Just Say No: It’s Okay To Opt Out
I’m an ‘80s baby. Most of us were raised to go to school and get an education. This education was supposed to get us a stable job making “good” money so that we could buy a home and raise a family. Your goal was to retire at an age just young enough to enjoy watching our grandchildren become adults, until our final chariot arrived to take us out of here.
Of course your career had to be practical. You had to sit behind a desk in front of a computer with a file cabinet behind you and to your right. You didn’t have to like the job. The job didn’t have to make you happy. The job didn’t even have to offer you a promising career trajectory. You just needed to do it and hope that you could stay there for two or three decades without any major problems. Inspiring? Not at all. But it was much more secure and realistic than being a singer, or artist, or (God forbid), writer (ugh)!
So we did it. We did what we were programmed to do. Then, many of us got married. We had children. We were dutiful wives, mothers, and employees all at the same time. We came in early, and stayed late. We had another baby because he wanted a boy and we already had two girls. We postponed getting that certification, or graduate degree, or starting the business because it wasn’t in someone else’s best interest. We stayed for the kids. We pretended. We did what was expected of us from everyone else while neglecting what we really wanted to do. This year, the social justice movement reawakened many of us, and we were expected to care, be worried, make signs, march, be hyper-vigilant, and forget about ourselves.
The most consequential thing we forgot was that we have the option to say no. We have the right to leave. We can opt out of the things that do not serve us; the things that harm us. While we are being everything to everybody, our mind is screaming, our heart is crying, our body is being drained of the very blood that is supposed to give us life. When we carry loads that do not belong to us, our sinews start unraveling and our bones start to collapse. When we allow others to live vicariously through us, our spirits start to become shrouded in their shadow instead of illuminated in our own light. And in time, there will be no more light.
So, in this perilous time where people are sick, friends and family are perishing, and we are forced to be apart from the people and places that bring us joy, do not dance to songs whose rhythm doesn’t vibe with your soul. Do not take up causes you don’t believe in. Do not say yes when your first mind tells you to decline. Do not “make room” for things that do not naturally fit. Do not bend over backwards to preserve what’s supposed to die. Do not try to convince who or what is leaving to stay. Extend your grace where your intuition tells you and nowhere else.
Doubt isn’t always bad; be skeptical. A “duty” that will cause your demise is a trap. It’s not a sin to change your mind about anything or anybody. You can always course-correct and it’s nobody else’s business. Finally, sometimes doing nothing is doing something.