City Finland

Say Yes

Some days, I just feel like I have too much information in my head.

Throughout the day, the computer in my head is busy analyzing fresh observations and pairing it with pieces of old information stored in the back of my mind, endlessly calculating risk and making plans.

To add to the chaos, I seem to remember everyone I’ve ever seen – a completely useless skill which I would gladly lose if I could. Is there any way I could press reset and transition from The Working Mum Who Remembers Everything to The Woman Who Cheerfully Forgot?

That consultant guy in the video meeting? He went to my school 20 years ago but was a year younger and we never spoke. That woman in the shop I just left? She went to dance class with me in the 90’s and had cool black eyeliner paired with a black hoodie (now she was very ladylike and dressed in white.) That guy? Used to be a sports reporter (and I never watch sports.) That neighbour? He went to uni with me and was a friend’s friend, we say hi but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember.

What really gives me a headache, though, is all the information I have on what could go wrong. Evolutionarily speaking, I can understand the importance of facial recognition: I would have been great as a cavewoman recognising enemies who are trying to infiltrate our camp! But the habit of taking into consideration everything that can possibly go wrong can’t be good for a human being. It’s just too much! This is exactly the kind of the stuff we need heartless artificial intelligence for, this is not for humans! It’ll break the computer in your head if you let it go too far.

And so I made a conscious effort this summer to block those thoughts from my head. In the small yeses and nos of the day, I tried throwing caution to the wind, for once.

And you know what? I’m still alive and typing.

I took on the challenge and experimented against my initial reaction, my natural response. Here’s what I found!

Experiment 1: Riding a city bike spontaneously, i.e. without having brought a helmet (which, frankly, I didn’t forget to bring but left home intentionally.)

Result: I rode slowly.

Experiment 2: Joining the crowd and swimming in more or less polluted-looking sea water which was so thick and green that you couldn’t see through it (the other option was to not swim at all, which bummed me out last summer.)

Result: I split my toes open on an enormous underwater rock which I couldn’t see. But they healed.

Experiment 3: Kayaking in a dirty bay which looks lovely from afar (but not from up close) and is very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. They seemed to be having fun and I really wanted some kind of water activity, plus the location was the easiest for me. So I decided to overlook the fact that the water was disgusting.

Result: I tried to not get splashes on my bare legs and actually had a great time.

Experiment 4: While kayaking, taking some photos with my iPhone, against my better judgement!

Result: I was heard to mumble repeatedly, This is not a good idea, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had just done a backup… in any case, I managed to not drop the phone into the bay that day! The photos turned out very basic, disappointingly.

Experiment 5: Eating things that could easily have gone bad in warm summer weather, like gravlax, which I would normally avoid.

Result: Tasted good.

Saying yes to the things I would normally say no to led to an active summer with a different set of experiences. But I wasn’t happier than when I said no, nor was I less anxious. If anything, I felt a bit silly for ignoring my instincts.

If my brain tells me to wear a helmet, maybe I should just do it and not pretend to forget, just so I don’t have to carry it around. We are who we are and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m alert and present.

46 replies on “Say Yes”

But al least the experiments gave you a sense of choice. You can say no, as you perhaps would do instinctively, but you can now also choose to say yes. That, I gather, is a gain. Maybe not the choices you made itself made you (more) happy, but I could imagine the possibility to choose can.

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Remembering everyone is an awesome skill and I was going to tell you all about it, but I see you are plenty aware of the advantage of having that skill. I can understand how that can be troublesome, though.

Your analysis of the various experiments you performed was funny. I remember hearing about waterproof covers for phones. Maybe you should try that next time you go kayaking with your phone.

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Do you remember everyone, too? I used to think everyone did but have during recent years realised it isn’t so. Hubby, for instance, didn’t even remember our neighbours in our last flat where we lived for 9 years! (Luckily at our current place, we have super friendly neighbours and interact with them much more.)

And yes, waterproof everything, next time I kayak! The experience actually made me buy a waterproof watch! 🙂 (It’s a great excuse: to kayak once a year definitely warrants buying a watch!)

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I don’t know if I remember everyone and all the details about them, but I definitely seem to be above average on that scale. I’ve met plenty of people throughout the years that CLEARLY didn’t remember me. My experience is that most don’t pay enough attention.

A waterproof watch is an amazing investment!

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Wow! What a fascinating post and experience. I applaud you for doing all this in the way that you did and summing up the results for us in such an honest way. It may be that we were cavewomen together. Just that I have no idea what gravlax is.

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Being alert and present is a vital tool for negotiating the modern world but we need to balance that with some spontaneity and risk. I have been thinking about spontaneity of late, having someone in my circle who is hyper-spontaneous makes me consider it more than I normally would.
Re remembering every face: I wonder if I have something like that – when younger, I would often be known to approach someone I spotted in the crowd to say g’day as I’d remembered them from my past, only to have them not recognize me at all. So I stopped that pretty quickly! As I got older, that skill has diminished- I still recognize that I know a person, but can’t always remember how I know them or their name.
Well done stretching yourself with your experiments. What fun!

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I’m very spontaneous when I travel, but in my real life, I feel more limited. And I stress, the limitations are mostly just that: a feeling. Which is why it was fun to break free for a moment. But on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with trying to make smart choices and I won’t be giving that up, either.

Interesting to hear that you have great facial recognition skills, too! I noticed the same thing: don’t say hi, because it will not be received well! Names, however, have always been tough for me. I remember faces, conversations, what they wore, and I also remember digits and codes very easily for some reason (phone numbers, addresses, booking codes, passport numbers, dates…) but I always, always forget people’s names and it can be a bit embarrassing!


Names must relate to a certain area of the brain. I used to be good with names also, I can remember every name from my primary school, first and last. Even the kids who were only there for a few terms. But now, the names don’t stick so much, and newer names are quickly forgotten. The grey matter deteriorates I think.

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Yes, it deteriorates for sure! First and last names, wow! I don’t remember them, but I remember the face and, believe it or not, their birthdays 🙈 Kids who were on my class who weren’t even my friends, 30+ years ago!! It’s ridiculous. I wish could use the memory space for something more essential, instead

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This is a very witty and interesting article. I think you have some innate talent for remembering faces. That’s incredible. I think certain parts of our memories are either too active or just plain lazy. I can see why you say – what’s the point – other people are the opposite (plain forgetful).
It’s refreshing to say YES to the things you would otherwise discard with a NO. It was fun reading your post. 🙂

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Thanks for reading, nice to see you here!
I always used to wonder about forgetful people – the type who left their car keys in the fridge or forgot an appointment. Until I had kids!!! Sleep deprivation corrodes your memory quite efficiently! 😀 (But I still remember random faces, even if I forgot which weekday it is and what I just promised hubby 5 minutes ago. That guy? He was in the park yesterday and now he’s here! How irrelevant to notice such things!)

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Maybe I could send you a slice of my brain, which seems to have mastered the skill of receiving information through the eyes and ears and instantly catapulting out into space without troubling my memory at all.
As to what could go wrong, I don’t want to distress you, but anything and everything could go wrong. What’s fascinating to me is that, here, I get asked by visitors about the dangers of shark attacks and volcanic eruptions and all kinds of things. But not one of them is at all concerned about driving a car around the island, which is easily the most likely way they’ll run into trouble. It seems humans like to enhance the dangers of things unfamiliar to them, but downplay dangers of things the do everyday.
That said, ‘alert and present’ is as good a mantra as anyone could have in my opinion.

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Interesting point about unknown dangers vs everyday ones that are more probable to happen! I guess we have processed those things earlier and accepted the risk.
When I was younger, I worked at an insurance company for a while, writing denial of coverage letters. (I love writing so it was a fun challenge combining all the information in the required format, but what wasn’t fun was when the customers would then call me afterwards to complain!! It wasn’t my decision, I was just the messenger!) Anyway, in this job I read hundreds of incident reports and did I mention it was related to travel insurance? So I learned about so many things that could go horribly wrong on a trip or just in general in life. I also learned to always be early at the airport because it is your own fault if you are late and your insurance is definitely not covering missed flights simply because you wanted to sleep in!

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You and I really must be related! I remember EVERYONE, and as a result, I used to often have people say “Nice to meet you,” and I’d respond, “Oh, we met at X place at X time!” which inevitably led to dumbfounded or perplexed looks. Now I don’t bother. My mom and my daughter are the same.

I have spent decades imagining my children falling out of trees or myself tripping on a cliff edge and much more. Now I have very aggressively tried to stop thinking this way. If it really is true that we encounter what we think we will, then I need to imagine rainbows and daisies and love and joy! OK – kind of silly and exaggerated, but I really am working on keeping things positive and fun and saying yes to much more.

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Oh yes, those are the exact reactions I kept having, until I realised I should just stop mentioning it to people! (Well, sometimes I still do. There are two new people starting at work right now whose paths have crossed with mine before, and I’m debating whether to say something about it when I introduce myself. Maybe I’ll go with the flow.)
Rainbows and daisies you say; I’ve been saying rainbows and cotton candy, picnics and fairy lights. We all need goals, hey!!!
But Lexi, we must be relatives. Does any your family originate from the Nordic countries, by any chance?!?! 😋

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You are brave to explore and experiment beyond your comfort zone. The thing is you won’t know what will go wrong or go right until well, give it a try! Haha, funny thing is what feels right may end up wrong sometimes. And vice versa. lol. You may very well be a professional face detector if there is such a profession. 😀 P/s: I’m the opposite, the one that always almost forget about things, where I place it and even forget I go for a trip a few years ago. And then can tell you the exact date when the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombing happened. lol

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Same here. I can easily remember places and sites that I’ve visited, even to details. But I have trouble with human faces and names. I cannot even remeber who my uni-classmates are. Or who sat with me in highschool, though we spent years together 🙂

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I wish I could actually be a professional face detector, hahah! That sounds like a fun job! Maybe I’d do it while sipping a cafe in Rome, or while sunbathing on Ipanema beach?! I wonder of spy networks would be interested in my talent…??? Hmm! 😉 Actually, now I have an idea in my head for a book plot! 🤪

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Your post took a different bend than expected… and it was good. I have discovered that the loudest sound in the world or the room, is not always on the right track. I, too, have limited brain space and have discovered that if I can’t change it or be a part of the solution, why worry about it? Life is far too short and challenging all by itself, why complicate it. Cheers! Keep experimenting. Peace.

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