Get Yours!: How to Have Everything You Ever Dreamed of and More

Get Yours!: How to Have Everything You Ever Dreamed of and More

by Amy Dubois Barnett

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767928397
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 09/25/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 966 KB

About the Author

AMY DuBOIS BARNETT, recently appointed deputy editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, is an award-winning journalist, fiction writer and television commentator. When she rose to the top of Teen People’s masthead, Amy became the first African-American woman in the country to head a major mainstream magazine. Before that, she was the editor-in-chief and driving force behind Honey magazine. Amy has also been a weekly pop-culture commentator on CNN’s American Morning, a regular panelist on NPR’s News and Notes and has been featured on numerous national television shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The Early Show. She continues to make frequent television and radio appearances as an expert on pop culture, professional development, social issues and teens. In addition, she is a motivational speaker at educational and professional organizations across the country. Amy received her B.A. from Brown University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

Stay in touch with Amy at (

Read an Excerpt


The first and most important step to getting yours is figuring out what truly makes you happy. And this, girlfriend, is way harder than it seems—mainly because most of us have been conditioned to believe that our happiness is based on how much we can chip off our to–do lists in a day. We’re so used to bearing a disproportionate amount of household responsibility, and having people ask and not give in return. Society at large expects us to be plow horses that don't need praise or even rest. No wonder we see every aspect of our lives as work! We don’t appreciate the good things we may already have and we certainly don’t value the experience of adversity and the strength it gives us to make the life we truly want. I know because it took the most horrible event of my life, my mother's death, to finally teach me how to truly live and be happy.

Growing up, home was not a place, it was one person: my mom. Because we moved around so much, people used to ask me if I was an army brat. After a while I began to identify myself as an “academia brat.” Both my parents were college professors, so we would move from university to university. Most of my friends reminisce about growing up in Dallas or Oakland or Detroit. But I never think about towns; instead, I recall Princeton and Howard and Columbia universities, the look of the campuses, my parents’ colleagues, being passed from student to student while my mom or dad taught a class. Throughout my childhood I was constantly adjusting—to an unfamiliar environment, a new school, a different bunch of kids.

The way I managed to function within our wandering way of life—to make my passage easier and to develop new relationships quickly—was simply to give everyone else the upper hand, all the time. I kept my head down, my defenses up, and my expectations low. In my teens, I rarely made demands on a friendship, volunteering to be the designated driver, fake–ID holder, term–paper writer. I was the new girl everyone turned to but no one truly liked (let’s face it, no one actually likes a suck–up).

Fortunately, I had my mom. While I didn’t have a lot of extended family, she was the one person I could always count on to be there, the stable force. Despite my confusion, I knew at my core I was valuable and talented because my mother instilled those feelings—even when I wavered, she believed in me. While I was at college, still unsure how to stand up for myself and make my own way, Mom became the president of the University of Houston, earning her place in history as the first black woman in the country to head a major research university.

I was so lucky to have her as a role model, a smart, ambitious, funny, and loving woman who prioritized family but still managed to achieve every goal she set out for herself. Still, for years her example and words of wisdom couldn’t penetrate my shell of insecurity. I spent so much time catering to everyone else, I had no idea who I was. I let my friends and boyfriends and, even though she meant well, my mom tell me what to eat, what to wear, what classes to take, whom to hang out with.

In college, I majored in political science because my mom was a political scientist. And even though I’d fantasized about editing a magazine since I was a teen, I decided to be a lawyer. I hated my classes, but didn’t switch my major. Boyfriends were unfaithful to me and I didn’t leave them. Some of my friends took and never gave, but I was always there for them.

I graduated from college and got a job in finance. I hated it from day one, but figured I’d stick it out for a couple of years, then apply to law school. Every morning, I trudged to the subway, and rode a cramped, sweaty half hour to my deadly dull job as a low-level number cruncher in the corporate finance division of a huge Wall Street bank that was so conservative, women were forbidden to wear pants or skirts without pantyhose. Yeah, girlfriend, it was that bad. Quitting time meant going home to the only apartment I could comfortably afford on my own: a tiny one–bedroom in a run–down neighborhood that I shared with a kooky woman whose matted weave and holey clothes belied her claims to be a singer with a hit single in Japan.

I felt trapped and miserable.

Then one evening, Mom called me from Houston. “Don't tell your grandmother the truth,” she began strangely. “Tell her it’s the flu.”

“Um, okay,” I said slowly. “What is the truth?”

“That I have cancer and it’s serious,” Mom told me, her words a rush.

I had just turned twenty–two. Even though I still felt like a kid, there was no time to regress. Mom’s cancer was aggressive, and after five blurry months, she was dead.

Because I identified so strongly with my mother, without her I had no real sense of self. I was petrified of facing the world alone and had no idea where to even begin my journey. For a year after she passed, I forced myself awake every day, and dragged myself to work wearing clothes that, increasingly, felt like a costume. My few friends faded away as it became apparent that I was unable to give, and for once needed help from them. My boyfriend at the time lived in a town a few hours away, and he barely visited me. Every night, I ordered Chinese food at ten o’clock, which I ate while watching bad sitcom reruns. Gaining twenty pounds was as easy as asking for extra pancakes with my moo shu pork.

One evening, as I sluggishly sorted laundry in my room, I stopped to stare at a framed picture of me and my mom that I kept on my cluttered dresser. I was still for a long time, waiting for some moment of revelation I instinctively felt was coming.

And then I knew. All of a sudden I realized that this was my life. No one could crawl inside my skin and live for me. No one was coming to rescue me from my unhappiness—no Mom, no man, no guardian angel. This was it. This particular day was never going to happen again, so what the hell was I going to do to make it worthwhile? I remained standing where I was as a flood of my mom’s words and deeds flowed through my mind. I realized with relief mixed with cold fear that only I had the ultimate power over what I did, where I went, and who I spent my time with. I owned my life.

It was weird, but after those intense few minutes, I felt like a completely different person. I saw with new clarity how sad and lonely I was making myself by living someone else’s idea of what would be best for me and not being open to new adventures and possibilities. Right then, I resolved to create a different life for myself—one in which I made every single day count. And from that day on, I took charge.

I quit my miserable job, dumped my crappy boyfriend, and moved out of that nasty little apartment. I started exercising five days a week, lost weight, and gave away all the clothing I didn’t actually enjoy putting on. I also got a tattoo on my right ankle—a design from one of my mom’s favorite scarves—as a tribute to her and as a mark that would forever show through the pantyhose any job would ever force me to wear.

Somehow, in clearing out all that held me back, I was removing the layers that had been hiding the real me all that time. I followed my long–standing interest in fashion to Parsons School of Design, where I studied fashion merchandising for a year. My days took on a completely different new rhythm. I’d go to Parsons all day, then head to the gym or to a dance class at night. I was exploring a whole new side of me; finally, I had a creative outlet, and I discovered a love for visual art that I never knew I had. And I was pushing my body in new ways, becoming strong and lithe and confident.

Almost instantly, I became a magnet for good luck. I met great new people, and reconnected with old friends I didn’t get to know well enough because I’d moved away. My life was an open window—opportunities flew in. I got a job as an assistant buyer at Lord & Taylor, but after a year I realized I didn’t love it (my new criteria for everything in my life). No longer afraid to honor my true passions, I quit to pursue my love of writing. I ended up moving to Ireland for a year to study writing and literature, supporting myself by tutoring students in English and essay writing (okay, so there was a guy involved in that decision…more on that later!). I lived in a cozy house in a suburb of Dublin called Goatstown. I got a yellow labrador puppy, went for long walks, dated hot foreign guys, and drank many a pint of beer at the local pub. It was, put simply, an adventure.

While there I applied to creative writing programs at various graduate schools, and was accepted at Columbia University back in New York. I packed up, moved home, and, with the money my mom had left me, bought a small apartment in Brooklyn to settle into. Over the next few years I wrote, decorated my apartment, and fell in and out of love—with men, with hairstyles, with skirt lengths. I was throwing myself into the world and having a blast.

As I finished my master’s degree, I began freelance writing for various Web sites, eventually settling into a position as an editor at I got to write short stories and edit fashion features while living in an apartment I loved with my awesome dog, who made me feel like queen of the world every night when I got home. True happiness is not superficial pleasure—it’s the development of strength and the fulfillment of purpose. For the first time in my life, I was truly happy because I’d created this life for myself.

In a weird way, I almost feel like my independence and happiness were my mother’s final gifts to me. She was my best friend, but it took losing her for me to figure out who I really was and how to welcome joy into my world. It took me years to realize that I was wasting precious time by doubting myself. At the end of the day, you are who you are. I mean, you could drop a few pounds, switch your hair color, and get a new gig, but the core of who you are stays the same. And girlfriend, you might as well fall in love with that core, because it’s all you’ve got.

When you fall in love with who you really are, it’s that much easier to be you, always. Trust me, it’s so much better to walk through the world with confidence in yourself than trying to be what other people think you should be. You’ll attract more people (yes, men!) by sincerely enjoying yourself, you’ll have a much clearer view of the world, and, best of all, you'll be able to make decisions that honor your passions.

Being yourself will automatically make you feel calmer—life is less stressful when you don’t front. But it’s important to love yourself completely, to not just accept but be grateful for everything in your life, the good and the bad. Living a full life is actually experiencing the entire range of emotions we have. Life doesn’t just occur when you’re feeling fine. Life is happening all the time—and it’s impossible to really feel the good without the contrast of the hard and painful. I know it’s difficult—especially when you’re right in the middle of a rough time—but being able to understand challenges as experiences in one long adventure will change your whole attitude. It will enable you to extract the positive from the negative, to not get paralyzed, and to appreciate all you do have in your world.

Ultimately, life is what you make it, and no one can live it for you—not your parents, not your friends, not your man. So take ownership and get out there; think about what’s really going to make you happy and get yours!

Table of Contents

Foreword     xi
Introduction     xv
Get Happy     1
Get Out There     24
Get Healthy     44
Get Great Girlfriends     63
Get Your Family Together     81
Get that Gig     101
Get Your Money Right     136
Get Him     157
Get Your Chic On     180
Get Your Personal Space     201
Get Creative     221
Get Spiritual     239
Epilogue: Now, Go Get Yours...     253
Acknowledgments     257

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