Being an only child with overprotective parents, I grew up using ‘No’ as my default answer to everything. Let’s go outside and play in the rain? No. Let’s ride a boat to the deep part of the sea and jump in? No. Let’s play hooky at school and go to the mall instead? No. So of course, as a result, I grew up being sheltered from everything. No wounds and scratches, no accidents, no disciplinary action, no big mistakes. That worked just fine for me (and my parents!)—I was the dream child, never got into trouble like some of my cousins, focused on my studies and got into the college of my choice. I grew up believing that for as long as you do everything right, avoid mistakes at all costs, and just be a good girl, the world will reward you with the best of everything.
But little by little as I got older, I started to realize that while this mode of living has its merits, it was not a guarantee for anything.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there are some things that are not meant to be yours. No matter how nice you are, people will still judge you. No matter how careful you are in avoiding mistakes, life throws you a curveball. No matter how blindly you trust and put your faith in people, they will disappoint you. And yes, when these things happen, it isn’t fair and you feel like the butt of all jokes.
Guess what though—nobody ever told us that life is perfectly fair, and that the world owes us something for our efforts. We hope for that, but we get angry when we don’t get what we think we deserve or when we get hurt despite our checklists, rules and precautions.
And so, after a particularly difficult blow—the type that cracks your heart up in places you never even knew existed—I decided to defy the odds of being jaded and bitter, and to instead open myself to more Yes-es. Here’s what I learned so far.
- Say Yes to new adventures. This year I’ve been on more adventures than the last three combined. From camping in a deserted cove in Zambales, driving 8 hours just to see the waves in La Union, discovering a secret piece of paradise and an ancient tree near Baler, living in a foreign city all by myself to take up a course– every single time I said Yes to something I never would have done before, I was not disappointed and the world seems like an even more magical place. Who knows where your Yes will take you?
- Say Yes to new friends. I used to shy away from hanging out with new people and generally prefer the company of old friends and familiar circles. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it can be limiting too. There is so much you can learn, discover and experience with a new friend. Dare to step out of your safe little cocoon and get to know people, and they may just surprise you. Sometimes the most unexpected friendships turn out to be the best ones…
- Say Yes to new interests. Life is too short to not try new things or cultivate new (or old) interests. Learn to make soap! Mold pottery! Bake cookies! Enroll in a digital class! Join a marathon! Redecorate your home! There’s an unlimited buffet of choices and instead you sit on your couch watching TV night after night, wasting precious time. A hobby can release a creative side of you that you never knew before, and it can even be something you enjoy so much that you can make a business out of it. That way you’re both fulfilled and productive—what can be better than that?
- Say Yes to new challenges. It is always easier to stay in your comfort zone, especially in terms of your career. You’re in a stable job in an industry you know, pretty good in terms of rank and pay… that’s great, but once you stop learning something new and feel you are no longer at peak performance, it’s time to broaden your horizons. What if an opportunity arises in a different field or function? Or you are offered a leadership role, or one that will allow you to build a new skill set? Take calculated risks, of course, especially if you are supporting a family, but don’t discount possibilities to grow. Because remember, following the theory of Charles Darwin, either we continue to evolve, or we die.
- Say Yes to the unknown. There are some things in life that cannot be calculated or predicted. You don’t know how things are going to turn out, how a story will end, and whether you are going to make it unscathed or not. For a control freak like me (who reads the endings of books first just so I don’t get disappointed), that is a difficult thing to accept. But does that mean we should all just keep ourselves locked up, staying safely under the radar? Low risk, low return my friends. What if you miss out on possibly the best parts of your life—the greatest love, the most fulfilling job, the craziest trip, just because you were too scared to try?
- Say Yes to change. It is normal for people to want to reinvent themselves at some point. Whether it is a physical reinvention (like a different hairstyle or some sort of make-over), an emotional or a spiritual one, don’t ever feel like it is not ok to change. Sometimes we outgrow people, we outgrow things, we outgrow our old identities. I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes, by Paulo Coelho: “That is why it is so important to let certain things go. To release them. To cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability or arrogance, but simply because whatever it is no longer fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are.”
- Say Yes to happiness. If you’ve been stressed out, angry, bitter, disappointed, afraid, or depressed for a while—maybe it’s time to stop blaming other people and situations, and instead choose happiness and hope. Yes, it is easier said than done but it is entirely possible. All you have to do is wake up and decide to be happy no matter what happens that day. Try not to sweat the small stuff (like traffic, petty work conflicts, etc) and focus on gratitude for all that you have been blessed with. It just needs a change of perspective: you may not be able to control what happens around you, but you can control how you react to situations and how you let them affect you.
- Say Yes to love. All I will say about this is another quote, this time by the poet Rumi: “Open your hands, if you want to be held.” Because every potential love story starts out the same way—with a Yes.