How excited was I for the new Amy Poehler book Yes Please to come out? Within three days of its release, I was in possession of three copies. One was given to me by a friend in exchange for help on a project (no greater testament to how well my friends get me), one I received when I bought a ticket to her Boston book tour stop, and one was the result of a pre-order that completely escaped me, made within fifteen minutes of learning about the book’s existence. So to say that I was excited to read it, was a gross understatement.
I expected to truly enjoy the book, but i was blown away by how insightful and emotional a read it was. As I flew through the book, I started seeing answers to the questions- the BIG questions- that I have spent most of my twenties wrestling with. While I fully endorse your reading of the book (and clearly, I’m equipped to loan you a copy if needed!), I also want to show you just how simply but significantly Amy’s words shook me.
On Finding Your Thing
I think we should stop asking people in their twenties what they ‘want to do,’ and start asking them what they don’t want to do.
You have to care about your work but not the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, and not worry about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.
In a true display of brilliance, Amy’s chapter on work is titled “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend.” In it, she talks about how worrying about the perception of your work (akin to ‘what will he think of me if I…’ in our relationships) only hurts the quality of your relationship with it. The best relationships allow us to be ourselves with relatively little effort, and are not threatened by our interests and pursuits outside of it. In Amy’s mind, the same should be true of the work that consumes most of our lives.
And how do I find that thing, you may be asking? I love Amy’s answer to this: figure out first what you don’t want to do. As someone who fell into her current line of work after finding a few dead vocational ends first, I am a tremendous believer in doing what it takes to find out what you hate. Shadow. Volunteer. Take on part-time work. Take chances that you might screw up on, just so you can definitively rule out that fork in the road. Which brings me to the next point…
Who The Hell Am I?
One of the most moving chapters in the book talks about Amy’s 2012 trip to post-earthquake Haiti, a trip that coincided with the end of her marriage and helped her escape a location that left her feeling, in her words, like a cat scratching at a door that wouldn’t open. As she made preparations to depart, she wondered if she was going for the right reasons. Ultimately, she decided:
Not enough is said of the fact that being of service makes you feel good.
While Amy has done this in other ways- she is well documented for providing the laugh in the SNL writing room that newer writers and cast members needed to build their confidence, and she is now providing a platform as a writer and producer for Parks and Rec as well as Broad City– this was a very real moment for her to realize that being of service to people in far greater need made her feel good, and that was enough.
Being able to constructively move through a time of change- graduation, moving away from (or back!) home, searching for a new job, a breakup or a divorce- is an incredibly hard thing to do. Our surroundings are in flux, as are our perceptions of our value. For that Amy also has a cure: surround yourself with good and empowering people. And the rest? In time, they’ll fall away, leaving a strong inner circle.
The biggest lie and biggest crime is that we all do this alone and look down on people who don’t.
I am a firm believer that every few years one needs to shake one’s life thorugh a sieve like a miner in the Yukon. The gold nuggets remain. The rest falls through like the soft earth it is.
On Comparison Anxiety
That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over: “Good for her! Not for me.”
It can be hard to trust that you are on your intended path, especially when the rest of your friend circle seems to have it all figured out. It goes without saying that critically curated Facebook pages, ruthlessly rewritten Tweets, and painstakingly Pinned boards only serve to make things worse. But ultimately, these outward displays can only rain on our parade, if we choose to step out into the storm in the first place. Amy believes that by celebrating the successes of others, while recognizing that they don’t diminish our own, we can preserve our own sanity while being supportive of those who have reached heights we haven’t yet. Amy credits her own strong relationship with the similarly hysterical Tina Fey to precisely this:
We don’t compete against one another. We compete against ourselves.
Who Should I Be With?
The three adults most profoundly affected by the Poehler-Arnett Divorce were, in no particular order: Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, and Amma Marfo. So to see her come out on the other side of it, both onscreen and in this book, impresses me mightily and constantly. She’s handling it waaaay better than me.
In any case, one of the best passages of the book references her method for finding someone: stay attentive and don’t freak out.
As with her philosophy on your career, she believes wanting it too badly or watching it too closely can only hurt you:
People work around you and next to you, and the universe waits for the perfect time to whisper in your ear, “Look this way.” There is someone in your life right now who may end up being your enemy, your wife, or your boss. Lift your head up and you may notice.
So much of Yes Please encourages a combination of hard work, and trust in that hard work to provide what you want and what you need. Amy speaks openly in the preface about the hard work it took to create this book; Ms. Poehler, let me be far from the first person to let you know- your book gave me everything I wanted, and lots more that I didn’t know I needed. The back cover of the book says, simply, “THANK YOU,” and so do I.