“yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
– Molly Bloom (Ulysses, James Joyce)
The word is as Joyce said “the end of all resistance”. The doorway to the possible. The incantation for adventure doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad. Since the impulsion to proceed with it adds more to the world in all its wonder.
And for young people it holds far truer. Without “yes” entire friendships would not exist. The thrills of success and the lessons of failure would not embolden our spirit. Without it our very impulse to live would be drowned in a sea of fear, anxiety and (worse of all) mediocrity.
By saying ‘yes’ we commit ourselves to the unknown and uncertain. We accept ourselves as the captains of our fate, willing and able to raise our own potential to match whatever challenges may come. It is a thrilling feeling to know that you have started something. You have embraced the new or returned to the old as you would to an old friend.
As we grow older I have observed our ‘yeses’ give way to more ‘maybes’ and finally regress to the ever mature ‘I’ll let you know’ (a polite NO, if ever there was any). Perhaps this is the symptom of pragmatic life; perhaps it is simply our lack of self confidence. Whatever the case maybe this denial deprives us of an experience. It takes away from the sum of all our humanity.
Now I don’t mean that ‘yes’ is the appropriate answer when one is invited to something like partaking in a genocide or a kindergarten play, rather in those circumstances when we can participate but we don’t. Because of superficial inconveniences that we think might make our lives difficult. Hate to resort to a cliché but “what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger”.
In the grand summation of things the more we say ‘yes’ the greater is the product of our lives. Each opportunity to accept and partake creates as of yet unforeseen futures, entire universes that didn’t and wouldn’t have existed otherwise. It is then perhaps a small price we may pay, by means of discomfort, if we can look at them in retrospect and realise how important they were in making us better.
A well placed ‘yes’ can spark entire romances, can give birth to ideas and relationships. And despite whatever pains that we might undergo because of them we still come out on top. We still have the privilege to say “Yes. I was there. I did that.” Instead of a tepid “I don’t know.” It is the ultimate refusal to remorseful hindsight, which inevitable paints all missed opportunities in a pleasant rosy hue, serving to make our hearts ache with regret.
And more than anything, it makes the period of youthful innocence far more enjoyable during your nostalgic age. For nostalgia can kill.
The name of the professor is the first to disappear,
followed recklessly by the subject, the topic
The god forsaken class rooms, the whole year
Which suddenly becomes one you have never attended
Never even known of
As if, dripping from your brain the lessons
You neatly parcelled away have unstrung themselves
Retiring from the pedantic of academia
To certain theme parks and sports arenas
In countries that allow no ringing bells
And you bid farewell to the arithmetic,
The quadratic and Euclidian planes
That have taken off to destinations unknown
Perhaps to the far reaches of a planet
That is now only a cartoon dog
You find yourself in an eerie state of doubt
Unsure about knowing, struggling with everythought
It is not the ‘notes’, the ‘xeroxs’ or ‘past year questions’
That appears to you anymore in reassurance
Having been obvious consorts in conspiracies
Planning to unravel your tardy timid self.
That knowledge that has escaped you
Flushed down from the second floor
Toilet – the one which the jiggling handle,
That coughs at strange times and
Will never keep a dry seat
What you once were has all but been burnt
At cross-roads whose name begins with a ‘J’
Or something like a ‘J’ as far as you recall
And you settle into the honest oblivion
Having seen yourself join the likes of
Goldfish and successful politicians
So now unsurprised you sleep; unamused
Or curious to thoughts of the Articles of the Constitution
Or the Conditions of Optimal Equilibrium
And ever so gently embrace the rising space between the sky
Where you see floating bits of your most hated syllabi
P.S. Old age will always be 15 years more than whatever you are now. So consider yourself youthful.
– Written by Guest Writer: Samir Alam as a run-up to my 2nd Blogoversary.
Also by Samir: O for Orgasms and Overkill