Yes, you can tell people “no”


Graphic by Yolanda Chow

When our Op-Ed editor asked me to write an opinion piece for this week, I wanted to tell her no. I couldn’t accept one more piece of writing, one more commitment. As I juggle my role here at Chimes, my internship, my job, classes and graduation, I didn’t want to have to add one more thing to my mental checklist.

As you are currently reading an opinion piece with my name in the byline, you know I said yes.

And as I reflect on my past four years at Calvin, and look back at all the things I’ve done here, I realized I said yes too often.

Yes, coworker, I’ll pick up your shift even though I have a test the next day. Yes, friend, I’ll go to Taco Bell at 3 a.m. after finishing this Political Science 207 paper that’s due tomorrow. Yes, boss, I’ll keep working in this toxic work environment even though I know it’d be better for my well-being to quit.

As an underclassman, I’d forgotten I could say “no.” That I wasn’t obligated to always try to make everyone happy. You can’t make everyone happy, and that’s okay, and if you say yes to 10 obligations, you won’t have time to give it your all for all of them. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but don’t spread them out too thinly, either.

I look forward to starting my career, and having only one commitment to worry about. But I know it’s not that simple: there will be multiple projects I’m working on, multiple committees I’m on, commitments outside of my job.

The word “no” is a word in my toolbox that I will need to consciously utilize, and it’s okay for you to use it too. I’m not saying to never say yes: some of my best memories from freshman year were the 3 a.m. Taco Bell runs. But with finals coming up, the semester will get busier before it ends. And as you prepare to finish strong, use the word “no” when you want to. It’s a word we learn to love at age two, but then seem to unlearn as we get older. Give yourself time to focus on your current obligations, and give yourself time to rest.