My 20’s were the age of Yes. Somewhere between then and now I lived through the age of Nope. Now what?
Which way? Malibu Creek State Park, 2015
Over the years I’ve read a lot about the power of saying “No,” how it’s so…powerful, like you’re taking charge of your life, setting boundaries, being brave, etc. etc. I took it to heart, in fact, shutting down when I got overwhelmed. It served me well for a time.
But I was thinking the other day that I got this awesome life by saying “Yes.”
[Define “this awesome life”: solid marriage, lively and healthy kids, family and friends who love me. Enough money to eat and live in a nice house and send kids to a good school. Occasional play and work that feeds my soul. A snuggly kitty. Ripe tomatoes in my garden. Etc. Etc.]
I had an urge to move to California once. I said “Yes.” Even though most of my family was in Connecticut. Even though I didn’t have a job, a place to live, any plan once I got there.
But then I made all those things happen, and I got here.
On the road from Connecticut to California, 1995
I worked in life insurance. It paid the bills (mostly – so did the big credit card companies, for a while). And then I learned that I could work in entertainment. Someone said there was a job opening. I interviewed for it. I got the offer.
I said “Yes.”
Even though the pay was dismal and I’d have to drive from Pasadena to Santa Monica (and it wasn’t even as bad then as it is now). I made it work, with help from friends and family, and a couple of new roommates who lived in an apartment under the stairs.
And then I said “Yes” to a job that was temporary, but it lasted 3 years. And I said “Yes” when I thought “I should email that guy” even though that might seem stalkery and overbearing. I said “Yes” when he asked me to marry him, too.
All those “Yeses.”
But life threw me some big punches, some good, some very bad. Somewhere along the line I started saying “Nope.” Everything can be too much, sometimes. I had to draw the line. And it wasn’t just “No,” or “Maybe” but full stop. NOPE. I loved the word so much I had to get this shirt.
Best photo booth ever, 80’s party, 2016
And now I’m looking around, looking at what I’ve missed, and wondering if NOPE was the best answer. I know it was, in some cases. I can only handle so much. I am needed, so much.
But things pass me by. Podcasts. Vlogging. My goddamned novel. It waves at me every day. “You should write me,” it says. Some days I say “Yes.” Yes, I will write you. Some days I say “Yes.” Yes, I will write you badly. But too often I say “NOPE!” No, sorry, I’m too busy doing this other thing.
And one could argue (I do, actually, since I argue with myself all the time) that by saying “Yes” to some things, I have said “No” to all of the OTHER infinite possible choices I could have made. In that way, I shaped my life. I “Yes’ed” and “No’ed” myself into this corner.
It does feel like a corner. I am now faced with the unknown, and I feel a bit directionless. When I decided to move to California at age 24 without a plan, I felt the decision in my gut and my bones and my heart. I ached for it. It was the clearest choice. There was no other.
But now, at almost 45 with a husband, two children, a mortgage, and a strong sense of the value of my work, I don’t have that feeling about any of the possibilities before me. It’s as if the divining rod that led me across the country is sleeping. (Or whatever divining rods do when they aren’t tugging you towards the secret spring in the desert…)
I won’t go back to saying “Yes” to everything that comes along. There’s a certain wisdom that comes with this age and experience. Not that I can predict how an event or gig will turn out, but that I can be 100% sure that if I do THIS, I won’t be able to do THAT.
So what’s THAT? Knowing what THAT is helps me narrow down the NOPES.
To be here for my family while my kids are young.
To earn enough money to support our lifestyle.
To feel fulfilled in my work.
I’ve NOPED a lot of things over the last few years, and it’s served me well. Snapchat and Pokemon Go for a few examples. Still nope!
But I’m ready to say “Yes” again more often. Yes to the unknown, yes to the possibilities, yes to the things that will bring more of the wonderful into my life.
I mean, look at that last photo. I’m wearing a NOPE shirt, but obviously I said “Yes” to that wig. I mean.
Looks like 45 will be the year of Yes/Nope.