Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yes And No

Back when I was in college (the third time around. Having to specify that tells me I've been way too many times), I received a prompt from one of my writing professors that I've been thinking about for the past year and a half. I can't recall specifically how it was worded, but it went something like this:
It's been said that "Yes" and "No" uttered a handful of times before you turn 25 will change the course of your life.
We were asked to write about what we thought those instances might've been in our own lives so far.

I immediately started panicking, because the prompt was given to us just weeks before my 25th birthday, and it was horrifying to think my life had already been irreversibly determined by a handful of words. Heaven knows I wasn't mature enough to be making serious decisions before turning 25. (You don't have to see many of my videos to recognize that.) And, so far, I still don't feel mature enough to be making serious decisions on the other side of 25. But if I could rewrite that prompt, I'd say the important "yes" or "no" decisions continue popping up throughout your entire twenties (from what I've seen/heard), and possibly much longer after that (but I have no frame of reference past 26 so far). Maybe they never end.

Back when I received the prompt, I immediately thought about when I said "yes" to moving to Philly back at the end of 2008. I only stayed for two years, but it changed me in ways I'm still recognizing. For most of the time I was there, I almost exclusively said "yes." At first I was saying "yes" because I felt I had to. I thought I was trapped. It wasn't until I started saying "yes" for myself that things started working out.

I said "no" to my first go-around at university (which I consider a hasty but necessary decision). Later, I said "yes" to another university (which I consider a mistake). And then I eventually went back and said "yes" to that first university I left (which I consider a great decision).

In other instances, I've said "yes" but have received a "no" in return. There was a relationship I didn't want to end, but now I'm thankful and glad the other person gave me a "no."

There have been opportunities I've walked away from, which I guess is a sort of "no." In my mind, some of them would've potentially gotten me places and made me some money, but would've also required me doing many things I'm not comfortable with. I'm still waiting to see how those play out.

Today, I had to make another "yes" or "no" decision I'd consider to be a big one. Or at least "big" in terms of my life. All of these decisions are very, very tiny in the grand scheme of the universe and history and all that mess. Today's decision had to do with staying or going, career direction, and general life path crap. Very Pocahontas-type stuff in a just-around-the-riverbend sort of way. (But that may just be me over-romanticizing the situation because Pocahontas is my favorite Disney movie and I regularly like to make poor comparisons between that cartoon and my life. If only I had a sassy talking tree to help me with these things...) I've spent hours on the phone with my family and my BFF the past couple weeks, pouring over possibilities and outcomes, all leading up to making this decision. With neither party, of course, telling me what to do, but helping just by lending their ears. My BFF tried to reassure me that my answer didn't necessarily have to be permanent, and that I still have time, but I think I know in my mind that it's pretty definite.

And I said "no."

In the next few weeks, months, years, I'll be experiencing the domino effect of this decision. But my mom recently told me there's no use in looking for that domino effect. And that wondering what might have been rarely helps propel you towards future decisions, and definitely doesn't help your present state of mind. (Perhaps I do have my own version of Grandmother Willow after all.)

While searching online for the exact wording of that initial writing prompt (which I never could find), I came across a Mahatma Gandhi quote. (At least I hope it's a real quote. I couldn't find the exact source. But it's a nice one nonetheless.)
“A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
I just wish my "no" had a little more conviction.

-joe