How Shonda Rhimes + Yahtzee Put Me In Motion Again | Sarah Wyland
From Sarah | Life | Writing

How Shonda Rhimes + Yahtzee Put Me In Motion Again

How Shonda Rhimes + Yahtzee Put Me In Motion Again | Sarah Wyland

Life has a way of shaking you up to shake you out. Kind of like the dice in a game of Yahtzee – they get dropped into a cup, shaken up, banged around, then tumble out onto the board to create various combinations that the roller can then mark down on their scorecard.

I’m going to confess something that may surprise those who spend a lot of time with me on a day-to-day basis: 

I’ve been complaisant. 

It doesn’t seem like that if you’re on the outside looking in. I’m doing well at my full-time job. I’m training 4-5 times a week to get ready for the North Carolina State Championships in October. I just launched The Balanced Company

But I’ve been complaisant. 

Know how the question “where do you see yourself in five years?” comes up in more interviews than not? I didn’t have a good answer for that question, career-wise or personally. I had a few “it would be nice if…” thoughts, but no real goals, no real “this is where I want to be in five years” signposts. The lack of a goal started to bother me. 

I’ve always had a goal: 

  • Transfer to the University of Tennessee 
  • Live in Nashville 
  • Work in the music business 
  • Move back to Charlottesville 
  • Make positive change in the community
  • Move to Chapel Hill and open a barre studio 

Having a goal means having a plan to get there. I like to call those steps “inspired action.” Those steps are inspired by the end goal and while they may not always pan out exactly as planned, they tend to get you “there,” wherever “there” is, in the end. For example, I had to enroll in classes at my local community college and do well in them if I wanted to transfer to UT to finish my college degree. To live and work in Nashville, I needed to network, chase opportunities. When I decided to move back to Charlottesville, I had to put in the work to find the job to move me there. I joined the Junior League to not only have a way to make an impact in my community, but to build my community. There was more job hunting – and real estate hunting – to make Chapel Hill happen. 

And then? 


No real goals. Nothing exciting to steer for. Nothing to put in the center of my vision board. Other than weightlifting meets, there wasn’t much on the horizon for me to work towards. Without an end goal, there has been no inspired action and without inspired action, I’ve been complaisant, going to work, going to the gym, going home. Rinse and repeat. 

I suppose it was nice at first. I did all.the.things. in Charlottesville and my first months in Chapel Hill were spent acclimating to a new environment, a new job, a lot of change at said job, and attempting to get the barre studio off the ground. I was mentally exhausted by the end of the week and still had miles to go over the weekend. When things leveled off, I welcomed the quiet with open arms.

Until the quiet became too loud.  

How Shonda Rhimes + Yahtzee Put Me In Motion Again | Sarah Wyland

There are five Yahtzee dice that go into the shaker. When mine went into the tumbler recently, they looked like this: 

  • My mom died
  • I wrote something
  • A floor fell apart 
  • I read a book
  • I launched a company 

My mom died suddenly. Deep down, I knew it was coming. We had the briefest of conversations the night before she passed. As we hung up, I had a fleeting thought: “that’s the last time I’ll talk to her.” No one wants to believe that thought, so I dismissed it. I deal with a lot of anxiety and between her illness and the trouble I’d had reaching someone – anyone – that could tell me how she was that day before I talked to her, my anxiety was through the roof in that moment. She died 18 hours later. 

Sitting in my dad’s guest bedroom the week of her funeral, I started to write. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve blogged for years upon years. I’ve written for publications. I’ve got hundreds of pages of journals. More than a half dozen manuscripts live on my laptop. I started typing as a therapeutic outlet and by the time I drove back to Chapel Hill a few days later, I had a piece I published online  and a second piece for publishing underway. I’ll share those pieces later this week. 

Two dice into the shaker. 

Things at the barre studio… Haven’t been going well. I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but the studio floor fell apart and decisions had to be made. You can read all about what inspired me to launch The Balanced Company

Two more dice into the shaker. 

And I read a book. 

There’s that fifth dice. 

How Shonda Rhimes + Yahtzee Put Me In Motion Again | Sarah Wyland

Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes had a visceral effect on me. Over and over, I saw myself in her story. She played in the pantry as child, making up stories with the canned goods. I didn’t play in a pantry, but I certainly made up stories under my grandma’s piano. I lived in the stories I made up, acted them out in great detail. Page after page of Year of Yes, I found myself nodding along, laughing out loud, crying. 

Year of Yes is based on Shonda’s year (and then some) of saying “yes” to life – yes to opportunities, to herself, even “yes” to “no.” She transformed her life with that simple word. She didn’t just say “yes” to opportunities and the fun stuff. She said “yes” to hard conversations, “yes” to playing, “yes” to herself. As her story unfolded, I came to realize I needed to have my own “Year of Yes.” 

There’s a line early in the book that put an idea in my head. Funny enough, I had started to knock around a similar idea before reading the book. I’m not going to share what that line was or how it influenced me just yet. Annoying if you’ve read this far? Maybe. But I’ll share that line and what it inspired when the time is right. 

When the dice rolled out of that shaker, they formed a combination I would have never envisioned six months ago. But they gave me a goal, a goal that feels right. And with a goal comes purpose, vision, steps to get there. Inspired action. 

I haven’t had actionable steps in a while, inspired or otherwise. 

Actionable steps feel good. 

Actionable steps feel like purpose. 

In the words of Taylor Swift, let the games begin. 

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