Saying yes will change your life
Jayde Atchison (she/her) // Columnist
As I wrestled with the mortal crisis of turning 30, I was trying to think of what I could do to make this birthday an especially incredible one. I thought about throwing myself out of a plane (parachute attached), heading out of the country to escape Vancouver, or maybe embracing my old age and spending time deep-cleaning my bathroom. I ended up choosing a gentle combination of bungee jumping, a weekend in Whistler (and another in Victoria), and dinner at a themed restaurant in Calgary.
Before I allowed myself to have a month-long birthday celebration, my dear friend Richard from the 12th floor encouraged me to say yes to opportunities that approached me during this new decade. In the summer of 2021, Richard celebrated his 72nd birthday from May until September in bite-size chunks – claiming it was one of his favourite summers to date. What led him to have such a wonderful summer, and life leading up to it, was saying yes.
That one simple word led to Richard dancing at a discotheque in New York with Elton John and Bianca Jagger, studying German in Berlin, and making a cameo on the documentary Killing Patient Zero. His life became about collecting memories instead of things. I didn’t know Richard when he was my age, but I can imagine the adventurous young man he was, soaking in every moment as it presented itself to him.
Part of agreeing to the possibilities of life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows, but it’s about knowing you’re taking the chance to experience heartache, but hoping you’ll achieve the impossible instead. Richard has had his share of misadventures, that ended with a palpitating heart, sweaty palms and a nervous disposition in whichever city he was in. He looks back on them as a lesson, often with a resigned chuckle. However, for every moment that should have turned him into a hermit, he has twenty stories that prove miracles exist.
Richard believes that the energy you put out into the world, and the people around you, comes back tenfold. When Richard said yes to the universe, the universe said it right back. When we walk to our monthly happy hour, he will encourage me to keep doing the things that make my soul happy and allow the universe to demonstrate just how special life can be. He sees that I have been breaking out of the cocoon I was in when we met, and sees my wings start to flutter.
At the end of the day, I am still a thirty year old woman with bills to pay and a job to go to each week, but I have started to remind myself that there is more to life than rent. I still have so many new cities to explore, big loves to feel, even bigger heartbreaks to process, and friends to meet along the way. If I wait until I’m retired to live my life, then I will never have lived at all. It doesn’t have to be travelling the world, but breaking out of the comfort zone on a regular basis can create a life that people only dream of.
Wherever I go, Richard comes with me like an angel sitting on my shoulder – and depending on the situation I visualise him dressed in red, whispering in my ear to indulge in something scandalous. Richard has stories from his experiences with Fire Island, masseur groups, and witnessing sex shows in various cities that would make many blush. Being shamelessly bold has given Richard a life worth talking about for decades to follow.
Every smile line on Richard’s face showcases his time – dancing with a handsome German man in London, finding a 10 hour “love along the way” in New York, spending hours enjoying one room in a museum during each visit to Germany. Part of the yes mentality includes ignoring what others might think about you. If you continue to worry about strangers, you’ll never get to experience belly laughs with your friends after taking a moment to hop on a swing set. Life is too fleeting and nothing is guaranteed, so enjoy every happy moment that comes your way.
Every moment that I sing to myself while walking home, smile at a beautiful person across the bar, or dance under a waterfall I know that part of me is inspired by the life of my darling neighbour. Sometimes it’s not conscious at the time, but I will walk home with my heels in hand and reflect on the night and think “I can’t wait until I get home so I can tell Richard about this adventure”. As a child I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up, but now I know I want to be the 73 year old next door with a lifetime of excitement to share.