The power of 'yes'
Think of a time you almost didn’t say "yes."
Are you happy that you did say it? What would have happened if you hadn't said it? How would your life be different today?
"Yes" can be a very powerful word. It can open up doors that lead to unexplored worlds. In the Peace Corps, saying yes means lots of new foods, new ways of thought, new customs, new friends, new family.
When I said accepted my Peace Corps assignment, I said yes to it all. I said yes to exploring. I said yes to new sounds and smells. I said yes to different means of transport. I said yes to working across cultures. I said yes to a different way of living. I said yes to a family that started out strangers, but has become my own. I wouldn’t go back and change a single ‘yes’ to a ‘no.'
Over the past year I have said yes much more often than I have said no.
In my old life I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to cold showers. However, I have found out during my first year here that if cold showers are the only showers, it is much easier to say ‘yes’ and welcome them with open arms.
Living with strangers can be an uncomfortable, especially when those strangers are a five-person family who have been living in the same house for the last 25 years and you enter as a guest. I really didn’t want to say ‘yes’ to this, but I did. And these five strangers have become my family. They have become the people that greet me every morning and wish me sweet dreams before bed. They help answer my questions when I am completely lost. They make fun of me when I have been avoiding those cold showers for a little bit too long. They help fix my mistakes. They actively participate in my crazy ideas for new ‘art’ ventures like dream catchers and candle making. They are my biggest supporters and advocates in my community. And to think, I wanted to say ‘no.’ But I said ‘yes.'
I said ‘yes’ to living with less. Peace Corps is about integrating into local communities and living in a completely different way. So, in addition to my cold showers, I said ‘yes’ to more home-cooked meals and much less eating out. I said ‘yes’ to my new favorite drink, Inca Kola – a neon yellow, bubblegum-flavored, carbonated beverage. I said ‘yes’ to wearing the same thing many times in a row, just because I can. I said ‘yes’ to a limited Wi-Fi connection in exchange for more time spent connecting face to face.
I said ‘yes’ to playing with the neighborhood kids. When they come knocking, asking for help, my first instinct was to make up a reason I couldn't. But I said ‘yes.’ Now, these encounters are always filled with laughs and smiles, much more than I would have experienced if I had spent the 30 minutes alone in my room binge watching the latest Netflix series. They always end with super adorable selfies, something that many children don’t get to see often, because I said ‘yes.’
I said ‘yes’ to opportunities to publicly embarrass myself. Or in other words, dance. Now, with my two left feet, you think I would have given up. But no, instead I say ‘yes, let’s do it!’ Salsa, Marinera, Festejo, Bachata – all different types of dances here in Peru. Peruvians are great dancers, pretty much born dancing. I was even recently presented the opportunity to help a fellow Volunteer by presenting a “typical dance” from the U.S. in a town festival in front of hundreds of people. So, obviously, I said ‘yes’!
I said ‘yes’ to many nights out when I wanted to stay in because staying home meant predictability. But every single time I went out I met someone new or learned something new or talked about something new. I laughed at new jokes and practiced typical Peruvian customs while perfecting my Peruvian slang. All because I said ‘yes.’
I said ‘yes’ to doing things without letting fear hold me back. I have traveled in Peru alone; taken taxis, buses, and planes solo. Something I was once terrified to do has become normal to me over time because each time I said ‘yes’ (although I was still scared the first few times). I have explored more, strengthened bonds, built new bridges, seen things from new perspectives. All because I said ‘yes.’
I said ‘yes’ when I had no idea how I would get it done. So many times in Peru, I have been asked to do something that I have had no idea how to do. However, every time I say ‘yes’ I learn from it. I learn not only how to get it done, but that I am capable of figuring it out as I go. I learn to be a risk taker and I perfect the art of presenting something for the first time as an expert on the topic. I grow because I say ‘yes.’
I said ‘yes’ to being different and being okay with it. I look different but I accept it. I speak differently but I still speak. I said ‘yes’ to sharing my culture and beliefs – when they are accepted and when they are rejected. Sometimes I feel alone, but I don’t change who I am because I also said ‘yes’ to being me.
It’s incredible all the goodness that can surge in to fill your life from something as simple as a three-letter word. And to think, I could have said ‘no.’