A little more Atlanta, A little less Boston.

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The start of October and Atlanta is refusing to let the leaves change color. Green treetops make it look the same as months past in Georgia; but it feels different. Change is coming. Humidity is gone.

This is certainly my favorite time of year. It seems that everything puts on its best color–a fanfare of what the past year has held.

But as I look at this picture; “things will change.” I’m left thinking less about peak weekends and more about my everyday week.

Never in my life have I felt adulthood so freely and so heavily at the same time. While moving to Atlanta was one of the less-stressful gigantic life changes I’ve made; in the past six months I’ve found myself kind of avoiding embracing the change — and embracing new life — and instead living in constant memories and pinings of New England.

Kind of crazy. But, when you have an adventure that vivid and colorful — not even your childhood dream job can necessarily distract you from missing parts of that risk-taking lifestyle.

That time was magical and I am having a terribly hard time letting it go. Constant prattling about Massachusetts with new Atlanta acquaintances. The ever-frequent #latergram of past wandering Boston Saturdays.

I know, it’s annoying.

My fixation on Boston has been avoiding the reality that:

Things have changed.

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Since my move back to the South I’ve been brushed with some unsettling differences. The fact that, old friends are seemingly much harder to stay connected with — and new friends are hard to make when you work odd hours.

Living in a memory is sometimes easier than jumping into the new.

Steve Jobs (yeah, I’m going to go there — it’s a good thought he had) once talked about how it’s impossible to connect the dots moving forward. You only can backward. That’s the only way to make sense of change, how you end up where, what opportunities present themselves — and for what reason. You can only do that in retrospect.

When you think of the future — and even the now — you have to trust the dots moving forward. You have to just go. Follow your heart and your passion. But you’re not always going to know exactly what comes next or when.

I think that’s part of why it’s easier for us to live in that last ride, sometimes. You know it was a good one. And the current path you’re on is still undeveloped. It’s in the process.

You focus on what you know was good.

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This is the first time in my life that I’ve really forged a new chapter 100 percent alone.

And some days that is lonely.

While I spend moments and days, fantasizing about weekends and explorations gone by up North — what I miss is the feeling of risk taking and adventure.

I have neglected to realize that my current situation requires just as much bravery.

This is ever-so-much another challenge–it’s just different. Where Boston had history to see; Atlanta has culture. Where Boston had me quitting a job; Atlanta has me embarking on a whole new career. Where Boston thrust me into new lifelong friendships; Atlanta is encouraging a patience to grow something similar.

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Things have changed.

And things will continue to change.

The way to gathering the full happiness from it though is not to shirk in the shadows — but to embrace it fully and even mess it up a little.

Just because I’m in Atlanta doesn’t mean that Boston has to go away.

I just need to find that girl that moved into Kent Street and have her take charge here in Brookhaven.

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Life is beautiful to the core right now.

And I can’t miss it because I’m still thinking about the leaves from last fall.

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Finding a church home. Again.

It just happened to be baby dedication Sunday at the largest Methodist church in the Atlanta area and I was feeling starkly under-accessorized.

You hear about the southern churches that treat the center aisle like a runway–and I had stumbled into that sanctuary.

Granted, it was baby dedication Sunday and the perfect opportunity for families to show off their coordination–but I was still blown away by the labels and jewelry I saw across the pews.

I should have worn more bracelets.

One of the best parts and hardest parts about starting again in a new city is finding a church.

It’s such a personal, chemical kind of thing.

I have my list of “criteria” and a memory of a feeling in tow each Sunday morning.

When I first moved to Winston-Salem, I searched for years. It was hard and by the time I found REVO (one of my favorite Sunday mornings), I had probably visited 10 churches on some kind of repetition hoping to find my place.

At the end of it all I found REVO on the recommendation of a friend who had attended the same church as me in Boone, N.C.

Then Boston was easier for a perhaps sad reason.

There were very few churches to pick from that were feasible enough for me to get to on a regular basis.

I found Union United Methodist Church on my second try. A lucky Google search, a church in one of my favorite neighborhoods, and a reputation for being socially progressive.

The choir’s rendition of “Love Lifted Me” brought tears that morning and I knew I had to come back.

Atlanta is trickier than Boston in that there are approximately 5,000 churches to learn about or visit. I’ve asked friends. I’ve visited two. And I need to keep learning a lot more.

So far I have been to the uber traditional United Methodist Church and then an equally uber socially liberal United Methodist Church.

I feel like Little Red Riding Hood. I need something in the middle.

This Sunday I visited a “Contemporary Service” and quickly things seemed awry….

It seems like every Sunday has a different little set of challenges on not being 100 percent comfortable or 100 percent what I’m looking for.

While it can be disappointing to not find a church home right away, I’ll never take for granted the huge gift of learning: what exactly I need — what exactly I believe — and what exactly I expect and want in a church.

You don’t really get to be that self-reflective without reason!

If you’re looking for a new church currently here is my modified (ongoing) checklist:

  • – Are you looking for a denomination?
  • – If so, why? This will help clarify for the following questions.
  • – Are there certain belief structures that are sacred to you?
  • – What level of involvement are you looking for?
  • – How long do you plan to be involved? Who else does this affect?
  • – Do you want to be able to do missions? Internationally?
  • – How important is accessibility to the pastoral team?
  • – Are you looking for certain qualifications / degrees / distinctions for the pastoral team?
  • – What type of message do you prefer?
  • – Do you want traditional? Contemporary? A church with varying types of services?
  • – What is the most important part of the service for you? Worship? Message? Fellowship?
  • – Is location a factor?
  • – Do you care how old the church is?
  • – What about the church’s stance on social issues? It’s now easy to search congregations friendly to all types of love.
  • – Do I know anyone at local churches? Or anyone with connections to local churches?

While this list is ever being added to; I found that I’ve really had to meditate on all of my answers. And it helps. You’re focused on what you need.

Until next Sunday, the saga continues — but in the meantime I am thankful for another Sunday in a church. And another Sunday to make sure I know all of my answers to the questions above!

…Blink……Blink…..Blink….

…Signals of back to life….

I won’t belabor you with the reasons or how “crazy busy” (but for real) my grad-school life has been. Instead, I’ll share with you my thoughts and lusts and happinesses on this Friday night.

In things I want, pencils that make me write in my Journal again. I have all the feels and too little time to write them. Related, y’all it is HARD to live 3000 miles away from your boyfriend who you both love very much and also are used to pretty much seeing every waking moment of the day.

In other things that I’m missing: home. For some reason, perhaps it’s being busy or maybe it’s my second autumn away from home, but I’ve been really craving time with my best friends and family. It’s odd to not be able to have “birthday weekend” with Brooke. It’s not fun to see all of the Instagram photos from Appalachian’s Homecoming and not be there. Meh! I need to make a serious point to schedule trips home next fall so that I can join in on the fun again!!! PS: Someone buy me this, also.

Imma get a dog. A dachshund dog. Shhh, don’t mention it to my Mom. She doesn’t realize that she’s actually going to get it. Well, she’s going to get two. In all of my “I miss home,” “I want to be comforted,” “I’m entering a new, stay at home more, little bit lamer stage of life and am now magically ready for a dog” — well, I’ve decided that I’m ready for a new dachshund or two. My obsession has resulted in too much Pinteresting and daydreaming about a little fellow named Franklin.

I’m ready to start running. Yes, I realize that writing, NC, dachshunds and running are old news when it comes to Ashley — but stick with me. I haven’t ran normally in SIX months again. I re-injured my stress fracture in April and since then it’s been a frustrating path of getting fluffy. But I ran twice in the last week to no visible after effects on the leg. That means tomorrow I will try to run one mile. And then I’ll walk a lot. But if tomorrow is one mile it’s maybe one more mile closer to be being back to six. Part of my stress craze comes from not running regularly. I just know it. Side note: Check out “16 Breathtaking Runs Across The Country” by Buzzfeed. THIS is my front yard right now, basically. I need Andy to take me on the Seattle run this Thanksgiving.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.43.02 PMAll of this missing home, looking forward to what comes next stuff aside? Living in Boston is perfect for me. This city, every day I’m reminded, is a perfect place for my personality. It’s vibrant in an old, quiet, subtle way. The brick, the brownstone, the people. I really love living here. How many people can say that they walked past the lights of Fenway Park on their way home every night this week? I love that this week’s errands took me through the Boston Common, by Copley Square and constantly around the shadow of the Citgo sign. Boston is good. And while, foremost right now Boston feels brief. It is still, continuingly, a sweet goodness. I still know that this is just where I’m supposed to be.

So, consider this a dip of the toes.

I’m ready to be writing again.

And I’m ready to be talking about where this adventure is going next.

Perhaps all of the distractions above? Writing. North Carolina. Dachshunds. Running. Those distractions of comforts will keep me distracted from the anxieties that keep reminding me that change is … again … right around the corner.

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Boston, you are home for now.

Repeat to self “Boston, you are home for now.” And again. Repeat.

The perennial planner in me has watched the closure of my first year of graduate school, sees my final semester down the road and is already so tempted to try to plan for what’s next. The after Boston. The fresh job. Another move. Some change. Some shifting. Some more growing.

And I want to prepare and dream and get excited or feel in control of next January.

(HA!) Like that can happen.

And even if I could magically begin planning where I would like to move next or the exact job that I would like to apply for, even if–well, I would miss out on enjoying a whole six months of Boston.

I have loved living here and I still have so much to explore and appreciate.

That little planner inside is a hard one to squash!

So, how do I cope? I focus in on what to appreciate and love right now. My first year of school is done and this coming week I start my internship at Newton News (exciting opportunity). That means a full summer opportunity of getting myself together.

What am I hoping to work on?

The reel.

This is a duh. My internship will give me the opportunity to be on camera twice a week and produce a lot of new work. That means that at the end of the summer I should have my reel ready to go to start applying for jobs this fall.

Fall school work.

Would you believe I really want to get a head’s start this summer on my fall work? I have to turn in a thesis or “professional project” as I prefer to think of it at the end of the next semester. It will probably make my life a LOT easier if I can get some form of a head’s start. Minimum I need to have a full game plan for the fall.

Um, my fitness.

I say “um” because it’s kind of a shame. Boston and graduate school has translated to eating out and a lot of recreational drinking. 25-year-old bodies aren’t made for constant rich eating and college-style drinking. Mama needs to get back in shape! So, that means putting together a routine gym and running plan that will:
A) Get me back in shape!

B) Not re-irritate my stupid stress fracture.

But, am I right?

Cook, cook, cook.

This plays off of the fitness part.  A big part of the fluffier Ashley is alllll of the eating out. I mean, come on, it’s Boston. There are so many great pubs to try! But, I really want to work on cooking at home more and healthier. This is something I really enjoy and also summer should be the easiest season to get a jump start.

This all seems pretty reasonable, right?

This is likely my LAST summer “break” so I want to make it as productive as possible!  Now. Seriously. To stop planning….

Ashley Gets More Comfortable on Cam

It’s really annoying to start every blog post with an apology for the delay–both for you–and for me. So, let’s skip that and talk about fun things.

One year ago this week, I was having a complete anxiety attack over the impending decision to move to Boston. I was given less than 12 hours to make a decision on an apartment that I had never laid eyes on and agree to a montly rent that I had no idea how I would pay for.

At that time, as I laid in the floor hyperventilating, my mom calmly told me that a year would pass either way and before I knew it it would be next spring. She said that we wouldn’t believe how quickly the time would pass.

And boy, was she right.

One year. And now I’m back to stressing about where I’ll live next 🙂

In funny torture, Boston University makes its graduate program three semesters–which means you’re left looking for an apartment for––three months? You have a year lease and then everyone wants you to buckle down for another year.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, I don’t have a clue. I’m obviously staying in Boston through the end of school. I do love it here. But, after December the story is yet to be written and I want to give myself the greatest flexibility to either be with my loves while I look for a job, or travel, or just move to the next gig! I’m hoping and praying and crossing fingers for a splendid ordeal to work out. But I need some prayers!

It’s hard to worry too much about life stuff though with so much school happening. Shooting, shooting, shooting. I’ve been doing a lot of application this semester. The first part of my program gave us the tools: intro to cameras, intro to editing, intro to approaching stories. This semester has been about constantly generating––and I can see huge growth in what I’m doing. The latest example was completed earlier this week. I’m pretty excited to show how much more comfortable with the camera that BU’s program has helped me to become:

I’m happy to say that I’ll be getting even more on-camera experience this summer as I take part in the Newton News fellowship and generate a lot of stories over the coming months.

That means I’m not sure when I’ll get to come home to North Carolina next though; which is intimidating. I’m hoping and praying for at least a long weekend in the coming months!

In the meantime, I came to Boston to switch back to newswoman––and I have to say––that’s been my true focus over the last seven months; now eight more to go before a graduation!

Eh, weekend? Let’s try it again in 5 days.

Last week was full of stress which resulted in adult breakouts that added to more stress, which meant eating bad and no running. So many things would have probably helped me chill out. Like a good run? But there was not enough time.

For the first time since I got to Boston I have been over-freakin-whelmed. And not in the way that I could just run a tighter ship, sharpen my pencils and that would solve all of the problems. Instead it was issues that I had no control over.

I got my first collegiate snow day and fully enjoyed some frolicking and football, but I also suffered a cancelled–or three–interviews.

Riverway snow beauty.

Friends. Football. Boom.

I was able to wrangle in getting all of my work done in time, but some how new things popped up that weren’t scheduled.

It was also crazy.

So you can imagine that I was fully looking forward to this weekend!

And, it was fun-ish. There was a little bit of sleep. A little bit of sunshine. A little bit of fun. And a lot of productivity. But it just wasn’t quite the best of the best. I don’t know what’s happening in the stars, but it just seemed like this weekend was destined for a funk.

And how does it end? It ends at 10 p.m. with my ole’ Mazda having been welcomed to Boston with a towing. Wah.

I would hereby like to start this Monday and get a fresh start––and then fast forward to Friday to try it again 🙂

You know, I realize that this post sounds a little whiny. But you know what? I’m always writing about how darn wonderful life is––and it still absolutely is––but it only seems fair to let you know when life is NORMAL too. And this weekend normal meant just being kind of “eh.”

Fresh start Monday!

Currently:

Reading: “Run Like a Girl” from Ms. SincerelyLily. Yup, still haven’t finished. As soon as I do though, ladies watch out, this is a good one to pass along. It’s been really nice to be reading a running book given I’m FINALLY up to my longest runs since my stress fracture. Four miles. First 5k of 2014 this Sunday. Fingers crossed for a 25-minute run. Fingers crossed.

Watching: Movies on movies on movies. Has anyone seen “Captain Phillips”? What about “The Butler”? “American Hustle”? I’ve seen two, seeing “The Butler” tonight. Then FINALLY (lots of those) “Inside Llewyn Davis” tomorrow night.

Obsessing: Unscheduled interviews. I swear few things are more anxiety-causing than seeing a calendar tick away to a deadline and not be making any progress. Two weeks until a big story is due and only one interview scheduled! EEK! In the meantime, I did have a decent time putting together my first evergreen story of the semester. It was a fun piece to cover and learn about. More previews of me doing my thing, here:


Wanting: To get into a semester swing. It’s still kind of weird. My organization is a little off and so is my motivation, haha. That said, I’m really excited about a number of my classes and I’m so full of story ideas which is awesome. Now I need to get into a rhythm. This was my first actual regular schedule week–so I’m thinking next Monday will be like old hat.

Eating: Chicken pot pie. Homemade. Chicken pot pie. Yum. Also, having a beer. Andy and I made a “no drinking on week nights” pact a few weeks ago and it’s been really lovely. I feel a little healthier and also am sleeping better; and also saving money. Being in grad school there is always a reason and excuse to go out and socialize and grab a beer. It’s been a nice reason to take a step back. That said, when Friday comes I’m ready to kick back.

Fearing: I’m not sure. I guess that’s good? Maybe I’m most afraid that time is going to fly by again this semester and I’m going to miss opportunities. Opportunities to stay in better touch with family. Opportunities for internships and getting involved in broadcast activities. Opportunities to get ahead on projects and my thesis (eeeeeek). Opportunities to explore and have little adventures. I can sense a little bit of tunnel vision developing and I don’t want to lose a moment.

Missing: My girls. Having best friends far away is no fun. I think I was distracted last semester; but going home for winter break reminded me how awesome it is to have someone that you can just gush about everything (plus boys, duh) to. I have some amazing friends in Boston. I just don’t have a bestie that I’m quite on that level with right now.

Hoping: To go through my closet and get rid of masses of clothes that have still gone unworn. Like, seriously? How is this possible? I feel like I’m constantly getting rid of things but somehow I still have too much.

Accepting: That I will never be able to really stick to a 10:30 p.m. bedtime. I’m a nightowl and it is what it is. #yawn

The Boston Blur.

That’s what life in Boston is turning into.

I was terrible and should have posted more over my long winter break; but alas you’re away from home for four months and don’t know when you’ll be back again––so instead of passing bored moments with blog updates or scheduling time to write, you find yourself just constantly being with people. Annoying your family with closeness. Strategically scheduling friend time to catch up.

The month that I was home was weird, wonderful and relaxed. And long. Very long.

Immediately after I got home there was a wedding and parties; family dinners and the immediate holidays.

Panthers game with my Winston-Salem ladies.

Wedding with my AOII alumnaes.

It’s funny how holidays are so different in this mid-20s phase of life. You don’t have kids for there to be that same Christmas magic. You’re no longer a kid so it carries a different connotation of happiness. And all of siblings are in a similar comfortable place of contentment with just . . .spending time. No more racing each other to the living room on Christmas Day. No more spending the full day playing incessantly with a new toy (well, maybe sometimes). But it’s just different. It’s so much less pressure. And so much more relaxed it seems. I loved it. This is a pretty cool time in life with my family. We just get to appreciate the time together.

LIttle brother + Me.

The weeks that I was home passed in hang outs and work outs, basically. Running. The gym. Sitting on the couch. Shopping with mom. Eating out with friends. It was really a rinse and repeat of my life four months ago.

Eerily it seemed almost that I could just close my eyes and slip back into my old life.

But yet. I couldn’t. Boston wasn’t a dream. And Boston was going to be returned to. Instead it just felt like I was living this parallel life that no one knew anything about.

Four weeks at home.

The hardest part was probably being away from ole’ Andy. The new(ish) boyfriend and I had been together for two months when we left for our respective Christmas breaks almost 3,000 miles apart. Three time zones. We went through our third month marker while we were apart and it was just so strange to bridge that much space for such a long period of time when you’re so early into a relationship.

But it was good. The best part? Andy, total sweetheart that he is, volunteered without me asking to fly to North Carolina to ride with me back to Boston since I was taking my car on the return.

That meant he got to see my North Carolina.

And he got to meet my family. And my friends.

And now, sure he still knows who I am, but he knows a lot more about why I am.

Favorite things all in one place.

Pretty awesome that he gets to see all that and we’re only (almost) four months in.

The weeks since our two-day, 15-hour return drive to Boston have been full of watching football (RIP Panthers), getting back into a work schedule (mama needs money), readjusting to a new class schedule (SO MUCH FILMING) and having reunions with friends in the area.

Last weekend we took a short road trip to Providence, RI (hello first new state of 2014) to see our friend Jeanna’s boyfriend play hockey with the Providence Bruins. Fast forward two days later and we’re getting together to watch him play on television with the Boston Bruins.

That's not Zach fighting. But nice that Zach scored...the Bruins won...AND there was a fight.

That’s not Zach fighting. But nice that Zach scored…the Bruins won…AND there was a fight.

Rob, Rox, Andy + Me at Doyle’s.

A Sam Adams Brewery tour. A winter storm.

That was pretty cool in the last two weeks, as well.

With all of this fun though, I’m still starting to feel the pressure that this program is only a year and a half long––and I’m already working on two-thirds finished. I have my first thesis meeting next week and I really need to get rolling on internship applications.

I’m going to continue to try to be better about posting : ) Maybe THAT should have been my NYR.

2013 was just the prologue. 2014, I’m ready.

I looked back at 2012’s New Year’s Eve post today as I sat down. The first sentence said “I have the most deliriously, deep-to-the-bone happy feeling about 2013.”

Man.

Was I ever right to feel that way?

2013 was a year of conquering. For the very first time I think I really waded into some selfishness. I wanted to really evaluate what I wanted in life. What was I going to do to get there? For the last three or so years I had been floating along with good enough; and turned out––that wasn’t good enough anymore. In that case, I think selfishness is the way to go.

The list of 25 by 25 was a huge impetus to get my butt in motion. To stop talking so much and do a lot more. I never imagined how putting a list together and reflecting on action could make so much happen.

I mean, just the cliff notes?

– Visiting NINE new states.

– Going to Canada.

Me + Soon-To-Be-Little-Did-I-Know-Now-Current Roommate

– Running a 10K.

– Really kicking butt at my old job. I was given some great new accounts and was really proud of the work Woodbine was doing.

– Sibling beach camping trip.

Me + Brother

– Running a HALF MARATHON.

– Making some amazing new best friends. Ones that came in the last half and ones in the first (looking at you, Tara).

It's amazing how you can become best friends with someone in a minute.

It’s amazing how you can become best friends with someone in a minute.

– Little brother graduated and moved to college.

Davis looks good.

– Quitting my job.

– Welcoming Evan into the world. That was a best.

He’s growing like a weed, though.

– Moving to Boston.

– New, great roommates.

– Starting graduate school.

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– Teaching myself the guitar.

– A Savannah AOII reunion.

– So many sporting events. Countless Dash. W-S Open Tennis. A Braves weekend. Red Sox. Patriots. Panthers. Whew.

– Going to probably 10 concerts.

Boots and Coozies tailgating for Brad Paisley.

Boots and Coozies tailgating for Brad Paisley.

– Being at the Macy’s Parade for Thanksgiving.

– Staying close with best friends. Even when they’re freaking far away.

Katieryn LANE! (Wright.)

B + VK + Me. ❤

Sha. ❤

Roberta and Stephanie. 🙂 Rob and Steve, you know I love you.

Denise and Briana. Derek and Brad, you know I love you too.

The B.C. to my A.D.

Linds Love.

V found me in Boston.

And of course Kait. Plus Sha. Plus Brooke.

Mushy.

Mushy.

PS, if you’re my friend and don’t have a nickname we apparently need to work on that.

– Finding a new church.

– Coming back from a rough sports injury.

–  Starting OVER with friends and coming out with a pretty amazing group.

Broadcast Family Class '14

Broadcast Family Class ’14

– Oh, and a new boyfriend. That’s a pretty big deal. Love this guy.

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I pretty much (minus a few 25s) crushed 2013. I honest-to-God do not know how it could’ve been better unless someone came out of the scenery and gave me like $100,000 or something.

Seriously. I am so freaking blessed.

And on the one hand where I am infinitely grateful to the things that God has moved in my life; I am also just so proud of myself. I know I couldn’t have done it without Him––but there was a part that required me to be brave. And there was a part that required me to have some insane trust and at the same time strength.

Moving to Boston was one of the most terrifying and gratifying things I have done. But I couldn’t see the gratifying part while I was laying in the floor of my Winston-Salem apartment crying my eyes out. Committing to a Boston apartment before I was sure that I wanted to leave? Committing to an apartment before I had let anyone know? That made it real. And that made it scary. But I took a deep breath and I went.

There have been equal forces at hand in each part of 2013.

The incredible joy of travel while facing an uncomfortable fear of flying.

The reward of returning to school with the painful goodbye and sadness of leaving an office made of my second family.

The excitement of new friends while missing the old.

The happiness of conquering change while feeling the holes of traditions and being with family.

The fresh victory of testing my body and seeing my running capabilities blossom with the regret of pushing too hard and finding its limits.

The amazing excitement of  love and then also the fear of vulnerability.

My life is amazingly balanced. And if you know me, and how Libra I really am, you know that I couldn’t be happier. On a daily basis I am amazed at the fullness of my heart and the satisfaction I have.

For the first time in a long time I don’t feel like I am settling.

2014 you have one heck of a lot to match; but I feel confident. I feel excited. And I feel like I’m going into 2014 with the best momentum I could ever dream of.

You know when you were young and adults would tell you “Just wait, these aren’t the best years of your life.” I had the scary and happy and confused and curious thought recently that . . . I think 2013 was. I think it was one of the best. And I think 2014 will be the second. This roll that 2013 started doesn’t feel like it’s settling down. Instead,  I really think God just got started. 2013 was a prologue and I damn can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the next act.

So for my annual predictions.

Last year I called: Happy changes. Beautiful friendships (new and old). Fun celebrations. Promises followed through. Adventurous travels. Getting out of the comfort zone. Being invested. Healthy growing up. Lots of love.

And I want to keep all of that. But I’m going to add:

  •  A little growing up. 25 is young; but I can grow.
  •  A graduation.
  •  A stronger family.
  •  A running come-back story.
  •  A giving back to the city I’ve fallen in love with.
  •  Decisiveness.

Decisiveness? You might say. Yes. I think 2014 is going to challenge my confidence in the big decisions. I’m going to need to jump fast and with my whole heart. I’m going to have to know what I want, how I want it, when and where. And I’m going to have to be 100 percent in those big choices.

I want to go with my whole heart.

And if 2013 is any indication, I know I can.

Still alive. Still very alive.

I was sitting in the kitchen last night when my mom asked “Ashley, did you post on your blog today?”

After answering with a “No,” I got the cringing response; “You know it’s been a month, right?”

Oye, nothing like your mom calling you out for being distracted.

Something about being a graduate student in November and December? It’s busy. And not in all of the typical expected ways.

Of course there are the “finals,” which in my case were all final projects. Final packages to film and edit, papers to write and scripts to finish. I had to turn in some final research (eek, which I still need to do). There were students from my TA class with a lot of questions and there were some very busy end-of-semester projects for my graduate assistantship.

That’s all expected and a good excuse, right?

The other intangible part was that there were holidays to prepare for; a month-long trip home to pack and anticipate––and a lot of graduating that called for celebrations.

I remember so vividly early September. Not only did December seem far away, it still seemed imminent. There was an intimidating “older” girl in one of my classes who was set to graduate at the end of the semester. We always ended up sitting next to each other in our class. She seemed nice; but like she knew what she was doing. And since she had already been in Boston a year, I figured she already had friends and she wouldn’t take too much notice of me.

In some ways that made me grateful because she wouldn’t be looking over my shoulder at my mess of an edit job.

Somehow one day I decided to tell her about November Project though. She looked like she appreciated being active and working out. And that’s all it took.

She wanted to come! And it turned out that we had a lot to talk about. Enough so that she invited me to meet her at a birthday party that weekend.

Hmm. Even though Jeanna was 23 (younger than me!); she was getting ready to graduate. And in a REALLY weird way I felt like I was back in high school and an older girl was inviting me to a party––and oh, I felt special.

But I didn’t know anyone.

The kids in my program year hadn’t really hit it off yet. I wasn’t comfortable enough to really force one of them to be a tag-along.

That Saturday night as I had text back and forth with Jeanna, who was asking where I was at, I was skeptical.

I told my roommates, “They’re going to graduate in December. What’s the point? Why make the effort to be friends?”

My roommate Brian made a plausible case, “You never know what kind of connections they could be afterwards! If nothing else, go for that.”

I said if I could find a sidekick I would go. Luckily for me, Erika said she’d meet me there in 15 minutes.

Four months later as I got a little teary writing Jeanna’s graduation card among a stack of others, I thought “Wow. What if I hadn’t gone to that party?”

Maybe things would have turned out quite similar and the next weekend she would have convinced me to come.

Maybe?

Maybe inevitably my friend Alex would’ve gotten to me and forced me to hang out like he’s apt to do.

All I know is that after that night I fairly forced the graduating class to adopt me as a surrogate graduate. I spent all of my weekends with them. I went to all of their celebrations for the end of the semester. And I went through some waves of sadness in the last month realizing that the next two semesters will be very different without them.

Every time my mom would call it seemed that I was on my way to a party. “Are you sure you’re doing school work?!”

I was. But I had to make sure I squeezed in all of my time and congratulations in the midst of that school. Boston has been for graduate school, yes—but turns out that it’s also been for a lot more.

Not to mention, that birthday party? Well it turned out to be Andy’s birthday party. Yeah, that turned out kind of special too.

My life in Boston would only have been a shadow of as awesome if it hadn’t been for those people graduating.

Beautiful Christmas Sweater photo creds to Jeanna.

So, that is why I am so delayed. I’ve been living it up the last month and soaking in every last second before going back to North Carolina.

You know, as the plane landed and I’m walking through the Charlotte terminal, I couldn’t help but feel like it had only been a week that I was gone. A week of a surreal, yet very detailed dream.

It’s just nice to know that it wasn’t. And while for a few weeks that may feel like a parallel life—I’ll try to connect it to North Carolina as best as I can over the holidays.

Man, there’s one heck of a New Year’s post brewing. I can feel it!

More on turkeys, Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Parade and all this love I’m feeling for life soon. But at least now you’re decently on the news.

xxxx.