I have a feeling that my first stop in Chicago wasn’t one that many other librarians visited. I didn’t pick up my conference materials or check into my hotel. I didn’t wander through the new modern wing at the art museum or indulge in my first hot dog. I didn’t go anywhere near McCormick Plaza.
Instead, I went to a tattoo parlor.
For me, Chicago is all about improvisation. That’s how I first came to the city–as an improviser, a very overwhelmed 19 year old who tried to take in the wonderful performances at Second City and iO to hone my own craft. So it’s fitting that some six years later I’d return to this city and get a tattoo of one of my improv philosophies: yes, and.
Saying “Yes, and” in the improv world is about accepting the offers you’re given, always making your scene partner look good, and adding more information to advance the scene. Saying yes at conference is very much the same–it’s about embracing the opportunities provided (and the responsibilities that go along with them), supporting your colleagues, and keeping the momentum of the conference rolling.
I’ve said yes a lot in Chicago. Liveblog an event with a day’s notice? Sure. Attend a board meeting? No problem. Traipse all around the city looking for a Hyatt because I have zero innate sense of direction? I need the exercise!
Saying yes is also about letting your plans change at the drop of a hat, much the way they do when you walk onstage. This is what leads to life’s little happy accidents, like getting half price tickets to watch Paula Poundstone (and some other very funny women) knock your socks off, or meeting an author you didn’t know you loved, or realizing a speaker might be just perfect for your next event.
Onstage, saying no can derail a scene. It might be funny for a split second, but it can make your scene partner look bad in the long run. At conference, on the other hand, saying no just might be the secret to your survival.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the excitement of a great panel or productive committee session and feel like you’re ready to go change the world. And you are–trust me, you are going to change the world–but you’re also going to go home and pay your electrical bill and burn some cookies and have a bad meeting and get the flu.
Life gets in the way of good intentions. No matter how many hats you wear at conference, no doubt you wear at least half a dozen more at home and at work. It’s crucial for your own life and work–as well as the work of YALSA–that you prioritize and remember that saying no is also an option.
Particularly if you’re already someone who dives into tasks with enthusiasm and produces fantastic results, your fellow YALSA members are going to want you on their committees and task forces and panels. Often your interests and needs will overlap, everyone says “Yes, and,” and life rolls merrily along. But just as often the fit isn’t right. Saying no doesn’t mean you’ll never be asked again, it doesn’t make you a bad person, and it doesn’t mean the sky will fall. Saying “No, but” can be just as important as “Yes, and.”
What did you say yes (and no) to in Chicago?