Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Review: My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock

I didn't plan it this way when I picked up the book, but this book is the perfect one to end the year on. After getting laid off from her job, at a coffeeshop she sees a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that inspires her: "Do one thing every day that scares you." And she decides, after some reflection on where her life has led her, that this is a good motto by which to live. So in the grand tradition of stunt memoirs, she sets out in her 29th year to do something that scares her every day.

While she does start with something ambitious--a trapeze lesson--she quickly decides that doing something on that level every day would be both exhausting, expensive, and rife for burnout. Plus, a lot of the things she's truly afraid of are smaller everyday things, such as standing up for herself in situations where she wants the other person to like her. Not that she doesn't go skydiving and swimming with sharks--she does--it's just that she discovers the small things are somewhat more important. As children we are constantly forced to face fears. As adults, we often can arrange our lives to avoid a lot of them, and so we find ourselves missing out on a lot of life as we stick to the safe and known.

Her supportive boyfriend is always in the background as early on they go a wedding together and he is asked if he thinks he and Noelle might get married one day, and then is interrupted and doesn't finish his answer. It's telling that Noelle was hyper-aware of this when it happened, but doesn't follow up on it until about 8 months later, at the very end of her year. Because personal relationships can be the scariest things of all.

I liked Ms. Hancock's writing with was fluid and very easy to read. I was eager to hear what she was going to do next, big or small. I was moderately inspired myself, at least to realize that a lot of situations I avoid and fear likely aren't really all that scary if I just confronted them. I haven't really gone out on a limb since I read the book, but I think the next time I am confronted with an uncomfortable situation or something downright scary, I might just give it a try. At least I'll consider it, which is still a step forward.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

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