Last term my roommate and I seriously enabled each other. If you’re not familiar with the word, let me explain.
“Should I take a nap?” “Absolutely.”
“Should I get a Starbucks drink?” “Treat yoself!”
“Ugh, should I walk all the way to Foco?” “LET’S. ORDER. PIZZA.”
Why am I proud of that? Am I proud of groggily waking up 3 hours later? Proud of becoming a basic Starbucks girl? Proud of taking Advanced Transit from McLaughlin to Collis more often than not? (Trick question, the answer to that last one is heck YES I am.) Our friends would sometimes ask us “Uhh guys? Are you sure this rooming situation is good for your health?... And GPAs…” Well, I’ve been (over)thinking about it, and I figure we can all use a little bit of enabling in our lives.
One thing I’ve learned is that you actually can’t enable someone. (The enabling comes from within, young grasshopper…) If someone asks, “Should I skip class? I was up really late last night.” and I respond “Yeah, go for it if you think it’s better to rest,” sometimes their conclusion is still, “Nahh I’ll go, I’ll go.” It’s not the yes or no that enables. If they were already going to go to class, they will. If they were already planning on skipping, they probably will. Really, it’s just extra validation they’re asking for.
In a world where we are constantly barraged by “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts,” and are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform well, be sociable, and try to pretend like we’re functioning adults, sometimes, this validation is what we really need. Sometimes, what we need to hear isn’t “Just keep trying,” but “It’s okay.” It’s okay not to be running at 110% all the time. It’s okay to have dropped the ball a little bit there. It’s okay to have had a difficult night and be unproductive the next day. It’s okay not to be perfect. And that’s where enabling comes in.
Enablers give us a moment of peace from that nagging voice cracking the whip at us. You can count on an enabler to say it’s okay if you eat that pint of ice cream, or it’s okay if you take a nap because Dartmouth life can be tiring and stressful. Besides, we’re all smart cookies. If I’m already aware of being inside the pressure-cooker, I don’t need even more pressure from my roommate. If I know my room is a disaster-zone reflective of my mental state, and I say “Ugh, my room makes me want to cry, but I have fifty other things to do too,” there is no better cure than my enabler-roommate yelling, “TURN THOSE CRIES INTO FRIES!” and immediately appearing with a bag of greasy goodness.
Being an enabler may make people more comfortable with you because they can count on you not to judge them or point out the obvious stressors that are already staring them in the face. In fact, my roommate even told me, “I always feel better about myself when I walk into your room and realize how much of a mess you are.” (I should mention that my roommate also happens to be one of my closest friends, and well, I should be able to take what I’m dishin’ out, right?) You know what? If I can relieve some of that pressure in your life, then I am totally happy to continue intentionally having my life be a train wreck just for you. (I know, how altruistic of me, definitely doing that on purpose…)
So next time someone says you’re an enabler, go ahead and tell them, “why yes, I am helping people stay true to their genuine selves by allowing them not to listen to the voice of ‘should’ pressure.” Go forth and share in the love and enablement! (Enabledness? Enability?) Just don’t get too carried away. After all, if there’s a point where my dirty laundry pile gains consciousness and does itself, I haven’t found it yet. But taking a nap while doing my laundry can’t hurt right?...