To Saying ‘Yes’

Headshot of Jacquelyn Ferguson

By Jacquelyn Ferguson  

When I started my program at Sheridan, I told myself I would say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that came my way. I was sort of like Jim Carrey’s character in the movie Yes Man. This wasn’t my first time starting a degree and my mentality this time around was a lot more welcoming to the unknown. Where normally I would shy away from such things, the mantra of saying ‘yes’ has given me many exciting experiences that I wouldn’t normally have. TENT has been no exception.  

Late, But Not Too Late

It all began one day when I arrived at campus completely late for class—and I mean late. The class was about to end in ten minutes and I was debating whether or not I should go ahead and enter the classroom, or wait it out, dodge the class until the next one began, but something made me step into that room and awkwardly make a show of it.  

“I made it,” I said, gaining a chuckle from the small number of students still in the room. 

My professor, Glenn Clifton, found it just as amusing and watched me take my seat and unload my laptop when finally, he came over and asked if he could speak to me for a moment. Uh oh, perhaps I should have made the choice to dodge the room, and at the chuckles of the rest of my classmates, I agreed and stepped outside.  

Glenn mentioned the opportunity with TENT. Even though I didn’t have much experience with theatre, besides seeing a few professional plays and elementary school productions, there was no way I was saying ‘no’– not with my new ‘yes’ mentality.  

That night, I built myself a website, fixed up my resume and cover letter, and sent it all in. It wasn’t long before I received a reply telling me I had an interview. I remember coming to campus, surprisingly calm, considering how nervous interviews can make me. Perhaps climbing up all those stairs—all the way to the top floor—was what calmed me. Forcing yourself to catch your breath would calm anyone. You’re probably wondering, why not take the elevator? Let’s just say, if I can help it, taking an elevator is one thing I probably won’t say ‘yes’ to. The interview went smoothly, and it wasn’t long before I found out I earned the position and things just took off.  

Yes, And!

My first task was to help in curriculum development for theatre entrepreneurs given the opportunity to experience TENT. Creating lesson plans was a lot of fun. I got to go down crazy rabbit holes as I extensively researched into topics like brandingelevator pitcheseffective leadership, and more. At the end of the initial task with the curriculum development, I said ‘yes’ to an improv workshop.  

The last time I ever did improv was in grade nine drama class, or when my friends want to play board games and one of them convinces the group to play charades. At first, I found myself hesitant to participate, but then the improv leader explained the key mantra of improv: Yes. For improv, ‘yes’ means immediately accepting your scene partners ideas and then he took it one step further with an ‘and’, which means building upon your partner’s ideas with a reaction. Well as much as I would have loved to watch the others participate from the sidelines, while I partook in the filling of my belly, I couldn’t possibly say ‘no’. Not when he was speaking my mantra.  

Acting like a fool in front of people I’m not particularly close to can be frightening, but it becomes less so when you realize everyone else is up to it. Performing the different improv-tasks made my timid exterior fall and I found myself growing more confident in my ideas. I became less frightened in voicing my opinions and concerns. This transition from timid to confident became more apparent when TENT had all of us join them for what’s called a creative problem solving (CPS) session, a process for the intentional and reliable generation of wonderfully new ideas.  

A picture of a creative problem solving session.
Photo by Katelyn Dockeray

Creative Problem Solving

We had several of them, where we would get into groups, each one of us armed with a pad of sticky notes and a marker, ready to rapidly fire out ideas, as we continuously built off each other. Each CPS session started with an improv-task. This got us to quickly become comfortable with being silly with one another, and to let our minds break the walls that keep ideas from flowing. I have always been someone to instantly overthink my ideas to the point that I snuff them out before they even have a chance to blossom. These sessions encouraged us to defer judgement, something I found especially difficult; make connections; look for quantity instead of quality, the quality will come later; and to embrace novelty, something I would have rejected from the get-go. After welcoming these ideas and completing these sessions repeatedly, I found my creativity and ideas flowing more quickly. When it would normally take me hours upon hours to come up with an idea I didn’t hate, they now happened more rapidly because I incorporated the concept of CPS into my schoolwork and my own creative endeavours. At home, my walls used to be barren, but now they’re covered in green, pink, and blue stickies, each one with ideas and inspirations.  

The biggest and most exciting ‘yes’ of all was agreeing to write for creative humanities with an entrepreneur blog series. Not only did I get to share my insights and practice my writing skills, but I also got to say ‘yes’ to the creation of my very own personal cartoon version of myself. If my journey with TENT hadn’t encouraged me to release my inhibitions, I would never have become a cartoon—not anytime soon at least. I mean, how cool is that?  

A Cartoon of Jacquelyn Ferguson by Sarah Whang

Make Saying ‘Yes’ a Routine

Now if I can encourage you to do one thing, dear reader, it is to embrace the idea of ‘yes,’ because you might be pleasantly surprised by enjoying or learning things you may have missed if you had stuck to your usual routine. That doesn’t mean you should say ‘yes’ to everything, not everything is going to appeal to you, or be the right thing for you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something. Make sure you still make smart informed decisions, but maybe try something new, something you hadn’t done before, and see where that takes you.