There are four things that you should know about me.
1. My parents have always called me Peter Pan.
I have never been interested in growing up. I was never the kid who wanted to be a grown up so they could stay up late, do what ever they wanted, and make their own rules. Nope. My 8:30pm bedtime suited me just fine, thank you very much. Still, to this day, if I could find a magic potion that would allow me to instantly be that tiny five year old with bangs, who walked on her tiptoes all the time, and had two missing front teeth, I would drink it up in a heartbeat. What I wouldn’t give to be that little version of me again for a little while, the tiny one whose only worry was learning how to jump rope, and whose biggest responsibility was to not eat too many grape popsicles before dinner.
But, I haven’t gotten my way. Neverland hasn’t worked out for me. Here I am at 23, with tough conversations to have, bills to pay, long-distance friendships to maintain, and adulting to do. I don’t know who found me qualified for adulthood, but some fool did – and all of a sudden, here I am. I’m lost and haven’t the faintest clue what I’m doing – but am somehow pleasantly surprised that it’s actually quite nice, and I don’t understand a thing about taxes, and I still don’t know how to cook anything that is too sophisticated for a microwave. But here I am. I’m laying it all out on the line. I’m trying.
2. I’m a planner
This might come as a shock from the girl who bounded into this lifetime three months ahead of schedule and raring to go (who needs due dates anyway?). But from the girl who from the time she was 5, announced to every person she knew (and a lot of strangers she didn’t) “I’m going to be the President one day,” this should come as no surprise at all. I don’t throw caution to the wind, I don’t do things impulsively, or even quickly. I like plans. I like for people to keep them, and hate for people to break them. And I LOVE nothing more than to get my way.
A wise lady that I love very much said to me a little over a year ago, “Ashley, you say you trust God. You say that you want his plan for you. But you don’t – you want your plan for you. It’s time to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.” That’s tough love, but it’s the solid truth. I want God to light my path, tend to my heart, and fight my battles.
That is what I want, and yet I can’t seem to forfeit an ounce of my control and fall at his feet.
I had it all planned out. I would stay here in Brevard working at TVS until Nancy, my precious boss, retired in about six months. And then, I would move to Charleston. That was my plan, and that was how it was going to go.
Then, on the night of Monday August 3rd, I couldn’t sleep. I was restless. So I got down on my knees on the cold tile floor of our beach condo on Isle of Palms and whispered aloud:
“God, my whole life I’ve felt like I belong here. Like you want me here. But I’m tired of feeling so torn up and conflicted. If this is where you want me, if this is what you want for me, then please make that clear. Please. Show me what you want for me”
Tuesday August 4th, at 1:53PM, I get a text message from Meredith that said “what is your email? My friend Katie that you met at my party who lives in Charleston and works for a publishing company has some openings at her firm. I want to send you the email so you can get in touch with her.”
I spend part of the day Tuesday and Wednesday sending my poor sad excuse for a resume through three rounds of Sargent Lisa Yerrick’s resume boot camp.
Thursday morning I submit my resume and cover letter and head on down to the beach. Thursday afternoon, I get a call for an interview.
Friday afternoon, wearing a dress that is all too casual, and with hair full of sand, I have a job interview at Arcadia Publishing in Mt. Pleasant.
On Monday August 10th at 11:43AM, I ignore a call from a strange number, and find a voicemail on my phone with a conditional offer of employment.
In a matter of seven days, my life went from hypothetically changing, to actually changing. And it was the craziest, scariest, most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.
My friends, I think the lesson in all of this is, be careful what you pray for.
3. I am a crier.
I have realized recently that I have lied to myself (and the rest of the world) over and over again for the last 20 or so odd years with these five words: I. am. not. a crier. Because, as boldly as I want to proclaim that, as badly as I want to be tough, the truth of the matter is that, I cry all the time.
I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m mad. I cry when I’m happy. I even cry when I laugh.
I have cried multiple times a day since August 10th. I sobbed in Nancy’s arms saying “I’m not ready to leave you” for nearly 30 minutes after I received the job offer, smearing mascara all over her cardigan sleeve. Truthfully, I am scared. And I am sad. Because my heart is made up of tiny little people shaped pieces. A piece that is shaped like my momma, with her soft hands and her funny laugh, who for some crazy reason, has all the faith in the world in my ability to be an adult. I don’t know how to leave her. A piece shaped like my blue-eyed daddy, the hardest working man I know, who bought me a recliner that matches his, and who would gladly want for me to live at home until I’m 50. I don’t know how to leave him either. A piece shaped like my little Buddy, whose first question was, if I would buy her a surfboard and keep it at my new house? She left me first, and now, with this, I know our childhood is ending. There is a piece shaped like my Meme, and my Pappy, and a five person piece shaped like a bunch of freckled-faced crazy Baldridges. There is a huge giant piece shaped like my family, the ones who pile in on our back porch on a random Tuesday night just to celebrate living life together, and a piece shaped like weekly dinners at Heather & Daniel’s, reliving my childhood with Ella Grace and Denver. I know how to leave none of them. They are my world, and I just can’t figure out how to leave them.
And damn my tear ducts, they keep betraying me every day.
4. I am going on a grand adventure.
I think, that ever since I arrived unexpectedly in Charleston on July 2nd 1992, that it has always been in His plan for me to return there. I took my first breaths in that beautiful city, and since then, it has always ran through my veins. I am a mountain girl at heart and soul, and always will be. But I have also always been a Charlestonian by birth. And now, my heart gets to belong to the Holy City for a while.
As scared and teary as I am, I have decided that this is going to be a magnificent life.
I have an incredible job, a stellar roommate, and I will be surrounded by some of the most incredible beauty in the known world – every single day.
I am not losing any people shaped pieces of my heart. I will simply learn to make room, and tack on some new ones. There will be new people to meet and to love, and beaches to lay on, and oceans to play in, and all the shrimp to eat that my little heart desires. I will learn so much about who I am and what I want to make out of my one gift of a beautiful lifetime. I will fall in love, with people, and with the Ravenel Bridge lights at nighttime, and with the smell of the salt marsh, and with the food & the beer, and with the cobblestone streets (and maybe even all the uneven sidewalks), and with the sunrises on Sullivan’s Island.
Everyone needs someone who will be there to leave a light on for them when they are ready to come home. I know, without a doubt that there will always be a light on for me on Wolf Den Road. And on Reidsiding Road. And on Windover Drive. And on Reid Road. And on Old Rosman Highway. And a lot of other places, too.
The lights aren’t going to stop burning for me. They will always be there, and be on. The people won’t stop loving me. They aren’t going anywhere. They always will be there to welcome me home.
I am forever blown away by the attention that God gives to this little life of mine. It is a funny thing. It is beautiful, crazy, breathtaking, and oh, how it is fleeting. And I always carry at the back of my mind, the reminder of how hard I had to fight for my chance at all of it. But oh, what a chance it has been.
It’s time to go back where I started from. It’s time for a great adventure.
Look out Charleston, I’m coming for ya!!