Annie Yan

Parents, teachers, coaches, friends—everyone has always said the same thing: quitters never win. To be honest, I’m not quite sure why “quitting” has gotten such a poor reputation. While quitters indeed never win, they never exactly lose either. In fact, quitters actually stop wasting their time doing whatever it is they didn’t like in the first place—seems like a win to me.

Most Yale students can relate to the “never say no” mantra I had in high school. I needed to do anything and everything I could in order to build my résumé for college. After all, what college wouldn’t want such a well-rounded student? If I hated the activity (most of the time I did) and had a horrible time (also happened frequently), at least I could build enough character to have a nice personal development arc in my Common App essay.

Even still, I had to be honest with myself; there was no need for me to be a member of the Future Business Leaders of America — I want to be an English major and have absolutely no desire to become a businesswoman. Did I have to be a student leader for these elementary school children? No, because I don’t like children. And why on Earth was I still a Girl Scout, when I hadn’t sold a box of cookies in three years?

I definitely was doing these activities for the wrong reasons, and therefore, wasting my time.

I think we are all well-aware of just how precious our time is. Transitioning into Yale, I wanted to leave a lot of my extracurriculars in high school and adjust to the new (and far more challenging) academic climate. I also had to worry about making friends. In the beginning of my first year, I attended many open houses and club meetings, only to never show up again (sorry).  And now, though many Yale extracurriculars come knocking at my door (occasionally this happens literally), I have the freedom to say no. Instead, I choose to fill my time with activities I actually enjoy. 

I finally quit saying yes when all I wanted to do is say no.

And so throughout my first semester, I watched my friends join clubs they did and didn’t like, learned about the different cultures and intensities of club sports teams, and took four intro classes because I didn’t really know how hard this school is. I was an observer — and I liked it. I figured out what I wanted and what I wanted to do here. Saying “no” to random extracurriculars was the best thing I could have done for myself. 

This decision, however, has been harder to follow through with than I first expected. While now I love everything I do, I am not doing too much. The ironic part of this is while I get to spend more time with friends, I feel a sense of extracurricular FOMO. I don’t want to be doing something else, but everyone else is — so what should I be doing?

Quitting saying the faux “yes” would have to apply to my personal life as well. I usually didn’t struggle to say “no” to things — socially at least. However, over the past few months, when people text me asking to go grab Donut Crazy, go to the Silliman HIIT classes hungover, or go study in Bass even when I have absolutely no homework, I’ve found it very hard to say no. It may be because I feel that if I say no once to a friend (usually a newer one), I will permanently taint the friendship with my rejection. Or maybe it really just is, once again, FOMO. 

Regardless, at these times I go with my gut — if I don’t want to, I literally force myself to say no. There is no craft behind these little rejections. I just feel like saying my answer—no excuse, no lies, no sugar-coating—is enough of an answer.

I also feel a bit powerful by doing so. After saying no, I can go off and do whatever it is I want. I can get my ever-necessary nine hours of sleep, or finally get around to washing the laces of my frat shoes. I can literally do anything. How could somebody not want this type of freedom? Knowing what I want, and having the balls to say no to what I don’t want, may be one of the best things I could do for myself. 

Now, that is self-care.

Hailey O’Connor | Contact hailey.oconnor@yale.edu