BOOK REVIEW | Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Thursday, December 31, 2015

One of my favorite ways to ring in the new year is to read a book. Sure, I could drink and party and make promises to myself that I have no intention keeping, but I think the way you come into the new year is how you set the tone for the entire year. Of course, this isn't definite, and my opinion may not be the common one, but I think it is important to continue to enrich the mind and change negative behaviors to make ourselves better people.

Now that I am done with school, I have had time to breathe and just relax. I have had a running queue of books waiting to be read spanning the better part of the year. I finally finished Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? and finished up Amy Poehler's Yes Please. (Both of which deserve raving book reviews too!) After some of my friends on Facebook recommended reading a book together, I purchased Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes. I knew I would have a lot of time when I was driving to see my sister and since when you are driving, there is nothing to do but drive, I purchased my first ever audiobook. I'm one of those people who prefers to have a book to hold when reading. There is nothing more satisfying then finishing up a book and then being able to place it on the bookshelf (with its color coordinated brothers and sisters...don't judge.) But I'll tell you what, being able to listen to Shonda Rhimes read her story made me feel like I was getting more than just a story. It gave me a better picture of who she was and how she felt. I LOVED that about the audiobook.

Okay, let me back up a bit. You would think that to read someones story about their life, you should be a fan of theirs. Shonda Rhimes, for those of you who don't know, is the amazingly talented creator of Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM). With the exception of Private Practice, the other three shows are still on the air. In fact, they take up a whole night on Thursday and play one after the other. Her production company Shondaland has made a major mark in the television world and she and her teams have the ability to create shows that mirror what we see in the real world. Her characters are multidimensional, conflicted, honest, diverse. They are what we actually see in the world. Before I read her story, I knew of Shonda Rhimes, but have never really paid much notice. While many of my friends have been sucked in by her shows, I really only watch one of her shows, HTGAWM. But having heard her story, I am more interested now to start watching the others.

So here is my book review of Year of Yes.

At the beginning of the book we learn that Shonda, an introvert, is responsible for creating some of the most talked about shows currently playing on television. Yet, even though she has created these very strong, independent women who speak their minds, Shonda is not like them at all. She is reclusive and can talk her way out of any engagement. So much, in fact, that on Thanksgiving 2013, her sister says six words that change her life: "You never say yes to anything."  After that, she makes a decision that for one full year, she will say "yes" to anything that scares her or challenges her.

She shares moments, in which her social anxiety has caused her to black out and forget major moments in her life. She told the story of when she met OPRAH and couldn't remember any of it! She met Oprah and didn't remember!

She agrees to a variety of different events, with each challenge shaping her into a different, more confident person. At the end of her year, she decides that she will continue to live her life in this new way as it has made her more in touch with who she is and the kind of person she wants to be.

While that was the basis for the book, there were a few things that really stuck out at me.

1. She is Literally Just Another Human Being: Well, DUH. But it is more than that. As I have mentioned over and over, I have extreme amounts of social anxiety. Hearing about her having the same issues and working to overcome, them really resonated with me. She used to cancel plans left and right, but once she started her Year of Yes, she stopped doing that. Her "what-ifs" always seemed to overshadow the possibility of having a good time. She was invited to meet with President Obama and the First Lady, well, she was told she was meeting with them. She writes that if she had been asked, she would have said "no". She would have said "N-O". I can talk myself out of doing anything, in fact, it is secretly one of my favorite things when someone cancels plans with me. I always try to keep my plans, but all I want to do is cancel. It's not that I don't like to hang out or see my friends and family, but I am such a hermit, in every sense of the word. If I could stay home and never go out...there's a good chance I would. This is why I began to really connect with this book. Here is this widely successful woman and she would literally turn down a chance to meet with the POTUS because of her anxiety. She has some of the most popular shows, yet she panics at the thought of meeting with Jimmy Kimmel and doing his live talk show. This ME.

2. She Shuts Down the Mommy Wars: There is nothing more annoying in the parenting world, than that of the mommy wars. GIVE IT UP ALREADY. People parent differently and it's not a big deal. Let people be who they are. Parent in your own way. Do what is right for you and your child and don't be apologetic for it. If you are a Pinterest Mom (like me), that's great! Don't expect anyone else to spend 3 weeks making decorations for their kid's birthday party just because you do. If you are a Convenience Mom, buy those decorations from the store and don't feel bad about it. If you work, don't let anyone else make you feel like less of a mom. If you are a stay-at-home mom, don't let anyone else make you feel like you are somehow less worthy. Enough is enough! Breastfeeding, formula feeding. Crib sleeping, co-sleeping. Seriously, cut it out.

3. She is Realistic: She takes great care to make sure she explains herself in an honest way. She speaks of her battle with weight loss and how it was not a quick and easy process. Celebrities want you to believe that they just shed the weight, no problem, but it's not that easy. She speaks of success and how she wasn't just merely lucky, she had to work HARD. She talks about the impossibility of women "having it all" because if she is succeeding in one area, she is failing in another. These are all the real things women need to hear. Not the sugar coated, "You can have everything you dream of if you are lucky!" and "I don't know how I do it all, but I do!" That's not real. Let's be real.

During her commencement speech that she gave to her alma mater, Dartmouth, she gives these little gold nuggets of advice:

Lesson 1: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.
While you are out there dreaming, someone is doing. Dreams can lay down the path you want, but dreams don't work unless you do. Stop dreaming, start doing!

Lesson 2: Don't be an asshole.
No matter how much things suck, don't go around thinking it is okay to be rude and a terrible person. You are not entitled to do so and nobody wants to hear it. So spare everyone the misery. Turn around and do something good until things get better.

Lesson 3: Anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.
Nothing is ever easy and if someone tells  you that something just "fell into their lap," they are not being honest with you. Good things take hard work. Parenting, marriage, work, success. All good things take hard work. Sure, luck can help, but being lucky implies you didn't put in the hard work. Don't believe anyone who makes you think their success was easy.

This review is long, and I imagine in the time it took to read this, you could have read her whole book. Her book really just resonated with me in a way I didn't think it would. Shonda is insightful, witty and funny, and while some parts are slightly repetitive, it completely captured me from begining to end.

If you are looking for a book to read coming into the New Year, definitely give Year of Yes a try.

#GirlBoss is next on my list! Are there any other books you think I should read next?


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