Why "no" is an opportunity in disguise
Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links.
At the end of June, after nearly six months of daily yoga, I quit.
This was not a completely shocking turn of events. I’d been thinking of ending my streak, mostly because I’d begun to grow numb to the practice. Instead of something I reveled in and looked forward to, most days it was just another chore to check off my list.
Then, a few Saturdays ago, I went to the YMCA, then to brunch with friends, then to the beach. When I woke up the next morning and realized I’d missed yoga for the first time since January 1st, I felt a flicker of disappointment, which was quickly replaced with relief.
I also recently quit my volunteer position as a reader for a literary journal. After two and a half years, I found myself skimming through submissions, resenting the time spent catching up on my queue instead of working on my own projects. I was giving more than I was getting, so I decided the current reading period would be my last.
Then there’s my freelance work. I’ve been writing a column for a local magazine for years, and while the money is decent, the work is stressful—especially when I already have a demanding full time job, a novel-in-progress, a writing group, a running group, a stack of unread books, and, for the first time in 18 months, an actual social life.
In fact, the article was one of the reasons I didn’t write my newsletter last week. (Did you notice? It’s okay if you didn’t.) Two deadlines loomed and I chose the one that paid, which is not how I want to live my life! It made me realize how ready I was to quit.
In general, I am not a quitter. Quite the opposite - I love commitment! Sometimes this is a good thing, like when my husband and I met at twenty, dated for 10 years, and have now been happily married for nearly nine, or when I continue to write novels despite my many failures and rejections. Other times, it’s to my detriment. How many terrible jobs have I stayed in due to a misguided sense of loyalty? How much stress do I take on thanks to arbitrary goals? Why am I so bad at saying no, and too eager to say yes?
Sometimes, saying yes can open doors, whether it’s a person, an idea, or an opportunity. But every yes means saying no to something else, which is worth thinking about. What would this yes cost me? Am I comfortable closing other doors? In my case, yesterday’s yeses don’t need to be permanent. During the pandemic, when I was mostly homebound, I could take on extra freelance and commit to daily yoga, because I didn’t have anything else going on. Now, the world is changing again, and I’m changing with it. New doors are swinging open, and I’m ready to walk through them.
I work in a fairly corporate environment, where we’re ruled by our calendars. Whenever a meeting ends early, someone inevitably says, “Well, I guess I’ll give you some time back,” which always strikes me as a strange little phrase. As if time were a thing we could hold in our hands and pass back and forth, something we can give and take.
But maybe it’s not as strange as it sounds. Maybe that’s the point of saying no and quitting what no longer serves you, of giving something up to get something back. After all, it’s hard to accept a new invitation if your calendar is always full.
Snack of the Week
Over the 4th of July weekend, my BFF from TX drove to NC for a few days of eating, drinking, bike riding, and beaching. We always have a lovely time when she makes the trek our way, and this visit was no different. One of the highlights during her stay was this Mediterranean Bowl at Sealevel City Vegan Diner, one of my favorite local haunts —falafel, black eyed pea hummus, warm pita, crisp cucumbers, and the tangiest lemon tahini sauce. Pure delight! The other highlight was my first Instagram Reel, because I am literally a social media professional and it was time to learn a new skill. But mostly that Mediterranean Bowl.
A Few Small Tips for Throwing a Great Party This Summer, Vice. My birthday is next month, and as I plan my party I will be keeping these great tips in mind. My favorite? “Always have an EANAB—equally attractive non-alcoholic beverage—for people who aren’t drinking, or who want a break between boozy drinks.” Cheers to that! 🥂
Plan Ahead. Don’t Post. The Atlantic. From parties to vacations—are you sensing a theme here? I have a few small trips planned over the next few months, and I liked these tips for making the most of my time away. 📷
101 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor Right Now, Apartment Therapy. I’ve been looking for ways to give back to my community, and this extremely wholesome list was a great place to start. 🏠
It’s Okay to Outgrow the Life You Thought You Wanted, Medium. “Sometimes, learning what you don’t want might be as important as discovering what you do. That’s growing, too.” Considering the topic of this week’s newsletter, this essay from writer Rainesford Stauffer was extremely relatable! 🌱
How to be Creative, New York Times. “From hard work comes a genuine understanding of the medium you’re working in—clay, finger paint, prose, anonymous flame posts. Actual prodigies are so rare.” Well, that’s comforting. 💡
Note: for NYT links, I’m using the new “gift articles” feature. This allows subscribers to share up to 10 articles a month that won’t count toward your free article limit when clicked. Nice!
Thanks to Allyson W. and Charlotte H. for giving me a excellent reason to keep going! I’ll never quit this newsletter.
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