Do I say yes enough?

Illustration: Dustin Klare

7 of 20
Last year a friend and I went to Hawaii to celebrate my 50th birthday. All week long we talked excitedly about an eight-hour hike along the Na Pali Coast, rife with mountain peaks, Fantasy Island waterfalls and ancient taro fields. Then I made the mistake of doing some research, which is how I found out about the trail's flash floods and ankle-high mud. I began to dread the hike, which we'd penciled in for the end of the week. What if we got lost? People often did.

In the end, I nixed the hike. And back home in California, I regretted it. Fifty was both a celebration and a reckoning: "You'll never pass this way again" would now be true more often than not. When you're 50, I realized, you ought to be leaping into the future with a resounding huzzah! In fact, shouldn't every birthday vault you forward with resounding huzzahs?

I vowed that from then on, when asked to try things outside my comfort zone, I'd go for it. So when my book club suggested we try the challenging classic Heart of Darkness, I said sure. When Tony Horton, the fitness trainer on my P90X DVD, asked me to do diamond push-ups, I didn't fast-forward, I said fine. When my doctor said, "It's time to schedule a colonoscopy," I said, "Do I have to?" Then I said yes.

When my husband suggested we go camping, I wavered. The bugs! The sleeping on the ground! No showers for days! Was I really capable of changing? You bet I was. I bought a can of Off! and called it a day.

There's something about saying yes right away, without overthinking, that makes me not want to change my mind. Yes propels you forward, cannonballs you into life. And life, with its flash floods, push-ups and bugs, is exactly what I don't want to miss.
Melanie Gideon, author, most recently, of the novel Wife 22 (Ballantine)