46: The Summer of Yes

46: The Summer of Yes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

The Summer of Yes

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.

~Henry David Thoreau

In April of 2012, my writers’ group struggled to find speakers. I loved my group enough to drive two hours on a Saturday morning once a month to be there. But I felt the meeting quality had started to slide. Several meetings that year had no speakers at all, just members reading their work out loud to the group. I offered to help out the speaker committee and shared a list of ideas for future topics with them.

Two weeks before the meeting, I hadn’t heard from anyone on the committee. So I followed up. No one had even contacted a speaker, let alone booked one. A fellow member told me, “I can’t find a speaker. I don’t even know where to look!”

I’ll admit I got annoyed. A lot of members stopped showing up when we didn’t have outside speakers. So I told her I’d take care of it. I had no idea what to do either, but this dithering wasn’t getting anything done.

Ten minutes later I had an idea.

Five minutes after that, Google provided a telephone number to call.

Twenty minutes after the “I don’t know where to look” conversation, a librarian from the local university thanked ME for the chance to share his knowledge on short notice with a bunch of strangers. For free. I didn’t know if he was a great speaker, or if anyone would be interested in his talk on Internet research techniques, but I let the committee know the name of our speaker and arranged for him to have a projector and screen for his presentation.

Afterward, I sat in my chair thinking, “Wow. That was so easy. Why couldn’t anyone else do that?” Then enlightenment smacked me in the back of the head. It wasn’t that no one else could do it; it was that no one else DID. Which made me wonder: How many opportunities had I lost because I didn’t make an effort?

I decided one word would rule my life and that word was “yes.” Yes, I would make the effort. Yes, I would participate. Yes, I would walk that 5K race for charity. Yes, I would attend that concert in the park. Yes, I would go to that science fiction convention. Yes, I would sit in the driver’s seat instead of on my love seat. I declared that summer the Summer of Yes.

The next morning, the mayor hosted a 5K walk along the River Trail. So I got off my couch at 9:00 a.m., put on the jogging shoes I never jogged in, and went down to the park. I doubted my sanity in walking a 5K with no preparation, but when the shotgun went off I started moving my legs. My couch potato behind walked all three miles that day. I hovered near the end of the pack, outpaced by women with strollers, but I finished. I applied a little effort and accomplished something that just the day before I wouldn’t have even tried.

After that, “yes” became my mantra. I’d get invitations and reply, “Of course, it’s the Summer of Yes!” I looked for things I wouldn’t normally do. I entered costume contests. I rode my bicycle to work instead of driving. I tried recipes from magazines and shopped at the farmer’s market. Most of the time, “yes” was easy. Once I put myself in motion, momentum kept me moving forward. I finally felt my real life had begun.

Soon the Summer of Yes spread to my friends. I’d ask them to come along on my adventures, and they would say, “Well, it is the Summer of Yes!” They invited me along on theirs, reciting the mantra when I was reluctant. The Summer of Yes infected them, then mutated, infecting me with the new strain. Because while the Summer of Yes started with 5K races and concerts, it quickly reached beyond such trivialities.

Yes, I will be president of my writers’ club. Yes, I will finish my degree in Database Administration. Yes, I will submit my short stories for publication. Yes, I do hate my toxic workplace, and yes, I will apply for other opportunities. The Summer of Yes focused me on the things I really wanted from life; it showed me I didn’t have the things that were truly important to me.

By the end of the Summer of Yes, I had a new job. I got published that fall. By Christmas, I earned my associate’s degree. And my writers’ group meetings had speakers scheduled at least a month in advance. “Yes” literally changed my life.

My friends still talk about the Summer of Yes. They think it’s over. For me, the Summer of Yes didn’t end. It became the Year of Yes, then the Life of Yes. I’m still saying “yes” even though the tasks have gotten harder, accomplishing them more complex. “Yes” got me a stellar performance review and a promotion. “Yes” is taking me to Europe for the first time.

The Summer of Yes started with a moment of frustration. I hope it never ends. And in case you are wondering, the librarian who spoke at our meeting was fantastic.

~Ericka Kahler

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