What follows is an open Thank You letter to the incomparable, witty and stupendous Amy Poehler.
It was my final semester at University and I was overwhelmed. My arms were aching with the amount I was juggling; a skill I never fully mastered, despite actually attending a circus day camp when I was eleven. Essays needed writing (the books needed for these essays actually had to be read first), applications for jobs needed completing (and researched, in order for me to try and waffle my way to the top), preparation and planning was underway for the summer camp I was leading in a few months time (and something that still causes me panic dreams despite it being a success), I was busy trying to find time to edit articles for my Uni’s magazine (even wearing my glasses I still missed typos) and attending hours of rehearsals for my third year final drama show.
In the midst of all this I received a gift. A wonderful, fabulous gift, wrapped beautifully in a yellow bow by the Amazon Book team. Knowing how much my legs were aching from treading water my sister threw me a life jacket in the form of a hardback cover of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I have never in my life been more in need of a book as inspiring, warming and hugely grin-worthy as I was in those final weeks of my degree.
I remember coming home from a long night spent in the media office, laden with bags containing a laptop, unread books, some jazz shoes, probably a packet of biscuits rolling around in there somewhere, and my thoughts heavy, craving only sleep and wine, and the want to be blissfully un-needed by anyone or anything. Stumbling upstairs I found that there was a parcel left outside my bedroom door, and as I threw my belongings onto my bed (as my mental state was reflected on the floor of my student bedroom-a massive mess-and I was quickly running out of space to place things) I eagerly tore open the box. Inside, shining back at me, was the calming sedative I needed. Maybe my sister knew how much I needed to laugh, to bring my emotions to the surface, to feel something else other than my own mental pressures, and I am just as thankful to her as I am to Yes Please.
I devoured Poehler’s book there and then. I kicked off my converse, laid back on the tiny bit of bed space I had left and read. Poehler had been a presence throughout my teen years, be it through watching old episodes of SNL online (because we are denied the pleasure of NBC here in England), keeping up to date with Parks and Rec (again, having to find ways around the fact that it took an A G E to be broadcast in England) and through just generally appreciating women with a “go get ’em” attitude in the Entertainment industry, Poehler had been on my radar, and it was such a treasure to be able to learn more about Regina George’s “cool mom”.
Through reading her book, which is an incredibly open, thoughtful and kind book, I felt instantly healed. Sentences captured the very insecurities I was struggling with, with Poehler declaring that “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.” At the time of reading I was torn and cut up about who I was going to be once I had taken off my graduation gown and hopped into my parents car to be driven back to my family home. Others assumed, as I had so readily let them assume, that I was headed in one direction only. Yet, I knew that at 21 I was not ready to settle for someone else’s ideas of what was good for me, and having someone state so openly how unnecessary the pressure is that can be put on the young, I felt myself slowly start to place my feet back on the ground, and steady myself.
As I dove deeper into Yes Please I found myself wiping away tears that I didn’t realise were there, and laughing at how life has ways of working out. I don’t want to give away Poehler’s words-1, because I feel weirdly protective over them. And 2, because I urge everyone to pick up a copy of the book themselves and read them. Read them in context of Poehler’s experiences, and in reflection of your own. I know by not including words and references to an actual book within a review type piece is very poor writing on my behalf, but if I was to quote my favourite lines I would end up writing the whole book in one blog post, and I’m pretty sure there are copyright issues involved in that.
In Part 3 of the book, ‘Be Whoever You Are’, I had to read the essay titled ‘Time Travel‘ at least five times, and then once aloud to my sister over the phone, because of how magical and spine tinglingly soothing it is.
‘The only thing we can depend on in life is that everything changes. The seasons, our partners, what we want and need. We hold hands with our high school friends and swear never to loose touch, and then we do. We scrape off ice from our cars and feel like winter will never end, and it does. We stand in our bathroom and look at our face in the mirror and say “Stop getting old face! I command you”, and it doesn’t listen. Change is the only constant.’
It was words like these that I so needed to hear and understand when I was struggling to make sense of my dissertation and the fact that I was moving back home to absolute cold uncertainty about what my future was going to entail.
Even though months have passed, and my life is focused once more, I still find myself reaching for Yes Please. I remember texting my sister once I had finished the book, asking her if it was weird to feel like words on a page were your best friend, as I honestly felt so connected to the essays I had just sunk myself into. Yes Please reminded me to be strong, to stay passionate, to keep writing, to worry less about others and to love more things about myself. And that maybe by moving back home it would be the kick-starter that I needed because as Poehler tells us, “You have to be where you are to get where you need to go,” and honestly, had it not been for the months that followed graduation I wouldn’t have finally awakened and realised what my future entails-which I found so hard to see over the towers of books I was instructed to read when at University.
In order to thank my sister I sent her a copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants. A fair exchange.
Thank you Amy, for all of your words.
“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.”-AP