Thursday, May 24, 2007

I'm just a girl who CAN say no

Those who know me will not be in the least bit surprised to hear that two separate people tried to hit me up this week to serve as the Class Rep for Julia's school next year. (In fact, I think I can hear several of you giggling right now...)

There are two types of people in this world: committee people and non-committee people. I fall into the first category. From the high school youth group to the college sorority scene to the National Council of Jewish Women to the PTA at my kids' school in the States... even the Hampstead Women's Club here in London, I invariably find myself on executive boards and task forces and sub-committees almost as soon as I've introduced myself. I find myself unable to casually look away when someone asks for volunteers and I'm completely incapable of keeping my mouth shut when discussion ensues about the best way to get something done. This is a lethal combination, I've found. Any good committee person recognizes suckers like-minded committee people a mile away, and it's never long before I'm pressed into service by a fellow volunteer type.

In general, this isn't a bad thing. I like committee work and I enjoy volunteering. Why shouldn't I make eye contact and cheerfully welcome the opportunity to contribute? And so I always say yes to this kind of crap. Always. Until this week. I'm so accustomed to saying yes that I wasn't sure quite what was going on when I heard myself politely demure and offer up a litany of excuses (and suggestions for alternatives -- I still can't quite keep my nose out of the mix completely). But the bottom line, I realized later, was that I simply didn't want the job. That seems kind of odd; I always want the job, regardless of what the job might be. But I have very little interest in socializing with this crowd, so why should I be the one responsible for organizing coffee mornings and other parent social events? I have limited knowledge of the area and equally limited transportation options, so why should I be the one schlepping around looking for teacher gifts? I find this particular school's PTA to be poorly run and oddly irrelevant to our kids' academic experience, so why should I attend monthly meetings on behalf of the families in Julia's class? And so I said no. Let someone else step up to the plate. Not me. Not this time.

Big deal, right? Ordinarily, I suppose it wouldn't be. People say no to things like this all the time (as the person who is nearly always the one trying to corral them into saying yes, I can testify to this). But for me to say no? To a committee type thing? That is a Very Big Deal -- a first, even. It felt strangely liberating (and far more empowering than saying yes has ever felt, I must admit). I could get used to this. Perhaps here in London, where my life is a temporary one and the stakes (real or imagined) are lower, I can finally learn to set some boundaries and say no to things.

Or perhaps I've just left myself open to be the Rep for Evan's class instead.


Blogger Kristy said...

"No" really can feel good sometimes. Not to make this all about me, but, boy do I wish I'd said NO a few months ago to something I'm serving on. All I can say is "be careful what what you wish for..."

7:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

YAY for you! Seriously. Now, teach *me* how to do it? Please?

8:57 PM  

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