Well, hi there! Long time no see. I hope you’ve all been well while I’ve been away.
The reason for my year-long silence is multifaceted, but I am aware that it has been comprehensive. It has extended from this blog to my social media accounts to my relationships, in Nashville and long-distance. This post is partly an apology, my apology for dropping off the face of the earth. It is also my explanation of why I had no other choice but to turn inside myself and shut you all out. It was a survival tactic, self-defense, and much needed. I am better for it, but it was certainly lonely.
My last year of college was, at once, one of the worst and most important years of my life:
- I steamed full-speed ahead and took the most difficult courses I could have possibly squeezed into one schedule, even taking a graduate course this past semester. The amount and intensity of the schoolwork I had to complete on a daily basis quite nearly broke me there at the end, but the topics I studied this year built a foundation for the work that I want to continue pursuing post-grad (more on that later).
- I transitioned out of my all-in-and-nothing-else participation in my sorority, a very painful but necessary process that spared me a complete emotional crack when it came time to say goodbye this month. I have a lot of regrets here. Anyone who knows me understands that those girls were my whole world, but instead of spending my last months deeply embedded in our sisterhood, I retreated further and further away to spare myself the pain of imminent separation. I know that I made a mistake here, and I have not yet been able to have a good cry about it. (I expect you will hear from me when that day finally comes.)
- I spent most of the year locked away in my room. No one saw me except for class and chapter. Heck, my roommates hardly saw me. My family, my friends never heard from me. I dropped out of every single activity that wasn’t school-related. I’m not proud of this, and it was absolutely not healthy, but again, it felt like a matter of survival.
- For all my silence, I wrote more this year than I think I ever have before in my life. I wrote all kinds of things—academic papers, personal essays, reflection essays, and journal entries (so many journal entries)—and many of the unresolved issues and unanswered questions I had been toting around with me for years finally found their resting places, coming together in a coherent and beautiful picture that I can only describe as one thing: a breakthrough.
This breakthrough was not a magical epiphany that suddenly dawned on me one morning; I slaved over it without even knowing that it was the end I was working towards. Once it took shape, though, it was so obvious that it was embarrassing that I hadn’t noticed it before. (Earth to Ashley. Come in, Ashley.) I figured out what my calling is, what it is I’m going to spend the rest of my life working on. It was sitting right in front of me the whole time.
I am going to be a life-long learner, writer, and teacher who is really, extremely, truly, and exquisitely passionate about personal growth.
Some of you will laugh—especially those of you who have ever watched me journal in public or had a real conversation with me—of course I care about personal growth. DUH. It’s so obvious that it feels stupid to say that this was my major breakthrough. But what made it so moving for me was that this breakthrough came with high-definition clarity on who I truly am, something I have been trying to puzzle out for my entire life.
It’s hard to put it into words succinctly since it came to me in a rather lengthy and convoluted journal entry, but here’s the gist: I used to think I was a freak. In high school, I spent a lot of time worrying about why I didn’t want to spend my Friday nights at football games, or why I didn’t laugh at stupid jokes at the lunch table, or why everybody but me seemed to be having a lot of fun. People called me out for my hermitic tendencies all the time. I lost friendships and ruined romantic relationships over it. As a result, I often found myself thinking/journaling, “Is this really all there is? Is this my life?” and was disappointed by the resounding inanity that is high school in North Dallas.
Well, it turns out that I am a highly-sensitive introvert with pretty distinguished interests. Once I figured that out, everything began to fall into place. My sorority sisters and the English department were by my side as I built up from the ground. Because of these communities, I was given the support to try on the new me—the real me—and it was like I was finally breathing fresh air after spending my life underground. In particular, guarding the time I needed to be an introvert and a writer changed my life. People now know that I am more likely to be fun Ashley if they let me be independent 75 percent of the time. And more importantly, I know, and I have become my own champion, unafraid and bold in the name of self-care.
When I look around, I still feel different, but I don’t feel bad about it anymore. These past four years, I’ve learned with relief that there is nothing wrong with me. Sure, there is always room for growth; that’s an unending process. But learning who I am at the core, that was my breakthrough.
Bubbling out from this breakthrough is a new project of mine, a blog that focuses on journaling, femininity, and personal growth. It’s my way of embarking on that calling of being a life-long learner, writer, and teacher. It’s currently in demo mode, but if you’re interested in being one of my preliminary readers, I’d love to add you to my “inner circle” as I’m calling it. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the rest of you soon!
Last but not least, I’m ending the silence. You’re going to be hearing from me a lot more. And man do I have a lot of things to say. I’ve been quiet for such a long time, I’m aching to make a little noise. Maybe a lot of noise.