Playing Katniss Everdeen in Dupont Forest.

Fun thing about my going to Boston to study Broadcast Journalism? My interest actually stemmed from some experience working in background acting in the blossoming North Carolina film industry. (I even had acting lessons. Hard core, I know.) I had one of the best nights of my life in the same room as Mark Schwahn (One Tree Hill, anyone?) shooting a bar scene outside of Charlotte. Coincidentally with the same casting company that had also cast for The Hunger Games which had shot in North Carolina months before that time. I worked with a bunch of Hunger Games background actors and, like I already said, had one of the best nights ever.

Fast forward three years and I had upgraded to playing Katniss in my old friends’ movie––but in all actuality, I was just frolicking on one of the best WNC hikes I’ve been on in a while. On the natural set for a handful of scenes from the movie.

Dupont State Park

Photo cred: The lovely Sarah Bennett.

And my only qualifications at this point to play the part were actually that:

– I was wearing a braid.

– I had on fast running shoes.

– I have a degree in broadcast journalism now. So. . . I’m qualified to be on camera.

There were actually no tributes though. And no murdering. And for all that matter, the only camera was my iOS-5c.

Just beautiful waterfalls, gravel treks, families with dogs, spots for lunches on wide rocks and familiar sights from the big screen of years past.

Dupont State Forest It was an excellent way to pass a Saturday with Sarah. The teasing 50-degree weekends of North Carolina that fools you into thinking you can wear a t-shirt only for you to be cold–BUT realizing that it is still perfect hiking weather.

Dupont State Forest offers about four and a half miles of scenic views in Brevard, NC. A beautiful loop that takes you through some gorgeous woods and babbling water.

High Falls, Dupont State Forest

High Falls, Dupont State Forest

Seen above is High Falls. It is both gigantic and loud. Sarah and I trekked off the trail and out onto the rocks to grab these photos. It was delightfully fun and totally within the bounds of rules. But, still made us feel like risk takers. That said, it wasn’t a risk-taking hike by any means. If you’re looking for a moderately easy hike in WNC, this is one of your sure bets.

Five total waterfalls (that’s a lot) and a predominantly downhill hike. I’m not sure how much more you can ask for. Entertaining AND pretty easy.

Triple Falls, Dupont State Park

Triple Falls. This guy counts as three.

OK, Maybe an actual Jennifer Lawrence sighting? But you can’t have it all, they say.

This is the area where Katniss helps injured Peta. No sightings to report.

This is the area where Katniss helps injured Peta. No sightings to report.

It does appear that while the film industry in North Carolina has suffered since the high days of The Hunger Games, Dupont State Forest has profited from the increased tourism. There is a very helpful staff and new visitor center to point you on the right trail.

We ended the day with some tasty soup at Mayberry’s followed by a delicious American IPA at Brevard Brewing Company. Mayberry’s had a nice menu and very, very good biscuits with their soup. Brevard Brewing had a lot of brew options and at $3.75 a pint––again, I’m not sure what more you could ask for. I totally recommend the 10-minute drive to explore downtown Brevard. It’s the cute small town vibe in WNC that you’re looking for. I promise. The quintessential hike and brew Saturday that North Carolina gabs about.

Brevard Brewing Company

Post-hike brews with my Boston-to-NC bestie Sarah.

It’s days and adventures like this that really make me take a deep breath of NC. I’m so lucky for the time that I have here while I look for the next grand adventure. How lucky to have had the start here that has launched me on the trajectory that I’m headed.

Home is a very, very lovely place.

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A new kind of adventure.

This is exactly how I feel some days.

The new year has started; but my “next chapter,” at certain minutes, can feel like it hasn’t. That’s what the gap time between grad school and that first job offer can feel like. If you let it–that is.

My last chapter, the Boston without Andy, the finishing touches of grad school, the readiness to move from security to new challenges––that chapter could have been called “The Push.” It resulted in me producing some incredible work in Boston. (If I do say so myself. Apologies for not being more humble, but I can’t even begin to count the hours that I put into this. And if I had it to do over again then I would be an even more educated perfectionist and fix so much….But I digress…)

Have I shown you the quick highlights? If not, take a peek:

In the month that I tied up loose ends and trekked back to North Carolina, I’ve been working on freelance video work and applying to jobs––but that chapter . . . “The Push.” It ended as we exited I-90 out of Boston.

I had it in my mind that 2015 would be a new chapter in and of itself.

The first job. That would be the new chapter.

As I look at this time in between though, and I feel the temptation to feel like that GIF. . . a blinking type prompt. A story in waiting.

I simultaneously realize and recognize that “The Push” has ended and “The Search” has started. This in-between is definitely the next chapter. Sure, maybe the job starts another new chapter––but this time is just as important.

If my life were a night at the symphony the conductor would have played a vibrant, fast, intense composition and now we’re in the fluid, softer staccato, weaving different instruments and making you listen to the pauses that fill the song. This chapter, “The Search,” is like a palette cleanser in a seven course meal, where the next piece is going to be extremely flavorful.

But you have to be ready.

One of my favorite things about “The Search” is that I’ve been able to reconstruct my diet and health. I’ve been running again. And after suffering a stress fracture over a year ago, I’m still having to be delicate about the structure of my new half-marathon training.

You can’t run your longest run on a Tuesday and then start your next longest run on Wednesday.

You have to have a cross training day in the middle.

And that day doesn’t “not matter.”

It’s not a “non-day.”

It’s essential.

Each chapter with a purpose. Each phase building on the next.

My 2015 isn’t a blinking type prompt. In fact it’s already well started: With cooking dinners for my family. With savoring the time I have with those I haven’t been able to see as much. With a running calendar. With some freelance videography work. With research of jobs and locations. With constant news watching and the daily allowed FRIENDS binge (I won’t try to hide it….Netflix is definitely on with FRIENDS in the background right this minute).

This time is a huge gift and, while granted it’s not easy every day to sit down and write a blog post about soaking in the quiet times when you’re someone who draws on energy, I understand that this chapter is in perfect timing.

So, if you’re like me and in between the major action––don’t feel like your next chapter is waiting to begin. Embrace the one you’re writing now.

3 Weeks A.B.: Life After Boston

I’ve been back in North Carolina for close to three weeks now. Three weeks of a grad school graduation, moving, family, friends, holidays, visitors and readjusting sleep cycles. There is a lot percolating on my job search front; but nothing ready to write about quite yet. In the meantime, I’m holding this quote above close to my heart.

Searching for a new job (whilst looking all over the country, mind you) is quite scary in so many ways. At the same time though, I embrace knowing that it’s the only way to go. You can’t follow up Boston with going right back where you started.

Adventure should precede adventure.

The funny part of looking for a job though is the normalcy that creeps in from being back home. A car that needs to be inspected. New tires. Trips to the bank. Cooking dinner for mom and dad. There’s almost a sense that this is actually a Twilight episode where adult Ashley goes back to a parallel dimension from when she was 17 years old.

After living a thousand miles from home and seeing my family approximately two times in 12 months, I’m embracing it.

One of my favorite parts of life is seeing how you have exactly what you really need when that time is present. Today may have been full of some preparatory job work, but it was also full of soaking in my cup of coffee and looking around my parents living room grateful to be in the one place that provides the best springboard for “next”:

h.o.m.e.

It amazes me as I look back at “New Years” posts of yesterday. I was always quick to make a long list of hopes and goals and accomplishments to tick off.

This year I have a mental list of things to do; but most of what I want to accomplish in 2015 is a feeling. I want to feel my heart operating full time at that bursting capacity. The way your heart feels when you adore what your job consists of. The way your heart operates when you’re embracing and appreciating the small moments with people you love.

I have been so focused on the tedium of accomplishment for the last two years (perhaps that is inevitable when you’re in school), that in 2015 I want to focus on the emotion of it. When I’m fully feeling my work is when I actually finish it to the very best quality. When I’m breathing and relishing my relationships is when I act like the very best friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend and co-worker.

Full heart and full steam ahead. A good mantra as I go into this next year.
For all of my rumblings about how, for me, change is truly hard––I’m getting to be quite the accomplished ‘transitioner.’ For me, if 2015 were a road sign it would inevitably be: “Curve Ahead.”