Turn it Up: A Familiar Returning Favorite

Song: “Wherever is Your Heart”

Artist: Brandi Carlile

Why I picked it: I was shopping this weekend in an adorable boutique and had one of those moments where you stop and ask the owner what playlist they have playing. Brandi Carlile’s new album was playing a number of times and this song in particular was the one that punched me over the edge to ask. I was swaying, smiling and wondering why I had never really listened to her before–even though I’ve heard about a million times. (Hello, one of the biggest Avett fans ever right here.)

Best part of this song: When a chorus has really great lyrics I don’t mind repetitiveness. This one rings genuine to me. And maybe it’s because I feel it in my day to day. Ignore the sappiness, listen and see if you feel the same way about someone.

Favorite lyric: Wherever is your heart I call home / Though your feet may take you far from me, I know

The Atlanta I Love.

I’ve been in love with Atlanta since I was probably five years old.

Something about the skyline driving through to Braves games or the combination of road-side farmers stands and urban graffiti. I have always loved the eclectic southern-ness of Atlanta and it was a beacon of “the good life” for me since I was a teenager.

“Man, if I live in Atlanta when I grow up — I will be the HAPPIEST,” I thought and wrote in my diary probably 50 times from 2001 to 2010.

I couldn’t wait to be able to go to The Ted on any given day of the week, read the AJC on the reg and officially be considered a peach state resident. Strange aspirations maybe, but they were all tokens of the city that I obsessed about.

I had and have been to other cities of course; but Atlanta has always been magical to me.

Growing up I would tell anyone who would listen about how one day I would probably be VP of Communications for the Braves and if not that maybe I would work at CNN. Lofty ambitions, but life is funny. And great sometimes.

You can imagine what people said when I announced four months ago that I was moving here. It was the smallest surprise of the year. Half the people I told thought that I already lived here.

Now, I live here.

Every day.

I don’t think I’m a bonafide Atlantan yet by any means. I DO have a Marta card; but I’ve never been to a number of the local institutions like Manuel’s or the Landmark. I’ve yet to really run very far on the Beltline and I’m not sure I could find my way around on the west side of I-75. I have no idea what the best restaurants are in Decatur and I haven’t been to a single festival yet. There is a lot to still see and experience on my “Atlanta To-Do List.” In fact, I probably need to create an actual list.

Related: If you live in Atlanta and have suggestions on what earns me my Atlantan certificate. Please advise.

But now on any given Tuesday I can go to Braves games, explore new restaurants, neighborhoods and museums.

Atlanta is home.

And I love Atlanta.

The trails. The parks. The history. The culture. The diversity. The food scene. The music. The access to hiking, swimming, home, friends and family.

There are so few things that could improve this city for me. (Aside from much improved public transportation. That’s it.)

But I found an Atlanta that I loved even more when Andy visited last week.

It wasn’t in a specific place or an activity. We had:

  • normal nights at home
  • tacos at Superica
  • drinks on the Beltline
  • King of Pops shade breaks
  • hikes on Stone Mountain
  • tent time at Lake Lanier
  • tomahawk chopping at Turner Field
  • picnics at Piedmont Park
  • meanderings downtown
  • sightings at MLK’s childhood home
  • lots of neighborhood explorations

It was a normal week of me trying to share why I loved this city so much.

Since moving here, it has been so fun–but I promise you that each exploration was paired with “I wonder what Andy would think of this?” or an “I can’t wait to show this to Andy when he visits.”

Can you imagine how lovely it was to just adventure and have him there to talk about it?

It was the BEST Atlanta yet.

Turns out when you combine the city you love + the person you love, it results in the BEST days. But, not to cheese ball, basically Andy and I always have the best time regardless of what city we’re set in.

I was pretty close to right at 14 years old when I thought that living in Atlanta would be the end-all to pure happiness.

But this week I saw a side of an even sweeter Atlanta that I hadn’t quite experienced yet–and oh boy, I cannot wait to visit that place again.

In the meantime, I get to keep exploring. I get to keep finding new reasons that Atlanta is my favorite. More parks to venture into and more neighborhoods to wander. More days to learn about myself in a city that–over the years–has been integral to my figuring out who I am.

While I really wish Andy was coming back tomorrow or that my trip to Portland started Wednesday instead of three weeks from now–I have Atlanta. And if I have to be patient for the day that we get to make a city ours, I’m positive that 95-degree heat, 80-percent humidity, and all, I wouldn’t take any other place while I wait.

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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 3.08.29 PM

– 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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 3.19.49 PM

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.

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.

Happy One Month, Boston.

Great depiction of my feelings? "#NoFilter. Just loving on Boston tonight."

Great depiction of my feelings? “#NoFilter. Just loving on Boston tonight.”

It’s hard to believe but silently and quickly a one-month anniversary passed.

I may be two days late in technicalities, but the beautiful part is that it passed without knowing.

I adore my family and friends in North Carolina with heart and soul. I love the mountains and the roots that I have always had there. I really cherish the fact that I’ve been able to plant such a foundation of stability in a place of sameness for the first 24 years of my life.

But.

I love Boston.

I remember the first day that felt like a routine.

I walked to the train stop, likely in the midst of my third week here, and for the first time I didn’t feel like I was at a conference or fall camp. I didn’t feel like I should whip my camera out to take a photo of something new and I certainly didn’t feel the need to look at the T map to check the stops.

I could walk the path without looking up at landmark houses and street signs. I could bustle along without the worry of missing something.

The thought only occurred for a second, but once it happened–that, “this is life now” thought–things were different.

I remember that first day that Boston felt like home.

It was just this past Saturday.

After venturing an hour outside of the city to go to an apple orchard in Ipswitch, Mass. and spending a morning picking apples, traipsing fields and shooting a lot of camera footage–I was tired. As we crossed the bridges and ventured back into familiar Brookline it was a relief to see our street and know that home was just a quarter-mile away.

It was home.

And it is home.

And that is both beautiful and strange.

I miss my family  and friends of course in the, want-to-see-you-and-share-this-new-adventure-with-you kind of way. But it’s not a hankering for me to go home. It’s an excitement for them to come here and let me show them my happiness.

I used to give my friend Lindsay such a hard time for her Carrie-Bradshaw-like love for New York City. Oh, how she loves that city.

But now I find myself chuckling as I get lost looking at the skyline on a walk home or as I can’t help but smile at the sound of the trains outside my window.

I absolutely love it and feel like it fits. It just fits. I can honestly say that I am happy in a way that I haven’t experienced in a really long time. A different way.

This happiness for the last month has seen me challenging myself in new ways. It’s seen me exploring and trying new things. It’s seen me taking chances and channeling a new bravery. It’s seen me digging deep for confidence and resting in my own reassurance. It’s seen me crafting a new set of friends and a realizing that in some senses I’m recreating who I am. Same Ashley. New chapter. But you know how much shift in a storyline just one chapter can make . . .

One month in and I haven’t skipped a beat. Not even enough to take five minutes and revel in the fact that it had been a month on October 1st. Instead I have pondered too many times already in the last week how time is passing too quickly and I want to stop the sand in a sieve.

Savoring life is incredible.

And I can’t express how much the last month has been an incredible start to one of the adventures that I think, one day, I will look back on with some intense pride.

Miss you North Carolina; but for now why don’t you just promise to come visit? You’ll see me at Christmas, if not : )

How can  you not love this? Boston, you're pretty.

How can you not love this? Boston, you’re pretty.

On not writing about relationships.

This blog is aptly named “Actually on the Line” because I pledged to lay it all out there. However, all my paragraphs have fallen curiously mute on one topic in my life.

MEN.

While I’m not quite the minxy, 20-something that would have chapters on chapters to write about when it comes to relationship developments and romance; there have been compartments of the past 14 months that have gone in investment to certain others.

Yet, this is the one line that I’ve drawn on talking about my life, my goals, my hopes, my 25 by 25s, my work and my travels. No talk about love (or the hope of it).

Why?

“Aren’t you being hypocritical censoring yourself?” you may wonder.

And sometimes I think that maybe I am.

But the truth of the matter is that I simply don’t feel comfortable writing about something that is so typically emotionally charged to write about only A) expose personal things about someone else (hey, this isn’t all about me) or B) put hopes in black and white on this blog. Oh goodness, when you talk about something it makes it real, right? Please ignore that as a symptom of weariness.

I far prefer to post obscure quotes, photos or third-party dialogues that relate to my situation and passively insinuate that I have a life outside of friends and family : ).

What do you think? Do you blog about dating?

I know that I would feel far different about it if it were something established. A bonafide, facebook-official, instagram-ridiculous relationship. But simply to write about my dating experiences, mishaps, rages, swoons and dreams––oye, I already feel too personal writing that sentence.

So tell me, if you do write about those infant relationships––how do you do it? Do you worry about them reading? Or do you worry about an online track record to your dating history?

One of my closest friends in the world writes a rather candid blog on just this matter at Confessions of a Love Addict. I adore her candor and I think that’s obviously why she has so many faithful following readers; but for me I shiver to think about future interests reading about my past. Or God forbid, current interests reading about my present. (Someone thinks an awfully lot of their blog, right?)

So, here it was. Me on relationships. I have them, yet don’t write about them. What about you?

PS: Maybe I’ll break that in the future. In the wise words of J-Biebs, “never say never.”

To the best man I know, my Daddy.

Here’s to the guy who has sacrificed time and again, who worked hard to let a mom stay home with her babies–but always found time at the end of the day for those same kids. The man who taught me so much about determination and follow-through, how you need to put action to your words and how there’s almost always a shorter way to say what I mean : ). My dad is in so many ways, an Ashley a generation ahead . . . or maybe I’m the next generation Jim? Either way, we share so many characteristics and it’s because of him that I know I’m going to be just fine down the road. I was so lucky to spend part of the weekend with him, and wish I could give him a hug in person today.

From teaching me how to properly be the “champion of the world” at the age of two all the way to today, when he’s still trying to teach me how to put air in a tire (sadly on my end – unsuccessfully – it’s an Ashley thing, not a Dad thing).

image

Love this man! I credit him with my willful independence, them big ol’ eyes and maybe a touch of his taste for adventure.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Sage advice from a 24-year-old to an 18-year-old.

I’m behind on some key happenings.

Like?

My baby brother graduated high school. Boom. 18 years just happened.

I’ve been lost in a wave of “where did time go?” And I’m sure this isn’t the first time that it will hit. As I’ve wasted many hours thinking about what to pass along to him the best thing that I could possibly share would be the sage wisdom that I have accumulated over the six years that separate our age. What would I tell myself at 17 years old graduating high school?

It would go something like this:

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