Book Club: My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

There are some books that come to you at the most unexpected times but you are thankful that they did. My Year with Eleanor is definitely that kind of book. By the initial cover, I was not impressed by what I was about to read (or listen to as it was my audiobook of choice on my drive home to the east coast). Fortunately, I am someone who loves taking on challenges and reading about ordinary people who do extraordinary things. In comes, Noelle Hancock, a woman going through career changes and finds inspiration from an Eleanor Roosevelt quote on a chalkboard:

“Do one thing every day that scares you”

For a whole year, we laugh and learn along with Noelle as she continues to overcome fears that have controlled her life for far too long in addition to seeing the range of where fear can take us, something small like correcting a server on an order to something big like doing flying trapeze like Carrie Bradshaw! We discussed in our group how fear is easier to define as something tangible, like spiders, heights, etc. The intangible is hard to describe and recreate to overcome it – similar to what we see in Divergent by Veronica Roth, with fears of intimacy and obeying orders.

“You can’t wait until you are ready to take a risk, you’ll never feel truly prepared”

Whilst discussing the scenarios Noelle puts herself in, the book club thought imaginatively about what big undertakings they could complete, like hiking Machu Picchu or the Route of St. James—or El Camino de Santiago in Spain. This also led us to discuss where fear comes from. Noelle talks with her therapist about how we are biologically wired to fear the big three – heights, public speaking, and death. Where does that come from though? Why those and why are they the most prevalent? We also dove into how parenting instills these fears on children and continues (sometimes) into adulthood with checking up on them to see if they made it home safe or if that natural disaster that occurred in the same state they reside affected them. It may seem ridiculous on the child’s end, but fear drives that sense of care and concern.

“Do the things that interest you & do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you.”

People often tell me that I am brave for traveling solo, especially internationally or that they could never do that. Being alone (as an introvert) is calming and desirable to me. However, I fear being lonely – that I do so many things independently because of both fears of commitment as well as fear of staying still and realizing how lonely it could be. I have battles in my head sometimes when I turn down social engagements if it is because I don’t want to go or that I am afraid to interact and grow closer. Mostly the former, but the latter sneaks in every once in awhile. Needless to say, My Year with Eleanor generated some thought-provoking conversations and internal reflections of fear and how it is a part of our lives.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Up next, we are diving into The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion!

3 thoughts on “Book Club: My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

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