I Need to Stop Saying Yes

In the fall of 2013, two somewhat significant things happened to me: I started my new (and first) real career job, and my significant other of five years broke up with me. On the same day. So that was fun.

To remedy my sudden sensation of being entirely uprooted in my life, I adopted the principle of mostly saying ‘yes’ to things presented to me as a way to restructure it. This worked beautifully for a few years. I was able to rebuild my social circles, as a lot of my previous ties were either severed or wore thin in the break-up. I ran a half marathon and a Tough Mudder. I started travelling; slowly at first and now what has snowballed into almost monthly excursions. I spent a year in a 3,000-miles-apart long distance relationship – a decision I made after we only knew each other for the equivalency of a few weeks. I’ve been maid of honor in two weddings. I moved into my first real place that I’m paying for with my own money.

But now, I’m exhausted and broke.

I’ve never been good at saying no, and even worse I tend to get addicted to cramming as many activities as possible onto my calendar. I love looking busy. I am all about the washi tape. I like opening my agenda and saying “I can pencil you in”. I don’t enjoy this because I’m an asshole and want to seem important and busy, I enjoy this because it gives me the slightest semblance of accomplishment. I feel like I’m getting stuff done rather than lethargically going through the motions of my day. I love checking off checklists.

But now, I’m exhausted and broke.

My body is not so enthusiastic to stretch myself thin as a counterfeit socialite. It’s not thrilled that I am drinking multiple week days in a row, getting five hours of sleep, working 8:30-5, trying to squeeze in a workout, and then doing it all over again. My body wants to sleep. It wants me to put myself in my bed at a reasonable hour and to not set my alarm an hour earlier than I’m actually going to get up in an attempt to trick myself into believing that I’m going to wake up and cram more productive stuff into that hour. Because I’m not. My body is pissed at me for continuously making poor decisions. I know this, because for the first time in my entire life I’ve started developing blood shot eyes. For the record, Visine Dry Eyes with redness reducer is absolute bullshit. Rohto is pretty good but it stings like hell. I’m also just sore all the time for absolutely no reason. I’ve started using my lunch hour to mostly go take naps. I am falling apart, and I am 26.

My wallet is also screaming at me. I need to stop nodding enthusiastically when people pitch wild adventures and diving into my savings with the rationale of “if not now, then when”? These kinds of adventures are necessary and worthwhile, and I have never regretted a trip I’ve taken, but last year I literally flew somewhere once a month through September, and then again in December. I got addicted to it. I wanted to accomplish a feat no one else was paying attention to. And I haven’t stopped. I’m being stupid.

That is why I have decided that the month of September is going to be “Get-Your-Shit-Together-September”. Aside from the social obligations I have already agreed to, and a trip to Texas that – to be fair – is partially work related, I’m going to start trying to say no.

I googled “The Art of Saying No” and there are about thirty-thousand articles on it, and twice as many Ted Talks, so I know at least I’m not alone in this struggle. Most of them conclude with the notion that saying no is a powerful tool that people don’t harness enough because of our own insecurities about guilt, denial and rejection. Yeah, that sounds about right. I always thought saying yes was the way to get ahead and experience more and pave the way ahead, in my current situation I’m realizing that with most things in life, yes is a word to use in moderation.

And I guess in this instance – yes; it’s time to start saying no.

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