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Lean into the YES

I have been thinking so very much these days about the power of yes. What started me thinking about this, paradoxically, was encountering “no.”  A while back, and for the first time I can remember, someone in a position of power (over me) said no. I don’t mean “no, I am not giving my permission/ blessing/ support.” I’ve heard that many times. You pitch ideas, and sometimes they go nowhere. You keep pitching. I mean “no, I do not believe you are capable of doing this. No, I do not believe in you.” Gobsmacked I was. Blindsided. It is a testament to the power of that “no” that I am still processing it more than a year later. What it made me realize was the extraordinary power of yes. We lean into the yes, wherever we find it, like a plant leans into the sun.

I’ve never had a mentor, but at various points in my life, I’ve had people who said yes, people who believed in me, people who expressed, in small — and unexpected — ways, that they thought I was capable of great things. What an extraordinary difference this can make. What an extraordinary difference this has made.

Mr. Hawkey, ramrod straight, starched collar (equally starched personality), Mr. Discipline, Mr. Hard-ass – my 11th grade English teacher – said to me, as I exited his classroom on the last day, “Don’t waste your talent.” Wow. Mr. Hawkey thought I had talent.

Otis Pease, the best and most brilliant professor I’ve ever had or could hope to have, treated me with quiet respect. To be respected by a man like that was almost overwhelming. It made me want to be worthy. It inspired me.

A few years later, I had a brief encounter with Robin Morgan, a name that might not be familiar to you. Robin Morgan was a pillar of the second-wave feminist movement, the co-founder of Ms., an author, a poet, a national voice. A big deal. She was delivering a speech on campus, and I got to introduce her. The speech was amazing. She was amazing. I had never been that close to someone who burned so brightly, who radiated such energy, whose energy filled a space so completely. After the speech, when I ran over, beating the crowd, to grasp her hand, she looked at me, really looked at me, and said: “Lauren, you’re up next.” The power of that ignited me.

More recently, and ever so miraculously — I still do not believe it — Eugene Ballet Company artistic director Toni Pimble said yes, you can join the company, yes, you can dance with us. Yes, I believe in you. And because she believed, I believed even more. And I danced.

And now I somehow lucked into Steven Finster, Yes-man (and I mean that in the best sense) extraordinaire, who makes my work at Oregon State Penitentiary possible, who believes in opportunity and challenge, change and redemption — and in the good in all of us.

That’s what we all need: People who see our potential. People who believe in us. People who say yes.


1 Lisa Lednicer { 07.26.17 at 8:16 pm }

I spent 13 years working for a place that constantly said “no” to me. Never again.

2 Lauren { 08.02.17 at 4:11 am }

Oh I bet I know the “place.” It’s hard sometimes to stop yourself from swimming against the tide, thinking some day the “no” will become a “yes.” And then it doesn’t.

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