As an Adult, What Have You Chosen to Stop Doing?

One of the perks about being an adult is that you have a lot of freedom to choose what you want to do on any given day or night (particularly non-working hours). Instead of your parents determining what you can eat, where you can go, who you can see, etc, you can just do it.

Something I’ve learned as as 37-year-old adult is that I also have the freedom not to do things. No one’s making you eat broccoli anymore. If you don’t like painting, you can pay someone to paint your home. There might be consequences, but if you don’t want to exercise, there’s no one dropping you off at basketball camp. And maybe when a friend asks you to take care of their dog for the weekend, you feel fine saying no, because you just really don’t want to do that?

I think there’s a fine line, though, because some of the things I don’t like doing may impact my relationships and friendships. Here are some examples of things I’ve started to choose not to do that may be going too far:

  • Wedding reception Jamey may be a thing of the past.

    Watching fireworks: I was recently invited to a fireworks-viewing party. The thing is, I really don’t enjoy loud noises, and the visual display just isn’t all the exciting to me. But should I do that type of thing anyone to reinforce friendships? Maybe?

  • Anything involving crowds: Some people thrive in the energy of being surrounded by other people. I, however, spend that time plotting my escape.
  • Wedding receptions: This one might weigh on me the most. I recently attended a wedding ceremony, but I chose not to attend the reception. It’s one of those things that I felt obligated to do when I was younger, but it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I don’t like small talk, I barely drink alcohol, I don’t enjoy dancing, and, as I mentioned, I don’t like crowds. This is a tough one, though. What do you think? Is this one of those things you just have to suck up and do?
  • Helping friends move: I pretty much have no qualms about not doing this. When I was younger, there was a currency involved with moving: I help you move, and when the time comes, you help me move. But I haven’t moved in 12 years, and when I do, I will be hiring people to pack everything up, put it in a truck, and transport it to the destination.
  • Public speaking: I get really nervous leading up to public speaking engagements (though panels aren’t too bad). However, I already spend a ton of time and effort speaking to the public through my blogs (7 a week, here and on and through my videos (4 a week). It’s not like I’m a hermit. I’d just rather not get up on stage.
  • Entertaining out-of-town guests: Have you ever had someone come into town of their own accord and expect to be entertained for a few days? It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re a social butterfly, but I have stuff to do. At the same time, I don’t want to take for granted that visitors want to see me, so I either invite them to things I’m already doing or I make time for an unrushed meal with them.
  • Competitive sports: I play soccer far less than I’d like to, but when I do, it must be pickup soccer. Unless something abnormal happens, I typically walk away from pickup sports feeling refreshed and invigorated. However, if there are any stakes–even a casual kickball league–there’s something about the competitive energy that I really don’t enjoy. I end up dwelling on little mistakes and moments instead of finding joy in my team’s highlights. So I’ve learned to say no to competitive opportunities.

What do you think? How do you draw the line between things you truly don’t enjoy doing and things you should do despite your lack of desire? What are some things you’ve essentially stopped doing because of your freedom to say no?

15 thoughts on “As an Adult, What Have You Chosen to Stop Doing?”

  1. I personally draw the line based on how important my presence to the specific event is. For example, if a good friend of mine is getting married and I know that being present would mean a lot of him/her, then I make the effort to attend and celebrate. However, I can’t imagine something fairly trivial like not attending a fireworks show or not going to a crowded event impacting a friendship especially if they know that’s something I don’t typically enjoy. Just my 2 cents.

    If I ever make it to St. Louis, I can pencil you in for an unrushed meal? 😉

    • That’s a good metric to use. The wedding was a tough one, because there were hundreds of people there, and since it was a full Catholic ceremony, I thought the most meaningful presence of an attendee like me would be at the ceremony. But I’m not sure.

      And yes, of course! 🙂

      • Hypothetically, there could also be value in attending a wedding reception to see friends from college who you haven’t seen in years! 😉

        For some of these — receptions, helping with moves, etc. — is there a “Jamey way” you could pursue that would help you meet obligations that were important to others (but not intrinsically appealing to you), like “I will stop by from 6-7pm to help you move” or “I will make a point to talk with XYZ people or for T amount of time, and then hang out by myself in the bathroom (or leave)”. Basically, ways that show support but minimize unnecessary personal downsides?

        • That’s true about seeing friends, though it just isn’t the environment I would choose to see those friends. I guess sometimes I just don’t have that choice and have to take what I can get. 🙂

          That’s a good point that I could set a specific goal or target that would be true to myself but also be considerate of my friends.

  2. For a while, friends and i would go camping, once a year for a weekend (2 nights). It wasn’t a thing i enjoy that much but there is a lot of nice provincial parks around here so it was possible to do activities and being with friend is always enjoyable. Until one year, everybody was moody and not wanting to do anything, except for me. The year after, i said no. No more camping for me. Never went back. Ok, ok, it did help that i had something else that weekend but i could have done both. Just decide to not do one. 🙂

    But for the past couple of years, we have rented some “deluxe” wood cabin. I found it’s a nice combinaison. Activities + confortable bed. 🙂

    Jamey: Not loving crowded space, do you enjoy “in-the-wood/away-from-the-city” activities?

    • I like that compromise, Vincent–you found a way to make it enjoyable.

      Hm, that’s a good question. I would say yes and no. I like the ambiance of being out in nature (even if–and possibly especially if–we’re in a nice cabin). But I don’t like the inconvenience of actually getting there, planning, and inaccessibility. Like, I could rent a cabin and host a gaming weekend about an hour away, and I’m sure it would be great. But I could do the same thing at home and have much easier access to anything we want at the spur of the moment, and I wouldn’t have to arrange care for my cats or spend hours in the car.

  3. I am so bad with crowds that I stopped going to San Diego ComicCon even though it meant I had to turn down freelance writing and editing gigs. I went a couple of years ago just to hang out with friends after but didn’t actually spend much time in the convention center. I still go to GenCon but I love board gaming so much I just deal with the crowds. A big one I stopped doing as an adult is work parties. I don’t like small talk or pretending we are friends just because we work together.

  4. With you on competitive sports!

    I think if you’re not into fireworks no biggie.

    If you want to skip wedding receptions, do it. To answer your “is this going too far” query, I think it’s situational. If you have a close friend and that person feels the reception is a big deal and they want you there, then I’d tend to suck it up and find a buddy to get through it. But you don’t need to go or stay just because you were invited – half the time people won’t notice or care because it’s a crazy day and they may even appreciate the savings of the cost of a meal if you rsvp ceremony only.

    Same situational considerations with helping friends move – is this a friend who can’t afford movers and really needs people or do they have a large support network and will be fine without you?

    This sounds so ridiculous but I stopped paying attention to birthdays on Facebook. It is awesome. I had been doing it out of habit and obligation and I quit cold turkey a year or so ago.

    • Thanks Emma! I think this is excellent advice (looking at certain situations instead of making blanket decisions about them). I’m glad the birthday thing has been freeing for you!

  5. I have a loosely defined set of questions I ask myself when considering turning down things.
    “Would my attendance or agreement be meaningful to my friend? Would my declining for (reason) be hurtful?”
    –I’m one of 100 guests at a co-worker’s wedding… nope. I’m the best man… yep.
    “Am I missing out on an unique experience? One that I would tell someone about later?”
    –Fireworks at a random park? Probably not. Fireworks from the top of the Empire State Bulding? Much more likely.
    “How many stressful (to me) and unnecessary things am I already taking on? Am I trying to do too much?”
    — If that list is long I should say “no” to something on there!

    These make sure I’m both saying “No” to take care of myself and trying to say “Yes” when doing the uncomfortable thing enriches my life.

  6. This one is sticky. I absolutely hate home improvement projects. Painting, staining, building decks, installing trim, etc. Trouble is, my wife loves them. Like as much as I like board game “loves them”. It’s hard for me to not get grumpy helping her, but I try. However, I don’t suggest new projects, EVER.

    Funny you mention fireworks, my favorite part of this year’s Fourth of July was watching my youngest kids experience fireworks. It was pure joy. Similar to when I was in college and got to see children experience Christmas. I was an only child and never saw it from the adult’s perspective.

  7. Jamey,

    I guess I look at this issue from a slightly different perspective. As I’ve gotten older, I find that incentives drive me more than not necessarily doing something. In the past, I might have spent a few hours outside to lay mulch, weed or work in the yard, or inside cleaning the house (vacuuming, dusting, etc.) and now I would rather work on or play games, correspond with designers, or read. There’s no incentive for me to do those other things as I’m at a point in my life where I would rather invest in myself by doing those things I enjoy and delegate the other items to professionals.

    I’m writing today, while waiting for a plumber to come over and give me a quote for some work. Could I watch a few videos and perform the repairs myself…probably, but why? I’m simply not incentivized to do something that I may do only one more time in my life. I’m much more incentivized to invest that time into activities which actually yield some level of personal or professional development.



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