“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
– Mark Twain
In life we often fear what we do not know and what we do not understand. It’s a simple defense mechanism humans have had for centuries. If we don’t know what something is, the automatic response is to see it as a threat and treat it as such to protect ourselves. Should we realize that we aren’t in any danger, then do we start to open up and no longer perceive that unknown as a threat.
Recently, I’ve realized how that trait may not always be helpful in every situation.
I used to think of myself as someone who’s brave and bold and pretty fearless in a lot of things. But as I’ve grown older and gone through more difficult experiences, I’ve come to realize that I’m really not any of those things and maybe I never was.
Going through high school has made me question a lot more things in not only my life but life in general. It’s made me question many decisions I’ve had to make or are making. And it’s made me question what I thought I wanted from life. I find myself constantly trying to make the “best” decision, never realizing that there is no best decision. I always want to make the “smartest” decision, again never realizing that such a thing does not exist. And on top of it all, I find myself always trying to make a decision based on my preconceived ideas of life, what I want, and my future. If something doesn’t quite fit into my box of expectations, I’m closed off to the idea of it. It must automatically be a “bad” decision because it didn’t reach my full expectation and there’s no way I could ever love an experience that is slightly off from what I thought I wanted.
If you were to ask my freshman, sophomore, even junior year self, I would have 100% agreed with that ideology. I would have told you that that decision probably wasn’t going to be something I would’ve enjoyed in the long run because it wasn’t the “smartest” decision or the “best” decision or it didn’t live up to one of my preconceived ideas of life. I find myself constantly saying “no”, “maybe I shouldn’t do it”, or “it’s probably not what I want anyways” more than anything else. And before I would’ve thought that there was no problem in that thinking, that being more selective about different opportunities and experiences was just me protecting myself from getting hurt or going through another painful experience.
But it’s through painful experiences that anyone ever discovers what a beautiful experience is.
How am I ever going to know what’s “good” or “bad” if I never allow myself to go through a “bad” experience? How will I ever know if what I want is truly what I want if I never venture out into something new?
As a seventeen year old high school senior, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that having this so called epiphany has made me the brave, bold, fearless girl I thought I was all those years ago because the truth is, I’m still terrified. I still say no to things. I still make decisions based on what I think I want out of life, whether it’s regarding school, relationships, friendships. But I’ve slowly come to understand how important it is for me to say “yes” more. So what if something doesn’t exactly fit into my standards or expectations? That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or good.
I don’t want to end my high school life finding out that I’ve said no way more times than I could count to new experiences and opportunities.
The unknown is terrifying, trust me applying to colleges and not knowing if you’re going to get in until a good few months after you’ve submitted your applications has really taught me that. But sometimes terrifying can be good. Sometimes terrifying can be that kick in the pants we need to jumpstart on a new friendship, relationship, career choice.
So, from now until the end of the school year, I implore you to start saying yes more. Whether it’s to new clubs, classes, teachers, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, extracurricular activities, say “Yes”. Say it because you never know where it might lead.