Mocha Diaries: The Power of No

When I was young I was a very timid child outside of the house. It was almost like I had split personalities inside and outside. My youngest sister brought this to my attention when I was in high school and was in utter disbelief that I was the same person in school as I was at home. Scenarios can makes us change to fit in or stand out. I think my early years of being overly shy when meeting strangers and not wanting to draw attention to myself has had interesting effects on who I am today.I don’t like rocking the boat or confrontation, by any means, and I will agree with you just to avoid it even if I disagree with you. It is an odd stance to take, which I now realize always stemmed from me not being in tune with who I am and what I want in life. Its funny looking back and realizing our personality quirks are what have shaped our decisions and ultimately impacted how we are currently living our lives. I never could say no to someone growing up and for better or worse it has ended in some situations I wish never happened, or the prolonging of periods in my life that I wish I had had the courage to end sooner.

“No.” Is a powerful word that I never knew how to use without feeling guilty until the last few years. I used to never say no, unless for some unknown reason I had to. I always felt I should always say yes or some other nonchalant ‘yes-like’ answer. I realize now that I gave away a lot of my time, energy, and who I am as a person when I said yes. I gave other people the power to dictate how I spend my time, who I spend it with, where I’m going, what I’m doing, how I should be feeling, and that if I said no for any reason, I was the bad person. Somehow I wasn’t as good as a friend, wife, lover, sister, or colleague as I could have been if I had just said yes.

During the darker periods it is always easier to say yes to stay out of the way and to maintain the status quo of relationships, even if it ate away at me slowly. I punished myself for years by living a life that wasn’t mine. The choices I made were absolutely of my own choosing. I choose to follow others rather than forge my own path out of fear for the unknown, judgement from others, or just living a bit differently.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties I realized that this was not how I wanted to spend my life. I had dreams and aspirations although not grand were mine alone. With every yes to someone else, I kept pushing what I wanted in life back further and further to the point where my current lived reality is a mix of all the things I wanted to do in the past and is a reminder of the things I lost and gave up along the way as I said yes to everyone but myself.

Even if my dreams were vague and shortsighted , I was the one who dreamt them up and wanted to experience or achieve it. Slowly I have ticked those little boxes off. One of the most important things to me when I was younger besides getting married and starting a family was to travel the world. I traveled a little in my early twenties which gave me the idea to become an ESL Teacher overseas in South Korea or Japan. I put it off for 6 years, because I felt that someone in my relationship had to sacrifice our dreams and I believed it was me as one day I might live overseas, but I had no clear concrete achievable goals like he had. I wish I had had the nerve to say that we can do long distance for another year so I could achieve what I wanted. I wish I had pushed myself forward earlier in my life, maybe it would have ended our relationship earlier which would have put my current reality in yet another reality I hadn’t thought up.

If there is one thing I learned it is that we can’t change the past or our decisions, whether we are proud of them or not, whether we relinquished our right to say, ‘No’ or not was our choice. I could have said it more, but I chose not to and that says more about who I was trying to find myself and why I always felt I deserved to be last.

Although I said yes to many things I wish I hadn’t to in the past, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made those choices. So I am thankful to my old self for letting me travel the world even if it was a bit later in life and not as far as I would have liked. I feel sad for the part of me that has seen my life trajectory significantly change with no real plan or timeline in sight. Yet, I’m a bit excited and glad that I am living an authentic life to who I am at this moment. Every choice I make now is because I am saying yes and no when I want. I am confronting others when I need to and I am asking all of the questions I never did so that I can have peace. I am speaking my mind unapologetically and have found that I no longer hold my emotions back when I am with others or myself.

Not all changes are good, I’m sure many people find my saying, ‘No.’ more a nuisance or hate the fact I say yes to myself more instead. I’ve learned that it is better to be the navigator of my own life than to live directed by the winds of others. I want to steer my life in the direction I so choose, even if it is riddled with hurdles and everything haphazardly happens going forward. Sometimes risk-taking is necessary to achieve happiness and to live in the moment!

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