I was in a bookstore yesterday and came across “Yes Man” by Danny Wallace. I like Danny Wallace. I have read other books of his and enjoyed them thoroughly if not with a bit of envy. “Why didn’t I have that idea?”, I would think to myself. So when I saw his name on the cover, I picked it up and read the back. Then I opened it up and read the first few pages. Then the conversation started. “Maybe I should say ‘yes’ more often”, I said to myself. “Maybe I should say ‘yes’ to everything I am even remotely interested in doing”, I heard myself whisper not so discreetly. “You know what you’re your problem is?” I screamed at myself while waving a mental finger in my face. “You don’t say ‘yes’ enough!”
Maybe I’m right. Maybe I don’t say ‘yes’ enough. The trouble is, I am scared. That probably surprises most people who know me. They see me as the guy who just does what he wants to do. I woke up in California on a Wednesday and decided I was moving to Denver in 3 days. A year later, around lunchtime, I decided I was done with Denver and left that evening. Two months later I ended up in New York, until I decided I was moving to Amsterdam. A city I had never seen in a country I had never visited. Two weeks later I was touching down at Schiphol Airport. And of course, everyone knows that I was asked to come to India and pondering for less time than it takes to drink a decent cocktail, I did it. And here I am today. People see me as a cat. I have always landed on my feet. Maybe not delicately or with a lot of grace, but on my feet, nonetheless.
Al lot of those things happened not because I was brave or sure of myself, like so many people seem to think, they happened because I was scared. I am scared of being a boring person. I am scared of looking back on my life and being able to ask the question “I wonder what would have happened if…” I heard that from my mom. I heard that from other people. I was scared of missing out on life. I was scared of just being like everyone else. I was scared of being trapped in a life I didn’t create. I love being asked where I am from or where I live. I never have to say something boring. And I have stories. Lots and lots and lots of stories. I love the fact that I can start sentences with “When I was on a dive safari in the Red Sea…”, “When I was on a camel in the middle of the desert near Pakistan…” or “I was petting a live cobra one day…” – All true.
So my life until now hasn’t been so much about saying “yes” to the possibility, it has been more about saying “no” to the alternative. But now, suddenly, I wonder what would or will happen if I say “yes” to possibility, screw the alternative and forget the possible negative consequences. I mean I spent twenty years working and sacrificing and learning and doing everything I could do to make sure I would never be unemployed. “How great will India look on my CV?” is the question that went through my head when I got the offer. And now, here I am, just as unemployed as if I had never done those things. Sure, I will be more employed when this whole recession thing passes over, but when will that be. First they said it would pick up early 2010. Then I heard it was not supposed to bottom out until well into 2010. The fact is, nobody knows. So what to do?
For me, I am going to say ‘yes’ to saying ‘yes’ a bit more and see if I can take that pink slip and make something cool in origami. I can’t let all the other thoughts about all the other things come in, because no matter what I do, all those other things will be just as possible. In a way, life seems a lot like bungee jumping. The most intense part of bungee jumping is not the fall. It is not speeding head first to a very solid ground. It is not wondering if the cord will snap or if something horrific will happen. It is that moment when you have to let go. It is convincing yourself to do it. To say ‘yes’ and just do it. That is the only part of bungee jumping that a person can control. Once you say ‘yes’ and let go, the rest just happens.