I used to say no to opportunities. It wasn’t that I never said yes. I said yes all the time. I said yes to work, to commitments, to serving. I said yes out of guilt. I said yes out of obligation. I said yes to being the assistant cheerleading coach.
Now, you don’t know me. But let’s just clarify one thing: I was the band geek in high school. I lack coordination and my entire background knowledge of cheerleading came from Bring It On. I had no business being the assistant cheerleading coach. I said no a half dozen times or no, but eventually I reluctantly agreed. After all, “it’s for the kids.” This is the core reason I left teaching. I need to learn to say no. I need to learn to not feel guilty when saying no. Sometimes, saying no is the better option for those kids. Often, saying no is better for me.
Committing yourself to something out of guilt or obligation is not healthy. It does not bring out your best work, and it also drains you. This is a hard lesson for me to learn. I sometimes equate saying yes to being likable; instead, I become a doormat.
So I said yes way too often. But more than that, I said no to beautiful wonderful opportunities. In my pursuit of saying no when I need to say no, I am also learning to say yes. However, it’s important to understand what barriers keep me from embracing life and enjoying new adventures. Therefore, brought to you today are the three problematic “P”s that prohibit me from saying yes:
I worry excessively. I worry about how others perceive me. I want to be liked. I want to be seen as a good person. I want to portray qualities that will make me more acceptable to society. So I don’t say yes to an opportunity that might make me look irresponsible or selfish.
My priorities for the past eight years or so have been terrible. I have missed multiple family vacations because I put work first. Sometimes that work was a part-time job at a day care where I was discouraged to take time off. Now, work is important. It provides income so you can live, but it should never ever keep you from living. That’s what it was doing for me. I nearly missed my brother’s college graduation until I was told my school wasn’t renewing my contract. That moment I realized I had prioritized work when work didn’t value me at all. I immediately requested a Friday off so I could fly home to my brother’s graduation, bringing my total of two missed days for that entire school year. (The other was for an out-of-town wedding.)
Family is important, but so is self-care. Notice that I didn’t miss work for my health. I went to work sick. In my six years as a teacher, I probably took maybe 3 days off of work for my health. Once, I was sent home early because I was vomiting. Note: I was very cautious when I worked while sick. I kept my distance from people and used lots of precautions. I would never jeopardize someone else’s health. But I also could not justify writing sub plans when it was best for students to have their teacher there.
I was crazy. Seriously. I put work before everything. How stupid! When I received that notice that my contract wasn’t being renewed, I was devastated because I made work my entire life. I didn’t say yes to anything else. What a limited life I would have led if I had never gotten that pink slip.
I am a scaredy-cat. I run from that which scares me. I don’t say yes to opportunities because I get anxious and bolt. This pretty much sums up why I don’t say yes to love and romance. Putting myself out there creates so much dread that I immediately locate an escape route when introduced to a single male of my general age. Then, at the first opportunity, I take it. This weekend, I escaped two men, each in less than five minutes. Were they terrible, awful, creepy dudes? Who knows? I never even gave it a chance. Don’t tell my mom. Mom, if you are reading this, forget everything I just said. (People, I totally promised her that I would start dating.)
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to say yes more. I’ve been evaluating my priorities and I’ve been putting friends, family, and myself above work. It helps that I’ve been unemployed for a couple of months. For the past month, I’ve worked part-time at an event venue, preparing food and waiting on guests. It’s easier to not let it consume me. Also, I’ve been trying to embrace the fact that I’m fucking awesome, so that I don’t keep worrying about if I was too annoying or if I was likable. I’m learning not to care so much about that which I cannot control. I am never going to control the fact that I tell people long-winded stories about my life, that I skip small talk, and that I am entirely honest about myself. I’m still struggling though. I do want to be liked, and I spend too much time replaying conversations in my head, analyzing what went wrong, even if it seemed to go well.
But for the life of me, I am still a coward. I still have the instinct to bolt when faced with a scary opportunity. Nothing terrifies me more than dating. People, when trying to think about what scary activities I could say yes to, I came up with skydiving and snorkeling. I am more willing to tackle my fear of falling and my irrational phobia of swimming with fish than I am to tackle the world of dating. This is probably pathetic. I’m aware. But, see number one on my list: I’m not as worried about perception as I once was…. But I am a little worried about the rejection that comes with how a man perceives me. Okay, “a little worried” is an understatement, for sure.
Anyways, I’ll work on that later. Right now, I’m saying yes to more. Saturday, I said yes to attending an after-party bon fire (sans bon fire due to rain). Sunday, I said yes to going to the Apple Butter Festival in Grand Rapids, Ohio, alone. Okay, it turned out my grandma, great aunt, and aunt were going, so I met up with the three of them after a couple of hours of meandering alone. Today, Monday, I am saying yes to a day-trip to Put-in-Bay. I’ve missed previous opportunities to go, but this time, I asked not to be put on the work schedule so I could go. This might seem small to many of you, but I’m also the kind of person who once would only have only done one of these three activities, because it would be too much, and it would not responsible to be off having fun three days in a row. I’m an idiot. But a little wisdom will help fix that.
I’m going to work on saying yes to more of life in the future. I’m working my way up. I’ll keep you updated on my next interaction with the male species. I’ll try not to bolt.