Every year during my birthday week, I take time to reflect like most wise adults do. This year’s indulgent trip down memory lane actually marks the 15th anniversary of what I have since dubbed the ‘Summer of Yes.’
The older you get, the easier it is to say no to anything that takes you out of your comfort zone, and I believe it takes a concerted effort to say no to the norm.
Gurus say that if you really want to change your life, take a 30 day YES challenge, doing at least one new and different thing a day. Go visit a museum. Eat at a new restaurant. Take a different route to work. Change your hair. Go salsa dancing. Take a singing lesson. Volunteer.
Thank God that advice stuck.
So many moons ago, when I found myself between jobs and newly divorced, I chose to bust the rut by immersing myself in art, jazz and all things ‘yes’ in the Big Apple. I enrolled in NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies for the Appraisal of Fine and Decorative Arts.
I’ve always loved art and antiques, so what better place to analyze objects d’art than in Manhattan? As a student, I said yes to learning at The Met … and at an acclaimed antique dealer … and at a famous auction house … and at an exclusive art gallery … and in the alluring Diamond District, absorbing all I could in the summer intensive. Not only did we study awe-inspiring masterpieces, we covered Baroque to Art Deco, Silver to Ceramics, Tiffany Lamps to Fine Jewelry and much more.
When not immersed in art, I said yes to all invitations:
- Would you like to go listen to jazz at the Blue Note? Yes.
- Want to check out Brooklyn Bridge? Central Park? NYSE? Yes. Yes. Yes.
- Can you go to Shelter Island for the weekend? Absolutely.
- How about a sunset cruise around Manhattan? Sounds great.
- Want to meet for a martini at Bemelman’s Bar? Sure.
- Would you like to attend a Yankees game..with a real live Yankee…and a police escort? Hell Yes!
- Brunch at Gramercy Tavern then shopping in SoHo? Yes and Yes.
- Why don’t you join us (said Earth, Wind and Fire) at a private gig near Harlem? Ummmm…..YES.
- Can you meet us at a midtown penthouse to view the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks? 100% yes.
- MoMA? Guggenheim? Frick? Yes. Yes. Yes.
The list of affirmations goes on and on and on and on…and it was magical.
The rewards that came from this Summer of Yes actually outnumber the good times had, the art knowledge gained and the new friends met. The numerous interactions with strangers who shared a laugh with me were surreal, mostly because I was absolutely open to new encounters. Decidedly, I left the (old) closed me back home.
The decision to change course and try something entirely new led to so many wonderful and surprising things, including a successful career detour that took me back to NYC. Most importantly, though, I rediscovered my joie de vivre after a long, long slumber.
I promised myself that every 10 years, I’d welcome a hiatus and have a Summer of Yes. Spiritual teachers and meditation masters like Eckhart Tolle tell us to not only recognize the Gap (the silent space between thoughts) … but Be in It. In a way, I think the Summer of Yes is my gap, helping me to cultivate present moment awareness. I believe being alert in an inspiring place with no expectations other than to absorb the moment is a worthy goal.
Parental care-giving may have caused me to miss the 10 year mark, but I sense a new adventure brewing: I’m waking up from another slumber, rested and rearin’ to go.
The only question now is: when and where?