Sunday, March 4, 2012

N to the O

One of my friends recently posted this Dave Eggers quote in her journal:

"The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you because you worry about what your friends will say. No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message."

It's an interesting quote-- I hadn't seen it before, and I've never read any Eggers, so I don't have any context to put it in... so I'm just going to take it on it's own merits. And on it's own merits, I say "shove off". It glorifies yes and pours haterade on no, casting people who say no as lesser than those who say yes-- regardless what the experience is, really. Screw that. Saying no isn't easy for most people, it isn't the default, and it isn't what you say when you're worried about what friends will think.

No is hard. Yes is easy.

I'm not a person who says no a lot-- and that's something I've been working on to change, in myself. There are definitely things I've said yes to that I lived to regret. (Oh, hi there, being on yearbook staff! Oh hi, roommate's birthday party 1L year before finals! Oh hi countless things that I knew would be a waste of time or money even before I showed up!) There are also some things I've said no to that I regret-- but I regret the yesses more. The yesses create a waste of my time. They give me obligations, remove my freedom, and take my enjoyment away. And yet, it continues to be so much easier to say yes than to say no-- because if you say yes, you don't have to worry about disappointing anyone. Part of it is that, being a woman in America, I've been cultured to say yes from the time I was young-- good girls are nice and agreeable and will do what they're asked... and people expect it of them. You're more likely to be told no by a man than a woman, just because he hasn't received the same level of overwhelming expectation.

Learning to say no gives you power over your life-- you schedule, your career path, your relationships. Saying no takes you from a passive responder to a an active decider-- instead of going along with whatever comes up, you actually have to think for yourself and make decisions. Saying no asserts that your time is valuable-- and lets you get the most out of your experiences by actually engaging in the decision of what those experiences will be.

No is not to live small and embittered. No is to live for yourself, your own priorities, your own wants. No is to be true, and not a slave to expectations and the desires of others. No is... to be free.

(EDIT: I quit Yearbook and now feel about 1000X better. So, yay for taking my own advice. 1/25/2010)

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I wish there was a "like" button. I like this!!