Learning to Say Yes

One of my friends posted a photo album to Facebook today with the title “2013: Say yes more than you say no!” and it basically blew my mind. It wasn’t the pictures themselves (although I appreciate the Grand Canyon as much as anyone else), it was the title. “Say yes more than you say no!” Wow. It really spoke to me, and as I write this, I’m trying to decipher why. Is it because I feel like I say no more than I say yes right now, or is it the opposite? I’m not really sure, but either way, it reminded me so much of the past 2 years and how I’ve changed.

By nature, I’m a pretty anxious person. I am undoubtedly high-strung, much like a badass race horse. Secretariat, maybe. Anyway, I tend to worry a lot about things and agonize over big decisions. I’m a compulsive researcher about everything. While research can be a great tool that prevents you from making bad decisions, particularly about things like appliances (thank you, Consumer Reports), the tendency to over analyze can really hold you back from enjoying life. When you spend a lot of time thinking about things, it becomes really easy to come up with good reasons not to do them. Take my trip to Alaska, for example. To say that it is going to be insanely expensive would be the understatement of the year. It’s going to take a ton of vacation time, I’ll be away from AJ for what will be the longest stretch since we started dating, and I’m going to be totally exhausted when I get home. I may not make it out of the state in one piece. In all honesty, the cost alone is reason enough not to do it, so as I’ve been thinking about going and planning the trip, that has weighed heavily on my mind. Preparing to book my flight, I was so nervous that I felt like I was going to throw up – I couldn’t believe I was about to spend that much on a flight. But then I thought, what is money? Where does it fit into my life? Why am I so afraid of it? Is it so much money as to be unreasonable, or is it just a lot more than I’m used to spending, but can still afford to spend? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself, and I don’t know the answers.

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Serious question: Why is there an entire show dedicated to Bigfoot hunters, but there are no unicorn hunters? It’s total bullshit, right?

I’ve grown a lot over the past two years. I’ve traveled all over the country, sometimes by myself,  met new people, and done things I would never have thought were possible. Nonetheless, the fear and the anxiety still get to me, and I often find myself looking for excuses that will allow me to avoid leaving my comfort zone. The stupid part is that I really haven’t had a negative experience with leaving my comfort zone yet. Every time I bite the bullet and decide to do something that makes me uncomfortable, be it a marathon, a trip, or a television interview, it has turned out to be a great experience. So what gives? Why am I embroiled in this constant internal battle against really  living? Against just saying yes?

I’m not sure I know the answer to that question yet, but running has forced me to confront my fear of the unknown in a big way. In running, as in life, there are days when you just really have all your shit together and everything falls into place. The miles feel effortless, you’re running fast but feeling like you’re on an easy run, you PR, whatever. But there are also plenty of bad days and plenty of races and runs where it feels like you’re right back where you started, and it’s impossible to predict when they will occur. It’s frustrating, and over time it starts to seem like it’s not worth it to even bother trying to meet your goals. Worrying about failure has been one of the major reasons I haven’t set too many running-related goals for myself. I hate the idea of really working at something and then still not achieving my goal, but with running, there is always lingering uncertainty. Some days, you just don’t have your best run in you. What if that day is race day? That doesn’t seem very fair.

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My body on race day, every single time.

But life, as they say, is not fair. So it’s time to just accept that and deal with it, right? As you know, I finally gave in and decided to set some running goals for myself. Putting those out there for the entire interwebz to read was really scary, but not as scary as deciding to go after them in the first place. I finally decided to say yes to goals, and more importantly, yes to myself. What am I so afraid of? Failing? Well yeah, but who really cares besides me if I don’t break 4 hours in the marathon? Literally no one, because it has no impact on anyone’s life except mine. Sure, people want to see me succeed, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t. I’m probably not going to die while training towards these goals, so that can’t be a legitimate reason.

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What I look like at the starting line of any goal race

I guess the point is that fear holds me back a lot from saying yes to things I would probably really enjoy doing, and I think that’s the case for many people. We don’t go on the trip of a lifetime because it seems too expensive or time consuming. We don’t set goals and go after what we really want because we don’t want to fail. We don’t leave jobs that make us unhappy because the thought of starting over at a new company is overwhelming. We stay in bad relationships because we’re afraid we’ll never find anyone else. It’s understandable, but it’s not living life to the fullest, and that’s something I’m no longer ok with. Maybe it’s a quarter-life crisis, but I’ve been gripped by a resounding sense of my own mortality over the past year or so. There’s no reason for it, but all of a sudden it has occurred to me that time is going by really fast, and there are a lot of things I want to see and do. Sure, I’m only 27, but not everyone lives to be 95. And what if I don’t? When I’m haunting all of you from the grave, I don’t want to be thinking about all the things I should have done but was too scared to do – that would take valuable ghost energy away from thinking about ways to torment my loved ones that are still on earth (Side note: I really really really hope ghosts are real. I really want to be one someday.). Instead, I want to be thinking about how I lived a life that I’m proud of and one that never had a dull moment. I want the world to know I was here. In order to do that, I need to face my fears, stop saying no, and start saying YES.

As Roger Ebert (RIP, even though I don’t watch movies) said: “We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.”

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You never know.

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Exactly.

Let me be clear – I’m not advocating stupidity here. If you can’t pay your electric bill, don’t book a trip to Alaska. Don’t set goals that are so far out of reach as to be depressing; this is why my goal is not “make the Olympic marathon team.” Don’t forget your family and friends in the pursuit of some endless adventure – something I may or may not have been known to be guilty of in the past. But you should look at the opportunities that life is affording you and say yes to some of the ones that will require you to grow and try new things. Maybe that’s something as simple as asking out that girl from your gym that you’ve had your eye on. Maybe it’s saying yes to an invitation from a friend to go to happy hour on Thursdays even though you never drink during the week – perish the thought! Maybe it’s deciding to finally train for that marathon you’ve always said you were going to run. Whatever it is, let’s all consider saying yes to life a little bit more often. What’s the worst that could happen? You end up with a collection of funny stories about things you tried that went horribly wrong? Well, welcome to my blog.

Leave a comment: What is one thing you’ve been saying no to out of fear?

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