Caracotsios: Just say ‘yes’ this academic year

Caracotsios: Just say yes this academic year

Julian Caracotsios, Columnist

I’ve never actually been to a Northwestern football game. And I’m a senior. There, I admit it. But before an angry white and purple mob appears outside my apartment with torches and pitchforks, listen to my story.

One Friday night last year, I found myself sulking alone in my room. It wasn’t the first time. This is college, I should’ve been having fun, but everything everybody else was doing sounded stupid. As I scoured the bowels of the Internet for entertainment, I suddenly remembered a movie somebody recommended to me a while ago.

“Yes Man” is a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy about a man named Carl — played by Jim Carrey — who, after suffering a divorce, sits around in his apartment alone at night and fakes being busy whenever his friends want him to come out because nothing sounds fun.

Sounds like someone I know!

The movie takes off when Carl is forced to swear a covenant to say “yes” to all opportunities he encounters. Hilarity ensues as he gets into trouble for saying “yes” to literally everything, but by the end, he’s an altogether happier person, and he has a new girlfriend, gets promoted at work and speaks fluent Korean — because he couldn’t say “no” to signing up for lessons.

Here’s what I learned from Carl.

We all have things we know we like and will say yes to, and we all have those we’d never touch with 100-foot pole. That’s easy. But here’s the thing: We have no idea what the vast majority of things out there are like. Zero. Zip. Nada. Null set. When trying to imagine future situations, our brains have the notorious habit of concocting ideas based on our preconceived notions while at the same time convincing us we’re being totally logical. For Carl and me, the problems are obvious, but even the most social people can fool themselves into stagnation.

Psychologically speaking, we’re pretty good at believing our own lies.

But there’s a simple rule to follow that can help us avoid it. No, don’t take Carl’s example and say “yes” to everything. Some of you who did probably ended up puking in a trash can by the end of Wildcat Welcome. Instead, say “yes” to the things you just don’t know much about — which is most of them — and don’t waste time trying to figure out whether you’ll like them beforehand. If you use that big, NU-caliber brain of yours and exercise judgment, the worst that happens is you waste a few hours of your time trying something you know you won’t do again.

The best? Well, I started writing for The Daily because I responded to a random email I got from a listserv that I wasn’t even supposed to be on. Actually, I didn’t foresee joining any of my extracurriculars, exactly zero of which I participated in a year ago. There’s no way I could have because they all appeared spontaneously.

You don’t know about most of the good things out there; the only way to find them is to maximize your exposure to as many different opportunities as possible. What your opportunities are depends on you, but what everyone should remember is this: You don’t want to accumulate a list of things you regret not doing earlier.

For me, that very long list includes going to see the Wildcats on the football field. If I don’t go to at least one game this fall, I’ll have publicly branded myself a hypocrite, but I don’t think that will be a problem. This summer — after years of telling myself I hated sports — I ended up having a blast screaming bloody murder at the television when my friends invited me to watch the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. Nobody ever thought I’d like sports, least of all me.

It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself — that’s another bit of movie wisdom. But you have to say “yes,” else the surprises will never find you.

Cheers to a new year, everybody. Let’s make the most of it.

Julian Caracotsios is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, leave a comment or send a letter to the editor to [email protected].