I just typed out the words “time is a fickle beast.” And then I deleted them letter by letter. Because time may be a beast, but it certainly isn’t fickle. In fact, in all of the uncertainty and sheer madness that makes up our world, it’s just about the steadiest thing we’ve got. I’m talking European Union steady. Wait...too soon?
For as long as I remember (I’m talking since butt-length straight hair, two missing front teeth, tiny pink high-top Reeboks, and a LOT of florals and gingham made up my signature aesthetic) I have been very, very concerned about where I am going. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how much that line of thinking has dominated the way I live my life. So I aimed to change that, and am proud to say that I have. Since I moved to Charleston nine months ago, I’ve been a lot more tuned in to the here and now. And a lot more tuned in to who I am. Moving almost five hours away from home to a city where you know next to nothing and next to no one will do that to ya.
I turn 24 years old one week from tomorrow. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so caught up lately - thinking about time, all of its intricacies, and all that it is capable of. Or maybe it’s because one year ago right now I was out in the wild, wild west - finding myself while on one of the greatest adventures of my young life.
Simultaneously it seems like that happened just last week, but also like it happened an entire lifetime ago. The person that I was a year ago, was as always, very concerned with where she was headed. She was restless and dreaming the days away. So, ready to surprise everybody (including herself) she chopped off 13 inches of her beloved hair, packed up her shit, and moved away to find out what big city independence (and she, as it turns out) where all about.
But the reason that trip still stands out so boldly in my mind, is because for 16 days, I forgot about where I was headed. And about where I had been. All I gave a rat’s fanny about was the one single day that I was living. And that, my friends, was one of the most liberating things to ever have happened to me.
That trip will forever be a hallmark time of my life. I said to hell with my comfort zone, and busted that sucker wide open. I let go a little bit, stretched myself, pushed myself, and in doing that - allowed myself to change.
I shifted my attention to today. And stopped worrying quite so much about yesterday, tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that.
Beginning on June 19th, 2015 I started the daily - and still ongoing - process of growing into a self-assured, pretty kick ass (if I do say so myself) woman that I’m learning to be proud of being.
I’ve done things in the last year, that if you had forecasted them to me one year ago, I would have cackle-laughed in your face. The aforementioned move and the aforementioned haircut (which was the more traumatic of the two - what does that say about me, I wonder?) for starters. I got brave, decided I might like to give love a shot, got myself hurt a little, and lost out; all the wiser and more confident for it. I’m not afraid to stay by myself at night anymore, and let me tell y’all - that is a BIG deal. I pay all my own bills. And they’re mostly on time. I have learned that I really, really like tequila. And that I will be really, really hungover if I drink cheap white wine. I have started taking better care of myself - stretching, swimming, and exercising fairIy often. I now own (to my great surprise) a pair of hiking shoes, an eyebrow pencil that I use regularly, and a full set of kitchenware that an actual adult might use?! I have gained 10 pounds, the best times, and greatest friends known to mankind as I have lived in and eaten my way around this crowded, crumbling, stinky, old lady of a city that I love with all of my heart.
I hope, or rather I know, that I’ll never forget about where and who I’ve been. I’ll never forget five year old Ashley and how she loved to eat grape popsicles and walked on her tippy toes with her arms stuck out by her sides for wings, doing her best to stay balanced and upright. Or ten year old Ashley who was terrified to stay the night away from home. Or 16 year old Ashley, who rocked pink high-top Converses, owned way too many graphic t-shirts that said things like “save the whales” and “pick flowers not fights,” who began wasting away in the clutches of an eating disorder, and who brought the house down playing (or dressing up in a hoop skirt and being myself?) a funny and self-absorbed antebellum southern belle in the school play. Or 20 year old Ashley whose college experience was defined by good trips, long ass political science papers, beloved student government meetings, and the irreplaceable souls who made those four years and that one stoplight town into a home. I hope I never forget her, I know I wont.
And I’m really pumped to meet the Ashley that I’ll grow into down the road. The Ashley who will be the great love of someone’s life, a mother, an author, a congresswoman, and the cutest little long-haired hippie grandma (I will NOT cut off my hair when I’m old, write it down) that anyone has ever seen.
But for now, I’m stupidly, ridiculously, happy with the Ashley that’s writing to you (whoever you are) sitting in the here and now, sweating bucket loads on my porch in the 95% humidity, curled up in a patio chair drinking a Coors Light in plaid boxer shorts and a tie dye t-shirt, who still rocks those same pink high-top Converses on occasion.
She’s pretty rad, I guess.
For the first time in a long time, I don’t worry about where she’s headed. All I’m worried about right now is getting up early enough in the morning to get to the beach before it gets too hot and too crowded. Oh, and in time to snag a primetime parking spot.
Y’all, the thing about time is: it’s gonna keep marching on and on and on some more. Let us never get so caught up in where we are going that we forget where we are at.