Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saying "Yes", and then saying "No"

Not even two months ago I met a girl who we will call A. She was 19 years old, alone in Australia by herself far from her home town on the islands of Hawaii. We hit it off, and only a few days later A had invited me to the Art Gallery of NSW's "After Hours" where we listened to a Jazz band and a talk on the work of psychologists influencing Modern Art. She asked, "Wanna come?" and without thinking I said, "Yes."

Everyday since I've met her she has had stories to tell about her adventures that start without fail with a chance-meeting of strangers at bus stops and ended always in a grand finale that make me laugh and cringe and sigh in succession. For someone who came to Australia knowing nobody, she has seen more of Sydney than I had known existed and had spoken to more interesting people than I had in my entire university degree. It's that kind of confidence you see on people and wonder if you hang around long enough, it'll catch on. It kind of does. I've come to call her The Yes Woman, on account of her never turning down an adventure, however strange or questionable. 

She reminds me of my long-haired, rather reckless but uninhibited self as I traipsed around Europe "throwing caution to the wind" (Defined by English Idioms website as: to engage in a risky or uncharacteristic behavior when the outcome may not be known). If that wasn't a definition of my behaviour circa 2011 I don't know what is. Tequila shots and a 4am night the same morning I had a train to catch and a connecting flight? Why not?

In Europe the answer was always, por que no? Why not? It rolled off the tongue so easily and went so well with a shrug of the shoulders and that C'est la vie attitude. If you can't live a little when you're overseas, alone and have malleable standards and judgment-calls not yet set in stone - when can you? 

Apparently, the 'Yes' honey-moon ends when you get home. Because home is different. You know people here and you're not leaving the country. Things happen here and they stay here and it's no longer 'What happens in Spain stays in Spain'. It's 'What happens in Sydney ends up on your facebook and then follows you around for a while until you make another error in judgement'. That's not catchy or fun.

When do we stop saying 'Yes' and why do we start saying 'No'? 

There are plenty of good reasons to say 'No' in certain situations. Like that time in Lisbon when I decided to take a midnight stroll to explore the city (I blame Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris). It was then a fifty-something swiss man, under the guise of asking me for directions, began offering to buy me dinner and wanting to 'just talk' because he was lonely, roaming the streets by himself past 12am.. who does that? *ahem* Needless to say, that was a resounding HELL No - followed rapidly by the quickest I'd ever run back to a hostel where I wrapped myself in a thick layer of self-loathing, after trying to shower off the disgust at my own idiocy.

Apart from safety concerns and street smarts, what's stopping us from doing things that we know we'll probably enjoy, or where we'll probably do awesome things or probably meet great people? Well apparently The Shire is on and people would rather go home and watch that great documentary expose on the noble and complex human condition instead.

Take a lesson from A. Don't sit and watch reality TV. Say 'Yes' a little more when you'd rather go to sleep than go out dancing at this cool Cuban bar your friend is telling you about. Say 'Yes' to volunteering when you're hippie sister tells you the kids are great and what else are you doing with your time anyway? Say 'Yes' to French classes you've always secretly wanted to take even though you're not good at languages and your accent is horrific.

Say 'Yes' to Tiger Airways flights for $10 to Melbourne and couch-surfing for the first time with people you don't know and have never met and are hoping are not creepy and weird. Because that's what I did and I'm hoping this 'Yes' business works out. Or again, I will be deceived by hollywood movies and their carefully constructed plots and catchy titles. Go on, say yes.

(But by all means, then say No to the creepy men at bus stops or the inebriated friend that bets you you can't jump down all of town hall steps blind folded, neither of these will end well)

1 comment:

  1. The thing is, will "A" still be Yessing it up when she's back on the islands. After having gone through a YesMan year and being abroad also, I realise that it all comes down to momentum.

    When you're in the moment, everything's clicking and nothing can go wrong. Its a zone you get into that can last for months. Its all muscle memory and acting on instinct. But when you're out of that zone its really hard to induce it again, you wonder how you were able to do it before. That's what makes it so great, what you were doing before was magic you just didn't realise it at the time because it came so easy. The trick is trying to get that feeling back, at least you have the confidence of having done it before.