Shonda Rhimes is a bit of a hero for me; her writing, her vulnerability and fearlessness in speaking out and challenging norms, and her way of seeing a long-term narrative into being.
She is deeply awesome.
(Plus Scandal has the best coat porn of any show ever.)
It’s a bit over one year today that the Thesis Whisperer blog, run by the wonderful Inger Mewburn, published a piece I wrote about the struggles about being an early career researcher in an uncertain role. I felt so scared – so naked – publishing that piece but met some amazing friends on Twitter through it – with their own fantastic blogs, see here, here, and here for just a few. That vulnerability was worth it. In it, I wondered about the practice of always saying ‘yes’ and how many yes-es could be balanced at any one time without being dropped.
And in her new book ‘The Year of Yes’, Shonda Rhimes talks about what she experienced in a year of saying yes – new experiences, new ways of being and doing, a wholeness of life uncovered.
And in the year since the Thesis Whisperer piece, I’ve also begun to truly believe in the power of saying yes.
I have this fear of losing myself in work sometimes where I get stuck in how I do something – too comfortable, too tunnel-visioned. That one day the words ‘but that’s how I’ve always done it’ will come out of my mouth when faced with a new, maybe better, way of doing something.
In saying yes, I feel less at risk of that, simply because I’m always around people who do things differently to me and so always explaining why I want to do something a particular way – and then smooshing both ways together to create something new and workable.
In saying yes, I work with extraordinary people who do work vastly different (and sometimes really similar) to my own but who are also fascinated in seeing the world just slightly differently to how they saw it before.
In saying yes, I am writing this in a university space in a small country town a few hours away from where I live, working on a project where I have learned about Aboriginal history, community-embedded art studios, and the politics of playgrounds. And seen more art deco architecture than I was ever expecting here.
Saying yes has been pretty brilliant.
But its brilliance has also been brighter because I have also discovered the power of saying ‘yes but…’
Yes but can I have another week to do the analysis so I can finish marking assignments…
Yes but if we start the analysis this way, it will be easier to pull together for a paper…
Yes but if I go adventuring to small country towns, coffee is vital.
Thankfully, I have yet to meet someone for whom coffee (or at least a cup of tea) has not been vital.
And in this way, ‘but’ has brought a balance to the excitement and inspiration of ‘yes’. Passion alone is sometimes not enough when you’re tired – it doesn’t get you through every challenge. What passion does do though – when you balance it with ‘but’ – is allow the colour to stay in everything – allows you to work through the night when there’s a deadline, to balance what needs to be balanced when there seems to be quite a number of balls in the air.
Passion nourishes you in ways that pragmatism could never do, but pragmatism keeps your feet on the ground, reminds you to eat, and keeps your iron levels from dropping.
Passion gives you the courage to try something completely new – even if it doesn’t work – just to know that you’ve tried it. And – as fellow academic nerds will also know – when something new works, it’s the best high.
Saying yes has made me more creative, bolder, and braver in my work. It hasn’t always led to success but I’ve felt proud of everything I’ve submitted this year and attempted to do.
And that nourishes in both a passionate and pragmatic way.