On Coming to Terms with Saying “No.”

It’s always there. The thought in the back of my mind saying, “Say no. Just say no.” But it quickly gets drowned out by the other thoughts about “opportunity” and “FOMO” and “relevance” and… I never pay attention to it. More and more, I’m trying to listen to it harder.

This didn’t start anytime recently, but I saw this post on Instagram recently in the eternal scroll. I’m not following this account, but the algorithm was very much on its game by serving it up to me.


The video is mostly about things that aren’t worth your time, things that should be easy to say no to. It is definitely in the same universe as my experience, and it was right on time. I just need to say no to things. It’s less about preserving my peace and more about not feeling overbooked, too busy and generally run down to the point where I can’t even enjoy my downtime.

Chatting with a friend this past weekend about just that, the inability to “relax” when I have nothing going on and why that is. Why I threw myself into this massive unforgiving spiral of “busy”. And it was mostly due to the pandemic: being alone with myself and my thoughts.

Normally, I could go out and about, not even “scheduling” free time, just having it. I had my day job and my streaming job and the occasional streaming-related events, but at the same time, it was a given that I was leaving the house in the evenings and on the weekends. A given, that is, until suddenly the best practice was to stay inside and find a way to exist in that state.

We joked that it was like being on a mission to another planet with our apartments being the spaceship, even though we didn’t know how long the journey would take. 🚀

Earl Holliman in the pilot episode of The Twilight Zone. His character is wearing a work jumpsuit and standing next to a chain-link fence gate.

But like the first episode of the Twilight Zone, “Where is Everybody?” it caught up with me. Loneliness of a sort, but more just the lack of real-world interaction… with anyone or anything. I live alone, no partner nearby, no pets, no plants, no home business or major hobbies, so it made sense to pass–and fill–the time with “being busy.”

That worked, really well, and it seemed to have benefits. Streaming kept me busy, playing TTRPGs kept me busy, appearing on streams and panels kept me busy. For a time it was a lovely cycle that fed into itself. Being a good guest or player on one stream meant someone might invite me to be on another and so on. And it meant that outside of my job, tending to my daily life and a bit of downtime before bed, I was all set for things to occupy my mind.

However… it’s been three years, and while the pace wasn’t unsustainable by any means, now that we’re at a point where more and more people have been vaccinated, many people are being a bit more careful, they’re testing and being honest about being sick, not being at home is now more of an option. I’m still wary of heading to a crowded dancefloor, but deciding to post up at a table by myself for brunch or hanging out with friends for a drink feels comfortable and nice.

Which makes me turn to look back at the asks. Many of them are good asks for fun stuff, some of them are even paid. And because of the past three years, my immediate inclination is to say yes and deal with the scheduling and consequences later. And there’s just something about that video (and prior conversations with friends) that made me realize, “Or… I could just say no.”

A big part of it is respect. Respecting my time, respecting my rates, respecting my other obligations. Many of the asks overlap with my working hours, or they happen on the same day I would normally stream, or gods forbid, they take place during weekend brunch hours, which–let’s be real–is just rude. 😡

In the streaming space, there seems to be this pervading thought that creators and streamers are “always available”. Or that streaming is their only job/responsibility, so it’s easy to change their schedule for something else going on. Whether that’s appearing on a streamed event or sometimes being asked to travel someplace in person. And–to be honest–it’s a myth that creators also feed into because the hustle & grind mentality is real, and even if what you’re being asked doesn’t pay anything, sometimes even just appearing in places helps build your profile and your brand.

So… you say yes. Of course you do.

The word "NO" painted on street pavement with leaves and twigs scattered across it.
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

But… what if I say no instead? And we’re all familiar with the phrase, “No is a complete sentence.” however actually doing that? That’s gonna be tough. I’m a pleaser. Even if there’s no possible way I could participate in something, I would still want to give the over-the-top detailed refusal so that I stay in their good graces and leave the door open for another ask in the future.

But lemme say no regardless and see how that feels. No: because I’m working, because I’m streaming, because I’m busy, and most importantly because I’m none of those things, but I just wanna sit on my ass, have snacks, watch TV and play games without having thoughts of, “But I could be working on [xyz] right now.”

Heck, I might even go outside if this insufferable summer heat lets up for a little while, who knows?

Now… there are going to be some posts coming up of stuff I’m doing, and I already feel a little weird writing and ranting about this now, knowing I’m about to post more, “Come watch me here!” articles, but I guess I have to wean off of it versus going cold turkey.

It’s a process and a work in progress. And I guess I’m finally ready to start that work on freeing myself a little bit. 💖

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