Life is Getting Pretty Lonely, and That’s Okay

Hi friends, sorry it’s been so long since I’ve actually posted a blog… Writing all day at work makes it so difficult to want to come home and write more. But today was kind of rough, and I feel like being vulnerable is the best thing I can do for myself right now. So, here it is.

Last week, Josh moved out and went back home after a couple of pretty shitty events turned his (and my) life upside down. To top it off, we had some serious conversations about where our relationship was heading. For the longest time, we’ve been planning on being engaged by the end of the year (our 5 year anniversary would’ve been on NYE), but now…that most likely won’t be happening.

I think the hardest part about dating someone when you’re literally growing up with them is that people change. And they’re supposed to. There’s nothing wrong with growth. What gets tricky is when love gets in the middle of that change, and you’re both no longer the same people you were when you were living carefree in a shitty dorm room with minimal responsibilities.

The thing is, I started dating Josh when I was 18. I had just gotten out of a serious relationship/dating someone off and on for all of high school, and I was “single” for like only three months before I jumped into a relationship with Josh. And I isolated myself. From my college roommate (which I regret so much), from making girlfriends, and making decisions that would literally change the course of my life just so we could be together (*cough cough* why I’m in Kentucky in the first place…). My life has revolved around him. My entire life is centered on making sure everyone around me is happy.

When Josh decided he wanted to stay in BG for another year for his job because he loved it so much, I begrudgingly agreed because, well, financially it was just a lot more feasible. But then things changed, and he wouldn’t be working at that “fabulous” job anymore. And now, he got to go home–to his family, to the place he loves.

And I’m stuck here.

As much as I’m angry, I’m excited to get to live on my own. One of the things Josh and I always argued about was that I always made X sacrifices for him, and it was honestly starting to make me really bitter. And as much as I’m lonely, I can only hope that this time by myself will make me come to terms with what I really want for my life, and not what my boyfriend/family/friends think I should be doing.

I’m not someone who handles being alone well, but I’m trying. I keep reminding myself that if you’re not being challenged, you’re not changing. I so desperately want and need to make some changes in my life, and as difficult as the last few weeks have been, I literally have no choice but to take control of my  life and just do whatever sets my fucking heart on fire.

Leaving people behind is never easy, but I’m finally trying to put myself first and it feels amazingly bittersweet.

So, cheers to new beginnings, as hard as they may be.

Thanks for letting me share, y’all.

Xoxo,

Ashlyn

One Year Later…Who Rescued Who?

Wow—where to even start with this post?

That it’s been a whole year since Josh and I adopted Fitz is overwhelming in itself. To think about the place I was in that made me want to adopt a dog in the first place, and seeing the place I’m in now brings tears to my eyes.

It’s crazy for me to think about being thankful for the circumstances that led to me and Josh adopting Fitz. The pain, loss, and desperate need to fill a void that I was going through was getting to be unbearable, but Fitz has helped me heal.

Rescuing Fitz has made me feel whole. It’s given me a purpose and something to wake up for every day. And when I look into his eyes, I know that he can tell that I’ve both been through hell and back, because he has too. Fitz knows no personal space, but that’s okay. When you have a tendency to push people away like I do, having a cuddly, 60-pound dog sit on your chest will make you accept love and compassion whether you want to or not. And that’s exactly what I needed.

When we adopted Fitz, he was emaciated and on the verge of being euthanized. It pained me to think about what he had been through. But the second he jumped into my car, I knew he wasn’t thinking about that. He wasn’t thinking about his past; he was thinking about his future. He was trusting. He welcomed us into his heart and loved us without reservation. And that’s exactly what I needed.

This is the greatest lesson I’ve learned from him over the last year: to trust others, to be more accepting and compassionate, and to let others back into my heart. It’s so easy to feel jaded by the people that have wronged you or to feel that God has wronged you or put you through unfair circumstances, but the Mercy and Grace that I’ve witnessed through my rescue pup’s eyes has made me softer and more open to the idea that there is good in the world. And that’s exactly what I needed.

When I slip back into thoughts about what I went through before we adopted Fitz, I try to remember the excitement Fitz felt when we took him home. A fresh start, a new beginning. Just what I needed.

Fitz was my new beginning at happiness, & I couldn’t love him more for it.

Happy One Year, Sweet Fitzgerald. We love you!

Let’s Talk About Therapy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 

Today is World Mental Health Day, so I want to get real with you.

A few days ago, I shared on my Instagram (@ashburgett) that this summer was really rough for me. I experienced one of the most traumatic life events that I wouldn’t wish on anyone (although I know it happens all the time), and I had trouble processing that experience. I was working 50-60 hour weeks while going through it too, so I never gave myself time to cope with the emotions I was dealing with. I put on a front like I always do when I go through something difficult, told myself to put my big girl panties on, and tried my best to suck it up and put a smile on my face every day.

This was so detrimental to my mental health.

Because I’ve always been commended on how “put together” I am, how ambitious I am, or how much I’ve achieved, I try my best not to be vulnerable around others and never really open up about what I’m going through. IMG_3168I’ve created a wall to block out emotions that are hard and unpleasant. I never want to deal with those feelings because I’m literally terrified of being “weak”.

I also shared on Instagram that rescuing Fitz, my adorable lab/retriever mix, has really allowed me to start healing. And it really has. He’s a total sweetheart, cuddles his mama all the time, gives me something to nurture, and showers me with the all affection that a girl could want (J does this too lol). However, what’s really started getting me over the hump of what’s easily the worst season of anxiety and depression I’ve ever gone through is seeking professional help.

I’ve always been apprehensive about seeking out a therapist/counselor/psychologist for my depression. I think this is mainly because I’ve always prided myself on being able to work through my problems myself or talking myself out of thinking that I’m really in that much pain, but I also think I’ve always been worried about the stigma associated with seeing a therapist. I don’t want people to see me as weak or think that I’m “crazy” or “psychotic”. I want so badly to be that strong, ambitious, put-together girl that I’ve always been told I am.

But the truth is, I’m pretty fucked up. I have a lot of problems: I’m insecure as hell, I always fall into seeing things through “the glass is half empty” lens, and I genuinely feel like I’m always bitter about something. My life has never been sunshine and rainbows; it’s messy and uncertain. I’m constantly worried about money, but I still seem to spend so much on frivolous things. I care way too much about what others think about me, and I’m always thinking about the “what ifs”. I’ve created this wall that doesn’t allow me to be vulnerable with others, and makes me not give a shit about making new friendships. I’ve put myself on this downward, self-hating spiral that I can’t seem to get out of.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 12.39.09 PMAnd while recognizing all of this about myself hasn’t been the easiest, it’s forced me to really think about my life and how I need to make some changes. Recently, my therapist had me diagram my inner self. I split myself into the “good” and the “bad” and was able to identify which qualities affected the way I thought and acted. I can now go back to that diagram and check myself when I start feeling insecure or when I start feeling bitter and ask myself “Why do I care what people are thinking about me?” or “Focus on all the positive things that came from doing this or doing that”.

I want to implore you all to seek out a therapist/counselor/psychologist. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about going to therapy is that you have to “have problems” or be depressed to talk to a psychologist, but you don’t. Some sessions I just talk about what’s been going well in my life and that things are going smoothly. Other times I do have problems (whether they’re trivial matters or something more serious) that I need to work through. Either way, talking to a third-party about what’s going on in your life is so, so helpful (especially while you’re in college and have so much going on!!!).

I also want to note that most colleges and universities usually offer free clinical services. I grew up with either not-so-great health insurance or no health insurance at all, so I didn’t have the opportunity to meet with a counselor when I went through some of my “underlying issues” as my therapist would say. I also never took advantage of the counseling services my undergrad offered when I really should have, and it’s one of my biggest regrets. So, try it out! Make an appointment and just talk to someone. We’re all works-in-progress, and you’ll learn so much about yourself, trust me.

What are some of the experiences you’ve had with therapy? Let me know in the comments below or via email! I’d love to hear from all of you.

Xo,

Ashlyn


I want to thank my very best friends for being there for me through all of this chaos, and for pushing me to talk to a professional. I am truly so lucky to have such great people in my life.
To learn more about World Mental Health Day (October 10th), visit the World Health Organization website.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number is: 1-800-273-8255.

 

 

 

Putting Down Roots

Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with the idea of putting down roots. When will it happen? Where will I eventually settle? Am I wasting away my life moving all around or am I gaining experience?

I moved to South Carolina for undergrad and each summer I would move to a different city with my boyfriend and work your typical minimum wage summer job. We moved in with his grandma in Myrtle Beach one summer, then we went back to my home in Orlando to take classes the following summer, and finally after graduation, we moved back in with his mom for a few months in Wilmington.

Now, we’ve been living in Bowling Green, KY for the last year and have finally had the opportunity to start building our own home together. However, it’s really not our home: it’s a college apartment that’s fully furnished with things that aren’t ours. Sure, I can decorate it all I want. But it’s still hard to make it really feel like ours.

I feel like this has been our living situation for the last five years: dorm rooms, our families’ homes, and college “apartment-style” housing. We’re always moving, never staying. We can’t put down roots because we always get up and leave.

And while I genuinely feel like home is wherever I’m with Josh (and now Fitz), I think for me the most difficult part of this never-ending cycle of moving is forming relationships with other people. It’s really challenging for me to create relationships with people that I know I most likely won’t see again; I struggled with this in high school, in undergrad, and now in graduate school. I’ve always had a tight circle of friends that knew my innermost secrets, and I never felt the need to go beyond that.

It’s also often hard for me to find a reason to network professionally when I move to a new place. Josh is always encouraging me to go out into the community to meet people (especially some of the people he works with or coaches), but I don’t. I always talk myself out of it, or if I do meet someone that could potentially be a good networking opportunity, I usually don’t follow up.

I think this is one of my greatest pitfalls. I’ve been so caught up in the idea that the place I’m currently living isn’t permanent and that the relationships I form don’t really matter. I’ve been slowly growing out of this mindset, but I sometimes catch myself drifting back into my old ways. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to be cautious when establishing new friendships, but I think relying on my “clique” as the only relationships I’ll ever need to form is really unhealthy.

I’ve started to realize that it isn’t about putting down roots. I’m only twenty-two and I have a lifetime ahead of me to grow and move around. I don’t have to settle yet; I can wander wherever my heart desires. I think what I’ve finally learned is that I don’t have to put down roots, I just need to plant seeds. I need to create relationships with people with the understanding that they could be some of the greatest bonds I’ve ever formed or they might not last at all. Both of which are okay. I need to be more vulnerable. I need to network. I need to put myself out there. I need to stop worrying about “settling” and enjoy the present.

It’s so easy to get caught up in societial pressures and pressure from family: When are you getting married? Where are you going to live when you graduate? Are you going back to Florida or are you going to the Carolinas? What are your career plans? What’s your five-year plan look like?

I don’t know. I really don’t. But I’m going to do my best to plant seeds and watch them grow. As cliche as this sounds, I know nothing is ever guaranteed in this life, so why not just take chances on people?


Have you ever experienced a similar feeling when you moved? How do you or did you try to overcome it? Let me know in the comments below or via email!

Why I’m (Still) So Obsessed With My Study Abroad Experience

On September 5, 2015, I got on a plane to study abroad for the semester in Shanghai, China. Prior to this, I had only traveled outside of the US once and that was to the Bahamas on a cruise (which, let’s be honest, to a Floridian that’s basically the equivalent of going to your next-door neighbor’s). So, needless to say, I had very limited worldview.

I knew Shanghai was one of the most populated cities in the world. However, I didn’t anticipate feeling too much culture shock, given Shanghai’s status as a huge international hub for finance and trade and its equally large international population. But, I quickly learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Longji Rice Terraces, Guilin

While Shanghai is full of wealthy citizens and expats, it is also ridden with extreme poverty: pollution floods the streets, and it’s especially hard to take a full breath of air without a mask during the fall/winter due to the intense levels of smog. People work at least 14-hour days (mostly labor intensive jobs) and still struggle to make ends meet.

Of course I’ve witnessed poverty and pollution in the US before, but nothing like this. And, of course, I did have an idea about the extreme poverty and pollution in China, but it never really seemed tangible. Studying abroad makes you see things in a new perspective. Being an outsider looking in was surreal; it really makes you think about how privileged you are to be living as a visitor in a country solely to study.

Essentially, my American privilege slapped me in the face—I was so appalled by my ignorance and it was a much needed reality check. It’s so easy to share a post on Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness or express your abhorrence for problems going on in the world; however, when do you actually do something about such problems?

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The Great Wall of China, Beijing

At what point do you go beyond “Wow, that looks really shitty…I’d hate to live/be there” and actually put yourself in someone else’s shoes, or better yet, figure out ways you can make a difference? We make a mockery out of these problems by using hashtags like #firstworldproblems, but do we ever really stop to do anything about the very real #thirdworldproblems?! Poverty, access to education, human trafficking, pollution, as well as so many other issues are rampant in Chinese society (and many other developing countries). So ask yourself this: How do we live in a world that makes it so easy to distance ourselves from such real issues going on in developing countries?

I could say that studying abroad was thrilling: I got to live as an expat, traveled whenever and wherever I wanted, was treated like a VIP at clubs (thanks to promoters and my “foreign”/Western appearance), and never worried about spending too much money (I could live on $3USD/day). And while all of those things are most certainly true (and extremely shallow), I’ll say this: studying abroad made me come to terms with my severe ignorance of global issues and cultural differences. It made me realize that my dreams aren’t big enough, and that I need to think more globally, as opposed to stressing over the blatantly trivial matters that so often consume my thoughts.

And while many students think studying abroad is just going overseas to party and travel (which, to be fair, I definitely did my fair share of), it’s so much more than that. Although all study abroad experiences are different, no matter which country/countries you study abroad in, you’ll leave with a more global perspective and a real awareness about what the hell is actually going on in the world. I’m certainly still ignorant on a lot of issues, but my experience abroad has forced me to think outside of my protected, privileged, first-world bubble, and has made me more passionate about human rights issues than ever before. And this is exactly why over a year later I’m still so obsessed with it.


*My study abroad program was through International Studies Abroad (ISA)

*I received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to apply toward my program costs. If you receive the Federal Pell Grant and want to study abroad definitely apply!

*I had the chance to visit the Shanghai Marriage Market for my Chinese Culture & Society class, and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences that I had while living in Shanghai. Watch this video to learn more about the “Leftover Women” and many of the other stigmas women face in contemporary China: SK-II: Marriage Market Takeover.

You’ll Regret Going to a Small College

During my last semester of high school nearly four years ago, I was dead set on attending Florida State. I had my roommate picked out, and paid my deposit for our summer dorm room. I was anxiously waiting for the time where I would be able to rush, go to all the football games/tailgates, and do the plethora of other exciting things that would be sure to happen in Tallahassee with all of my closest friends.

Then things changed.

I had an unforeseen opportunity to play lacrosse at a Division II school in a small town in South Carolina. I can still remember touring Coker College with my best friend (Hey, Dan!) and being in shock that we had driven nearly eight hours to what appeared to be a town located between two cotton fields. Nevertheless, we decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, that we would try it out, and if we hated it after two years, we’d transfer.

My parents weren’t thrilled with the idea, and I still think to this day my mom believes that it wasn’t the right choice for me. I heard multiple times that I would regret going to a college that was literally half of the size of my high school. That I wouldn’t get the same experience and networking opportunities that my friends who were going to FSU, UF, or UCF would. That a school in rural South Carolina wouldn’t offer nearly the amount of diversity that I was accustomed to while living in Central Florida.

They were wrong.

While I’m no mathematician, I think being 1 out of 1,200 students is a lot better than 1 out of, say, 40,000? I was somebody at Coker. I felt like I could make a difference, and the faculty, staff, and my peers made sure that everyone felt that way. Along with being a student-athlete, I was involved with multiple organizations and often held leadership positions within them. The President of our college actually knew my name, and even gave me a shout out during our commencement ceremony (which is something I will never forget, so thanks, Dr. Wyatt!).

Diversity in rural South Carolina wasn’t an issue either. Albeit Coker College is not the most diverse higher education institution, students are required to study abroad. And even better, students are often given scholarships and funding opportunities in order to do so. So, while I was not immersed in the amount of diversity one would typically find in Orlando, I was exposed to not only a rural (read: complete opposite of what I was used to) area and a variety of international students from all over the world, but I actually had the opportunity to live in a foreign country (!!!) thanks to my small, private college.

If that isn’t enough, the small (read: roughly 5 students per class) English classes I was able to take at Coker influenced a new-found interest in writing. Such small classes led to personal relationships with professors, which in turn led to my decision to pursue a graduate degree in English. Because these close-knit relationships existed throughout my duration at Coker, I am a more confident individual, have a better grasp on both my strengths and weaknesses as a student, and know that I will always have mentors to rely on should I need it.

Like most students, I still often question whether the college I chose was the “right decision” for me; however, I am confident in the woman who graduated just a few short months ago with a fresh outlook on the world and a thirst for knowledge—all of which would not have been possible if it weren’t for Coker. So no, you won’t regret going to a small college. If anything, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have because you’ll get the opportunity to be somebody.