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Learning how to say “no”

No: a one-syllable word indicating a response in the negative.

One elusive, surprisingly difficult to say syllable.

Sometime in mid-March, I was musing over my schedule for the remainder of the semester and noted that my final production assignment – ASM on Le nozze di Figaro – ended in late April, leaving me 3-weeks at the end of the semester with no show. Instead of viewing this as an opportunity to catch up on any work I have have fallen behind on given such a loaded rehearsal schedule or a chance to relax before heading off to whatever summer job I was hoping to receive, I saw it as an open slot to fill with some sort of freelance work. I heard a voice in my heading telling me to, “Make connections. Gain experience. Work with a cool company or designer in Boston.” So I did. After speaking with one of my advisors, we found an opportunity for me to assist a graduate of the MFA program on an upcoming show in Boston. I’m very excited about the opportunity, but I’ve feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of work I need to accomplish between the closing of Figaro this past Sunday and the end of the school year considering I go back into tech next week.

And then yesterday an email appeared in my inbox, subject line “ALD final Hunt show?” Instead of ignoring the email because a) I’m exhausted b) trying to do one of the many assignments I have due next week or c) in the storm of “there’s no way I’m going to get everything done” right before things *hopefully* fall into place, I Google the show to find out when it opens and I reply, yes I am interested but I may have a scheduling conflict.

After about 20 seconds, at which point I could no longer use G-Mail’s handy “Undo Send” function, I wished I hadn’t sent that email. I knew that I would be overdue for a break if I took on that show, and probably feel burned out mid-way through my summer work.

But I’d already said yes. Thankfully, it turns out I couldn’t be in Boston for half of the tech process. But what if it hadn’t? What I really need to learn before entering the professional freelance world is how to say “no”. Yes, part of freelancing is making sure you always have work, but an equally important part is building breaks into that schedule so you can always bring your best to each project.



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