July 18, 2019

The Pleasures of Commitment

Los Angeles. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, I’ve noticed something: People here are flakes. 

Often I make plans to get together with people but they flake out. I invite them for coffee or to come to my house for Shabbat but they will cancel, reschedule or just not show up. It’s especially bad on Shabbat; I wonder if the person is OK but I have no way to reach them because I’m not using my phone.

The flakiness extends beyond social gatherings. My husband Daniel and I have tried to hire many gardeners to cut our lawn and repairmen to help around the house but they just don’t show. I’ve had job interviews rescheduled and appointments moved without reason. I’ve been ghosted countless times. 

People blame traffic, the rain, their exhaustion or their “incredibly busy” schedules for flaking out. Sometimes they don’t even offer an excuse. 

I’m not alone in being the victim of people’s flakiness. Many people I know have moved from the East Coast, like I did, and comment on how flaky people here are. Once, an acting agent gave Daniel some clarity on the situation. She said, “Nobody is anybody in this town unless they’ve canceled on you at least twice.”

Maybe that flies in show business but in the real world, I can’t accept flakiness.

People of my generation are especially guilty of being flakes. It’s true that most of us are busy because we’re working to pay the bills. We don’t have the time and money to socialize and spend our paychecks on entertainment. 

 “I’m not alone in being the victim of people’s flakiness. Many people I know have moved from the East Coast, like I did, and comment on how flaky people here are.”

However, if you’re going to make plans with someone, it’s hurtful and rude to cancel, even if you don’t have much money. Go to Coffee Bean and get a small drink, which is $2. Or offer to cook dinner or watch a movie on Netflix. There’s no excuse not to show up.

And what about the benefits we get from socializing, like validation, relaxation and connection with another human being? Do we think we can survive without it?

I used to be flaky when it came to shul attendance. Sometimes I would go, sometimes I’d sleep in and miss it. I never felt good about not going, but I thought it was a habit I could never break. 

I decided at a certain point last year not to give myself that leniency anymore. I was going to go to shul on Friday night and Saturday morning, every week. Although I still have to work on being on time for davening, I am always there. 

I used to be a flake when it came to my weight as well. I was pre-diabetic, getting heavier and feeling awful physically and emotionally. I would flake out on diets and exercise and revert to my old ways. One day last October, my husband and I decided to commit to something. We switched to a mostly vegan, plant-based diet and have lost a combined 70 pounds since then (thanks to the help of fellow Journal writer Mark Schiff).

Even though other people in Southern California are flaky, I don’t have to be, and you don’t, either. Good things happen when you don’t flake. When you commit to something, whether it’s a dinner date or a diet, you have to give it 100 percent, even if you don’t feel like it. The payoff is incredible. 

When I go to shul, I get to connect with HaShem and my community. When I eat healthfully and exercise, I look and feel better. When I spend time with friends, I feel great. All these things help me achieve inner peace and feel centered in this crazy town. And achieving that feeling? That’s something worth not flaking out on.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a Journal contributing writer.