Somewhere along the way I got confused about when to say yes and when to say no. When to affirm and when to negate. When to accept and when to refuse. When to allow and when to deny. Maybe it was because I didn’t know what I wanted. Maybe it was because I didn’t really feel like it was okay to want what I wanted. Maybe it was because I thought I should want something different than what I really wanted. Maybe it was because I thought I couldn’t get what I really wanted, so I decided to go with something else that didn’t matter as much.
Sometimes, it’s easy to make a life-changing decision.
In my early twenties, I sold everything I owned and moved to Boise, Idaho with a typewriter, two laundry baskets full of clothes, a box of toiletries, a pile of CDs, my favorite books, a journal and a sleeping bag. The world was the open road welcoming me and inviting me to be a shiny, brave part of it. I drove across the country in a used Geo Prism named Luna Blue.
The decision to move was not a difficult one. I left it to fate. At the time I worked for Borders Books & Music. They were hiring for two new stores–one was opening in Boise, the other in Austin, Texas. I interviewed for both positions. I decided whoever offered me the job first would be the one I would say yes to. During the second interview, when the general manager for the Boise store found out I had talked to the Austin manager the day before, he offered me the job on the spot. That was that.
Sometimes, saying no becomes a habit.
My last serious relationship ended awhile ago. He turned out to be nothing like the guy I knew him to be and I spent the last few months of our relationship on the verge of brokenness until one Fourth of July when I knew it was done. I made a decision that night under the full moon that I would not be in this position again. And I haven’t for any other reason than I always say no before things get too serious, before things get too close, before things get too real. I have said no to love.
No one was good enough, interesting enough, smart enough, funny enough, ambitious enough for me. And when nothing is ever enough, it means I’m not enough either. I could never be pretty enough, sexy enough, smart enough, thin enough, lovable enough. So I said no to every idea of me ever being a part of an us.
Sometimes, saying no is easily the worst decision.
The decision to say no not only let me believe I wasn’t worth anyone’s effort, it made me think no guy was worth the effort. So every not-worth-the-effort guy showed up. They proved me right, or so it seemed. I didn’t have to give them a chance. They let me off the hook. I got to blame them for all the bullshit I didn’t want to face in myself because I didn’t think I was capable of making a good decision. I made no my only option.
At the same time, I started doing improv comedy. On the first night of class, I sat in a room and learned the first rule of improv: To always say yes. Yes to my partner, yes to the scene, yes to the moment. So I said yes on stage, but no in my life. I said yes to my scene partner and no to the guys who wanted to date me. I said yes to working late and no to the group of people going out afterwards. I said yes to moving to Chicago and no to having any fun while I lived there. I said yes to working late hours and no to everything else. I said yes to work and no to me.
We live in a society that doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Get the iPad, you deserve it. Work harder, or we’ll replace you with someone else who will. Eat the cupcake, you earned it. Buy pajama jeans, you’ll feel more comfortable. In any given moment, someone may try to get you to do something you don’t want to do by convincing you of something you do want to do instead.
Luckily we have a built-in mechanism for determining what we should or shouldn’t do. Call it intuition, guts, instinct, or knowing. If you go inside for the answers rather than relying on the outside perspective or opinions of others, you’ll always find your way. And I’m positive it will never tell you to buy pajama jeans.