Musings + Essays

Things To Say Yes To.

By: Jen Shoop

I feel as though there are two prevalent messages of empowerment circulating in the zeitgeist at the moment. The first is along the lines of Shonda Rhimes’ “Year of Yes,” and the second can best be summarized as “no is a full answer.” One is about receptivity, the other is about boundary-setting. Which do you find more compelling at this stage in your life? I feel I lived out the Rhimes ethos in my 20s and have been struggling to honor my commitment to saying “no” to more in my 30s.

Regardless, thinking back across the past two decades, there are many things I am happy I said yes to, and a few things I regret declining. If I could go back in time, I would urge my sixteen-year-old self to say yes to…

New cuisines;

Any excuse to travel somewhere you’ve never been;

Volunteer opportunities at work (nearly always a good chance to get noticed);

Dancing with your husband;

Traveling to siblings living in far-flung places, or even not-far-flung places — just say yes to traveling to see your siblings, whenever you can, for as long as you can, as often as you can, full stop;

Visiting friends and loved ones in the hospital, even though you dread it;

Wedding invitations (if someone thought to include you, you should try be there);

Nightly dance party requests from your small children, who insist upon listening to “classic rock essentials” and will pout unless there is sufficient metal in the arrangement, even when you are bone-tired;

Specialty cocktails planned and mixed up by a thoughtful host;

Phone calls from siblings;

Eating at the bar at restaurants (always such an unexpectedly intimate experience);

Taking off your heels and dancing barefoot;


Opportunities to volunteer at your child’s school;

Automatic contributions to a 401K;

Invitations to toast loved ones at weddings and other special occasions — you will forever regret not speaking publicly in service of the ones you love most;

Your mother’s offer to come out to help with your newborn baby;

Four-inch-high, hot pink Louboutin mules 70% off at The Outnet (still one of my favorite pairs of shoes ever);

Requests for prayers;

Fresh flowers on a down day;

Any chance to spend time with your grandparents;

Public speaking opportunities (even when they go badly, they are incredible character-building experiences and public speaking is a skill well worth cultivating);

Nearly any occasion to hear live music;

“Will you forgive me?” from a loved one;


Dressing to the nines;

Any project that will give you face time with leadership in your place of work;

Driving with the windows down and the music all the way up;

“Will you marry me?” from your best friend.

If you could go back in time, what else would you tell yourself to say yes to?

*Things to categorically say no to: tanning beds, gaucho pants, plucking your eyebrows late at night, friendships with people who make you feel “less than,” jungle juice at fraternity parties, the urge to “be cool” in a way that contradicts who you are, going to bed angry, second donuts (will nearly always make you feel sick), mixing business with friendship, free lunches (they do not exist…).


+Things that mattered to me at 18.


+A learning from my 34th year: “I don’t know, and that’s OK.

+Remembrances of my grandfather.


Shopping Break.

+This $100 dress throws major Ulla vibes.

+Absolutely love this Loewe bag.

+Oo! Love these new earrings from Nicola Bathie for summer! Perfect neutral color to wear with everything.

+Chic trunk coffee table on sale at C&B!

+European pharmacy favorites.

+$8 eyelet shorts for a little lady. More great shorts for the upcoming season here, for both boys and girls.

+And my favorite shorts for us ladies here!

+A versatile block-heel sandal to wear with everything in your closet this summer.

+Melamine servers for your next picnic.

+Into the details and dimensions of these sweatshirts.

+Cute little personalized polo for your tiny man.

+Adorable cards from this Etsy shop.

+Affordable stationery.

+I’d like Nancy Meyers’ team to decorate my house.

+A really cute beadboard nightstand for $160. Great for a little one’s bedroom!

+Have we already talked about how cute Manebi’s new-season espadrilles are?

+More great spring shoes here.

+I love this style of blouse with white jeans. (More great spring tops here.)

+Cute gingham everyday bag.

+What I’ve been reading lately.

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12 thoughts on “Things To Say Yes To.

  1. I adore this list of “yes” situations, and agree with nearly every no, too! (Gaucho pants … OMG, I have terrible memories of the heinous ones I bought on impulse at Forever 21 when I was 20… the only thing I ever bought there, haha!) I have also found that my 30s have been more about setting boundaries and protecting myself in ways that I didn’t when I was younger. However, I’m so glad I said “yes” to so much in my late teens and 20s — as Molly wisely said, it led to so many adventures and life-giving experiences that I’ll never regret!


    1. AHHH gaucho pants!!

      I think we are totally on the same wavelength here…the 30s have been all about boundary-setting for me, too!


  2. We have a try it once philosophy in our house, which mostly pertains to new foods (and no we don’t have kids yet), I’ve been working on expanding my husbands’ food pallet! What I like about this is and the list above is that it makes me feel fearless. I also always say yes to rollercoasters – riding them makes me feel oh so alive!

  3. A resounding YES to all of these!
    We love impromptu dance parties around here too 🙂

    I’d also add — yes to any home-cooked food made with love and joy by a friend.
    Petting a dog.
    Overdressing just because.
    Taking a detour or the longer scenic road.

    This post is reminding me to pause in gratitude for the many wonderful things to say yes to.

    And I also agree that “no” is so important! It’s all about healthy boundaries!

    1. Petting a dog! Overdressing just because! AHH these are such great additions to the list. Thank you!


  4. My very first week of college, an older sorority sister told all of us freshmen to just spend the year saying yes. Try a little bit of everything. I took it to heart for the next four years and I can look back and say undergrad were some of my favorite years largely because of that piece of advice.

    Also along the college memory lane, reading your post from last week about ‘your New York’ made me think about how returning to campus always makes me long for ‘MY Auburn’ – because you don’t realize once you and your friends leave that place, your version of it disappears, leaving just memories. I miss it a little everyday. It’s a special nostalgia, having your whole world exist in a few square miles.

    1. I so hear you, Holly! It is so crazy how different Charlottesville feels with none of my classmates and friends there. I miss it too.


  5. Oh I love your list of what to say yes (and no) to! Especially time with grandparents (!!!)

    A good friend of mine gave me advice before I went abroad that has stuck with me 5 years later: “say yes to everything – you will never lie in bed at night regretting saying yes”. While I don’t think that’s *always* true, it led me to some pretty crazy and life-giving experiences.

    After a year of feeling like the only answer was “No.” I’m so so so so excited to just say yes.

    My list to say yes to, always:

    -a night out with friends

    -a yummy appetizer

    -any time opportunity to go to the beach!

    -time with my teenage brother – this one is an automatic yes since it’s so hard to come by!

    1. Hi Molly! I love your list! You are spot-on with finding time to spend with your brother. You will NEVER regret that!


  6. Would you say more on mixing business with friendship? Great post! I feel that in our 20s we want to try new things and please everyone but in our 30s we say yes to the things which really matter.

    1. Hi Michelle – I totally agree that a lot of the differences between me in my 20s and me in my 30s has to do with people pleasing versus knowing myself. I find it much easier to know what I want versus do not want in my 30s, and I think that’s because of a greater sense of peace with myself and comfort in my own skin.

      On mixing business with friendship — oh man, I have gotten myself into such awkward and strained positions along these lines. Basically, if I’m considering involving a friend in something professional, I have learned to force myself to imagine what would happen if things went sideways in any number of permutations — i.e., they don’t complete the work they promised; they are late in submitting their work; their work is substandard; you end up going in a different direction and not needing their help; you disagree on some point (big or small) of the project; etc. Then I think: if any of these things happen, how would I communicate this and would the friendship survive? And if I believe the friendship will survive, is it worth the awkwardness and strain? No, almost never. Frankly, it is rare to engage a friend in something professional and have it go swimmingly. I have learned to avoid at all costs.


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