I am different. I am an original. And like everyone else, I am here to take up space in the universe. I do so with pride.
-Shonda Rhimes ‘Year of Yes’
Just finished Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes! OMG! This woman just changed my life. There are a few pivotal moments in my life. One of them was the moment when I realized I was not crazy or weird but an introvert. Recognizing my introversion set me free from the burden of trying to be like everyone. It allowed me to create my own space and celebrate me.
It is funny and powerful that a couple of days ago I was writing on Facebook about how I am learning to occupy space in public by watching men in the gym. I have always struggled with the idea of taking up space in the world. I have tend to favor hiding away from the world, both literally and figuratively. As a child and as an adult, if there were too many people around, I like to hide. As a child and a teenager, I hid in my books. I took books with me to parties with my sister and read in a corner while every one mingled. It was my thing. When I first moved to Boston and lived in a house with young adults that favored house parties, I liked to hide in my room and lock the door. They must have thought I was the strangest person ever. I have been struggling with the idea of needing my own space but wanting the intimacy of sharing space with others. I have never felt like I had the social skills to succeed out in the world. I am awkward. Sometimes, I feel ugly and self-conscious. I say the wrong things. I can be too passionate among people who would rather that share anything concrete. Sometimes I experience temporary deafness and I can’t hear what is being said. In my own world, with my own room and within my own imaginary world, my flaws are not fatal. So I choose to hide.I feel like Year of Yes is really about how to balance the need to be within yourself but still make space to be with others. Reading about Ms. Rhimes’ social anxiety was so relatable but encouraging. If she can break out of the box, so can I. I can learn to be social and connect with others.
There are so many moments in the book where I had to stop and take it in. So many life-affirming moments for me as a black woman, both personally and professionally. I am not exactly breaking ceilings in the work that I do but at the same time I am not exactly surrounded by role models who look like me in the work that I do. I like that Ms. Rhimes is not afraid to speak openly about what it means to be in a room that is often filled with ‘others’. I never realized the concept of the ‘other’ until I moved to the California at 16. At community college, I was underage, a non-drinker, non-driver, nerdy student in a campus where everyone thrived on being cool. Perhaps the greatest flaw I had in those days was my inability to be black. I was called an oreo more than once; looks black, acts white. I didn’t understand what that meant then, I still don’t fully get it now. To me, I am who I am. Color never had anything to do with it.
I know that I need a year of yes of my own. I don’t think I say it enough but coming to United States, especially Boston, made me yet broke me in more ways that one. I lost my innocence and optimism in Boston, one racist incidence after another. I think I allowed myself to be made small, to be told not dream, to accept that in many ways I can’t be the type of success I always dreamed I wanted to be. Some would say I did not try but I dare anyone to walk into a room where no one looks like you, sounds like you or understands you and still feel comfortable. I have been doing some of the work in preparation for my Big 30 but reading Year of Yes makes me realize that I need to do more.
I need to open myself to more things that scare me. Nothing scares me at the moment like dating does. Putting myself out there is like asking people to judge me and tell me if I am worthy. But the thing is that the dream for me has always been marriage, children, the house and maybe a cat or dog. My dreams have nothing to do with traditions of being an African woman. They have everything to do with the need to love, to care, to have my own tribe and to create a home. So as scary as dating seems, nothing seems scarier to me going out of my 20s that a life spent alone without a home, a place and a people to ground me. Ms. Rhimes says dreams don’t come true by dreaming but by doing. I need to be live life more fully in lusty pursuit of impossible dreams. I need to be a doer.
Be a doer, not a dreamer.
-Shonda Rhimes ‘Year of Yes’
Reading Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes, I can tell already, is going to have a huge impact on how I look at what it means to be an introvert. I have laughed, I have cried, I have had deep thought and really shallow thoughts reading this book. I have paused and raced through this book. I have felt the magnitude of this book. I have gifted out this book. I have recommended this book. I recommend this book.