I’m a little late to the game on this one but bear with me. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling was released in 2015 but it wasn’t until 2018 that this piece came on my radar. I’ve loved The Office for several years now, so why I had not clue that Mindy Kaling had written not one, but TWO books during that time is unbeknownst to me. It wasn’t until I sat in the blazing sun on a June Sunday taking in Mindy’s hilarious, yet insightful Dartmouth College Commencement speech that her message clicked with me- “Why Not Me?”
Truth be told, I was a bit taken aback when I initially started reading. I usually navigate towards the “matter-of-fact” fictional writing styles in books like Things Fall Apart and non-fiction styles in pieces like Thinking, Fast and Slow and news articles. But Kaling’s writing style is none of that. It is very much reflective of her (unsuppressed) personality, which I was not ready for. I had to reorient my mind out of the “typical novel” mentality I have grown so used to and truly absorb the content from Kaling’s perspective.
Through each page, Kaling dives into elements of her life that have shaped who she is today in a very personal, relatable, hilarious and sometimes shocking way. She describes her experiences as a new writer in Hollywood mixed with a frazzled love life, creating her own show, and an interesting meeting with former President Barack Obama that’s ends up not being about Obama at all. There were multiple moments that made me laugh and allowed me to truly recognize Kaling’s creative genius.
But the part that hit me was didn’t come until the very end when she addresses the question “Why not me?” During her Commencement speech, Kaling dived into the topic a bit when it came to understanding the limits we put on ourselves. Instead of embracing those limits, Kaling has opted to live by the mantra “Why not me?” She explains, “I was not someone who should have the life I have now, and yet I do. I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered, ‘Why not me?’ And I kept whispering it for seventeen years; and here I am…” This hit home for me because this year I have spent a lot of time thinking about what shapes a person. Whether it be culturally or familial, the comfort zone is a popular place. A lot of times we even let it take the wheel of our lives for a bit. But what I loved about Kaling’s take on success is that it was based on understanding that, with hard work (and dipping out of the comfort zone, though she does not explicitly say that), you can ask yourself, “Why not me?” in the things you know you deserve.
After reading Kaling’s piece, I continue to be inspired to ask myself about the limitations, both self-inflicted and environmental, that are currently keeping me from reaching my goals or getting out of my comfort zone. Every day, take a moment to ask “Why not me?”