Shonda Rhimes is a TV writer, mother and a titan whose shows dominate Thursdays. It took six unexpected words for her to realize that despite having (almost) it all, she wasn’t happy: You never say yes to anything. But then she did.
I read this book in one sitting. Not even joking. I can’t remember when I last read through a book in one go, so that says something about how gripping Year of Yes was.
What gripped me? The honesty and the fear.
Before her “experiment,” Shonda already had a life that most would deem perfect: she wrote for TV, had three beautiful children and was constantly asked to attend this event or visit that show. Hollywood dream for writers. Except she rarely attended those events and definitely ran away from any chance of being on live TV. She was afraid and that anxiety turned her into a sweating, mute statue.
When her sister told her she never said yes to anything, it took Shonda a while to truly understand the words. She realized she was letting her fear control her more than it should and that she was constantly tired and generally miserable. So, as 2014 rolled in, she promised to spend a year saying yes to everything that scared her or made her uncomfortable.
It led her into all kinds of situations but what was common for all of them was that she survived. She didn’t faint or vomit or poop her pants — her usual fears — but instead she had fun, opened up and found joy again. It’s just love, she says many times in the book and that’s good advice for everyone.
I especially liked the writing and tone. It didn’t feel like I was reading a book about some Hollywood superstar who’s trying to tell me how to live, but instead it felt like I was having a conversation with her. A bit one-sided (interactive books, we’re not quite there yet) but a conversation nevertheless. A mix of rambling, repetition, heart-to-hearts, fears, fails and triumphs that all in all remind me a lot about simply talking with a friend. Not everyone will enjoy her style but for me it was the reason I kept turning page after page until it was 3 am.
What did I learn from this book?
It’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to let that fear stop you from being who you are.
Whether it’s a resounding YES or a firm NO, we need to learn how to be our own person and stand up for ourselves.