When I was in college, every Saturday August to December was spent with countless hours covering college football. The hours I didn’t get paid for driving to far-away universities. The free time I devoted to working on the game stories that counted and the features that were extra. Maybe it was the stadium lights and smell of AstroTurf, or maybe I genuinely loved reporting–but I never complained about the overtime or weekend work.
Sure the game reporting was the glamorous part of my job.
But those late Wednesday nights agonizing over the manifest with my fellow editors? Those nights were the ones that no one else on campus knew about; and the nights that I still somehow adored. Did we get the right stories? Do we have the right hierarchy? Were there enough quotes in that story? Did we cite the right sources? Does the picture match the story?
Working in newspapers wasn’t for the faint of heart or for those who prided themselves in lots of free time outside class.
Those of us on the newspaper staff were bonded in ink and coffee. They were relationships I could compare to few others because beyond the hours we shared editing or comparing news, we all cared on a core level about the motivation of our job. We all shared that idyllic philosophy about serving the community through providing balanced media. We were some pretty self-righteous college students : ).
News was a passion. Sports was a lifestyle. But, writing has always been my tonic.
2003 – I start my first journal and I still have one to this day (oh wow, hello 10-year anniversary).
2004 – I had my first reporting job with the local newspaper covering education.
2005 – I helped start our high school’s first online newspaper.
2007 – I joined The Appalachian, Appalachian State University’s student newspaper.
2008 to 2011 – I was able to report for publications across the East Coast and online covering various sports and athletic teams.
Reporting, while I have tried to deny it a couple times, has almost always been a part of my DNA.
But sometimes life happens. And you graduate college in the middle of a recession looking for a job in a dying industry. Newspapers weren’t hiring and while online publications were, I suffered a bit of a crossroads crisis. Communications overall has always been a passion of mine––I had a degree in Public Relations as well, after all–maybe I should broaden my skill set.
At the time I was in a serious relationship that had always been long distance. It was time to give local a try. So, Winston-Salem it was. And keeping with journalism wasn’t in the cards.
I went door-to-door with advertising agencies. I had no experience; but knew that I could be a quick study and I truly always had loved branding and marketing. I loved the science behind consumer behavior and was fascinated with creative campaigns.
Luckily I visited Woodbine on the day that their CFO had five minutes to spare for a little blonde girl knocking on the door with a resume and ready smile. I swear if Wanda hadn’t spent those five minutes then, she wouldn’t have been there to say “I think we should talk to that Ashley.” I wouldn’t have gotten that job in advertising and I wouldn’t have been able to spend three years at an agency that became my family. (Wanda and I fell in a different kind of love that day—three years later, she’s my Winston-Salem mama.) I’m going to save that for a separate post though.
Advertising was great. It was. And I invested myself. I learned about the industry. I immersed myself in my clients.
But journalism was still tugging at my heart.
Maybe it was the day that I watched too many episodes of The Newsroom or maybe it was watching too much Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News. But I had a very clear moment on a late August day one year ago that said:
From the moment I graduated from undergraduate I knew that my education wasn’t over. Academics have always been a huge part of my life and focus. My mother works with the county school board and my father is a (in fact, my) high school chemistry teacher.
It was time to consider graduate school.
Still fresh off of a break-up and re-evaluating where my heart was and what I wanted to do with my life (I have been high on embracing my time) I decided to give it a shot. What does it hurt to apply?
I picked three schools:
– Northwestern University
– Syracuse University
– Boston University
I wanted to go back for journalism to jumpstart back into the industry, connect to more people who could move me forward faster––and to more importantly, enter a segment of journalism I don’t have any experience in: broadcast. Cue that speculation over Newsroom getting to me.
All three schools were relatively challenging to expect getting into. Northwestern is the Harvard of journalism schools. Syracuse’s sports journalism graduate program is practically a direct feed into ESPN’s media room and Boston University had one of the strongest hands-on programs in a major media market that I could hope for.
Three agonizing months went into the applications. And then more agonizing months waiting on responses.
The first came on a Friday evening. I was sitting eating Chinese food and remarking on how few plans I had for the night when the phone rang.
“Hi, is this Ashley Davis?” the voice asked.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“Well, we just wanted to call and let you know that you’ve been accepted to Northwestern’s Medill School and hoped to start your weekend in a good way by calling to tell you the news!”
I think I choked out a “Wow,” and a “Thank you” before dissolving into tears and calling my mom.
Overwhelmed was probably the first and best word to use.
Holy crap, I got into Northwestern. My confidence level on getting into the other two schools immediately jumped. Although, I secretly was hoping for Boston.
Blame it on visiting the university and seeing my birthdate on a quote in the COM department lobby (superstitious much?). Or blame it on a desire to be in a city where it seemed the connection to opportunities would be insane. Regardless, I was excited to hear about all three schools.
And one by one the acceptances came in.
I was stunned.
I would only go if it was overwhelmingly obvious that I should go.
And then there was a late spring day where the email came that not only was I offered acceptance in Boston, I was offered a substantial scholarship. And you know what else? I had some friends who needed a roommate. Oh, and also there are some assistantships with my name on it.
What more could I ask for? It had to be.
I had to turn down Northwestern and Syracuse––and let me tell you, it was far from easy. Northwestern? I mean, come on. The kicker that made my decision? I could’ve bought a nice house or went to Northwestern. Sadly, it was a financially charged decision. For Syracuse? I decided that if I had chosen Syracuse I would have inevitably went straight back into sports. I love sports. I know that I can do sports. If I wanted to do sports I don’t think that I would have to go back to graduate school.
I want school to challenge me outside my comfort zone. I want school to offer abundant opportunities for exposure to new things, new experiences, new skills and settings. I thought Boston fit that argument better. And God seemed to be pushing me in that direction, as well.
One year later I have had to put in my notice at Woodbine. I have had to spend three tearful, wonderful, fun-filled, fully lived months of summer in a city that I have learned to love with friends who have become family. I have worked a full notice and helped transition projects that have been my babies. I have packed up an apartment that watched me grow up in a new way. I have shared an apartment one more time with a college roommate and very best friend. And I have driven the 2.5-hour drive from Winston-Salem to Waynesville one last time as a Winston resident.
As I drove that route last night through all the tears I cracked a smile thinking: If my life were a movie, this moment would unavoidably be a scene. Regardless of if I go to school and am a raving success taking on Savannah Guthrie and Katie Couric in 20 years; or if this risk goes insanely wrong and I find myself in a lost place in three months—REGARDLESS, this is a huge game changer. That moment; this week, is officially on the books as a game changer.
I have closed an adventure and I’m embarking on a new one.
In the end of the first Newsroom season, there’s a big focus on “the greater fool.” Per the show, the greater fool is the person who will buy long and sell short. You have to have a greater fool for anyone else to profit. The greater fool is idealistic and naive. They don’t know necessarily what they’re losing but only what they hope to gain. In a lot of ways the greater fool sounds like the not that you would want to be; but without the greater fool and risk then there’s not the hope of growing. Without whisking you up in an Aaron-Sorkin style diatribe, suffice to say this is resonating with me right now.
I just quit a full-time, great job to go back to school full time. I just walked away from a stable income to go into debt. I just abandoned an industry that is fully focused on sales and increase for an industry with unknown growth.
But I want to do the news.
And I want to try to make a difference.
And I want to write and report and share stories.
And something tells me that without being a little naive I would never have taken the risk.
I fully and inherently know that the HBO Newsroom is not a real newsroom. But it’s a nice explication of what’s happening in my heart.
So now this explains how #25: Apply for something outside of your comfort zone. Be it a mission trip, race or whatever I’ve wanted to try in the past but chickened out on. was crossed off.
You’re only 24 once, right?
Now I can also cross off #10: Continue my education. Enroll in a class or make a point to find non-traditional ways to keep challenging myself and growing. And also, hopefully soon, #18: Be published in a news forum that I haven’t been published in before.
Two days of family and then Saturday I start a Daddy-Daughter road trip to the North.
Boston, watch out––southern accent in tow.
New adventures to hit the blog starting <now.>
If you can’t tell, I’m channeling a lot of fall and shopping / travel envy today.
Week 37: *NSYNC
After last night’s VMAs I’m left with all the regret of having a Miley Cyrus “Turn It Up” and all the joy of posting *NSYNC this morning. Last night their surprise reunion left me with three reactions:
1) Wow, they look old.
2) Dag, that was short.
12-year-old Ashley was hella flipping out. And it was the best.
Thank you, JT for restoring the VMAs integrity.
Oh goodness, I cannot wait to see this movie.
If you’ve ever even stumbled on my “Turn it Up” series, you know that I adore American folk music above most things in life.
My favorite exchange in the trailer that speaks such loud volumes to the idea of passionately doing something for what it means to you and your existence and who you are and what you’re contributing to the world is between Llewyn and Jean when she asks “Do you ever think about the future, at all?”
Llewyn answers: “You mean move to the suburbs? Have kids?”
To which Jean says,”That’s bad?”
And Llewyn drives home that passion by saying, “If that’s what music is for you; a way to get that place–then yeah, it’s a little careerist and it’s a little square. And it’s a little sad.”
I don’t want to do something to get somewhere else. I want to do something because it’s inherent to my existence to continue being who I am.
I may not be a musician, but I do love music : ) I love Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, I adore Punch Brothers and Oscar Isaac, Gillian Welch and Milk Carton Kids. And they’re all involved with this film in some capacity–be it lines on the soundtrack or headliners at the supporting concert.
And if you’re not sure about the cast (c’mon JT is included, along with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman)—then at least trust the direction of Joel and Ethan Coen who have blessed us with other great films like Fargo; O Brother, Where Art Thou; The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men.
This movie is going down as an immediate must-watch for me!
Week 36: Lionel Richie
Today is being a really not fun Monday. I’m having a lot of personal things going on that cause lots of roller-coaster feelings. The same personal things are impacting work, family, friends. . . everything. Everything is nuts today and it’s all inter-related. Suffice to say, it’s noon and I already had to close my office door for a little cry sesh this morning. And I NEVER cry. Overwhelmed. Does that tell you how I am? So what helps when you feel like you can’t carry everything in your head and heart? Well, thank goodness there is music.
When I was little my mom used to rock me with a bottle and play music, including Lionel Richie/The Commodores, every time she put me down for a nap. (Child of the 80s what can I say?)
Few things can bring my heart rate down like Lionel Richie and some other solid oldies. Even now, 20-plus years later; Lionel Richie is calming.
So today, I give you “Easy.” And finally for once, it can’t help but make me smile which is what I’ve dearly needed this morning.
Today was a good day.
I crawled out of bed. I walked to the kitchen. Put on a pot of coffee and pulled out the bacon, along with the hash browns, and smiled at the feather-covered country eggs. All multicolored and ready for goodness.
I heard my mom in the shower and my dad snoring.
I knew my brother was sleeping heavy in his bed across the hall from mine.
But there was a reason I was home on a Friday morning mixing up a breakfast on a day that I should’ve been back in Winston-Salem getting ready for work and shuffling off to the office.
We shared a family breakfast and a family prayer and got ready to turn a new chapter.
We counted the bags and labeled the boxes. And piled it all into the car.
And it was off through the mountains towards change.
Today was a first day of new sorts. There were no backpack photos or smells of fresh new paper; but there was a discount couch and a bag of hangers; suitcases of clothes and new bedding. There was a desk lamp and a TV and a relocated x-Box.
There was and is a new Cat Card with my little brother’s face on it.
Jake has gone to college. And I am so grateful that I have the ability to drive home late on a Thursday night to totally surprise my family that I would be joining them for the big move.
Little bird has flown a now empty nest.
As siblings, I feel like I have a pretty great relationship with my brother. But given that there are a handful of years between us, sometimes I think I go to a matronly sister place. Sometimes I’ve been more of a protector than a playmate, more of an example than a peer. (Though I absolutely promise there have been co-conspirator moments.) For that reason, I had some mixed feelings about seeing little brother all grown up. So excited for him. But kind-of sad and old feeling for me : )
Of course it was a moment that I wouldn’t miss for the world!
So blessed to be there to have a family breakfast and be part of a family support for an overall big change that will touch every member of our little-four.
So many adventures in front of him; I would be lying if I said that walking college dormitory hallways didn’t make me ache for my own days at Appalachian State.
Great adventures await.
I hope he takes every opportunity and makes it the very best four years possible! But regardless, day 1? Day 1, I’m a super proud sister.
Heck, he may make me not hate Western Carolina after all is said and done. Maybe. Strong maybe.
Breakfasts, family, friends, changes, pride, amazing cool August weather, a run at Lake J, an evening with the parents chilling out — a good day.
And, shhh but I think I’m still pushing it on my running. But . . . all feels good for now!
Which he follows up by saying “Find your opportunities.” And also, “Be sexy.”
I absolutely adore each of the three pieces of advice that Ashton (or Chris) Kutcher is handing out in the video below. And in fact, I kind of needed to hear them tonight.
Today was my second workout since getting the clearance to run again and boy, was it lovely.
It had just stopped a torrential downpour, so while it was steamy––the air smelled wonderful. Every tree I ran under was beautifully fragrant.
Plus, those new running pups I showed off last week? Amazing.
What’s your favorite part of running in new kicks?
Mine is a number of things: the way the rubber feels like it’s kissing the pavement with each step; the way the laces are clean and shiny; the way your foot feels like it’s getting to know a new friend and isn’t entirely familiar with its accompanying sole. It was a good bonding first run in my new Brooks. They are really living up to my hopes. While I had totally aimed to roll back on the effort while running I still managed to keep my miles under 12 minutes––again alternating 1 minute running, 5 minutes walking, repeat.
The ole’ stress fracture felt fine. That leg continually has a little discomfort, but it’s no longer the fear of “am I going to land funny and my leg break!?” — Drama queen. Now it’s just the familiar tight muscles and aches that come with an injury and too long on the couch. That said, calf stretches are my very best friend right now.
For the first week in a while I’m actually focusing on cooking + healthy + veggies + balance when it comes to eating. There has been a wealth of things to stress about the last few weeks and as such, so many things to stress eat on : ) It was super nice to have some green pepper, spinach pasta and chicken sausage for dinner. SO tasty.
Great start to finally feeling like I’m getting a grip on how things used to be! Back to being me.
I grew up in a corner of North Carolina where “Christmas shopping in the city,” or “summer baseball game,” or “weekend at the amusement park,” or even “day trip to get out of dodge” meant taking the winding 2.5-hour drive through the mountains and Georgia foothills to Atlanta.
Most of the trip is a peaceful four-lane road past dairy bars and pastures; however, about 30 minutes before you hit the city the roads widen, the traffic becomes more plentiful and as soon as you cross under the giant maze of bridges (which I discovered was the ‘perimeter’ as I got older), well, then you’re in Atlanta.
Seeing those tall buildings and soaking in the amount of sunshine has always been home away from home for me.
My family would make the trip every couple of months and I feel like I’ve spent many a mile-marker in Fulton and Gwinett counties; birthdays and vacations included.
It was the place I always swore I’d move to when I graduated college and it’s the reason why UGA was my first choice when the time came to apply.
Life happens. You get scholarships and choose an in-state school. You start dating a guy and move to a different Carolina town.
And instead, you visit Atlanta every chance you get.
And every time you visit you’re reminded of how “one day I could totally see myself living here.”
This weekend marked the second annual road trip of high-school best friends from North Carolina through South Carolina to Georgia. We remarked on the trip down how it had been a long time. I mean, sixth grade–when we all met? Well that was almost 15 years ago. (Insert nostalgic photo of awkward 11-year-olds with braces and baby faces that is probably laying around my parents’ house.)
Gigantic Braves fans, a game is always useful motivation to plan a weekend. So a Travelzoo deal later we were south-bound early Saturday morning.
Saturday of all Saturdays, we had tickets for THE GAME. The Braves had been on a wild sweep of 14-straight wins. If the team won Saturday night’s game they would have tied the franchise’s longest streak since 2000 when the Braves won 15 in a row from April to May.
So, of course — we figured they would lose. (We weren’t very confident in the luck we were bringing.)
A fairly short road trip into Atlanta, a customary stop for burgers at The Varsity, a meandering through Centennial Park and the World of Coke gift shop and we were off to the field for a preliminary afternoon of extremely hot tailgating. Man, I’m just not quite accustomed to that heat or humidity.
Our seats were a DREAM. Suite life, baby. I’m not sure if going to a Braves game will ever be the same after seeing one from the bounty of air-conditioning and private bathroom. That said, I would maybe trade for some field-side seats. All the same, it was incredible. Especially considering that there was an hour rain delay. Nothing like dry seats.
Once the game started up, it was a little bit of a snoozer (three hits up to the 8th inning!) and then a half hour of INTENSITY.
The Braves let up one run to the Marlins off of some sloppy defense and the stadium was erupting in rapture and cheering for an offensive answer once the Braves came up to bat.
We cheered for a single like it was a home run.
Three outs and Janish who stepped up to bat, noted has a .000 batting average, stuck out. Looking. Against the worst team in our division.
Sad ending to a 14-game winning streak.
It was humorous to see the onslaught of “You’re not allowed to go to Braves games when they’re on a streak” messages that were sent to us from various friends and family members.
The game went so late that by the time we got back to our hotel there wasn’t a lot of time to deliberate if and when we wanted to go out to a bar. Luckily we had found a really fun, random karaoke bar, Metro Café Diner, last summer that just happened to be down the street. On the way there, we passed 50 Cent’s truck from Fast Five. Interesting. So we went straight to aforementioned bar and proceeded to stay for three hours drinking Shandy beer and belting karaoke with other downtown-Atlanta strangers. It was of course followed up by a 3 a.m. trip to Waffle House. (Of course.)
What felt like only a nap later and we were back on the road to the Carolinas, smiling wildly at the adventures and fun that we had shared in a cram-packed weekend.
I was left realizing it may be a while before I get to see Atlanta again, so I took a good long look as we drove away. See you again as soon as I can, ATL. I promise.