“’No!’ That’s my new philosophy.”
-Sally in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Three weeks ago, I went out to the living room where my flatmate was working away on a big assignment, and said, “I don’t wanna anything.”
She said, “Maybe you don’t want to one thing.”
“I don’t want to finish an Uproar post.”
“Maybe you should find a quote that says, ‘I don’t want to,’ and then you can write, ‘I agree.’”
We laughed about that. Then we laughed about different quotes, and looked up songs, and ended up listening to You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. Then we reminded the cat that there are a lot of good reasons not to chew on power cords. Then I washed some dishes. And I realized, I wanted to do all of those things. I wanted to go for a walk (though sometimes it’s hard to get started), I wanted to wonder through You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown again. I want to talk with you. I want to keep working on my book, keep teaching, keep finding ways to help. I want to lots of things: I just didn’t want to one thing, or more specifically, I didn’t want to one thing the way I thought it had to be done. As a teacher, I saw a lot of young people who didn’t want to write the paper. I also saw a lot of students who judged themselves by their productivity (like I do, and am learning to stop doing), and I started to hear in their no an insistence that there had to be another way to write. To learn. To be.
I hear a lot about powering through. I hear less about abandoning the paths that don’t work. And I think sometimes it’s the no, the refusal, that makes space for a new choice. No. That’s a good philosophy.