The power of saying, “NO” is a wonderful power to acquire. I’m going to be personal in this blog post and talk about myself. I went to college with the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship not because I truly wanted it, but because I didn’t know how to say NO. I could’ve gone to college for free because of my dad’s disabled veteran’s status. But all eyes were on me and I was too afraid to say, “I don’t want to be a teacher.” Teachers at my school and my mom’s school were excited for me and I felt that I would disappoint everyone if I didn’t take the scholarship. After all, this scholarship was awarded after an essay and an interview. I won it fair and square.
I went to the University of NC at Greensboro as a dance education major. I had to audition to be able to declare dance as my major and was good enough to do that on the first try. I didn’t truly want to be a dance teacher. I wanted to major in Theater and become an actress. But whenever I brought this up I was met with a lot of negativity and I didn’t have the power to say, “NO”. I figured being a dance teacher would give me a chance to be involved in the arts and still have a “real” job.
That was short lived. I injured my hip muscles at the end of my sophomore year. My choices were to take a medical leave and return as a dance major or drop my major and choose something else. Remember, I still had that Teaching Fellows scholarship. My parents advised based solely on their personal thoughts and disregarded what the school suggested. No medical leave for me. Injured and in physical and emotional pain I hobbled to the academic classes I had left. I never returned to the dance building. I remember the day I told the secretary to just give me F in all my dance class because I’m not coming back to retake any of them. She didn’t try to pressure me into changing my mind. Looking back, I can now see that she saw how broken I was and just let me be.
My GPA was too low to keep my scholarship even though I switched to Sociology Education. I had devised a plan to earn that degree then teach for 4 years in whatever county would take me then quit. I looked at it no differently than serving 4 years in the military solely to get the education benefits. Suck it up and move on. I ended up dropping the Teaching Fellows Scholarship which meant paying back what I had used. My parents made comments about having to pay it back, but I truly didn’t care; I was at least free from having to be a teacher. I finished with my degree in Sociology and had no clue what to do after graduation. In my eyes, I had completed my indentured servitude and was free. I even had my degree shipped to my parents house because, “That’s your degree. I didn’t want that. I wanted Theater. Enjoy it.”
The years that followed college were full of job searching, low end jobs, and teaching dance. Ironic, I know. Did I enjoy teaching dance? Superficially, yes I enjoyed it. I liked seeing my students excel and win trophies. I loved seeing the how dance helped my students with motor skills, team building, time management, and other social skills. Deep inside, I was miserable because I would have rather been the one performing. But I took on more and more dance jobs because I needed money and didn’t have that power to say, “NO”!
Plenty of times I have wondered what my life would’ve been like if I had said no to the scholarship, used my dad’s VA benefits, and majored in Theater. I won’t lie and say there’s no sense dwelling on the past. There are times when reflection is imperative. It’s in that reflection that I realized my inability to say no lead me into a college experience that I’m indifferent about. I also realized that inability also had me doing a lot of work for free. I saw it as doing favors for others. Once more, looking back, I realize I did not benefit from these favors. I did things from the kindness of my heart with little to nothing given in return.
Now, I have zero problems saying no to things I don’t want to do. I can’t pin point exactly when the power came to me. It was a series of events in my late 20’s and early 30’s that put this power to the test. I passed every single one. Even in my Navy career, I stand firm in the pathway I want to follow. I’ve had offers to switch pathways and I say, “No, that’s not going to put me any closer to my ultimate goals”.
The power to say no comes from within. I can’t tell you how to find it. When you do find it you will know. The best way I can describe it is as a subtle rush of adrenaline. Your instincts wake up and tell every fiber of your being that you need to say, “NO”. I used my story of college as an over the top example of what can happen when you don’t harness this power. Let it bless you. Let it inspire you. Let it help you find the power within to say, “NO”!