When to Say "No"

In my opinion, a huge part of the first semester of college is about picking and choosing parts of your past self you want to hang onto, and what you’re happy leaving behind. Case point: In high schooler I was a major “yes” girl. Did I want to help out at x event? Yeah, sure! Could I be at this meeting? Okay, got it. Was I okay with running the school newspaper? Of course! I hung onto this part of myself for the longest time— after all, it seemed to be serving me well. I was running multiple clubs, had teachers reaching out to me for favors, was doing extra work…what more could an ambitious young woman ask for, right?!

Um, not so right. As it turns out, constantly saying “yes” to every opportunity that came my way was doing more harm than good. By the time I reached senior year, I was perpetually stressed out and looking at my to-do list made me downright sad. The worst part was that my need to, as my roommate would say, “do the G-d most,” bled into my life outside of school. The summer before senior year, I worked two jobs seven days a week for over two months. In the midst of that debacle, I spent a lot of time assigning blame about my circumstances. It wasn’t until recently, actually, that I finally realized why I was such an exhausted, anxious high schooler both at school and on the job: I said yes to all of it.

Fast-forward to today. As I’m reflecting on my first semester of college, I can’t help but realize how often I said “no” over the past few months. Not in a bad way, mind you— I still leaped at everything that sounded remotely exciting, from meals with new friends to meetings for clubs I’ve never heard of. But when things started to feel overwhelming, or I found myself involved with something that drained my soul more than it fed it, I stepped away. No harm, no foul, I simply said no.

In case you’re still wondering exactly what I’m talking about, here’s an example: This past week, I was offered an internship. Although I was thrilled by the opportunity to work at the company, after my trial day I realized it simply wasn't the time for me. I wanted to be able to do the job well and with enthusiasm and, if I took it on now, I would not be able to. I expected it to be hard to turn it down, but immediately after I left the office, I felt so relieved. It wasn’t that a weight had been lifted, but as if I’d prevented the weight from ever being there in the first place. I walked away from the office with a genuine smile on my face, proud of myself and feeling positive about where I was headed, even if it was only to the 1 train.

And what more could a college first-year ask for, right?