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Once quarantine ends, make “yes” your new favorite word

What do college and groceries have in common?

Honey, it’s all about making the most of opportunities.

When I was a high school senior, I sat squeezed in between my mom and another family at a Miami University  admissions event for admitted students. Rows of red-upholstered chairs filled with nervous high school seniors and their families dotted the upstairs Armstrong Pavilion, as we tried to absorb the wisdom from a panel of five current Miami students.

One of the panelists told an anecdote about how college was explained to her like the groceries you buy from the store.

Um, girl, what?

It sounded so bizarre, but as she clarified, her analogy made perfect sense. And it didn’t just apply to college — it manifested itself in all areas of life.

She said when you go to the grocery store, you buy everything for a specified period of time. However, you often buy more than you need and may not consume everything before the expiration. You have all these groceries in front of you — a perfect opportunity to make new recipes, try different combinations and just enjoy the delicious food you bought. You can either take full advantage, or you can let it go to waste.

In college and in life, we have so many possibilities all around us. The chance to meet new people, get involved with exciting organizations, explore new places, learn as much as we can and discover who we are. 

Like the groceries we buy at the store, we can either say yes to all these invigorating experiences and make the most of them, or we can squander them.

Wow. I wanted to give that girl a standing ovation – what a queen!

I clutched onto this analogy and carried it with me like a cherished token as I navigated the past four years of college. Looking back as a senior, I tried my hardest to say “yes” to literally everything.  

Seeing the bare white pages of my coiled brown planner was one of the worst feelings. Like many people, I tried my hardest to keep my calendar jam-packed: coffee dates, meetings, work, phone calls, classes — you name it — it was probably on my calendar. I viewed every interaction and experience as the chance to learn something new, grow and create a memory.

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I’ll be the first to admit my life is honestly all over the place. My followers on social media have probably realized that I get myself in all kinds of interesting, sometimes bizarre, situations. I’ve been known to post stories about these situations — my experience seeing a psychic, getting mowed over by someone riding a bike on campus, calling out a fake person I’ve encountered — there really has been no telling what will occur. The reason I have all these stories is because I say yes to so many things and find myself in some spicy situations.  

During fall break of 2019, some friends and I road-tripped down to Asheville, N.C. On an idyllic Saturday fall afternoon, we strolled down a shady sidewalk lined with make-shift stands of vendors selling their unique products. 

One of these vendors was a quirky artist who called us over and showed us his work. He rocked a long, rugged white beard and wore a t-shirt featuring his original work — known for its thick, colorful brushstrokes and bold lines. 

This man was definitely a character — he introduced himself to us as “the famous, popular artist.” He enamored us with tales from living abroad, befriending celebrities and even showed us a scrapbook of all of his adventures. 

He told us that as young people, we should see and do as much as we can. The artist said when you follow this philosophy, you’re adding to your “life encyclopedia,” a collection of unique adventures you can draw upon later.

In the process, you’ll realize what you like and dislike. You’ll discover yourself by getting immersed in something different. You’ll live a more colorful and exciting life.

Like the girl on the panel, the artist’s analogy stuck with me. It’s a perfect reminder that our lives are encapsulated by the sum of our unique experiences and it’s given me encouragement to say yes to more opportunities. 

When we crawl out of our cozy cocoons we’ve been nestling in during quarantine, it may take some time for us to regain a sense of normalcy and return to our previous daily lives. I encourage — no, I implore you — to be open to new things during this time.

It doesn’t have to be drastic. Maybe your friend asks you to watch a movie you wouldn’t normally watch, a news article pops up on your feed about something you don’t know much about, a new project presents itself at school or work.

Keep saying yes! 

And if you find yourself getting overwhelmed, you can always scale back. But you won’t know until you’ve tried.

Use all the metaphorical “groceries” around you and keep adding to your life encyclopedia. It’ll be fabulous!