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The Definition, Please?

No, thank you. Not now. No way. These are my, and many other people’s, responses to any opportunity presented to us that takes us out of our daily routines and comfort zones. Our excuses include, “I’m too busy,” “I’m too tired,” “I’m not good at that,” and “That scares the bejesus out of me!” But as Seneca, the Roman statesman and philosopher, said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult,”  which is why my boss and the editor of Davis Life Magazine, Cary Arnold, suggested that I write a weekly blog based on the idea of saying yes to opportunities to which I would normally say no. A native of Salt Lake City and recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in English, I moved to Davis three weeks ago. Looking to get to know Davis and its inhabitants, as well as to write something possibly worth reading every week, I said yes to Cary’s idea, beginning a long series of saying yes to pretty much anything that I would like to say no to.

Cary was inspired by the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey, in which Carrey plays a banker stuck in a daily routine of saying no to every opportunity. After attending a “Say Yes” seminar, he makes a pact with himself to say yes to every opportunity that comes his way. In this manner, he learns to speak Korean, to fly an airplane, to help the homeless, and he meets his perfect mate in a quirky girl played by Zooey Deschanel. What I took away from the film was that saying yes to opportunities for which my normal reaction is a solid no, can open doors into worlds that I never would have explored otherwise and has the potential to make my life more exciting and fulfilling. With this weekly blog, I hope that I can get to know my new home of Davis in exciting ways, increase the vivacity with which I live my life, and entertain a few readers every week by recounting my experiences.

To get me started, Cary suggested that I say yes to the opportunity to participate in the UC Davis Department of Theater and Dance’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I met Mindy Cooper, the director of the play–who has performed in, directed, and choreographed for many Broadway productions, as well as won numerous awards for her work–outside of the theater for the matinee performance last Sunday. She very nicely (and I couldn’t help but think, sympathetically) explained to me that I was going to pretend to be a contestant in the spelling bee and helped me find my seat in the audience. I have long since outgrown my childhood shyness, but I think that spelling words on the spot and dancing the Macarena while on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers would send most people into the sweat-pouring, heart-palpitating state that I was in before I was called on stage. Luckily, the members of the cast were professionals at making the volunteers feel at ease, so as they led me in front of the audience and as Cary (who also bravely volunteered) and I sat on stage and waited for our turns to spell, I was actually having fun.

My first word was “mexican.” Whew. I was able to spell the word quickly and sit down with relief. My next word, however, was “insouciant”, which I spelled with an “e” instead of an “a.” The bell sounded, the Spelling Choir came out of the wings to sing goodbye to me, and I was gently handed a juice box and led off stage. Although I was glad to be back in the dark, anonymous audience, I found myself missing the excitement and attention of the stage; I had had fun making a fool out of myself. While I am in no way ready to take on Broadway or any spelling bees, I have learned that I can volunteer for something as scary-seeming as being on stage in front of an audience, and not only live to write about it, but actually enjoy it. The experience was a great start to what I hope will be a series of similarly scary but excellent experiences that bring me out of my comfort zone and into the world of Davis.

This coming weekend is the last chance to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It plays September 23-25 at 8 pm, and on the 26th at 2 pm. Tickets are $18 in advance and $22 at the door, children/students/senior are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. You can purchase tickets by calling (530) 754-2787, or calling (866) 754-2787 toll free, or visiting www.mondaviarts.org. This show is PG-13.

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