Do me a favor and imagine me singing that in my very best Aretha Franklin Impression. And please pay no mind to the fact that even my very best Aretha Franklin impression will be terribly off-key and very likely to hurt your ears.
Respect. Seven letters. Seven letters that are just so dang important and life-giving.
Friends, if I could sit down with each and everyone of you today over a table of waffles and hot apple cider and all of the other cozy things life has to offer on this rainy & dreary day, this is what I would do.
First, I would give you the worlds biggest bear hug. Then, I would take your hands into my always-too-hot hands , I would look you straight in the eyeballs, and I would say: “respect the place between who you were and who you will be. Please.”
Here are a few things that I know.
Number one: I have been alive on this earth for 8,326 days.
Number two: Betweens are hard. Real hard. But they are so full of life if only you’ll let them be.
But here’s the thing. I’m not the girl I was on day 8,325. And I’m not the girl I will be on day 8,327. And that’s okay.
And you know what, y’all? Learning to be content with the girl that is living day 8,326 is the best dang thing that has ever happened to me.
I’m no longer Ashley Harris, Student Body President.
I’m not yet Ashley Harris, President of the United States.
Maybe it’s okay that I’m just Ashley that reluctantly has a Hillary 2016 button, but isn’t so sure if any of them are any good and worth believing in anymore.
I’m not a student anymore. I don’t live in a dorm anymore.
I’m not a professional yet. I don’t have my own apartment yet.
Maybe it’s okay that I work an entry level job that I love and my parents still pay for my car insurance and my dinners when we go out to eat. It’s okay that I live at home and my mom packs my lunch for work. And I love it.
I haven’t written any books yet. I’ve haven’t spoken in front of groups of hundreds or thousands yet.
But, more importantly, I’m not the girl who doesn’t believe she has anything important to say anymore.
Maybe it’s okay that even though I’m not there yet, I’ve figured out that I just might be good enough to give this writing and speaking thing a try. Maybe, just maybe, I can make it my life. And you better believe that I’m gonna bust my butt to get there too.
(Thankfully) I’m not still the girl who wears lots of fringe, and lots of graphic tees, knee-high moccasins, and flowers in her hair everyday to match the multicolored braces on her teeth.
(Thankfully) I don’t yet have to be the woman who wears power suits and power pearls every day, because how boring would that be?
Right now, I’m just glad to be the girl who gets away with wearing skinny stretchy “dress” pants to work, and loves high waisted jeans, and who never shies away from the chance to rock a good jumpsuit.
I’m not the girl who beats herself up over why a certain boy decided that she would never be brave enough for him. Not anymore.
But I’m not yet the one who any man has decided to choose.
I’m still the girl who wonders if she will ever, ever be chosen. And for now–the wondering–it’s okay with me.
My friends, the space between who you were and who you will be is so important. Why? Because it’s where you are. It’s who you are.
Take it from the girl who has promised everything to this in between of hers.
Take it from the girl who lives for standing Tuesday night trivia dates with her friends.
Take it from the girl who loves afternoon chats with her grandparents and nights watching Gossip Girl and talking hopes & dreams with her little sister.
Take if from the girl who writes love letters because she believes in the magic they carry with them.
Take it from the girl who doubts herself. Who every once in a while breaks down and needs her mom, or her dad, or her Buddy, or her Mimi, or her Pappy, or her Ma’am, or her Jake, or her Rooms to tell her that it’s gonna be okay. That’s she’s good. That’s she’s gonna be okay.
Take it from the girl who Skypes her far away best friends late at night just so they can remind her of who she is and she can hear the voices that sound like home.
Take if from the girl who prays everyday that one day, despite all her mess and her imperfections, somebody will choose her.
Take it from the girl who is obsessively looking for low-profile hiking shoes online so she can say Cerebral Palsy be damned, and force her funny legs to take her to the top of Looking Glass Rock.
Take it from the girl who might be finally brave enough to soon begin to take the baby steps towards moving 4 hours down I-26 to a cobblestone-streeted peninsula to try and give being a “big girl” a real shot.
Take it from the girl who just wants to spend everyday of this perpetual space between giving all the glory back to Him.
Take it from the girl sitting here in her pink polka dot pajama pants, with colored ink all over her hands, laying her heart on the line for you on day 8,326.
Take it from the girl who still burns toast, and doesn’t wear her retainer every night like she should, and cries too much, and loves too damn hard.
You aren’t who you were anymore. You aren’t yet who you will be. This space between will never end. It will always be here. It is the best thing you’ve got. Hug it tight. Respect it. Live it.