The power of 'yes'
Think of a time you said yes that you almost didn’t.
Are you happy that after all you did accept? What would have happened if you blew off the opportunity instead? How would your life be different today?
Yes can be a very powerful word. It opens up doors that lead to unexplored worlds. In the Peace Corps, that means lots of new foods, new ways of thought, new customs, new friends, new family.
When I said yes to the Peace Corps, 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 has become my own. I said yes to probably more than I was comfortable with but 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 fact, I try to eliminate the word no from my vocabulary. For one reason, people where I live can be pretty persistent and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer so by sheer necessity you are forced to say yes or come up with a good excuse as to why not with a future date as to when your answer will be ‘yes.’
In my old life I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to cold showers. This is actually something I didn’t give much thought to before joining the Peace Corps, and consequently one of the things it has taken me the longest to adjust to. However, I have found out during my first year here that if I spend 45 minutes doing high intensity workouts beforehand, it is much easier to say ‘yes’ to the ice baths and welcome them with open arms.
Living with strangers can be an uncomfortable thought, especially when those strangers are a five-person family who have been living in the same house for the last 25 years where you will be entering as a guest. I really didn’t want to say ‘yes’ to this either 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 our communities and how can we do that while living in a way completely different from others. 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 way more than once, well, 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 is to make up a reason I can’t tonight but I say ‘yes.’ 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. And 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 (and actually actively seek out) opportunities to publicly embarrass myself. Or in other words, dance. Now, with my two left feet, you think I would have given up by now. But no, instead I say ‘yes, let’s do it!’ Salsa, Marinera, Festejo, Bachata – all different types of dances you will find here in Peru. And 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 that 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 laugh at new jokes and practiced typical Peruvian customs while perfecting my Peruvian slang. Every time 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 may have still been scared the first few times). Because of this 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 the art of presenting something for the first time as an expert on the topic. I grow because I said ‘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.’