying-on-Sunday-moment when I checked my agenda for the upcoming week wasn’t much of an option either.
It’s almost two years later now. And my agenda might be even busier than ever, but the big difference with two years ago is that I now know what my boundaries are. I know how many activities in a week I can handle and that this number is highly dependent on what kind of activities they are, and with who. I know I need one free evening every week for myself, and – even though not always appreciated – I also know my friends will understand it if I cancel something, as long as I explain it well. Nonetheless, I still come to that same friend every now and then (except I’m no longer in tears) to let her take a look at my agenda because it’s overflowing. And she helps me see what I can do to manage it better. Because even though I know better how many social activities I can handle, saying ‘no’ to fun things remains hard. It’s a process of trial-and-error, and unfortunately, I can’t give you a one size fits all solution. But, know that you’ll find out for yourself what fits you, and that time will tell. And, maybe the next time a friend cancels you last-minute because it’s all too much for them and they need an evening on the couch by themselves, think of me, crying at the library benches, and try not to get mad at them. Let’s try to make cancelling something fun to prioritise your own mental health socially acceptable.