3 Reasons I Fail to Say “Yes” to Opportunities

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:

  1. Perception

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.

  1. Priorities

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.

  1. Panic

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.

Reflecting on My 20’s and My Silly Timeline

In four days, I turn thirty years old. It’s one of those significant milestones that make you reflect on your progress in life. So I went back to those goals I set for myself at twenty to see how the decade “measured up,” so to say:

  • Fall in love
  • Marry
  • Have kids
  • Adopt a child
  • Adopt a dog
  • Have a career
  • Own a house
  • Publish a novel
  • Visit Italy

I remember that I made a little timeline too. I had determined the proper timing between falling in love and getting married. I calculated when to start having children and when to adopt. I had it all figured out. How foolish I was.

Well, I have four days to check off the eight goals that I have not yet achieved. Yep. If you did not go back and counted the bulleted items, that means I have completed one of those goals. Here is my accomplishment:


Some might say I failed. I wasn’t successful. But I’m not upset at all. I cannot believe how different I am from twenty-year-old me. I am so much wiser now, because now I know how little I know, how little I can control, and how little good it does to worry over the little things. I often find myself saying, “I know nothing.” (Then, I follow that with a cheesy grin as I add in a whisper, “John Snow.” Every time. It’s amazing I even have friends.) I used to have answers to life questions that I’ve since learned have no answer. In my twenties, I knew life wasn’t black or white, I understood the gray area. But now at the cusp of thirty, I’ve learned there is a wide spectrum of color when trying to understand life, truth, and people. Life is brighter, more interesting, and more confusing for it. I love it.

But I’d like to reflect on the goals of twenty-year-old me:

1. Fall in love

It’s true; I have never been in love. I’ve made excuses for it, but, to be honest, dating terrifies me. You may have seen many variations of the quote that says, “Sure, I talk about wanting a boyfriend, but what do you do with them? Do you feed them? How often? Will it need mucking out?” I don’t know the original author, but this quote resonates with me. I have repeated it to people, and they laugh. I say, “No, really. I’m not kidding. I have no idea what I’m doing. Like, how do you even get a boyfriend?” And they laugh again, a little less enthusiastically. I think I’m just trying to prolong a joke for more reaction, but I’m seriously lost here.

My last boyfriend was in 2003 (when I was a high school sophomore) and I never kissed him. We were both so shy. While I have been kissed, I don’t know how to find a decent man, not talk myself out of him, and let myself relax and enjoy his company. Not even in a conversation. I think it is largely my questionable self-esteem and tendency to over-think. But also, I have tried this questionable practice of online dating, which I loathe, and I’ve attracted completely unsuitable matches. My mother said I was too picky. But to explain how I was not would take too long for this post. Those disastrous dates were more a problem with my online profile. I didn’t know myself, and I didn’t know who I was looking for. Also, I’m a bit of a romantic and I could not shake the desire to fall in love in some cinematic meet cute. I’m super awkward, which seems to be a necessary part of a meet cute, so why couldn’t I fall in love that way? (I know, I know, because I live in reality and not in a 90s chick flick. What a shame.)

Anyways, I guess I figured that I should have this task done by the time I was 30. And it’s a little sad that I’ve lived this long and not allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to fall in love. I’m working on that. More later.

2. Marry

Uh, you really should fall in love before you get married. No matter what some well-meaning relatives say. (I am from a culture that believes a woman’s primary purpose is to marry and produce children. It’s not a foreign idea, but these people are VERY serious about making marriage and babies happen for me.)

3. Have kids 

I am so glad I have not had any children yet. I would still love to be a mom. However, in my early twenties, I was unsure of who I was. For the last six years, I taught high school English. I let that career consume me and did not balance it with my life at all. I would have either been a terrible mother or a terrible teacher. I only recently realized that I don’t know how to balance my life and priorities, and I’m working on that.

4. Adopt a child

This is still a fierce dream of mine. There are many children in foster homes that need a forever home, and I am still a woman who longs for a forever family. While I am not great at expressing my love and appreciation for those around me, I loved my students dearly. I worried over them and prayed for them. I felt such joy when they found success and/or happiness. I have wept when they suffered. (They would be shocked, considering how hard it was to even get me to give out hugs.) I turned my students into surrogate children, but they weren’t really mine. Every year, I struggled to say goodbye, usually avoiding it entirely. I know that my heart yearns to love and treasure a child forever. I hope one day I get to have the privilege of adopting a child into my family.

5. Adopt a dog (CHECK!)

Uh, I did this one. I even think my plan was to adopt a pug, and it you look closely at that picture earlier. The fawn one on the right is part pug. In fact, pug is the only breed that her vets have ever been certain of. Either way, she is my darling Sybil. The black curly-haired one is my devilish Addie. Sybil was adopted in 2013, when she was just a soft, fluffy puppy. Addie was adopted early this year as a two-year-old who had been neglected most of her life. Each is unique. Each gives me joy.

Because I suddenly started grad school part-time and am living at my grandma’s house in Ohio, they are not living with me. Addie is with my aunt. Sybil is with my parents. When I had moved home (with my parents) a couple of months ago, I could not bring both dogs due to their own kennel of canines. (Two of their dogs are seniors, one having been rescued from a severely abusive home. So they don’t always do well with new dogs.) Addie was welcomed by my aunt on her farm. She is probably so deliriously happy getting to chase geese and cats and romp about the farm with two bigger dogs. I’m worried she might not want to come home with me. Hopefully I will soon get a full-time job so I can afford my own place. I’ve even found two pet-friendly homes that would work for us. Fingers crossed that I find a job soon. I miss them.

6. Have a career

Well, I did have one, but, just recently, I decided to start over. I’m so glad I did. I loved teaching, but an epiphany made recognize and agree with long-ago words of wisdom from my parents: I did not know what else was out there. I can’t wait to see where life takes me.

7. Own a house

It’s hard to do that without money. But I am very blessed that I have always had a place to call home. That is so much more important.

8. Publish a novel

This. This is the only item that makes me disappointed in myself. I loved writing. I still love it now. I am disappointed that I put it on the back-burner and then turned off that burner. I let other priorities take over my dream of being a writer. I let insecurity tell me that it was no use anyway, that no one would publish what I had to say. And did I have anything to say, anyways? Pish posh. I’m going to write now. I am going to write here and I’m going to work on those story ideas I’ve had. It makes me happy. Why wouldn’t I do what makes me happy? And if no one reads what I write, oh well. At least I wrote it. After all, no one will ever read what I don’t even write.

9. Visit Italy

I’d still like to do this, but, even more so, I want to visit Scotland and Ireland. These are places that are in my blood. Also, I’ve read the first four books of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and I’m completely smitten with Scotland (and, yes, with Jamie Fraser). Today I just finished Finding Fraser, a novel by kc dyer, in which her character is a modern day woman who is so smitten with Jamie Fraser that she leaves America for Scotland and travels about the country seeking her own Jamie. What a delightfully fun read! Not to mention that her main character keeps a blog which drove me to kick myself for neglecting to post for so long, and I went to the library and wrote Thursday’s post. My posts are much wordier than Dyer’s main character. I apologize. Somewhat. Not really.

Ireland is a place my sister wants to visit and I had spoke of it longingly before. I think it’s the one country that we both want to visit. (She tends to favor the exotic locations like Australia and anywhere she can see lions. I favor the places with beautiful languages, rich literary histories, and delicious food.) But we both want to see Ireland. I think she is more interested in the pubs where I am intrigued by castles and landscapes, but no matter. We collaborated (which is a rarity for us) to start an Ireland fund. Each birthday and Christmas we gift the other person with $50 for our fund. We are up to a whopping $250. We started a year ago, and it should be only $200 but I somehow got confused and put in an extra $50. But it can’t hurt.

Really, I want to see more of the world. And I believe that one day I will.


So as I consider what I want for this decade, I’ve decided to leave out some of the previous goals. I’m not going to make certain things happen in my life. I’m not going to worry so much about the end results. As I’ve said in a previous post, when I try to control my destination, I limit myself. Besides, how creepy would it be if I entered each first date telling them my goal was to fall in love and marry. Uh, can’t the guy breathe a little? Can’t we just enjoy our food, each other’s company?

So I’m taking to heart my mother’s recent strange advice: “Take a lover.” (To be fair, she said this knowing that I’m too closed off, I’m too reserved. I’m too uptight. I take myself and life too seriously. This is not the advice she would give to my sister.)

My goals for the next decade:

  1. Say yes to life. (Thank you, Shonda Rhimes, for your inspirational words in Year of Yes. I recommend this book to anyone who is not loving life to its fullest. Are you happy? Do you have joy?)
  2. Give out love. (I don’t have to love the thing or person forever, but I’m going to give love to the world. Instead of waiting for love, I’m going to be love and I’m going to share love. Maybe I can start with learning how to initiate hugs without all the awkwardness? Maybe.)
  3. Follow what feels right. Follow what makes you happy. (Sometimes I follow what I think society expects or what I think should be the right, or rational, path. Usually that means that I’ve just taken the safest course in life.)
  4. Open your eyes. (I want to travel and I want to see the world. I think I will do that in this next decade, but I also just want to experience life firsthand. Have you seen how many people go to a concert and spend the whole time watching it through their smartphone as they record it. Experience the moment. Also, side note, I don’t know why so many people record fireworks. Put down your phone, breathe in the crisp night air and just enjoy the show. Who wants to watch videos of fireworks? Are you even going to watch it? Why?)
  5. Write. (I don’t have to publish a novel, but I do have to write. I love writing. I may not be faithful posting here, but I’m going to write more. Then, if that writing results in something worth publishing in book form, I will try to do that. But instead of being concerned with the end result, my goal is going to be regularly engaging in the process of writing.

We’ll see how I do, but I think these are more admirable goals because these encourage a more full life. I would be better off as a lover, wife, mother, and writer if I do these things. I might even make some of my goals for my 20’s happen in my 30’s.