Part 1: The Power of Yasss-tralia
As most of my faithful readers (all twelve of you) know, I find the ridiculous Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel-starring comedy "Yes Man" to be an inspiring though hyperbolic film. The idea that boldly and unconditionally saying Yes to life's every opportunity and odd request has the power to pry open our eyes and hearts? It not only resonates, but has proven true time and time again in my own adventures.
When the idea for my first career transformation came about via a close friend from my first job, I metaphorically compared LinkedIn to a high-speed training rushing toward and past me. I knew I had to jump on, despite my sadness or uncertainty. Saying yes to Linkedin and San Francisco? Best decision of my young life. The same happened when my first collegiate boss/mentor nominated me for a program in Singapore, a global and multicultural explosion-of-a-place that I had never considered let alone researched. This intro led me to explore and fall in love with APAC, bravely say yes to the vacancies in USC's Hong Kong internship exchange two years later, and eventually consider a career in APAC a la Sydney myself. Finally, from saying yes to Carolyn's Iceland expedition to shouting "sure!" to Laura's yacht-party invite on the first day we met in Oz, I couldn't possibly have been rewarded with more joy or novelty for saying “yes.”
Upon arriving in Sydney (and in the weeks leading up), many a friend's advice included not only to say yes, but "Say yes to everything!" I soon realised that this was not sustainable nor necessarily me either. Despite my gregarious and extroverted nature, the rate at which I was absorbing new information, experiences and relationship-vibes was insane... to the point that certain weeks of consecutive beach days, friend dates and harbour nights were leading to imminent exhaustion and couch-potato-syndrome on the weekend.
Don't get me wrong: there are opportunities to which I've thankfully reserved the energy to say YES. Looking back upon my most immersive (and transformative) month yet, I am grateful and relieved that my first-draft of SAY YES-criteria helped me to nail down the most nourishing, unique and gloriously-"Australia" activities:
The first thing that I rightfully said yes to in November was going to the Races for Melbourne Cup Day. Considering even my boss insisted I attend the "Race that stops the country," it was a good choice to take a half day, wear the heels instead of the flats, and even take the first tequila shot at [my new favourite outdoor pub] the Beresford -- which may or may not have been handed to me by the work crush (enter: warning signs *danger zone* etc). Such a fun and memorable day!
This month, I also said yes to returning to Ladies Book club. I could not be happier that I said yes to downloading Glennon Doyle's Love Warrior, reading about our messy shameful lives and their worthiness of acceptance, getting to know inspiring American turned Aussie-permanent-residents like Ash and Kristen, and learning about cultures vastly different from my own thanks to Small Great Things and, most recently, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
I then said yes to Power Living. As much as certain yoga studios and experiences make me feel like a total poser (pun noted and trademarked, FYI), I agreed to try a class that was next to the beach with a new girlfriend and a teammate. I have never sweat more and I have never felt so in tune with my body, mind and spirit. I've now been to four classes, three in the calm morning-time, two with some serious sweat and one in Manly Beach instead of Bondi. My favourite parts? The ocean breezes via the skylight, the touch-base with Mother Earth when in child's pose, and that soothing scent of sage and sandalwood that permeates the foyer and entire studio in both locations I've seen so far.
If you recall, I said yes to Girls Gone International -- the most unlikely yet similar group of expat women, world travelers and adventurers, intro- and extroverts alike -- who gather to find community and camaraderie in their new homes, filled with uncertainty. After choosing the sunrise kayak and being vehemently rewarded, I opted into cocktails on a Friday after work only to meet countless fun women, connect with two of the Trojan variety (Fight On!), and make one friend who I instantly loved (and definitely felt drawn to due to her nerdy librarian Lynda glasses like mine!). She and I later went on our first friend-date for burgers and boy talk; I'm now sharing Christmas eve and my upcoming housewarming with a few of these keepers!
Nearing the end of this eventful month, I said yes to Friendsgiving. When Alesia (yogi friend mentioned above) invited me to a strangers' Thanksgiving feast in a new neighbourhood, I wasn't sure what to expect -- I knew that I'd at least turn out with new friends. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised! While I was definitely met with a dinner party alright, it ended up being 40 people and the same number of dishes, dances and drinking games. There were dancing gals from all countries of origin and even a rendezvous with an American sailor who walked me along the beach in some God-forsaken and very un-Sydney-like rain the next day. I guess it was kind of magical.
There are so many things I said yes to that it's actually hard to keep track. And why do I keep beating myself up, you ask? I said yes to new friends, intros galore, and fitness (from yoga to soccer to personal training, as you've read). I said yes to trying, to showing up, and to conducting an event for my client in Melbourne that took me on my second trip there! It's almost as if it was going too well to last forever...
Part 2: What I Learned about saying Yes in No-vember
First, I said yes to a point that caused a faux pas. At the end of the month, I made a first-of-its-kind mistake in my three years at LinkedIn and missed a decently sized, virtual client event. It's like I got too comfortable; I was busy saying yes to every client and every request, to seeing the town and staying out late. I suppose I then said yes too eagerly without thoughtfully planning (or calendar-ing) the commitment, which led me to fail a client, let down a teammate and disappoint myself. I was ashamed, had been forgetful, and maybe needed to take a hint from the Universe.
Fortunately, I've also been saying yes to learning opportunities, podcasts, Netflix recs and LinkedIn Learning courses in my newsfeed (see above). If I learned one thing in this course, it's Lesson 1: a failure is a single frame in a LONG strip of film. One error or proven experiment is not a testament to who we are or even what people think of us.
On the other hand, maybe I had pushed myself too far. A long month of sun, sea, socialising and sipping drinks didn't allow much time to recover. So, the Universe intervened again and said: Cory, it's okay not to say yes to everything. Don't believe me? Fine: I'll show you. At the start of December, I took a wrong step (shamefully clad in tennis shoes) on the soccer field and felt that lurch in my gut that comes with a sprain. Convincing enough, Cor? It was a test, I'm sure of it; barred from stairwells, my upstairs living room and definitely the playing fields, I was tempted all December long by friends, fun things and all the things aligned with most core values: family, adventure, simple pleasures like sushi (all the way across town). Was this a sign that I often try to balance too much?
As the month of yes-vember came to a close I thought, wrote and realised that it might be a good thing. I felt this overwhelming sense of fatigue coming over me, as if I over-exerted and -extended my efforts, intentions, interest and invitation to the Universe for more. Discouraged by my injury and saturated with paradoxical inspiration from podcasts like Oprah's and books by Brené, I felt paralysed by that torn feeling between enthusiasm and terror, mental energy and physical fatigue. I had remorse for pushing too hard, neither stretching (nor buying cleats) and for ignoring both my gut instinct and oncoming head-cold that morning of the soccer game. Then again, I was reminded with not-so-subtle symbols of Lesson 2: The many people looking out for me can serve as sanity-checkers, sounding boards and bumpers to my bowling lanes. Friends drove me home, my flatmate Rupert brought me dinner and icepacks, and a colleague just happened to call me and check in the next morning as she was passing by my house?! In the spirit of the holiday season (and my Last Watched on Netflix): It's as if God sent in his angels full force a la It's a Wonderful Life.
The setback led me to say YES to lazy pool days and letting someone else play "Tour guide" for once
Earlier this month, I decided to sleep in on a Sunday and opt out (aka bail on) a few activities I had planned, including morning yoga and a tour along my other favourite beach: Manly. Thank goodness I rested my weary soul, and thank goodness my new friends gave me another chance: a new acquaintance Justine asked if I'd be willing to venture in the afternoon instead and so, when I got a surge of energy, I rounded up my favorite new athleisure instead of getting ready and took my absolute favourite ferry ride through the perfect breeze and choppy harbour. Lesson 3: Saying no to one thing makes room for something else. I had the perfect afternoon almost unexpectedly. I walked, treated myself to Yogurtland for old times' sake (instantly reminded of USC days), explored the side streets that are off- shoots of Manly's boardwalk and saw open air markets, cute gift ideas and the This & That boutique where a separate new friends works. :) Finally, with Power Living next door and my afternoon dates dying for a workout, we checked in for what became my favourite yoga class to date in Sydney: It was calming, static and deep, sweat-inducing but not overly hot, just breezy enough and tasty from the salty air outside
I had such a good time meeting Justine and Chad, walking them along the Manly beach walk and showing them a brewery (where it was my first visit too!). We had delicious shared plates; I loved the infamous ginger beer, setting sun and conversation about life, career, entrepreneurship and life goals. I cruised home through an epic Sydney sunset high on inspiration re: living off house-sitting/ literal "couch surfing" in order to explore a new land the way they were.
While forbidden from exercise and seeping with reflections and ideas, I had the opportunity to attend a unique career workshop that my office was hosting: the topic? Transformation. Needless to say, I mustered one last yes.
In a ninety-minute exercise, I thought more deeply about my aspirations and the fears/insecurities/fixed-mindset narratives that keep me for reaching wholly toward them. I recalled wanting to live abroad... I realised that I still want to travel solo to an unknown land, continue to discover my independence, and write a work for the world about it: a novel, a memoir or a piece to remember me by (hence the return to this blog!). I want it to reflect what I've learned so that someone else can feel confident enough to explore beyond the reef; I want it to contain the shortcuts that were lent to me and I want it to inspire someone to grab life by the collar, say yes to speeding trains and no to non-essentials by leaping into uncertainty, not with the absence of fear but with the FIRE of it. I want to be a Jill of all Trades and Mistress of None; I want to say yes and listen close for when to say no, because Lesson 5: some things in life might only happen once. I want to stay safe and still push myself beyond what I might know now in favour of what I don't know or do YET.
In an episode of Super Soul conversations with Oprah and Liz Gilbert, LG says that we all are unanimously asked or beckoned to The Call of: what is it we were put here to do? That is the first vulnerable part: listening to and pondering the question, so that Lesson 6: our core values can help us know when to say yes. Finding the answer? This might take what I'm here to do: lean into the discomfort, love shamelessly and wholeheartedly, and fail a few more times if I need to because I'm not perfect and I'm not alone. I have my NP fam, my LA and SF framilies, my new Sydney posse and a nearly global clan rooting for me from around this world!
Jill once told me that there are no such things as mistakes, only experiments. Failed romance? Simply the work of heart-refining, as "all love ends in heartbreak until the one with whom it doesn't." Failures at work? Attempts at creative genius that simply provide more pieces of evidence. As I heard on a timely TedRadioHour episode called Failure is an Option: Failure as the cost of innovation equates to learning. Finally, my favourite book on the planet Daring Greatly might read that Lesson 7: failure as the outcome of courage is vulnerability. That sounds brave to me.
Last but not least, tonight I said yes to what my mind, body and soul have been craving all along: a “me night.” The work week came to a close, the Christmas lights in my living room beckoned and after eight days straight of festivities and fun, I realised that there was no harm in saying no to Friday night’s events. I was finally saying yes to ME (as well as #NetflixandChill with James Stewart).
In a few more words of BB, here's to knowing myself and saying yes with a strong back, soft front and wild heart always.
A broad down under