Truthfully, I feel like I missed out a bit on my early twenties. The years I should have spent meeting new people, going out, exploring new places and learning about life, I spent with my head in a book, working instead of partying, stuck in a routine and trapped in a social bubble that was only two towns wide. Maybe you got to do all those things in your early twenties. Or maybe you valued consistency, craved dependability and loved your comfort zone. Maybe regardless of which route you went you ended up exactly where you wanted to be in life. Then again, maybe you didn’t.
In my case, I didn’t. Not even close. So I’m currently taking two and using the latter half of my twenties (and beyond) to carve out the life of adventure and fulfillment I’ve always wanted. I’ve tried a lot of things, befriended a lot of people and consciously made the choices I thought would get me where I wanted to be. In the end, it was as simple and as complicated as just learning to say YES.
I should preface this next part by saying that I have a full-time job (M-F, 40 hours a week), a part-time job (nights & weekends) and am currently taking night classes to earn my Master’s degree, all while balancing a new(ish) relationship and pre-existing friendships. My point is, if I can do it, so can you. No excuses.
So far this year I’ve taken two big trips, one to Austin, TX for SXSW and the other to the Grand Canyon. Both were in the Spring and both involved a good deal of planning. The month of August, on the other hand, was almost entirely winged. In the month of August I probably spent more time on vacation than I did at work. I went from OCMD to NC to NJ to PA and then to ME – and you know what? It was worth every single minute of the sleep deprivation, the thousands of miles I put on my car and the fact that I used the last of my paid vacation days with four months still left in the year. Because sometimes, despite all of those things, you just need to say YES. Sometimes that means saying yes to middle of the week concerts, to online dating, to last minute trips, yes to making new friends, to trying new things and yes to whatever the hell else brings you happiness in life. Saying YES means being spontaneous. It means saying yes even if, you’re tired, even if you only have 5 minutes to get ready and even if you know it’ll take you two months to recoup what you’ll spend. It means making memories, reveling in experiences and really, truly living. It means saying yes to friends, whether it’s a 5am Friday morning wake up call to walk for coffee just to make sure you get time with your bestie every week, or driving eight hours round trip in a day to cheer on your man at an away game when he makes the D-1 team. Above everything, it means saying yes when it means being true to yourself, even if it pisses a few people off along the way.
Pick your battles, but pick yes. These are the times in your life that you don’t want to miss. And it’s OK to say YES. Seize the opportunities as they come because you never know when the next one will present itself. And because you’ll probably be back in the thick of it the very next day. And because damn if you don’t deserve a break.
There will always be a reason (or ten) to stay in, to say no or to remain in your comfort zone. Maybe you think it’ll be lame, maybe you don’t want to spend the money, don’t want to get dressed up, maybe you have homework, you’re tired or it’s late or you’re worried you won’t know anyone there. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with staying in or saying no, we all need a little “me-time”. The problem is when it becomes a pattern. When staying in becomes checking out and checking out becomes missing out. Not on what other people are doing, but on your life. I’m not saying that one night out is going to change your life- it probably won’t. But “it takes one or two nights of being uncomfortable out of your comfort zone to build a life that thrives in it” (unknown). Maybe they won’t all be nights to remember. Maybe you’ll come home upset that you wasted a cute outfit, a couple dollars on food or those empty calories on beer. But that’s the thing our generation doesn’t seem to always understand – life isn’t meant to be a series of instant gratifications. Sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes it pays off. And sometimes you realize the real value is in the journey itself.
So the next time you want to say no, say YES. You might just be surprised by what happens.