Recently, I received an exciting opportunity to collaborate with an organization I had been eager to work with for a while. I had expressed my desire to work with them over the summer, but they told me they wanted to onboard me earlier and offered me a project to work on. However, the project would take up a lot more time than I was expecting. Being a full-time student and involved in several extra-curricular programs, it can be extremely challenging to carve out free time for me to relax. In addition to my school-related activities, I have self-care and social life to attend to, which is arguably just as important (if not more important) than my professional life. On top of everything else, recently a medical emergency occurred in my family that seemed to put everything in my life into a different perspective. It became clear that I needed to make more time for myself and my loved ones if I was going to truly begin enjoying my life to the fullest. But that meant saying “no” to this opportunity. At least for now.
Growing up as an involved, motivated student, I said “yes” to everything. I would attend high school, go to a local store to work as a retail sales associate, go to dance rehearsals, run home, scarf down dinner, complete my homework, and go to bed. I thoroughly enjoyed doing all of these activities, but they ate up nearly all of my time. And despite how exhausted I was at the end of each day, most times, as soon as my head hit my pillow, I was filled with so many anxious thoughts about the next day that I would stay up nearly all night. The result was me constantly running on an empty tank of gas until I would eventually crash. This is not a sustainable way to live.
Saying no can be challenging because you can feel like you're bound to disappoint others by asserting your own needs. But piling work on top of yourself isn’t going to serve anybody any good. You will likely end up experiencing burnout, and you won’t be able to produce the best work for the individuals and organizations you’re collaborating with. Not all of the time in your daily life needs to be spent in a seemingly “productive” manner. You deserve to allow yourself time to take care of your mind, body, and soul. Those times are part of what can make life feel blissful.
Needless to say, I ended up turning down the immediate project this organization offered me because I felt like it would cause some imbalance in my life. Bringing myself to say no was hard, and dare I say, painful. But a few days later, I’m feeling a bit lighter. Just because you say no once, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be denied great opportunities for the rest of your life. Opportunities will come and go, but taking care of yourself should always remain a constant.