Type to search


Saying “No” – Freely Writers Reflect

PROMPT: Have you ever had to say no to something you wanted to do because of a cultural tradition/restriction? Religious? Moral? Health-related? Political? Have you ever had a friend say no to something for a similar reason? How did you feel on the other side?

During our weekly content meetings, we encourage our writers to share ideas and learn from one another. This week, we presented them all with the same prompt, and encouraged them to “freewrite,” writing down whatever comes to them. We then came together to share, learn, and give feedback. These are the results of three of our writers.



I find joy restricting my desires.

It is one way of feeling in-control.

If someone asks me why I became a vegetarian,

I can’t come up with a clear answer that

satisfies me and the other person.

I care about the environment, but I don’t want to convince

everyone of my behavior.

Maybe I am not ready yet to make it as g deal.



Friday nights going out to parties is an occasion I anticipate for the entire week. I cannot wait to let go of some burden by spending a good time with friends, drinking, laughing, and playing games. Yet I always have to be careful to avoid weed at each gathering. In these events, the presence of marijuana is unfortunately common. When I come into a room, I smell it and I have to bear the odor even after I leave the party. My friends often invite me to indulge in smoking it. I say no and they insist until I repeat my denial of weed at least three times.

I found the first time when this happened as a weird but funny occurrence, just to realize with the years that it was a repetitive and annoying habit. I even have to ask if the brownies and cookies that my hosts gently place at our disposal are “legal.”

My problem with weed is not necessarily a universal moral dilemma, but more of a personal fight to respect others. In 2006, the Mexican President, with the right intentions, decided to declare a war against the drug cartels. These criminal organization at the time essentially provided all illegal drugs to the United States. The military went to the streets and started a much needed fight to save Mexico from corruption and crime. But the cartels fought back. Thousands of people died both to liberate my country from them and in the crossfire.

When I smell weed, or any illegal drug in general, I am reminded of the sacrifices made by my people to live a better life. So, I do not indulge in taking in such substances, which is difficult as a college ent.   


My friend and flatmate, Alba, brought forward a sizzling pan of fajita mix and placed it on a trivet on our wooden coffee table. My canola-fried cauliflower and plantain chips were all ready and waiting on a sharing platter. My other flatmate, Angela, carefully carried a black handled pot and placed it down. We peered inside to find a clear soup with large, circular dumplings bobbing around.

“It’s a sweet soup. The dumplings have peanut butter or sesame in them.” Angela said.

The dessert is called Tangyuan. It is a traditional Chinese dessert that is prepared for New Year celebrations. According to Angela the dumplings nestling together in the pot represents togetherness, which seemed appropriate as this occasion was one of the few communal meals we would share as flatmates.

We stared in wonder at the dessert that was yet to be eaten, until the rich aroma of spiced vegetables reclaimed our attention.

“The fajita mix has chicken in it” Alba said, looking at me.

For context, recently I’ve cut a lot of meat out of my diet. Bear with me on my cliché reasoning, but I watched an eye-opening documentary on Netflix called What The Health and seeing the damaging environmental impacts of the oversized meat industry, and its unethical care of animals, made my stomach turn.

Since then I don’t buy meat or fish produce, and I’ve become pretty skilled with preparing tofu. Here’s a tip: cover the tofu cubes in cornstarch before frying to make it crispy.

I don’t claim to be vegetarian, because I schedule sporadic ‘cheat days’, when I know that it’s probable I’ll want to indulge in meat, or that it’s more convenient if I do. For example, during Thanksgiving and Christmas I knew I would let loose on slices of roast turkey.

So my diet, perhaps annoyingly, cannot be labelled. In an effort to live more sustainably, I hope ,I simply enjoy eating meatless meals and finding veggie dishes to experiment with in the kitchen.

I can’t say I miss meat, and when I do have a blow out it’s not the meat itself that rewards my taste buds but the accompanying seasoning or sauce. Fish is a different matter when it comes to taste – I find it holds its own without seasoning, but that’s beside the point.

Getting back to our communal dinner. I now had a moral dilemma on my hands. Do I share in the meat dish my friend has prepared? Or do I stick to my veggie diet and risk being an irritant?

I decide that tonight was not the night for a meat relapse. Besides, I could still fork out the vegetables within the fajita mix, and there were other offerings on the table.

I felt slightly awkward taking the extra time to make sure I wasn’t picking up any chicken, but I looked around the coffee table to see my flatmates digging in regardless of my qualms.