Twenty five.

Twenty five.

Well that year went by quickly, right? Just yesterday it seemed like I posted the 25 by 25 list and hoped and dreamed and wished that the next year would be one of the fullest, best and most adventurous yet.

Safe to say it was.

It was the first time in years that I had challenged myself to take control. Figure out what was missing and stop moseying through life.

I traveled. All over. Serious travel bug. Nine new states. Montreal, Canada.

I wrote in new places and publications, and created a new blog.

I took acting classes. I started teaching myself to play the guitar.

Listened to new music from all over and read a hand full of books.

Ran a half marathon and found two new churches.

I was spontaneous. I simplified. I spent a lot of time with Ashley and got myself to best, healthiest place I’ve been mentally, physically and emotionally.

I invested myself where it mattered and when it mattered most; and I found myself cherishing every relationship I had a little deeper.

I took a gigantic deep breath, weighed all of the pros and cons, gave many a tearful hug and left North Carolina in the rearview mirror to go back to school; to move 15 hours away and to take on a new chapter without a second glance.

I swear I’m the happiest that I could imagine today. Big smile and all.

You know, there were things to be worried about when I moved. Would I make friends? Would I like the city? But in retrospect it’s funny to think that I thought about those things. But never actually worried about them. Lucky me, because I never needed to.

After a month in Boston I was able to spend my 25th birthday feeling so much love from far away and right in Boston. Cards and messages from friends and family around the South. And yet somehow was also surrounded by Boston friends and new roommates. It’s pretty incredible how much of a new life you can put together in such a short period of time.

God’s definitely been watching out for me.

25 is going to be pretty amazing. How do I know? Goodness, look at the last year of preparation. : )  If anything, I feel like 25 by 25 was the introduction and now we’re getting to the good part.

What comes post 25 by 25? Maybe this list I talked about a long time ago. Or maybe a break to focus on school and you’ll just get normal updates from me. Regardless, the blog isn’t going anywhere.

So, here’s to 25 more years of adventures and love and progress. You know, that’s really all I could ever dream or ask for.

Back to By-Lines.

I'm with the press.

I’m with the press.

It’s been over a year since I’ve written an article. Over a year since my by-line was on anything other than this blog.

A strange feeling for a reporter.

Even stranger to then go cover an event.

I was very blessed to get the opportunity to cover the Boston municipal preliminary elections Tuesday night. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Boston politics, the current mayoral election is very important since current mayor, Thomas Menino, is leaving after 20 years in office. Most locals are a little turned up that he’s leaving. It’s what they’re used to; and it’s what many feel like they have always known. Not to mention, he’s fairly popular.

Anyway, so I got a great opportunity to cover the preliminaries for Boston University News Service.

This is one of the many reasons I chose Boston University.

They have television, radio, print and online all ran by students internally–and then they also have students working with other local publications.

I chose to cover the event from candidate John Connolly’s reception (he ended up being a winner by the way; and yes I picked his location on purpose not on luck). While I was there I met three other BU students covering in various other capacities both for BU and for other local media outlets.

Now, I’ve never covered politics before.

I follow it.

I read the news.

I read the analysis.

But I was always a sports girl.

I was a little nervous that some kind of reflex was going to kick in and my lede was going to say:

“City Councilman John Connolly rallied tonight, coming in second place with X number of votes. His record now stands 1-0 as he advances to the next round of the playoffs.”

I joke.

But in seriousness, I went into the event knowing that I needed to be sensitive to a new game. (Literally, I cannot stop making sports references.)

All I can say is two things:

1) Thank God I had a friend to go with.

2) Thank God I’m taking advantage of learning opportunities.

On the Silver line to Roxbury. It's hard to ride a bus carrying so much stuff. Back row.

On the Silver line to Roxbury. It’s hard to ride a bus carrying so much stuff. Back row.

I was proud of the final article I submitted. And excited to see it make print. But I definitely learned a number of things on the way that I feel worth sharing:

Don’t always take for granted the exact address given to you by the press spokesperson. 

Mikaela and I showed up at the address that was given to us approximately two hours early and no one was there. It wasn’t because we were being over diligent on getting there in time–but a lot of other people went to polling locations and then the reception. Or they went to headquarters and then the reception. There was no one there! There was definitely a moment where we thought to ourselves. “Oh my. We have none of the news right now. We have no news.” Do your research, be diligent about exploring and seeking multiple locations. Our schedule wasn’t really conducive to allowing us to fully do this; but next time if we had a full day to delegate (and this was a full-time job) that’s definitely a consideration.

Be assertive about getting your story.

John Connolly’s reception was in Roxbury, which is a more diverse area of Boston. I’ll put it like this, there were a couple of times my camera was noticed on the street, two men called out “Hey blondie, how you doing?” and one of my interviewees talked about the prevalence of drug deals that happened in the area. If I hadn’t just had a little gumption to go out and get the interviews I needed on the street; I wouldn’t have had a story. Period. Know your surroundings. Be smart. But be brave, too. Sometimes you just have to go do it. For me, Boston is already a slight culture shock. That night in Roxbury (ha, no pun intended) was definitely vastly different than what I’m used to. I was proud for how I handled the reporting though.

Make friends.

This one I knew from sports reporting. The men you sit next to on the press row are the same ones who might offer you a ride to your car later or charge to your phone if you have to have it. The same was true on the camera line Tuesday night. My friend needed a longer cable and what do you know, a nice neighboring cameraman obliged. Lesson learned here though: always get their names. That way you can track them down later to return aforementioned items and offer a thanks. We ran into some hurdles with that later. . . .

Plan, plan, plan.

And have a realistic idea of what you want to accomplish.

Mikaela and I went armed with a video camera, audio recorders and notepads. I was trying to live blog, write a print story, shoot a television package and get audio.

I about lost my mind.

Maybe if I had been impeccably organized with a rundown of shot list, how long each shot should be; interviews and questions–it would have been more manageable. But in the heat of a first time reporting with a camera in tow? It was a lot.

Get a mule.

Less reasonable. Broadcast-J students have a lot of stuff to carry.

At 11:30 p.m. as I’m walking a mile home from the bus stop I’m realizing what a lovely predator target I could have been. Here I am carrying a backpack, a tripod and a big camera bag. Easily 30 pounds of stuff. And that’s a light load. Note to self, plan for cabs.

You can’t get a mule; but I should have planned ahead better about getting home so late and with so much (expensive) equipment slowing me down.

You know at the end of the day, politics weren’t so different than sports.

There’s a winner and there’s a loser. There’s a next game and there’s a strategy behind what just happened on the field. There are coaches and MVPs; fans and supporters; there are bandwagoners and there are hecklers. They just have different labels and the game may not all unfold under the stadium lights quite like sports–but there are more similarities than I imagined. Maybe that’s a blog for another day when I’ve covered as many government events as athletic ones.

John Connolly's reception was a great event and election outcome to be covering.

John Connolly’s reception was a great event and election outcome to be covering.

But until then, I’ve at least crossed off one more 25 by 25 to be published in a new publication.

Not to put any pressure on myself, but there are still FIVE 25 by 25s to do before October 7; and that’s only 10 days away. I need to get going:

– Write a book proposal. (Pfft. I can already tell you–this sucker is not going to be checked off.)

– Volunteer time somewhere that really counts. Find a non-profit to dedicate passion. (Does volunteering with BUTV count? I need to check into this . . .)

– Try for other acting experience. (Yeah. About that.)

– Learn how to handle a firearm. Okay, and maybe shoot one too. (Damnit, I’ve had TWO friends attempt to cross this off with me this year and it just . . .hasn’t happened. Something tells me it would be easier if I were still in N.C.)

– See a play on Broadway. (This MIGHT be feasible.)

Wish me luck . . .

It’s never too late to try again.

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.

Just hanging out on the sidelines at Death Valley with Anne Baker.

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 : ).

So much time spent with this crowd. Photo credit to the gloriously talented Alisha Park Dakon.

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:

I need to try again.

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.

IMG_0449

Looks like I’m a Boston Terrier these days. What in the world will I do not having black and gold as my school colors!? : )

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.

January 2013. I made a pit stop to check out the school just in case. "Just in case, I'll take your picture" Sarah said. Just in case.

January 2013. I made a pit stop to check out the school just in case. “Just in case, I’ll take your picture” Sarah said. Just in case. Notice my look of shrugged shoulders and non-committal, I dunno. Just give it six months, Ashley.

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.

Another pretty of me on campus. Isn't this university beautiful!? Also, please note the torrential snowfall. Homegirl is going to be investing in some WARM clothes.

Another pretty of me on campus. Isn’t this university beautiful!? Also, please note the torrential snowfall. Homegirl is going to be investing in some WARM clothes.

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.>

“25 by 25” after 25?

Sometimes I wonder what will happen after October 7th and I’ve either been successful…or less successful…at accomplishing my 25 by 25. What then?

Well, maybe something like this?

Has anyone seen “The Impossible List”? I’ve seen variations on other blogs, but Joel Runyon has created what I find the most interesting. I love that he says this:

The impossible list is NOT a bucket list. [Side bar, I hate when people think of my 25 by 25 as that. I know, I know–I’m being over sensitive.] Not too long ago, I used to settle for the possible things in life. The sure thing. It was “realistic”, “safe” and boring as hell. I decided I needed a challenge.

The impossible list is that challenge. This list of impossible things contains all the things I ever thought I couldn’t do because it was “impossible.” The sort of things that I assumed the cool guys on TV only ever got to do. The things I never thought that would be able to do.” – Joel Runyon

More or less, that’s exactly what 25 by 25 was about. It was about challenge and it was about accountability.

Joel’s Impossible List is categorized and some examples are:

Life

  • Make A Loan To Every Country Kiva Loans To [61/65]

Fitness

  • Run a Duathlon

Travel

  • Go Swimming in Every Ocean
    • Pacific
    • Atlantic
    • Indian
    • Arctic
    • Southern/Antarctic

Minimalism

  • Go without internet for a month

Adrenaline Rushes

  • Learn to Surf

Miscellaneous

  • Go to the airport and buy a ticket without knowing where I’m going.

Events To Attend

  • See The Northern Lights And Do A Time Lapse Film Of It

Festivals

  • Coachella

Renaissance (Wo)Man

    • Learn To Breakdance

Become Fluent In 4 Languages

    • English
    • Spanish
    • Mandarin
    • French
    • Italian
    • Esperanto

BizNass

  • Put $100,000 in the bank.

 

But the beauty of this list is that it’s all about you. You’re obviously not confined to the same buckets or goals that someone else has laid out.

I obviously still have work to do on the 25 by 25; but in the meantime it’s kind of nice to know that just because that timeframe is ending––constantly challenging myself and keeping it public for accountability doesn’t have to change : ).

What would your Impossible List have on it? I’m pretty sure it will be a fun time plotting this out. Anyone up for skydiving? (Shhh, don’t tell my orthopedist.)

2013, you’re halfway gone.

And with the end of June, we’re officially (months-wise) halfway through 2013. It’s pretty wild to take a tally of the first six months and see all of the adventures and stories I’ve collected this year.

From making my first travels out West to exploring Canada with Sarah.

Running. Running. And more running.

Wild new projects, clients and tasks with work.

Unexpected new friendships and relationships. Both their starts and their finishes.

Explorations with little brother. And big life moments crossed off the list. (high school graduations and half marathons.)

2013 has been, to date, as wide-eyed, open-armed and headfirst as I have wanted it to be. I have taken the chances that seemed appropriate. I have had a lot of faith. And I have felt as much alive as I have in a long time. So, this is what living is like?

But there are still six months left. And like with any client on an annual budget; halfway through you have to take stakes in––have we gotten where we hoped to at this point? Are we on track to finish and, at the minimum, meet objective?

January through June? Check. Satisfied.

June through December?

Well, according to the 25 by 25 there still needs to be a broadway show, some personal acting, some education, volunteering, learning about firearms, be published AND write a book proposal. And that’s just by October : ). Crazy remainder list, by the way.

2013 was admittedly going to be a year of change and growth; and looking back on the first six months I cannot believe how accurate my predictions have been.

The most immediate prediction list for the remainder of the year? How about just this third quarter?

– Swallow my pride and see a specialist about my leg. I need to get back to running as soon as humanly possible without forever cursing myself with an injury. (You guys, I had a dream I was running last night.)

– Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Kenny Chesney concerts with Brooke through the rest of the summer.

– Family time over the 4th of July holiday.

– Prepping a little brother for college.

– Planning a trip to Atlanta for time with best friends (including the Braves, duh).

– Getting creative with saving money. Let’s see how many dinner parties I can have instead of going out . . .

– Busting out some 25 by 25s, stat.

Next check in will practically be my 25th birthday. Don’t mind me while I go have a freak out over how quickly this year is passing.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

25 by 25: Learning the Guitar

This has been both an easy and challenging task.

Easy? I took piano for roughly five years and it came pretty naturally. So, I already understand chord structure and it’s not been an overwhelming thing to memorize finger patterns.

Challenging? Ow. Strings are different on the hands than ivory. Not to mention, I am one slow transitioner. All my songs kind of stutter right now. But I promise once I master one, I’ll post a video.

Regardless of the days or nights that I’ve spent blindly teaching myself and probably annoyed family members and neighbors–it is still so very relaxing. It’s completely been a solace for me while I’ve been sidelined from running. (Still, my leg. What the heck. I’ll save that continuing rant and torture for another day.) Luckily, because of all of the time strumming, I am getting an inkling better.

Something that I’m going to be near expert at soon? Stringing.

Oh, I’m apparently adept at having strings break. So now, after six months, I have strung my guitar no less than 3 times. Hopefully that decreases in the future too.

This is what peace looked like last night:

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 6.01.21 PM

Right now (don’t laugh) I was working on an easy song (hello repetitive chord structure) in “Highway Don’t Care.” Oh, yes. Tim McGraw’s new gem. I alternate in between some hymns and personal favorites, Christina Perri (however, her songs are a little more complex than I’ve graduated to yet).

My next one to tackle? I love this Mumford & Sons rendition of one of my favorite songs to sing at church. I haven’t posted many Sunday devotions lately. So, give this a listen. Even if you prefer more mainstream music perhaps you can appreciate Mumford & Sons take on a popular song. Love. I don’t think I’ll be taking on their guitar match any time soon, but perhaps in the spirit of learning I can find an easier tab to play.

In my latest reading: Barbara Walters’ Memoir.

Turns out that I have a little something in common with lady Barbara Walters:

“To my surprise I discovered I was, and am, as decisive as anyone can be. I knew precisely what should be left in and what should be taken out. Just like that. (I have always been a terrific editor, if I do say so myself–and I do say so myself.) But in private life I can barely make a decision. I second-guess everything from if I should wear the red or blue dress to where to go on vacation: Europe? South America? the Bahamas? Maybe I should just stay home. My daughter says my flip-flopping is because I am a Libra, the astrological sign whose good traits include being “diplomatic and urbane,” and my favorite, “romantic and charming,” but whose not-so-good traits start with being “indecisive and changeable.” On my gravestone I want inscribed: “On the other hand, maybe I should have lived.”

– Barbara Walters, Audition: A Memoir

Oh, man. I need to read.

Buzzfeed named their list of “65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s” and I have ashamedly only read TWO.

Shame. shame. shame.

Luckily, I’m finishing up the books currently on my bookshelf.

How many have you read?

I’m considering adding Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” to the top of my list. Anyone read any of these 65 that are a definite personal recommendation?