This year has been a year full of events! Ups and downs, circles, falls, and flight! I have been through much pain, sorrow, and despair, but also been through much joy, triumph and transformation!
I began the year taking a break from the Elementary Education program because it was too hard at the time and I felt like I needed a breather. So I took a Latin Ballroom dance class, a stress management online class, and a speed reading class along with being in the Latter-day Celebration Choir. I was putting off earning my degree because I was afraid of being a real adult, one that has to take control of their life. One that is in charge. I was afraid of moving out of my comfort zone of being a student where someone else is in charge of me.
During this semester, I continued having all the physical pain I had been experiencing the past 2 ½ years with no answers. I decided to go to my primary care physician because all the doctors and tests had brought me back to square one. I was extremely frustrated that I had spent so much money on so many doctors and tests with no answers to show that the emotional roller coaster ride was worth all the tests, doctors, and money. But all I could do was keep searching. My primary care physician pretty much told me he didn’t know what to do but wanted me to try going to a friend of his who is a Physiatrist.
A Physiatrist specializes in the musculoskeletal system. He did more tests, gave me shots, (Which I despise!) and put me through physical therapy. I finally got some answers, not exactly what I wanted, but the answers did some explaining. I had an EMG done which showed that I have carpal tunnel and an MRI which showed that I have a herniated disc and arthritis in two different spots in my neck. That explained the constant headaches I had been experiencing for 2 ½ years, and continue to experience to this day. Because of this, the Physiatrist put me through physical therapy for about 2 months. The physical therapy did absolutely nothing for me. He gave me prescription after prescription and finally I was done with medicine, so I went off everything I had been given by various doctors and decided to start fresh. (Never go off everything at once! It will make your life miserable for some time!). I was able to survive being on nothing and realized that each prescription was just masking a bit of my symptoms, but bringing on other symptoms that made me tired all the time, numbed me, and just made me have no motivation to do anything. I realized that once I went off the medication, I was able to be mindful of everything going on within my body, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Anyways, I continued going to this doctor and still found no relief. He finally gave me more medication to try for when I needed it most and it has helped a bit. I still suffer from chronic pain to this day.
Spiritual and Emotional Pit:
All through this, I continued my semester of school, taking a break from the program and reality and what was to come. I lived life day to day, doing all that I could to just make it through the day and on to the next. I had no purpose in my life and I was feeling extremely low for much of the first half of the year. Once school ended, I decided I was going to take a break from school through the summer, and the Fall. I was going to just work and do no school. I was too worn out by everything to do anything. I had lost all hope! Every little inkling of hope that may have been there disappeared! Along with struggling with physical pain, I was struggling with emotional and mental pain due to different circumstances in my life that would take 10 books to explain, so I won’t go there. Anyways, I was also struggling spiritually! I felt completely abandoned by God. I felt like He didn’t care about me and my pain. I felt forgotten and questioned His very existence. Because of all the pain I was experiencing, and the absence of help from God, I became very bitter with Him! I want to share an excerpt of something I wrote in July after going to the doctor, getting some answers, but still leaving with nothing.
“I had much hope that we had found the answers and that all would be well. I did physical therapy for 2 months, went to visit with the doctor, and was left with nothing but an empty wallet and continual pain. Nothing helped the pain. Like I said earlier, I have a feeling nothing will. I ask God for help and all I get is silence. I ask for strength, and all I get is weakness. I ask for peace, and all I get is turmoil. All of these experiences have caused me to question the very existence of God. How could a loving, all powerful God allow me to suffer so much with no relief. No answers, no peace, and no strength to buoy me up. Am I not faithful enough, humble enough, righteous enough. There is no more I can do which is leading me to do less. I cannot live for a God that does not and cannot help me. I have asked for His help in any possible way and received nothing.”
Of course, after writing this, talking to a friend, and finally talking to God, I was wacked up side the head and reminded that God does exist, and that He does care about me. He answered me and let me know that He lets me suffer through so much pain because He knows it will make me strong. He told me I need to trust in His timing and strength. He told me I may not be strong on my own, but as I rely on Him, I will be strong enough to get through each day. After that experience, I felt His strength carrying me through each day! Guiding me through life.
I had decided at the beginning of summer that I was going to take Fall semester off to save some money, and take yet another break from the program. I was still terrified of the “real world.” The last week of July, after my experience with God, I had a very strong feeling that I needed to go to school Fall semester. It was one of the strongest feelings I have ever felt and could not say no to it. So I decided to sign up for school and file for financial aid, knowing I couldn’t go to school without it. I decided to trust God and let Him guide me where I needed to go. I was TERRIFIED of school! I signed up for 15 credits in the program, starting my Senior year of College! Terrifying, I know! Well, after signing up for classes and financial aid, I was surprised to find that my schooling was 100% paid for! I was ecstatic! I did not have to worry about money to pay for tuition because it had been paid for!
I started school, had a hard semester, but learned so much about myself and my ability to do hard things! I had many projects and presentations, and even started my 3 week experience of student teaching! I triumphed over many battles and came out on top with a 4.0! Just another manifestation that God would carry me through when I didn’t have enough strength to walk through on my own. So that is the majority of my year, but now I need to tell you about the most important part of my year; transformation. This transformation is what allowed me to come out on top and to end the year with a BA BAM!
Rewind back to February! In February I went to a concert. Julie De Azevedo. I got there extra early so I could have a good seat, and I went alone. Who would have known that going to that concert was a small event that would change the rest of my life. Since I got there early, I had a lot of time to sit; sit by strangers; and make things awkward if I wanted. But I didn’t want awkwardness, so I decided to talk to the woman sitting next to me so that she would no longer be a stranger to me. He name was Jennifer Griffiths Manges. She was Ms. US Continental 2011-2012. Thought that was cool and we continued to talk. She told me about a book she had written and published a few months before. I told her I had been wanting to write a book but didn’t know where to start, and felt like my book was very personal and didn’t know if I could share it with the world. She gave me a statistic of people who say they want to write a book and people who actually do. I don’t remember the numbers, but there was an extreme difference in numbers between the two. Anyways, the concert went on, we parted our ways, and I didn’t think much of it.
About a month later, I remembered our conversation and decided to find her on facebook to ask more about writing a book. She gave me good information and told me about an “Aspiring Author’s Summit” that her friends were going to be doing in August. She told me she would email me more information when the time came.
Well, the months went on and I sort of forgot about everything that had to do with writing a book when she emailed me the information. A spark of motivation was lit inside and I decided go check it out since it wasn’t too expensive. I got great information, put it in a folder, and hid it away. But one thing I remembered and kept in the front of my mind was one woman who was the keynote speaker. M Bridget Cook. I noticed and admired her confidence and wanted that same confidence manifested in myself, but didn’t see that happening any time soon. Once the workshop ended, different authors and publishers had tables set up with their work where we could go talk to them and do some networking. I talked to a few authors that were there, including Jennifer. Then I went to talk to Bridget but got scared and decided to just leave and wondered why I had even gone to the summit. I doubted my abilities and decided to put writing my book on hold. Of course that wasn’t going to happen. The Universe was not going to let that happen.
The beginning of October I received an email from Bridget advertising her “Inspiring Writer’s Retreat” the beginning of November and giving a discount to those who had gone to the “Aspiring Author’s Summit.” $500 was the cost. When I received that email, I felt a push, once again, that I needed to do this. As I contemplated whether or not I should go, I thought of everything I could buy for $500. (Being a poor college student and such). But I signed up and hit submit on my paypal. I continued to question whether that was the best idea and started to doubt. But the button had already been pressed, and the money already sent. As the day approached, I had decided that I was going to make the most out of my experience there since I had sacrificed a big amount of money, (for a poor college student) to go. I was scared to death to go to this retreat knowing that I would not know a single person there, that I would have to share lodging with complete strangers, and that I would likely be the youngest one there as well. I was afraid that I was stupid for thinking I could write a book.
Little did I know that this retreat would change my life forever! Little did I know that this retreat would be THE GREATEST experience in my entire life! Literally, the GREATEST! Little did I know that I would have an immediate support system that would be stronger than I had ever experienced in my life. Little did I know what I was capable of doing. I learned more about myself in the three days I spent with these inspiring people, than I have learned in my entire lifetime! I was able to open up, let go, be open to others, and find clarity of what I can do. I didn’t just meet great people, I met my authentic self.
Because of the retreat, I gained a powerful motivation to not only write my book, but to do good in the world and to BE ME. To spread the light within me, and to inspire others to do the same. I learned that I can do hard things, that I can graduate college and be a “real adult” living in the “real world.” But even greater than that, I am courageous, strong, powerful, inspiring, and am doing much good. Before the retreat, I worried so much about what other’s thought of me. It was the fear of what others may be thinking that kept me from doing anything, including just talking to someone I didn't know very well. I was SO afraid of the judgments of others. After letting go at the retreat, and seeing others let go and be authentic, I realized that being myself is SO MUCH FUN! and so much less stressful than hiding! I realized that I don’t need to give a crap what others think about me; it is none of my business what they think. All that matters is what I think, and I think I am pretty awesome!!! I have come a long way this year. The beginning of the year, I thought I was pretty crappy, and now I know the truth! I am Ashleigh, and I love being me! I'm so excited to see what the New Year has in store! The greatest part of this past year are not the events that have taken place, or what I have been able to do, but what I have become! The person I have become is the most important thing from this past year!