March 2018

Saying No... and Saying Yes teaser image
I’m an academic advisor by day, grad student by night (and evening, and weekend, and lunch hour, and early morning, and…). One of the biggest things I stress to my students is that time is a valuable commodity. It’s a form of currency; you only have so much of it, and you should spend it wisely. As an advisor who works primarily with undergraduates, I feel like I’m often teaching them how to say no.
No, I can’t go to Northgate – I have a quiz tomorrow that I should study for.
No, I won’t put off starting that paper – even though it isn’t due until next week.
No, I won’t delete this important email about registration from my advisor without reading it first, because then I’ll miss information that is essential for my success.
(Okay, maybe not the last one, but I can dream, can’t I?)
But many of us in graduate school have already learned the art of no (or, if we didn’t, we learned it right quick after our first semester or two and perhaps some, ah, uncomfortable committee meetings regarding progress).
No, sorry, I can’t go to happy hour – got a time point at 6:00 and I should read until then.
No, I can’t take on that side project, I’ve got to focus on my current objectives.
No, Netflix, I would not like to “continue watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, because I told myself it was one episode and then back to data analysis.
Time management is my jam. Color-coded planners are my BFF. To-do lists and I go way back. I can say “no” to things like it’s an Olympic sport and I’m Usain Bolt.
But what about when I shouldn’t?
What about when I should say “yes” instead?
Like many of us, I work full-time in addition to my graduate program, which means I’m already working on at least a 40 hour deficit compared to my old full-time student days. I’m not complaining – I love my job, I love my students, and I love my insurance (and my paycheck). But early on in my program I found myself falling into a pattern of saying “no” all the time simply for the fear of becoming overwhelmed. I wasn’t getting to know my labmates. I wasn’t taking on projects I was really interested in doing. I was missing opportunities, both personally and professionally, to grow. And I wasn’t really enjoying the ride.
So I decided to start saying yes.
Yes, I’d love to go get bevs after lab meeting.
Yes, let’s go to the gym tomorrow morning.
Yes, Netflix, I am in fact “still watching Supernatural”, because I finished my articles for the day and I absolutely need to know how Dean gets out of hell. Again.
And you know what? Saying yes is kind of awesome. Within reason, obviously (don’t worry, committee – time management is still my jam). We have to be able to buckle down and get things done, but doing things that you like to do – just because you like to do them – will make you a happier, healthier person (which in turn will make you a more productive, more promising grad student). I’m a better student, a better advisor, better labmate – even a better spouse to my husband at home – for saying yes to things that I might have previously turned down. As far away as that hood or those three post-name letters might seem, this experience will be fleeting, and it will be over before we know it.
So say yes to something you want to do just because you want to do it. Go get those bevs. Read a book just for fun. Hit the gym. Binge the show. (But get your work done somewhere in there too, yeah?)
You’ve mastered the art of no; don’t forget about the power of yes.
Enjoy responsibly, Ags.

Jennifer Rhinesmith-Carranza
Jennifer is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology

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