A little while ago, a friend at work recommended this TED Talk by Shonda Rhimes, titled “My year of saying yes to everything.”
Now, I have to confess to being perhaps one of only 327 people in America who didn’t know who Shonda Rhimes was or who had never watched one of her shows, ever. We’re not big on TV at our home, mostly because my non-work hours are filled with other things, from Virginia wine blogging to volunteering in our local citizen-police outreach group to spending time with family to revising (yet again!) that mystery/detective novel that’s been a goal for several years now.
But I did some research and learned she’s an immensely talented and creative producer and writer, the genius behind several popular and long-running shows. What she’s accomplished is truly impressive.
In her TED Talk, Shonda Rhimes described a year in which she decided to say yes to everything that scared her, anything that made her nervous, and that the act of saying yes made that fear go away. Her true ah-ha moment, though, came when she said yes after one of her daughters asked, “Mommy, wanna play?”
Her “yes” to that request, she said, changed her life.
I understand that particular “yes” moment. Eight years ago, a serious family health crisis crystallized for me that nothing I could ever accomplish at work was worth a fraction of what my family meant to me. That’s when I began turning to other activities outside of work, such as blogging and writing, which have been so personally rewarding and enjoyable.
And yet, as I begin the slow transition from the full-time day job to, after 31 December, a post-retirement life where I’m the one who sets the pace, who calls the shots, who decides on the structure and goals of my days, doubt has crept in. When I’ve mentioned to several friends that I’m feeling, well, a bit uncertain over what those days will be like, they look at me as if I’m crazy, especially if they’re already retired themselves. “What!” they exclaim. “Don’t overthink this! Just enjoy retirement! You’ll be busy, just wait and see!”
Yeah, but still, while my private life is quite full, this will be the first time in thirty years that my days haven’t been structured and set by my work environment — by other people, in sum. Last month at the office, several of us who are at the tail ends of our official careers were chatting about what retirement would be like. “You know,” I said, “it’s both exhilarating and unsettling. I’ll be able to do whatever I want, but still I find myself thinking, ‘who am I, if I’m not working here?’”
They all instantly agreed, even repeating that phrase: “Who am I, if I’m not working here?”
It’s a credit to our strong sense of mission and purpose at work that this concept so powerfully and instantly forms in our brains. And yet it can also be an anchor, something that pulls us back from fully realizing our potential, from actualizing our dreams and goals. From finding out who we really are. I’ve known people at work who are, really, almost crippled by this, who define themselves by how long they work, at times almost bragging about how much and how often work disrupts and displaces their private lives.
So for the next twelve months, I’m going to say yes. Yes to pushing myself to try new things. Yes to trying something different. Yes to expanding my boundaries and interests. Yes, even, to some things that may scare me.
But also yes to the future.
Cheers, and here’s to yes!
(I’m cross-posting this on my author Facebook page here.)