Shonda Rhimes ‘Year of Yes’

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes explores a year of affirmation of self
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes explores a year of affirmation of self

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.


and David Oyelowo face came on the screen sucking me into the movie “Selma.” After much debate with myself over the last few days, I finally mustered the will to get out of my house this morning and go see the movie. ‘Selma’ is a movie that I had anticipated for while. there was no way I was going to miss it because of the big media push that the cast had been making from magazine covers to talk-show. Plus, as an African living who is Boston who is just really starting to gain consciousness of what it means to be Black in America, I felt I had to go watch this. Of course, the danger in watching a movie like ‘Selma’, when you are uneducated about the Civil Rights Movement like I am, is that there is that line between the dramatization of real events and the reality of the events that gets all muddled up in the name of making great movie. It is a good thing I have been following the media push enough to know that the speeches in the movie are not real because the Dr. King’s estate chose not let the movie makers use them.

Even with all of this caveats, watching ‘Selma’ was an evocative experience. It made me realize that there is much progress that has been made in racial relations in America. I think especially in this age of systemic injustices that are represented by Ferguson and the many other instances, it is easy to let anger cloud the fact that much progress has been made. The flip side of this is that it made me realize how much more still needs to be done in terms of equality and justice for all. ‘Selma’ is a heavy movie. It is the kind of movie that is designed cause introspection. It is designed to inspire if you choose to be inspired. It is designed to educate.

Beyond the loftier goals of the movies, the acting of the ‘Selma’ cast was superb. To be honest, I really wanted to go to the bathroom 20 minutes into the movie but I was so spellbound that I did not do so until the movie ended. There is something about the elocution of David Oyelowo channeling Martin Luther King that is amazing to watch. The cadence is laced with dignity and often times the heaviness of despair. I found that the most powerful moment where not the ones where his voice was booming but the quiet whispers of a personal conversation with another. There is a point where Mr. Oyelowo’s character talks to an ADA about his personal security. His eyes and his soft speech said so much more than could ever be said in the words. I think that is what I loved most about this movie in terms of entertainment. The full-bodied portrayal of these strong personalities. The dignity that Carmen Ejogo carried into her portrayal of  Coretta Scott King was amazing. I wanted to see so much more of her during and after the movie. I really loved seeing a cast that featured some of the biggest black actors in America. Plus, there are so many new faces in there that I hope this movie is a vehicle for them to get into other movies and bring some diversity to the screen.

this is the other thing struck also watching ‘Selma’, how did the spouses and the families cope with their love ones away fighting for justice across the world.Watching Carmen Ejogo made me realize that a Coretta Scott King movie would be amazing. Beyond the spouses, I wanted to know more about the big players in the Dr. King’s group. I was a bit lost when I read a review of ‘Selma’ in the past and the critic mentioned that the movie just points out so many other great stories of the Civil Rights Era that have yet to be told. Now I understand and I am of the same opinion that there is so much that still needs to be told. ‘Selma’ was just a chapter in a long storybook that is the Civil Rights Era.

Of course I have been obsessively listening to John Legend and Common’s song for the movie, Glory.