The Art of Being Alone (Why Saying No Isn't as Lame as I Thought)

July 17th, 2014, 12pm

A few years back, I watched a movie called Yes Man, in which the main character challenges himself to say “yes” to everything for a whole year. To say the least, his life gets a whole lot better a whole lot quickly. But the movie, as rom-com and heartwarming as it was, touched upon an idea that I’ve wrestled with for the longest time. The idea that saying “no” closes doors in life, while “yes” opens them.

The older I get, the more I find myself craving alone time. Whenever things get too busy or stressful, I just want to crawl into my bed and read. Have time to think. But wanting to be alone and the state of being alone often requires rejecting other opportunities. Even if I end up liking my choice, I also end up feeling sort of lame.

When I visited Southern California in May, a few friends joked about something called Not Down Syndrome, a.k.a. the secret disease plaguing people who never want to do anything. I quickly adopted the term. If people didn’t understand why I wanted to be alone (without some kind of justification), I downplayed things with a “So I have something called NDS…” The excuse was silly and wrong, but it worked.

Saying “no” can mean losing out on some great opportunities (uh oh, do I smell some FOMO here?) Moreover, a few of the best things in life do require a big fat yes! But I want to challenge the notion that saying “no” will result in the opposite. Rather, the lessons, memories and time you gain instead are often just as valuable. Saying “no” can help you define key priorities and goals. It can give you the space to rediscover why you do what you do. To quietly observe the world. To ask questions that change the way you view people and situations. To ultimately understand yourself a little bit better — and love what you find.

Sometimes, a “no” is exactly what you need. And this time, no excuses.

Lilian, Christine, Angela, Eileen and 16 others said thanks.

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