Saying Yes…

Inspired by Jonathan.

This is a post about saying yes.

yes in clouds

In the very late spring of 2012, a young man struck up a conversation with me on Facebook. I’d seen his name in discussions and under comments made by mutual friends we had – and we had quite a few mutual friends. I don’t usually engage in conversations with people I don’t know who randomly hit me up on social media. And I was in the midst of a really bad breakup at the time and just didn’t want to be bothered. For those two reasons, I initially decided to blow him off. As he introduced himself, I prepared myself to be coldly polite but uninviting.

no face

But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. And I talked to him.

yes

I found I enjoyed talking to him. He was intelligent and interesting and funny and quirky and nerdy like me. We both loved food and music and the arts. We talked for weeks and weeks. I found talking to him to be a welcome distraction from my broken heart, and I looked forward to our conversations. He let me rant and rave and cry about how I was hurting, and he became part of my healing. He was very gentle with me, never applying any pressure or pushing me in any way. It was if he knew how fragile I was at the time, and he was going to make sure he didn’t damage me in any way.

As summer started drawing to a close, he asked me out on a date. Now while I might have agreed to becoming Facebook chat buddies, I definitely wasn’t going to go on a date with him. And to make matters worse, he had the exact same birthdate (both born on 2/16) as my ex did. I was so traumatized from my ex that I couldn’t imagine dating a man with the same birthday. I felt it was a sign. I had put Aquarians on my list of Zodiac signs to never date. I was all prepared to turn him down.

no with hand

But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. And we went on a date.

yes with checkbox

We met for drinks, which became dinner. We walked through the streets of town, talking and talking like old friends with a lot to catch up on. It was wonderful. It was beautiful – right up until I asked how old he was. It turned out that he was a LOT younger than me. He knew I was a few years older than him, but insisted he didn’t expect me to be significantly older. We exchanged driver’s licenses, both shocked and at a loss for words as we compared our birth years. I did all kinds of equations in my head, calculating how old I was when he went to kindergarten, how old he was when I got my first job, how old I was when he graduated high school, etc. But he said he did not care, and asked when he could see me again. I knew I couldn’t date someone so much younger. It wasn’t a smart move to get into something that couldn’t possibly sustain itself. I approved of all the good common sense ringing through my head.

nope neon

But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. And I agreed to our second date.

We continued to date, and eventually our dating became a relationship. We were very happy together for a while.

After being together a few months, we had a break up that I honestly thought we would not recover from as he left town for work. I agonized when we parted, and coupled with the previous breakup, I felt supremely defeated when it came to matters of the heart. I was dying inside and very lonely. Worst of all, I was angry that he’d taken me through this, especially after knowing how wounded I was when we met. I hated all those yeses I had just thrown about willy-nilly to be with him. Yes. Yes. Yes. Over and over again. Hadn’t my last relationship taught me anything? Had I said no to that asshole, I wouldn’t be the wreck I was now. All I needed was to have used my no, but I hadn’t. And now I was a mess.

what part of no

But after a few months of us being apart, he contacted me, asking if we could try to reconcile and be together again, saying he missed me and missed us and didn’t want to continue on without me in his life.

I wanted to turn him down. I wanted to send him away. How dare he! I didn’t do that kind of thing – take men back after they’d decided they didn’t want me anymore. Once I was gone I stayed gone. A man lucky enough to have me should get it right the first time, and not assume they could come back to me after some epiphany. I was going to tell him hell no, he couldn’t come back after he’d hurt me like he had, especially after knowing all my history.  I yelled at him. I cursed at him. I cried. I prepared my “go to hell” speech.

no red pencil

But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. I agreed to try to work things out with him.

I’m so thankful that I did, because we’ve been together and happy ever since. From the outside looking in, it makes absolutely no sense. It shouldn’t work. It looks strange as hell. He and I shouldn’t fit. We are two opposite ends of all kinds of spectrums. He is young, me not as much. He is hyper, I’m laid back. He is gregarious and outgoing, I’m more introverted. Even our complexions are opposites. But it works. We work. He and I as a couple make perfect illogical sense.

the odd couple

The moral of this story is that you have to say yes to things sometimes that from the outside looking in you think you should say no to. Every yes I said to that man was scary. Every yes I said to that man was said while my brain was screaming no. Every yes I said to that man was the opposite of what I was “supposed” to do. Every yes I said to that man made me uncomfortable, and made me face my fears about myself and my deepest insecurities. Every yes I said to that man challenged the stories I’d always told myself about why my relationships never seemed to work. But ultimately saying yes to that man instead of saying no brought me what I said I always wanted, though it looked nothing like I thought it would (which means I wouldn’t have recognized it anyway so it’s just as well.)

say yes to me

The tricky part of course is knowing what no things you should say yes to. The best recommendation I can make is that having as little fear as possible helps when considering a yes when you might have said no. Saying no to things comes from fear – fear of what we may lose, fear of what may happen to us, fear of experiencing things we don’t want to experience. We protect ourselves by saying no. I understand that, because I’ve done it. But you have to reach a point where you feel like your no doesn’t work for your life anymore. You have to believe your no is doing you more harm than good. You have to see your no as a deterrent to your life, not a protector of it. I have said no to a lot of things, and I can’t point to anything that I am absolutely sure my no gave me that improved my life. Sure, MAYBE it saved me from something, but I can’t say that with any certainty. But for all the no no no I’ve been doing, I should have something to show for it. You should too. Do you? So why not try something else, like a yes? Was me saying yes a risk? Sure. But I was sure risking nothing was giving me just that – nothing. Once I wasn’t afraid of whatever the yes brought me, even if it was not pleasant, I didn’t run from it. I embraced it. So you have to get fed up with your no before you can let it go.

Are you fed up with your no yet?

fed-up-copy

 

 

 

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Six Things The City of Baltimore Must Do If It Really Wants To Improve

Baltimore-City-aerial-view

1.    Elect a mayor with passion and vision for the city.
City leadership has become shamefully staid, almost as if they are bored with running this city, particularly our city’s mayor. She seems to be asleep at the wheel and looks absolutely irritated when I see her at press conferences, as if governing the city was taking her away from some vitally important mani/pedi appointment. Where are the leaders who clearly love the city, who have crabmeat and Old Bay seasoning running through their veins? Where are the passionate Baltimore mayors who grew up here, spent key years of their lives here, the ones who love every dysfunctional corner of this town from the junkies in front of Lexington Market to the lines of folks out on Pulaski Highway getting pit beef sandwiches as the aroma assaults their noses?

William_Donald_Schaefer  clarence du burns Kurtschmoke

Whether I agreed with Mayor Schaefer, Burns, or Schmoke’s policies during their respective tenures as mayor, I always knew they LOVED Baltimore and they truly felt their policies would better the city. This city MUST FIND leadership who isn’t solely dedicated to securing their next political positions, and who is firmly focused on Baltimore’s present and future, not just their own. When I see this city’s next mayor on television, I want to see the fire in their eyes and hear the zeal in their voices when they speak about this city. Fervor is what I want from this city’s next mayor. I want a mayor unabashedly in love with the city and unwilling to let it down.

2.    Keeping graduates of local colleges/universities in the city.
coppin Johns_Hopkins_University's_Academic_Seal loyola MICA_Logo morgan Peabody_Institute

Baltimore attracts tens of thousands of young adults to attend the numerous colleges and universities in the area. This includes a Catholic institution (Loyola), two HBCUs (Morgan — which graduates the largest number of African American engineers in the nation and Coppin), one of nation’s finest music schools (Peabody), one of the nation’s finest art schools (MICA), and one of the nation’s finest medical schools (Hopkins). But if you check out the numbers of the out-of-state graduates who stay in the Baltimore metropolitan area once they graduate, you’ll find very few do. You mean to tell me these students spend at least four years in this area pursuing their education, and often become involved in the area’s nightlife and culture, and nothing in that time spent here makes them want to stay? These young adults are exactly the types of people who would make good citizens of this city – college educated, highly trained and skilled, and career oriented in many cases. Baltimore needs to do a much better job of encouraging these people to stay and take root in the city. Their new blood and fresh perspectives on the city as people who aren’t as enmeshed in the city are vital if Baltimore wants to move successfully further into the 21st century.

3.    Long term improvements in the city’s public school system.

baltimore city public school building
It makes me so angry when I hear all of this talk about attracting people into the city to live without any real discussion about improvements to the school system across the board for the long term. The city seems to enjoy forgetting that while singles who enjoy urban living might find Baltimore a hip, fun place to be at first (which it can be) will sing a different tune the minute they marry and start families. With some quick Googling, they will quickly discover just how poorly the schools in the city perform. They realize a good deal of their financial resources must be spent avoiding Baltimore City Public Schools if they want their kids educated and not assaulted – resources they discover they don’t have once they check the tuition at Gilman or Garrison Forest School. Most city public schools simply do lousy jobs at educating children, point blank period.

baltimore city public schools

There is the occasional elementary school that happens to be cloistered away in a “good” neighborhood, but those neighborhoods are hard to find permanent housing in for that reason. So these dual income households, the very types of tax-paying households the city is in dire need of leave the city because they cannot find suitable free education for their children. Until the city can offer a school system that offers a quality free education, no one is going to stay here and subject their children to the piss-poor schools this city has if they don’t have to. But how seriously can a city take improving education when one of its former mayors manages to “lose” over $50 million dollars out of its education budget?

4.    Realistic real estate development that includes affordable housing projects.
I get that the multi-million dollar harbor side real estate developments are sexy and hot looking, overflowing with amenities like Starbucks lattes on tap and organic free range chicken boxes (or so I’ve heard).  But I always wonder what makes these real estate developers think there is a sustainable market for these million dollar plus units in this area.

Baltimore-Inner-Harbor-CondoDomain

I mean, do they really look at the population of this city in a realistic way? How do they conclude that there is a great need for luxury condos starting in the millions, and luxury apartments that start at over fifiteen hundred dollars a month? Really though?  Where is the pool of folks in this area that can afford those digs?  Those that can afford them tend to be a transient group because they often have careers that take them from one city to another, seeking opportunities to be more upwardly mobile, build their resumes, and earn more money. This means they move out of these units after a year or two. For the onest that stay,  as soon as those folks need to educate their children, they check out the aforementioned tuitions at the local private schools and figure why not move a few miles down the road and have their kids attend high quality public schools in other parts of Maryland or Northern Virginia? Then the developments are occupied way below capacity, are auctioned off at bargain basement prices that average Baltimoreans still can’t afford, and eventually become beautiful half-empty buildings.

affordable housing 2 Michael Barland and Kevin Bell

Of course affordable housing isn’t this glamorous thing – it’s not sexy, but it is necessary. It is the type of real estate development that could go a long way towards stabilizing the city by providing real homes for mid-level income earning tax-paying citizens who aren’t on the kind of career fast tracks that require moving around a lot, and are looking for stability and a home in Baltimore (especially if done in concert with #3.) But even affordable housing cannot be successfully created in troubled neighborhoods without making some effort to address that neighborhood’s issues. Real estate developers tackling affordable housing development in this city are going to have to look at the neighborhoods that are still at least somewhat stable and viable (“buffer neighborhoods/blocks” if you will, where there is still a decently high percentage of home ownership), place small projects in those neighborhoods, and create larger regions of more stable areas with home ownership as a foundation that can grow out from those core “buffer” zones, and slowly impact the more troubled neighborhoods by making them smaller by increasing the size of the safer “buffer neighborhoods” little by little. I see “affordable housing” being attempted in some super-high crime areas of the city and it makes absolutely no sense. The houses will remain vacant because those who can afford them still won’t live in them.

5.    Massive, properly funded, fully supported and spearheaded, and  effective programs to address the city’s drug addicted population.
Conservative estimates say ten percent of this city’s population is addicted to heroin. Keep in mind that’s just ONE drug, and that also means that conservatively, there are roughly 60,000 heroin addicts in Baltimore right now. As much as the non-addicted population likes to pooh-pooh the staggering junkie leaning folks that move through the city’s streets, this is the very population that wreaks havoc on the city internally and externally, both in public and in private, in part  because they have very few treatment options available. They drain the city’s resources with their health care needs and their use of other federal and state resources with no end in sight because there is no rehabilitation in sight, and the few treatment options available to the general public are overburdened. In fact, the corner considered the most dangerous in the country in a recent study of crime nationwide, the corner of Gay Street and North Avenue in East Baltimore, zip code 21213, is home to one of the city’s most popular free drug treatment clinics.

methadone clinic

Whether it is the functional addict who is poorly performing at whatever job he/she has managed to hang onto through their addiction, or the long-term addict who has relied on crime to feed their addictions, this city
simply cannot afford to lose ten percent of its human resources. There is too much work to be done and we need ALL hands on deck. Drug addiction is killing this city and draining it of hard-working, tax-paying people that are vital to the city. Continuing to not acknowledge that a huge commitment of resources needs to go to this problem is doing this city a HUGE disservice — especially in a city whose major employers and real estate owners are hospitals whose facilities stand right in the middle of many of the communities being strangled by the outcomes from its citizen’s untreated drug addictions.

6.    Re-funding of youth centers and programs for at-risk youth/young adults

recs
Crime crime crime. Yeah, the city’s got it. Sure there are lots of things that could be done that might provide relief. But if I had to put my efforts into a single enterprise with an eye towards reducing crime, I would pick this one. We need the rec centers back. ALL OF THEM. And we need them staying open LATE, until midnight during the summer months when school was out like they used to. We need BNBL (Baltimore Neighborhood Basketball League for those too young to remember) back. We need summer job programs back. We need someone to finally build a legitimate sizeable dirt bike course so these kids could at least have the option of racing there. We need every type of program that directs youth’s energies to positive things. We need everyone involved, from the big area businesses to the small ones. It kills me that these are the first programs to go when the cutting budget time goes, but a youth jail miraculously appears in the place of these things. You have no idea what could be avoided if a young man could say to his friends, “nah man, I’m going up to the rec. I’ll get at y’all lata.” So please give them other options.

rec center

Just my two cents mind you. What do you recommend?