I was always interested in trying as many new things as possible and kept a very busy schedule growing up. Whether it was dance, gymnastics, theatre or even a bowling team, I was doing something. As I got older my schedule became busier.

I found success and happiness with theatre and film. I filled my days with watching old movies and studying scripts. I became involved in working in every aspect of theatre in my city and at school. I wrote, directed and acted in several productions. I took as many film related courses as I could in high school, always trying to outdo my last project. I was in constant competition with the praise I received on the project and myself.

Many people started to see that the amount of things written into my calendar equaled the amount of success I was having. As if having a full calendar meant that I was achieving more than others.

In our society we equate the people with the busiest schedules to be the ones who are most successful. Those who take their time, plan big decisions in their life and take time to rest their mind will only ever amount to being a dreamer.

When I entered college, this kicked into overdrive. If I was not in the library studying I was filming or hanging out with classmates. I always had to be doing something with someone. After months of not having a moment to myself, I was exhausted. Between the hustle and bustle of classes, exams, film shoots and spending time with friends I lost sight of who I am. I became the version of me that everyone else wanted me to be.

The idea of having it all was nothing but a façade. Everyone else thought I was doing well, that I was beginning to make my mark on this world. I felt like I had accomplished nothing. One of my favourite quotes is “I kept everything together to the point where I would never let anyone else down, but I kept it to together to where I let myself down.”

So I started to do exactly what I was taught not to do: say no.

I started to choose myself. I started to say no to the things other people wanted me to do. Slowly, after considering what I really wanted I started to remember who I was. I felt relief. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t juggling hats I didn’t want to be holding in the first place. For the first time I was being responsible for my wellbeing.

I’m not going to lie, this was not easy at first. I was worried people would forget about me, that I would stop getting invited to different events or that I would fall behind in the hustle to get the best grades. It took courage to tell people I did not want to be as connected through social media as I used to be. That I wanted to fully embrace the moments I was in, instead of those wrapped into 10 seconds of a Snapchat.

I had to ask myself what had stopped me before from doing this? It was only when I explained this idea of choosing myself to the people around me and they said I sounded selfish. The idea of wanting to take care of myself so I can be healthy to be there for other people was selfish to them. As if I did not own the body and life given to me.

The fear of being judged, left out and called selfish had stopped me time and time again.

As a woman you are expected to make other people happy. To not think of yourself but what is best for those around you. This archaic thinking leads to overstretching and exhaustion. That idea lead me to lose sight of who I was. I felt pressure to be this modern woman who could have the great career, friendships and relationship all at once.

Now I am almost through an entire year of knowing its ok to say no and I feel like a new person. I am still growing as we all are but I feel myself headed everyday towards being the best version of myself. Those everyone around me eventually realized that what I was doing had nothing to do with them. I was being responsible and taking care of me for the first time.

I have actually accomplished more this year than I ever could have imagined. I was more successful in classes, I directed and wrote a film outside of class, I became more involved in initiatives to get more women into politics and had healthier friendships than I have had in years.

From that I learned a lesson I never planned on learning: a new definition to success. Sometimes success does not mean a trophy or an award. Sometimes it means just simply being at peace with where you are.

I look forward to saying yes to saying no in 2018.