In Christmas of 2015, I asked for a book that I thought might be an interesting read. On Christmas morning, I opened my gift from my brother and there it was, The Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. I should mention I am not into her shows or anything like that (Ok, I watch Scandal from time-to-time) so this wasn't an "I'm into her shows so I'll read her book" sort of thing. Something about the title caught me. An entire year of saying yes.
It was a weird four weeks (I was in Florida at my parent's house helping with a small family health thing). I was away from work and had a lot of alone time. I read the book four times and just thought about it. The idea of saying "Yes!!!" to all the things that scared me was a daunting but seductive idea.
I should back up. When I was younger (I call this late teens and twenties), I was seemingly fearless. I did things other people couldn't believe (in a good way...well, most of the time in a good way). I went to foreign countries by myself to live for a bit, went places alone, wrote everything I could, published children's books, became a yoga teacher, and went to grad school full-time while I worked a full-time job and had several part-time enterprises. I did other things too. Nothing any regular person couldn't do. I didn't get why everyone thought it was such a big deal.
Then I hit my rut. About a seven year rut (give or take a year or so). I didn't travel anywhere not in a car (with exception to a horrible trip to Cali in the later part of the seven years). I gained a bunch of weight. I was scared to do anything. I lost friends, lovers, opportunities, but most of all, I lost myself.
I spent a little over two years rebuilding until I started to see a glimmer of myself. Totally changed careers. Took off a little weight. Reconnected with friends and started to shake off the rut. But at the end of that two years, I found myself still wanting so much more and that brings me to THE BOOK.
It's really easy to read a "self-help book" and then just put it down and be done with it. I didn't. I was due to give my first academic paper in March in Denver and was finding a million reasons not to do it; I was literally one click away from cancelling. So I booked the ticket to Denver and the hotel room after my third read of THE BOOK. I worked on the paper.
Then, in February, I started dating again. This time, I dated outside of my "type." No more saying no to presumably gorgeous men I thought were way out of my league. They asked me on a date, I said "Yes." I was pleasantly surprised though none of the dates culminated in a long-term relationship because my thinking had to shift with all of those yeses I was saying. I had to be okay with everything going wrong. I had to walk into each experience like I had nothing to lose otherwise the fear would've been crippling. I had to be like that with every little yes that escaped my lips. I finally chilled out. I embraced the thing I wanted to embrace most, my inner Matthew McConaughey.
I delivered my paper in Denver and it went over unbelievably. I met a few guys there and just had dinner or drinks to meet people and have stuff to do while I was there. I walked the city alone stopping for beers along the way. I took a tour at Red Rocks. I had fun. I was doing everything I had been scared to do for years.
I started spontaneously travelling whenever I could after that. I met people. Connected with people. I had experiences and started to get my confidence back in all areas. I was chasing my Yes. It is addicting. You do get a little high from it. But it wasn't all easy.
I had to accept certain facts about myself. I was in horrible shape. Every "Yes" to a hike meant me coming face-to-face with my self-imposed limitations. Shit gets real when you say yes. Not everything is unicorns and glitter clouds when you say yes. You fail and fail magnificently sometimes when you say yes. You have to be ready for that.
I then made the decision to apply for Remote Year around May (I think). It was something I dreamed about doing before it even existed. When people would ask me what I wanted in life I would often list off an amazing husband, children, etc., but I would always say, "I want to be free enough in a career to run off to write in Morocco for three weeks, and then go to France and write for two..." Rather than dreaming it, I took the first step of the process totally believing they wouldn't invite little ol' me.
Fast-forward to June. I am sitting in an adorable restaurant with my good friend, Scavuzzo, in Portland (where she had moved 6 days prior). I get a text that the school I teach at is closing and I will be out of a job eventually. I breathe. I order another adult breakfast drink. I tell her. She asks why I'm not freaking out in normal Jessica style. My answer? "I think it's supposed to happen." I find out later that day I am one of the lucky ones who keeps their job for nine months.
I return home (Indianapolis) on Sunday from Portland after flying into O'Hare and having a nice two hour morning drive to think. I start my serious writing business as soon as I get home. Fully branded website is completed and up within a week. I start researching how to get jobs. I scan job boards like I'm reading the Matrix.
I am going to finally be a full-time writer. In nine months that is. And I will go on Remote Year and be a full-time writer all over the world.
I had my first new client (I had always done some freelance writing, but I never really committed to it as a full-time gig) in a week. That client lead me to get such a dense portfolio that I was able to get more clients. I had five new clients by the end of June. I went through the Remote Year process. I was offered a spot in a program in October.
By October, I was nearly covering my salary in writing. I came up with my $5,000 Remote Year deposit within seven weeks, something I would have considered impossible in the past.
By December, I told everyone what I was doing. It was official. My Year of Yes was manifesting all over the place. My friends and family started talking about visiting me abroad, saying their own yeses. It was an amazing thing. My 2016 Year of Yes was turning into my 2017/2018 Year of Yes. It was turning into my Life of Yes.
Why do I tell you this story? I learned the power of "Yes" for the first time, similar to the way I learned the power of "No" a few years prior (more on that later). Not every yes is spontaneous, many are planned and executed carefully. Yes not only made a lot possible for me but it also opened me up to my unthinkables, those things I never thought I could do or deserved. I didn't say Yes to everything that scared me, but I did to 95% of things.