When I started writing this post, I didn’t think I was a Shonda Rhimes fan. I have nothing against the lady, just that Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal never really spoke to me. But now that I’ve read her amazing / inspiring / heart-warming / hilarious / choose your own adjective speech that she delivered at Dartmouth’s commencement on Sunday, I want to go cry-laugh in her face and give her all the hugs.
I went into reading it expecting to be annoyed or nonplussed (because commencement speeches are such a thing these days), and instead I’m sitting here kiiiiiind of on the edge of tears, and proud of myself and this woman I’ve never met, and anyone who’s ever admitted to a group of nine thousand people that she’s terrified of pooping her pants in front of them.
Because that’s how this speech started — with Shonda very honestly and openly acknowledging that she was terrified to give the speech. She felt unequipped to offer advice and she had no interest in writing words to come out of her own mouth instead of Kerry Washington‘s, to the point that she almost turned down the college president’s offer to speak. But we should all be so incredibly glad she didn’t, because the lessons she shared were the perfect mix of realism, hilarity, and accessibility. She had three main pieces of advice:
Lesson #1: Ditch the dream and become a doer because, in her words, “Dreamers often end up living in the basements of relatives, FYI.” Her dream was to be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, which was awkward, because someone already had that job. But years later, when Shonda got the opportunity to have lunch with her idol, all Toni wanted to talk about was Grey’s Anatomy.
Lesson #2: Don’t be an asshole. PREACH. Real life is supposed to be hard, but we all here in America have it remarkably easy, and we can’t lose sight of that. She advises everyone to get themselves a cause and stick to it…just as long as that cause isn’t a hashtag, because that’s not helping.
Lesson #3: Anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar. Ugh, thank you for this. She very straight-forwardly tells the audience that any time she’s succeeding in one area of her life, it’s because she’s failing in another.
“If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.”
I seriously needed that so badly. And while I’ve paraphrased pretty well, this whole thing is just an endless collection of gems that you need to read or watch for yourself. Her speech starts at 1:41 in the video below, or Vulture has a complete transcript.