Friday, March 03, 2006

Saying no

There was an interesting discussion over at Phantom's a little while back about the difficulty of saying no -- to social requests, work engagements, volunteer stuff, you name it. (Am too lazy at the moment to look up the link, but will try to do it later.) This is something I struggle with, especially when it comes to work. (There's a bigger discussion here about why women, in particular, say yes too much, but that's another thing I'm too tired to think about.)

I've noticed, though, that lately I've gotten a bit better about it. In part that's because I have the easy "excuse" of pregnancy for declining stuff -- and, boy, people don't argue when you say, I'd love to but I'm too tired these days because of the baby. (I'm going to use this while I can.)

Case in point: A few months ago, I agreed to be a guest speaker at a journalism class two-plus hours away. The professor is someone with whom I have a professional acquiantance; he freelanced for me a little bit at my previous job, but we're certainly not close by any means. I really enjoy talking to students, and talking about my job, so it seemed like a good thing to do.

What the hell was I thinking? Two hours away -- which means that by the time I account for the driving and the class itself and the chitchatting afterward, I am practically spending a whole (uncompensated) day to do this favor for someone I don't particularly like. Previously, this sort of thing was part of my job description. Now, it really isn't. I'm not the public face of the publication, and nobody expects me to go out of my way like this.

Despite all that, I have been resigned to doing what I said I would. But the other day I mentioned it to a colleague, who scoffed at the fact that this guy expects me to come all the way from Here to There just to be a guest speaker for 45 minutes. "And you probably won't even get a notepad with the college logo on it in thanks," he said.

And while these sorts of things are never about the perks -- because usually the reward comes from the discussion, and the engagement of the students, rather than from whatever tchotchke you get in thanks -- something clicked in my head when he said that. So this morning I wrote a polite note reneging on my offer to come up (the class is four weeks from today). I hope none of you profs in the crowd are horrified by this, but it felt really good.

Of course, the e-mail just bounced back, so I have to send it again to a different addess, causing me to reprocess all the angst I went through writing it in the first place. I've made my mind up now, though, and I'm not going to change it. Hold me to it, willya?