I began my year of yes on December 21, 2016 because that was the first day of summer here in Buenos Aires, where I currently live. At the time I had left my crappy house and moved into a nicer apartment because a good friend had to return to the US. After two years of earning barely enough to get by, having deficits in my bank account and not being able to do much because of my terrible wages I was finally in a place where I could earn better money and afford a few more comforts.
I wanted a change.
One of my hobbies is to watch silly videos on YouTube and I ran into one in which Shonda Rhimes discussed her book about her own year of yes. As I heard her speak about this endeavor I felt I could totally relate. Since moving to Buenos Aires I had been too busy thinking about my problems (mostly financial) and hadn’t really been present. Most of the time I could barely afford my basic necessities and found myself saying no–not just to going out, not just to trips or vacations, but to new friends, new possibilities, and even nice men who had no idea how broken I was at the time.
The weight of “no” began to feel like a heavy weight on my shoulders. I would spend days and nights wondering “what if.” As I examined my life I saw that this was simply a pattern of mine. There could be many root causes of this. I was teased as a child and born cross-eyed and for many years wore a mask of stoicism to hide from the world. I would reject people before they had the chance to reject me. I would reject men before they could see that I felt I wasn’t good enough, beautiful enough, or fun enough. Then I wouldn’t get hurt.
But I was tired of not getting hurt, because for most of 2014 and 2015 I felt absolutely nothing. I would laugh, but wasn’t sincere. I barely smiled. Social media was also a constant reminder that I was missing out on life. I was standing still in a moving world, so as I heard what Shonda Rhimes said, I felt I needed to do something to change my life.
I couldn’t just move to another country and expect a change á la Eat, Pray, Love. I had already done that when I packed my bags and left the USA. I couldn’t just pray the pain away because I grew up in a very religious Christian family and was already praying too much about it. I couldn’t just eat because I was already a well-known glutton among my friends. None of these things would ever help me: so I began to say yes.
Now that I’ve been in Buenos Aires for two years I have almost daily deja vu moments. So when I walk down the street I see the bars I didn’t go, the birthday parties I didn’t attend because I had no money for drinks, the potlucks I didn’t attend because I was too mired in my own depression, and street corners where I met nice guys (some of whom made very strong declarations about wanting to take me home with them, telling me how much they liked me, etc) that I simply said no to. And so, I would wonder about what would have been, and could have been now that it never happened.
When you consistently say no, you’re not just denying something to someone else. You lose a bit of yourself in the process. When you wear a mask to front strength the person you really drain is you.
In the past three months I’ve met a lot of new friends, have gone out and been a part of many new experiences. For many, these experiences are ordinary, but for someone who previously had no money to socialize these things are a big deal. I’ve begun to slowly feel things again. I don’t know where my new experiences or friends will take me but I’ve slowly begun to feel less afraid of life, of taking risks, of meeting new people, and I’m even losing my fear of falling in love.
Even this blog is a “yes” that I gave to a friend of a friend. I didn’t realize how many other people–especially women–want to challenge their own fears and themselves. I feel as if men are socialized to take charge and ask important questions, while women are taught to say no to ourselves, to our dreams, even our most basic desires. So I hope to write things here that will help others who may want to do something to change their own perspective. I will probably make many mistakes along the way, but I hope I and others learn from them.
When I began this experiment I set a few ground rules: I can’t say yes to anything that would hurt or harm someone emotionally, physically or in any other way. If I feel unsafe around someone who is asking me to do something with them, I’ll say no. I also say no if I’m extremely tired. I made the mistake of saying yes to absolutely everything during my first two weeks and barely got any sleep, which made me cranky. I also have to have the economic means to partake in any activities. I don’t expect anyone to cough up the costs of me saying yes to something unless they explicitly say it’s ok with them or it’s their idea. It’s why I made the drawing you see above. It’s in my room remind me of my core values during this journey.
Over the past few weeks, I feel my intuition has gotten better as a result of this experiment. It makes me realize how much I was losing out on life from saying no to things that scare me, because I was losing myself in the process as well. I hope never to have to go through that again, and I hope to find that inner voice, and to be free.