I have always had this problem where I say “yes” to everything and anything that sounds like a great opportunity, or that sounds like it’d just be really fun (or sometimes, to something that I would feel guilty saying “no” to). The result is months of stress buildup that culminates in a full blown panic attack and two days curled up in a ball of pajamas in bed, sobbing nonstop to myself. The only consolation is that I do occasionally rise to eat sustenance in the form of ice cream, so don’t worry, I’m healthy.
In all seriousness though, I’m starting to get really pissed off with the word “yes.” It sounds so happy and fluffy and full of excitement and adventure. It’s a word that everyone seems to associate with positivity and success.
There are approximately 101 pages that come up with the search term “yes” in the books department of Amazon. Everyone is reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please because it’s SO GOOD. Everyone is digging into Shonda’s Year of Yes because it is life changing. Everyone is devouring Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive because it is definitely the answer to any and all business failures.
It’s as if all of the world’s problems could be gone in a POOF as long as people just started saying an affirmative word out loud to themselves. Tired of being in the 99%? Say yes! Want to finally get that work promotion? Say yes! Living the single life and sick of it? Say yes! Come on guys, didn’t you know that life is what you make it???
Well, I call bullshit.
For all the times I’ve said “yes,” I’d be willing to bet that at least half of those decisions turned out to be a colossal waste of time and a huge disappointment that ended with me hating myself for wasting a day doing something I very clearly was NOT into. Now, saying yes to a handful of select things is smart, and narrowing those “yesses” down to just the ones you actually care about makes sense because it’s what you actually want to do.
But still, I find myself saying yes to it all, regardless of if it’s the right decision for me. Why, though?
I think that for so many people in my generation, there are endless options and opportunities, both career-wise and socially. Dating has been relegated to swiping left or right in response to a platter of options set before us, and we’ve had it drilled into us that people change careers on an average of 5 times in their lives (or is it 7? 10?). So, we MUST take advantage of every chance we get to try something new – you never know what you might stumble across. You could meet your future spouse! Or maybe you’ll discover you want to start your own popcorn shop! So many dreams in the making if you’d only say yes!
But that’s the thing – saying yes to every damn thing doesn’t magically guide you towards your dream job. Instead, it confuses the hell out of you and crowds your vision. In the midst of parties and happy hours, meetings and interviews, traveling and collecting hobbies, what we really want to do in life gets lost in the shuffle. Do I actually like spending an entire day tailgating? Or am I doing it because some friend invited me and I feel like I need to make an appearance? Do I really want to sit through an eight-hour workshop that I just paid $100 for just to improve my creativity skills? Or would I rather actually spend that time being creative and being me?
So much of my life has been dedicated to being fun, or being the friend who is always up for something. I’ve also spent years pursuing things I was told would be helpful for my future, even when I hated every second of it. I went to school for advertising, but by the time I graduated, I had no clue where to start or what to do. What seemed like a “broad degree that is applicable to any field” suddenly felt like the biggest waste of time that left me more confused about who I was and desperate to find ANY job anywhere doing anything just to pay my looming student loan debt. I would constantly ask myself rhetorical questions that left me with circling logic and excuses for all my past yeses: What do I want to do with my life? Why didn’t I go to school for something I loved, like literature or creative writing?
My twenties have been such a weird collection of years. They have been at times exhilarating, at times heartbreaking. I’ve been beyond lucky to meet the man I am going to spend forever with, and at the same time, I’ve felt a hurt so deep in losing friendships I thought would last a lifetime. In the process though, I’ve learned an enormous amount about myself and what I want in life. I’ve learned that people and things change, and to be true to yourself is the only way to get through it all. To get there though, I’ve had to say yes to a lot that I didn’t want to do and learn from repeating that same mistake over and over again. Sometimes the path to figuring it all out is a lot more convoluted than it should be.
I finally know what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m on my way to doing it. For the first time in awhile, I’ve said yes to something I truly am passionate about, and it’s so refreshing. It also isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. I’m on this crazy journey of working 40+ hours a week in an industry that is at times so stressful that I just want to cry. Then I go to class where we talk about all sorts of awesome and inspiring social justice issues that make me want to help to change the world tomorrow, and also make me want to cry. And in between it all, I try to make time for the people in my life who matter the most to me: my family and my closest friends. And frankly, that’s all the time I’ve got.
I don’t have a spare day to catch up on the lives of people who made it very clear that my lack of attendance at weekly happy hours meant that our friendship was not worthy. I can’t spend an entire Saturday brewery hopping around the city just because. I’m pursuing my dream and I’m working my ass off for it, and I’m tired of apologizing to people for doing so. I am tired of always saying “yes,” and that’s ok. I’ve finally realized that when you say yes to only the things you love, something shifts. “No” becomes empowering and you realize that the only way to pursue your own happiness is to let go of being in charge of the happiness of others, and to get rid of the need to fulfill the world’s expectations.
I can’t do it all. I’m only one person and I only have this one life; I’m going to live it for me. So if that means saying “no” to something so I can be with the people I love, or to run the errands I have been putting off for a week, or even just to lay in my hammock for one rare and glorious day and not care about pleasing anyone but myself, I’m going to do it.
For me, this is the year of “no.” And I’m loving the ish out of it.