As children, we hear the word no much more than we hear the word yes, or the statement or tonality of the words said to us have an implied no: Stop. Not so fast. It’s dangerous. Please don’t do that. That’s not nice. Be careful. You’ll get hurt. You’re too young. (And so on and so forth.)
Now, no or implied noes are important verbal constructions, as it’s necessary to set boundaries and assert ourselves in a positive manner. Furthermore, no and its verbal counterparts help to create a population that consists primarily of productive, rule-abiding workers so that society can function in a streamlined manner. But no, especially to the extent that it is told to us in our youth and the manner in which we tend to discourage youthful curiosity (both at home and in the modern educational system) is often detrimental to our capacity to live creative, novel, and exciting lives, as well as experience a lifestyle that encourages us to wake up with a positive attitude towards the day ahead of us.[i]
This, however, is being written by someone who struggles to strive within the stringent norms of the society I am part of, perhaps due to the fact that I am inherently a yes person. I believe that life is a blessing that is meant to be grasped, and a principle of mine is to experience a wide variety of situations in order to make the most of perceiving what it means to live as a human being.[ii] As a consequence of this perspective, I have- both subconsciously and consciously- decided to take advantage of the massive amount of opportunity available to me by saying yes to a variety of experiences: I travel extensively, actively explore the world I inhabit, encourage my boundless curiosity, dyed my hair to understand the sensation of looking in the mirror with a different hair color, got a tattoo to feel the sensation, went skydiving, consumed hallucinogens in unfamiliar territory, learned guitar, wrote a novel, and started this blog where I can express my passionate curiosity towards life, humanity, and society to a vast audience.
Yet, I did grow up in a primarily ‘no’ family and community, one that prioritized normalcy and stability and had a tendency to negatively judge what they considered unusual attitudes, judgements, and dispositions so that failures, weakness, attitudes, characteristics, and perspectives that were perceived as strange or deviant were often belittled, yelled at, or stamped upon in my youthful upbringing. This no mentality has influenced me by instilling me with a fear of the ‘abnormal’ and the unknown. For example, as much as I idolized it as a child, I have never fallen in love, and most likely because I fear it more than I imagine. I didn’t actively pursue my artistic talents until I was in my twenties, because there was a fear of failure, ridicule, a chance that I could become dejected, unsuccessful, or downtrodden, and the sheer amount of willpower, work, self-confidence, optimism, trust, faith, energy and support that it would take for me to make others care about my thoughts and the work that I put into the world seemed impossibly daunting without a supportive artistic community around me. Moreover, I actively shunned away risks and failure because I was told to do so by incessant reminders from the news, society, and my family of the bad things that could happen if I did travel alone, pursue an art career, trust a stranger, follow my intuition, etcetera. And as someone who is highly imaginative and emotional, I can both imagine and feel the inferno that can ensue in perilous conditions, which is perhaps why my yes attitude was so effectively subdued throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early-twenties.
But luckily, the stance of those around me never fully crushed the curious and feisty spirit that managed to challenge the no being put to me. And especially in the past few years, I have taken unsupported (yet calculated) risks that could have and still can severely alter my life in either a positive or negative direction. And even with the struggle that this diverging attitude has brought, it has allowed me to reflect upon, reconsider, and realign myself with my inherent passions and desires regarding music and writing, aspects of myself that have stayed consistent since I was a child.
In January of this year, I planned to watch an early-morning lunar eclipse with my roommate from the rooftop accessible from the fire escape outside my bedroom window. But my roommate, who felt discouraged by the brutal wind-chill, the lack of visibility due to the approaching dawn, and the uneasy, hard energy she received from the eclipse, quickly decided to return to her room. I also felt a palpable unease standing alone on the rooftop in the cold intensity, but I embraced the discomfort and let myself work with the hard energy that I intuited would be part of most of 2018.
In retrospect, I did sense the eclipse right, because this year has brought mostly chaos and roadblocks. Yet, because I did not shy away from the struggle and powered through the rough circumstances I encountered, it has been a transformative and exhilarating year despite the conflict it has brought, and will likely inspire me to fully commit to saying yes and getting rid of the structural limits that I have previously let contain me, even if breaking down the dense belief structures that surround me continues to be an arduous, painful task for years to come.
This essay was inspired by the content of the YouTube channel Yes Theory, a channel I surreptitiously stumbled upon and even strangely grappled with viewing because I felt the same hard but potent energy my prior roommate and I had so rightly placed during the January 2018 eclipse.
I’ve never felt inspired to make a New Year’s goal. But my goal for next year and beyond (which of course starts now) is to say Yes.
So come join me and let’s see where it takes us!
[i] (Unfortunately, many of us tend wake up to an alarm clock drowsy and dreading the majority of our day; which, although we treat it as a norm, is a miserable and unfortunate predicament we put ourselves in when you take into account that this is perhaps the only life you have to experience what it is to live, at least within these particular circumstances.)
[ii] (One brief change in the course of an inconceivable amount of years- one organism not mating with another, the death of an ancestor a million or more years ago, a spontaneous alteration in genetic material, etcetera- could have made it so that me as me wouldn’t be alive today.)
Saying yes is something that we should re-condition ourselves to do as we grow into curious, but powerful, young adults.