The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Let your yes be yes and your no be no

You are in control over your schedule, time and actions

<p>Sarah Ashman is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Sarah Ashman is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Last Wednesday I made the mistake of scheduling away just about every one of the 24 hours the day held. It was one of those days that wasn’t just full. It was dangerously overlapping. In order to pull this thing off, I needed to acquire some kind of superwoman ability to be in two places at once.

I woke up and threw my pillow over my head, knowing I was going to be a chaotic mess flying from office hours to babysitting jobs to group projects to the library until either Thursday came, or I dropped like a fly — and I wasn’t quite sure which would come first. I was absolutely dreading the day that I — no one else — had planned for myself.

The worst part was that I knew I had way too much to do to be able to do anything well. I had said yes to so many things, in fear of missing an opportunity if I said no, that I had weakened my ability to follow through on my “yeses.”

Going to school here, I think that it’s easy to think our strength lies in how many things we can say “yes” to — how many groups we can be involved in, how many credits we can take, how many leadership positions we can hold, how many social engagements we can juggle… I’ve fallen into this way of thinking too many times to count.

The issue is, I think the way we pile up engagements actually leaves us less engaged in whatever it is we’re doing. We want to be involved, but we’re involved in so many things that we spread ourselves thin, and we minimize what we actually have to offer.

What would it look like if our community here on Grounds recognized strength as being able to say “yes” and “no?” What would it look like to encourage students to take on less as a means of energizing our student body to be able to do proportionally more with fewer responsibilities?

Fourth year is an exceptionally hard time to say no to anything, because for so many events and causes here on Grounds, it’s the last opportunity you will ever have to say yes. It’s hard to know what to do full force and what to let go of. As I’ve tried to think critically about my own schedule and simplify my engagements, I’ve tried to remember that every time I say no to something, I make room to say yes to something better — and truly mean it. Every time I say no, I empower my yes to mean that I will be able to give 100 percent of my energy to fulfilling that commitment, rather than 75, 50 or even 25 percent I’ve unfortunately given things before.

So what, do we just start cutting random stuff out? I think that a critical look at our schedules might begin with a critical look at our convictions. What is it that we care most about? And how can we make our schedule reflect that?

At the end of the day, this might be a hard exercise. Saying no to things reminds us of our own limitations as a person in the midst of a culture that tells us that we can — and should be able to — do it all. Sometimes saying no can feel like we’ve failed — it can feel as though someone needs us, and we can’t help. But it might be worthwhile to re-evaluate our definition of success. What if victory was found not in being able to do it all but being able to do a few things very, very well?

There may be academic or extracurricular commitments that you’re locked into and need to finish, and I would encourage you to honor those until the agreed upon time. You may have to wait until the next elections or appointments to think critically about whether you want to run again, and that’s okay. For those of you who feel stuck in roles you’ve taken on, I would encourage you to think about where you might be able to take control of your “yeses” and “nos” in your social life, home life or volunteer life. You might not be able to remake your whole schedule after reading this but your plans for Friday night? They’re all up to you. Maybe you need to say no to going out in order to say yes to some much needed-self care. You have the power to make an active choice.

There is no way around it — we are an extremely powerful body of leaders, friends, students, believers, activists, forward-thinkers and servants. We are accomplishing a whole hell of a lot, spread thin as we are. What would our impact look like if we enabled ourselves to apply our skills, time and energy fully to the things most important to us, rather than feeling pressured to half-heartedly take on everything under the sun?

What if we let our “yeses” be “yeses” and our “nos” be “nos?”

Sarah Ashman is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.