A few years ago at the end of my semester of student teaching, I wrote a manifesto for my high school students, encouragement for how I hoped they would live their lives. I made it into a sign for them to hang in their classroom. I also made myself one, and it has become my own personal manifesto, too, a group of principles I try to shape my life by. In it, two of my favorite lines state, “Say no sometimes, when it is the right thing to do. Say yes sometimes, when it is the right thing to do.” I love these lines because they give me the freedom to uphold standards and examine my right to say yes or no in any given situation.
So often in our society, there is a fear of saying no. We fill our calendars with activities and groups and people, drawing our worth from our busy-ness. It’s such a phenomenon with the Millenial and younger generations that we coined a term for it: fear of missing out. Especially for women, it seems we are often trained from a young age to please others, rewarded for complying as we go through school, social circles and jobs. It can be exhausting.
I remember when I was younger, some of the first times I said no to others were filled with anguish. No matter what the occasion, whether serious or not, I worried about disappointing other people. As I’ve grown older and practiced saying no, though, I’ve realized: I am someone worth choosing. My needs and desires and hopes are valid, and I don’t need to trade them in for someone else’s or feel bad for not choosing what someone else wants me to. I can stand and choose my self. And rather than taking it personally when someone else doesn’t choose in the way I hoped they would, I can also respect their no, as well. It’s all in an effort to help each other live more honestly.
Because for our yes to mean something, our no also has to mean something. Like saying yes, saying no requires faith and grit and being grounded in who we are. Our nos free us to be able to say yes when the right place, person or opportunity comes along. Then, because it is an intentional choice, we can give ourselves joyfully and unreservedly to living out that yes. Part of the beauty of saying yes is that we get to make our choice, saying no to all of the other options.
And so, in this annual “I Do” wedding issue, we celebrate those who are choosing to say yes to another person and to building a life together, and we celebrate those who are saying yes to new adventures, new friendships, new life in any form. In these pages, five newly-married couples share the stories of their love and favorite parts of their wedding ceremonies and receptions. Five women from our region reflect on the ways they have said yes to dating, forgiveness, children, their self and their hometown. And three couples who have been married for 14, 26 and 52 years pass along wisdom about the daily yeses of commitment. May these stories make us better, inviting us into celebration and triumph and glory.
I hope our nos clear the path for us to say yes both intentionally and spontaneously to the things and people that bring us laughter, fun and true goodness. In whatever we choose, let our yeses mean yes and our nos mean no. Let us live our answers with our whole selves. And let our lives of joy be the testament to our answers; no other explanation necessary.