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The year of the yes: a look back

At the beginning of this past fall, after realizing that I might have been starting to stretch myself a bit too thin, I wrote an article about how I considered myself to be a “yes man.”

Though last semester may not have been academically rigorous for me, I had plenty of other things to do — in the article, I name my membership of the Miami University Student Foundation (MUSF), my desire to publish my first book and my attempt to learn Arabic as examples. And, at the end, I said that although I didn’t regret saying yes to so many things, I had come to realize my own limits.

“From now on, it’s a no from me!” I emphatically proclaimed as the closing line.

Famous. Last. Words.

This semester alone, I became a student leader in MUSF. I took on an additional job distributing The Miami Student across campus — so if you’ve picked up a print edition of the paper from any on- or off-campus location this semester, I was the one who put it there. And, of course, I’ve jumped up to being the Opinion (and Food!) editor here at TMS.

With new involvements come sacrifices, however, as I quickly learned.

I dropped Arabic in favor of learning Portuguese this summer. My book remains unpublished. I cut other things, too — I didn’t skydive as part of the Miami Dropouts at all this year and I quit some of my non-Miami extracurriculars.

I was so focused on saying yes to every opportunity that came my way that I didn’t realize it meant I would have to say goodbye to other things. Saying goodbye is a thousand times worse than saying no, because you’ve already gotten attached.

Whenever I see people who were in my Arabic class last semester, I feel awkward; embarrassed, for some reason. It’s like I left the commitment, so I left being friends with them, too. I wasn’t particularly close with any of them, but the knowledge that I could have been — that I could have continued on with Arabic and worn myself even thinner — is still there. It lurks just out of sight, looming over me like a shadow: I quit.

Choosing to leave something is not failure, but that’s a reality I’m still struggling to grasp.

Saying no and saying goodbye are somewhat looked down upon in modern society, or at least I believe this to be so. If you make a commitment and then leave it, those you left behind will remember your departure more than your contributions. Or maybe that’s just anxiety talking; maybe that’s just me fearing that all my hard work toward anything I leave will eventually be forgotten in favor of remembering the manner in which I left.

It’s only going to get harder from here on out as I go into my senior year here at Miami.

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I’m lucky that the Miami University Marching Band (MUMB) doesn’t practice or perform during the spring semester, because that gave me a bit of a reprieve schedule-wise. But, with band camp quickly approaching at the end of the summer, I know my schedule is about to get hectic again as soon as the fall semester hits.

There are just so many things I want to do, and I’m starting to realize that there is literally no way for me to “do it all,” as I said I wanted to last semester.

Well, not if I want to get good grades and have a decent sleep schedule. 

I served on student panels for Make It Miami a few times throughout this semester (another commitment I did not have in the fall). During one panel, I introduced myself, stated my academic involvements and gave a brief summary of all that I do on campus. Then I turned to the panel’s overseer and asked if I should also tell the story of how I chose Miami.

“Sure,” he said with a smile, “as soon as you tell them when you sleep!”

He was joking, but it gave me another hard-hitting realization: I’ve been saying yes to everything that came my way, even after claiming last semester that I’d recognized my limits. But I hadn’t been saying yes to taking care of myself.

I can do everything if I want, but when am I going to give myself a break?

Over the summer, I’m going to take a long, hard look at my schedule. I’m going to prioritize and figure out what I can do and what I will have to leave. It’s going to be difficult, but I have faith in myself.

I highly recommend you do the same. Look over your commitments. Do you really have to do it all? Are you leaving time for yourself, time to just relax? 

If not, maybe it’s time to stop saying yes to others and start saying yes to yourself.